19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Oan the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that the present Prime Minister, in his policy speech, delivered on the 10th November last, said -
We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test, and of the penalties it imposes on thrift. There are also grave anomalies associated with superannuated persons. We desire to adjust these anomalies, and this great human problem will have our urgent attention.
Will the Minister tell the Senate what has been done in this urgent matter, or what is intended to be done? If the Minister will not disclose Government policy, will he affirm that something will be done in the matter in the very near future?
– Although the policy speech delivered before the general election by. the present Prime
Minister is worthy of being memorized, I cannot claim to remember its entirecontents, but if the honorable senatorassures me that he quoted from the speech, I shall take his word for it. I assure him that any undertaking given by the Prime Minister will be honoured.
Railway Station - Home fob thu AGED and Infirm.
Senator -GRANT. - Last evening, honorable senators saw a bonny picture of some of the beautiful gardens of England, and were impressed by the efforts that had been made to beautify railway stations and canal locks in that country. The Canberra railway station is an eyesore, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will confer with his colleague with a view to getting something done to beautify the station, either by providing a new building, or by laying out flower beds in the vicinity?
– I shall have great pleasure in doing what the -honorable member has suggested.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - ‘
Will the Minister state what plans are envisaged for the provision of (a) a suitable home for the aged in Canberra, or (ft) a garden suburb laid out under a cottage system with provision for communal meals I
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers :–
Plans have been prepared for a suitable home at Canberra for aged persons. Inquiries -by my officers have, however, failed to locate any appreciable number of persons who might be regarded as having claims for accommodation in such a home, who would be prepared to take advantage of such accommodation if it were available. In the circumstances it is felt that the construction of such a home should not be proceeded with to the detriment of the programme for ‘ the-‘ erection of normal housing and hostels, which is far in arrears of urgent requirements.
– Some weeks ago, I asked the Minister representing’ the Minister for Health a question about the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into patent medicines, and the Minister replied that’ the powers of the Government were not wide enough to carry out a satisfactory investigation. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government’s powers are, not now greatly extended in comparison with what they were in 1906, when the last royal commission was held, and whether the recent amendment to the Constitution on the subject of health does not now give the Commonwealth power to make any inquiry into health that it desires and to carry out any action’ that such an inquiry might show to be necessary.
– I suggest that questions which seek legal opinions regarding the meaning of constitutional provisions are, to say the least, not in order. However, in relation to the particular matter that the honorable senator has raised, I point out that the constitutional alteration to which he has referred relates, if I recollect aright, to the provision of medical and dental services and goes no further than that. Offhand, I doubt whether the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to the matter to which the honorable senator ‘ has> referred are greater now than they were in 1906. As I have said, I hesitate to advance a final opinion on such a question offhand.
“MISS AUSTRALIA “ QUEST.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that large sums of money are collected each year in support of the various entrants in the “Miss Australia” quest, and that the public are informed that various charities benefit from this collection? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the percentage of . money that eventually reaches these charities? Will the Government consider appointing a committee to investigate whether the tours’ of other countries by these undoubtedly beautiful young ladies may not, in countries with different standards from ours, cause the very opposite to the goodwill that we’ an told Australia obtains through’ these, tours and to give consideration to the .-moral effect of this exploitation of our young womanhood in the interests of blatant advertising campaigns conducted under the cloak of charity?
– As far as I am aware the Commonwealth has no control over the movements of these young people other than by the issue of passports. The actual conduct of these contests and the control of the funds that are collected by their means is, I understand, a matter for the States under their legislation. The only funds over which the Commonwealth has control are patriotic funds. I. suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice-paper. I shall then have it referred to the appropriate authorities and shall have an answer supplied to him.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question in relation to divorce as a social fact. Will the Go,vernment give consideration to achieving a uniform divorce law for the whole of the Commonwealth based on humane grounds, with similar laws for husband and wife? Will he also give consideration, if possible, to the introduction of legislation to prevent the publication of evidence in all divorce suits, except the names of . the parties and the decision of the court?
– I think that the honorable senator will appreciate the fact that the matter to which he has referred is one which involves very great difficulties indeed. I should not be prepared to make any declaration of policy in regard to that matter in an answer to a question. It is very easy to contemplate the possibility of having a uniform divorce law for the whole of the Commonwealth, but when it comes to working .out the precise terms of such a law, great difficulties make themselves apparent owing to the varying character of the State divorce laws as they are at present.
– Will the Minister consider giving effect to the views expressed at recent conferences in in favour of uniformity in the divorce laws of Australia by making lunacy a ground for divorce? About a year ago when I raised this question I was informed that steps were being taken in that direction. I believe that lunacy is a ground for divorce in some States.
– For some time representations have been made in regard to a suggestion that a law making lunacy a ground for divorce should be made uniform throughout Australia. As the honorable senator has said, it is a ground for divorce in some States. Those who seek to have it made a ground for divorce throughout Australia apparently overlook the fact that there is nothing to prevent State parliaments from making it a ground in their own States. Uniformity could readily be obtained by State action.
– I understood that there was a difficulty in the States.
– There is no difficulty whatever, and it might well be that those who desire to get that provision in a State where at present lunacy is not a ground for divorce would more effectively advance their cause, by pressing their State legislators to make it a ground. It seems rather unsatisfactory for the Commonwealth to approach the question of uniform divorce laws merely in relation to one ground rather than to deal with the whole subject.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport with reference to representations that were made to him in Western Australia by Mr. E. Nulsen, M.L.A., Mr. R. Boylen, M.L.C., and myself in respect of the shipping services to the port of Esperance. Have inquiries been proceeded with and if so, is the Minister in a position to make a report or give some promise of a better service ?
– Investigations have been made by the Australian Shipping Board and further inquiries are being made by the Australian ship owners. I am hopeful that some improvement will be made to the service to that port.
I expect to be in a position to give a reply to the honorable senator within two weeks.
– Can the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport do anything to secure the removal of the enormous piles of discharged cargo that are now lying on wharfs and in sheds in Port Adelaide, so that those who are responsible for loading and unloading cargoes there may have a “ fair go “ in their attempt to achieve a quicker turn-round of ships?
– In view of th, distress among aged people who suffer from arthritis and other ailments which affect elderly people, when they have to leave hospitals because of the genera! shortage of hospital accommodation and the seeming inability of the States to finance a scheme, will the Minister for Social Services state whether any consideration has been or will be given to the provision on a Commonwealth level of well-constructed homes where these unfortunate people can spend the evening of their lives free from worry?
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred has been receiving my attention comparatively recently. It was placed before mc not along the lines of the Commonwealth building homes, but of the Commonwealth subsidizing or assisting other people who require that much needed facility from the National Welfare Fund. At the moment, the matter is being investigated by the permanent head of my department.
– In the operation of the pay-as-you-earn income tax system many taxpayers other than salary and wage-earners are required, in effect, to pay double taxation in years of increased income. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether this matter will be given consideration in the course of the review of income tax legislation now in progress.
– I shall make arrangements for the honorable senator’s question to be placed before the committee that is carrying out the review.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer bring to the notice of the expert committee that is now dealing with taxation matters, the anomaly that is caused by requiring recipients of superannuation benefits to pay income tax on those benefits notwithstanding that they have had to contribute throughout their working life from their income to the superannuation fund which pays those benefits?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government consider allowing a taxpayer deductions with respect to money spent on educating dependent children, including musical tuition?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer. -
The whole question of concessional allowances including allowances in respect of dependants and expenditure on education of children is being referred to the Expert Committee on Taxation. The matters referred to by the honorable senator will be included in this reference.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health ascertain whether a statement could be prepared for the Senate showing the progress, if any, that has been made in negotiations between the Commonwealth and the British Medical Association in relation to a national health scheme for this country?
– Numerous conferences have been held between the Minister for Health and representatives of the British Medical Association, friendly societies, chemists, and other organizations concerned in a national health scheme. At the appropriate time, the Minister for Health will introduce a national health bill. I shall ask the Minister whether he will comply with the honorable senator’s request that a statement be supplied to the Senate.
– In view of the increasing cost of living, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health endeavour to make some arrangement by which medicines will be provided free of charge to pensioners, either from the National Welfare Fund, or from revenue?
– I shall be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’srequest to the notice of the Minister for Health and obtain a reply as soon aspossible.
– In view of the doubt amongst many farmers about the adequacy of the supply of cornsacks for use during the current season, can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate what steps have been taken to ensure that sufficient sacks will be available to meet the needs of primary producers?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Minister for Commerce and Agricuture is most active in regard to this important matter. With the assistance of the Prime Minister he has already made representation to the Government of India, and I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable senator that Australia’s special request has been granted, and that the opinion is that there will be an adequate supply of cornsacks for the current season.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation by pointing out that many members of the Parliament receive requests for information from British ex-servicemen concerning their pension rights and other war service entitlements, and they are in doubt as to the identity of the proper authority to whom they should refer such inquiries. Will the Minister say whether it is a fact that an officer has recently been appointed in Melbourne to deal with such inquiries and to do justice to British ex-servicemen ?
– In the past the Repatriation Commission has acted as agent for the British Ministry of Pensions in matters affecting Imperial exservicemen. Considerable difficulty and delay frequently occurred because papers concerning particular ex-servicemen had to be sent to London before decisions could be made on the eligibility of applicants for war pensions and other benefits. Recently, at the request of the Australian Government, the British Government sent an official of the Ministry of Pensions to Australia. He visited all States, and subsequently recommended that a permanent officer should be appointed to Australia to deal with British ex-servicemen. Mr. Calder has been appointed to that position, and since his arrival in this country he has toured all States and met British exservicemen’s organizations. He has now obtained an office in Melbourne. Ml applications are forwarded to him before they are submitted to the British Ministry of Pensions. The appointment of this official should minimize delay and reduce complaints in the settlement of British ex-servicemen’s claims. His official title is “ Representative of the British Ministry of Pensions “, and his address is “ Care of Headquarters, Repatriation Department, St. Kilda-road, Melbourne”.
– Can the Minister foi Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether with the discontinuance of butter and tea rationing, which I assume will take place in the near future, subsidies will continue to be paid on those commodities so as to prevent any further increase of the cost of living, which would accentuate the already depreciated value of the Australian £1.
– I notice -that the question is based on a presumption. Whether that presumption is -correct or otherwise I do not know. I am no prophet.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs assure the Senate that if tea rationing is abolished, the present subsidy on tea will be continued, in order to prevent a decrease of -the value of the £1 ?
– It is absurd for an honorable senator to pose a hypothetical question and request an answer to it.
Sena-tor SHEEHAN. - I ask the Minister .representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether his colleague is aware that Canadian wheatgrowers are endeavouring to increase their sales of wheat to Britain? If they succeed in doing so, will Australian wheatgrowers be affected? Has any advice been tendered by the Government to Australian wheat-growers upon this matter?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is watching this matter very closely. As far as I can judge from his reports, we have nothing to fear. All the wheat that we can produce will be sold.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Customs, by stating that in Western Australia customs duties, based upon an initial assessment, have been levied upon imported articles and that at periods ranging from nine to twelve months later additional assessments have been issued and undercharges collected from importers. The articles had been sold and the importers encountered difficulty in obtaining from the purchasers the extra customs charges that had been levied. Can the Minister say whether initial customs charges are assessed and collected on an E. & O.E. basis, and that under-collections of charges, as the result of wrong computations or incorrect classifications, are collected from importers up to twelve months from the date of the issue of the original assessment? If that be so, will the Minister endeavour to ensure that initial assessments are checked and importers advised of the position within three weeks of the issue of the assessments, so that embarrassment of purchasers and distributors of imported goods may be avoided?
– I am not aware of the actual machinery for levying and collecting customs duties at ports of entry, but I know that the customs authorities are traditionally eager to extend the utmost consideration, help and courtesy to the commercial community and the general public. I suggest that if. the honorable senator has some particular cases in mind, it would probably be better if he wrote to my department or to me. If he did so, I should ensure that each of the cases was examined and a reply or explanation furnished.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’9 questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. I am unaware of any request for the removal of duty on New Zealand potatoes.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government consider the establishment of an irrigation and electricity commission to plan and prepare work so as to prevent a similar disaster to that which befell the people of inland New South Wales and Victoria through recent floodings?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
I understand that the State governments in both New South Wales and Victoria have well advanced plans for flood-control measures and in each of these States a conservation authority has been established. The maimer is entirely one for the State governments to control, but T will ment:on the matter to my colleague, the Minister for National Development, who is already examining the means whereby the Commonwealth Government oan work more closely with the States in conserving and developing our resources.
Debate resumed from 17th May, 1950’ (vide page 2733), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– In continuing my speech on this bill, I propose to answer some of the observations of honorable senators.. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said that the Government’s proposal to appoint a board to control the Commonwealth Bank was a simple proposition. I wonder whether he really meant that. He added that, in the case of a dispute between the Treasurer and the board over a matter of policy, the issue would be referred to the Parliament for settlement. Of course, Ave know that so long as the present Government remains in office, there will not be any disputes over policy between it and the bank board that is to be appointed. However, for the sake of argument, let us assume that a dispute occurs over such a matter as the exchange rate, or a proposal to appreciate the Australian £1 in relation to sterling. Does the Attorney-General seriously suggest that such an issue would be bandied about in the Parliament, and decided by the Parliament after debate? Of course, we know that, in fact, the members of the bank board will always apply Government policy, and that the Treasurer will uphold the board.
The associated banks spent many hundreds of thousands of pounds during the election campaign to defeat the Chifley Government, and now they are calling the tune. When introducing this bill in the House of Representatives, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) said -
The importance of monetary policy has frequently been stressed in Parliament and the fact that it has a significant effect upon the welfare of the people has been fully recognized. Although it is easy to fall into the error of thinking that monetary policy can cure all economic ills, it is nevertheless true, as the Prime Minister pointed out in his policy speech, that great financial decisions, if they are wron?, arc wrong on so vast a scale as to injure many thousands of people. We therefore believe that such decisions should not be made by one man either in the Bank or in th» Government.
It is sufficient to say, in reply, that from 1941, when the Curtin Government introduced regulations barring the private banks from certain activities, it could have over-ridden any decision that the bank board had reached. Those regulations were later put into legislative form. No honorable senator opposite can question the efficiency of the Commonwealth Bank since 1941. As Senator McKenna has rightly put it, the men who were in control of the bank after 1941 are men of the highest integrity. During my service in this Parliament, I have come in contact with such men as Mr. Frank Wheeler, Professor Melville, and Dr. Roland Wilson, and I say that no doubt c;m be cast upon their high integrity. The present Government could not find better men for appointment to the proposed bank hoard. It is worth repeating that those men, who were at the head of the financial affairs of this country during the war years when many national and international agreements were reached, could have been dislodged from their positions by the GovernorGeneral in Council. That is beyond doubt. The fact is that they were not dislodged. In association with those men the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Bank has played a very important part in our national development. The same statement is true in relation to the Industrial Finance Department of the bank under the directorship of Mr. Armstrong. I say to the AttorneyGeneral that the present issue is not a trifling one. On the contrary, history shows that it contains very dangerous elements. I recall that the Government that preceded the Scullin Government borrowed money at the rate of £30,000,000 a year from overseas, and, as I said last night, when the Scullin Government came into office it found an empty treasury.
I now turn to the statement that was made by Senator Tate, who, I am sorry to say, is not in the chamber at the moment. His attempt to justify his support of this bill was merely ludicrous. He told us that the control of various organizations in the trade union movement was exercised by an executive. The executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions is representative of many organizations that are of several political colours, and to compare it with the Commonwealth Bank of this country is foolish. The honorable senator could not find words to substantiate his argument.
– A Labour organizer, Mr. Taylor, was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Advisory Council during the Chifley regime.
– Just imagine any one suggesting - even the Minister who has just interjected - that we should appoint a board to administer the Taxation Branch or the Department of Health. During the last general election campaign we heard a great deal from honorable senators opposite and their friends in another place about the bureaucrats of Canberra, but now their Government proposes to establish a bank board to determine the country’s financial policy. There is no doubt that the board will determine financial policy. It is no good for us to fool ourselves by saying that any paper in connexion with its decisions will be laid on the table of this chamber or of another place. The Treasurer’s representative on the bank board will not be the one who will give impartial decisions. The five “ secret men “, and the Treasurer, through his representative on the bank board, will make the decisions. The fact that Senator Tate introduced the subject of the control of the trade union movement into his argument shows that he was at a loss for words to justify his support of the measure.
I have listened attentively to some of the statements that have been made in connexion with the actions of the Scullin Government. I do not desire any doubt to be left in the minds of honorable senators opposite - I know that there is no doubt about it in the minds of the Opposition - about who invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to come to this country to investigate its finances. Honorable senators opposite have alleged that he came at the invitation of the Scullin Government. I give that statement an emphatic denial. The Bruce-Page Government, which preceded the Scullin Government in office, was as I have said, borrowing overseas at the rate of £30,000,000 a year right up to the end of its term of office. Tie Bank of England was the authority responsible for sending Sir Otto Niemeyer to Australia. The decision to send him arose from a discussion in London between the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank and the Bank of England. After that discussion the Bank of England decided that one of its representatives would have to come to Australia to investigate our financial position, and without receiving any invitation from the Scullin Government, it sent Sir Otto Niemeyer, who was associated with one of the big banking firms in England.
– Who was Prime Minister of Australia at that time?
- Mr.. Scullin was Prime Minister at that time, but let me tell the Minister that when Mr. Scullin became Prime Minister he had to meet the liabilities that had been incurred by the preceding anti-Labour government. I say that very definitely.
– Is the honorable senator simple enough to believe that Sir Otto Niemeyer came to this country without the approval of the then Prime Minister ?
– Interjections are very disorderly.
– Especially when they come from a Minister.
– Did the “ Red Dean” visit Australia with the present Government’s approval ?
-The Commonwealth Bank was anxious to have a discussion between a representative of the Bank of England and the Australian government of the day, and in my opinion it would not have mattered at that time what government was in office in Australia because the discussion would have bad to take place just the same. No invitation was sent by the Australian Government for Sir Otto Niemeyer to come to this country. His visit arose from a discussion between the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank in London and the Bank of England. Anybody else might have been sent out to this country by the Bank of England, but Sir Otto Niemeyer happened to be the choice. It has been said that a board of experts will be appointed. If honorable senators knew who the experts were to be, it would be possible for opinions to be expressed by honorable- senators on this side of the chamber. Are we to have experts like Sir Robert Gibson ?’ Will the five experts endeavour to retain the present Government in office for an unlimited time against the will of the people? The life stream of a nation is based on its financial resources and the administration of its finance and economy. I know something of the sufferings of those engaged in rural industries in Western Australia during the last depression, and I hope that they will not be repeated. I am afraid that they will recur if a bank board that is not sympathetic to the needs of the people is appointed. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is Postmaster-General in the present Government, said on the 26th May, 1938 -
Out of 12,275 dairy-farmers in Queensland, only 99 had taxable incomes last year in excess of £250.
I believe that the honorable gentleman got that information from the Queensland taxation authorities. That is an indication of what happened when financial aid could have been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank but was refused by the bank board. If the legislation now before the chamber is passed, this nation might see another depression.
During the recent war, many loans were raised, the rate of interest was fixed by the Commonwealth Bank and exchange was controlled by the Government of the day. In his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in effect expressed approval of the work that had been done by the Commonwealth Bank under regulation at the direction of the government of the day. Every penny raised for war loans was subscribed from within the country although the associated banks had said that it was a pious hope to expect that objective to be achieved. The money needed for the war was raised at a low rate of interest. [Extension of lime granted.] During World War I. the banks made a handsome profit. Speaking at a public function in 1922, Sir Denison Miller said -
During the 1914-18 war, loans were floated in Australia totalling £250,000,000. The private banks charged £2 7s. Id. per £100 as flotation charges. But the Commonwealth Bank did the work for 5s. 9d. per £100 and thereby saved Australia £5,170,000.
If this bank hoard is created, the Government will be under the dictation of the associated banks which put it into office. Having regard to what I saw and heard during the general election campaign last year I wonder sometimes how much money was spent to return the present Government.
– The honorable senator will never know.
– Not as much as the Labour party spent if the truth were known.
– Ever since 1943 when the Curtin Government applied regulations to the private banks, there has been a continual flow of propaganda in support of the private bank,;-. Farmers in Western Australia recall the days when the banks took their farms and re-sold them. Last month, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, at its annual conference in Perth, adopted a resolution opposing the establishment of a Commonwealth bank board similar to that which existed previously. That, of course, i9 what it will be - a rose by another name. I place that resolution on record because I am a West Australian and have been associated with the wheat-farmers of that State for many years. It is obvious that the wheatgrowers fear that they will be the victims of another recession or depression, whatever it may be called, just as they were the victims of the last depression. The conference also resolved that, should a board be established, primary producers should have adequate representation on it, and that, at all times, the board should be subject to the control of the Parliament. Knowing the records of governments such as that now in office, we are fearful of the consequences of this legislation. A9 the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) has said, the “five secret men “ will control the bank board. I commend to the Government the suggestion that primary producers should have representation on the board. I do not mean, of course, that a Collins-street or St. George’s-terrace farmer should be appointed. A representative of that type would not satisfy me or my colleagues, and I am sure that he would not satisfy the wheat-growers or the primary producers generally. I was a member of the all-party parliamentary committee that examined the proposal to establish the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. Speaking from memory, I think that Liberal party members of the committee offered the strongest possible opposition to the establishment of that department.
– Australian Country party members, too.
– Yes. They also opposed Labour’s proposal that advances should be up to 80 per cent, of the value of a property. They wanted to reduce that figure to 65 per cent. It is true that in the past there has been a tendency for the Commonwealth Bank to be saddled with risky mortgages that had been refused by the private banks. On one occasion I had a letter from a man who claimed that the Commonwealth Bank had refused him accommodation. I went to the manager concerned and asked him for the reason for his refusal. The manager told me that he had discovered that his prospective client already had a mortgage of £2,000 with the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia. No bank, whether it be a national bank or a private bank, could accept such a risk, although, admittedly, in banking certain risks are unavoidable at times. I do not accept without question all the stories that I hear about men seeking financial accommodation being turned away from the Commonwealth Bank, only to have their needs met by a private bank. That was the kind of propaganda that was disseminated throughout the community for two years prior to the 10th December last. That story was told not only of rural credits, but also of advances for home purchase or home building. It was said that the Commonwealth Bank’s housing scheme was no good, and that a home builder could get a better deal from one of the trading banks. The private banks, of course, paid for that propaganda. I have before me the report on mortgage banking that was adopted by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation on the 15th October, 1941. Wheatgrowers are sensible men. In fact, they are so sensible that, a9 I have already pointed out, they have passed a resolution protesting against the Government’s proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. The report states -
In a leader in “ The Advertiser “ of September 30, 1941, it is stated:
In the opinion of Professor K. S. Isles, the occupant of the chair of Economics in the University of Adelaide, the bank borrowings already in prospect in the current year, stand at a figure which is “ dangerously high “. He thinks it possible that the Commonwealth may have to look to the banks to supply creditfalling not very much short of a hundred millions.
To leave the question of Mortgage Banking for a moment, if it is admitted that the Commonwealth will have to look to the banks to supply credit (which, it is admitted, those banks will create) to the tune of a hundred million pounds, surely it would be much sounder business to ask the Commonwealth to create exactly the same amount of credit in which case, instead of having to pay trading banks approximately Si per cent, for ite creation, it could be created in large quantities such as this at a cost of probably much les* than i per cent., and whereas the bank interest charge recurs every year, the cost attached to a hundred million pounds created by the Commonwealth Bank, after the first year, would be practically negligible.
I conclude my remarks on that note. Without putting myself forward as a prophet, I say to members and supporters of the Government and to the country generally that if the proposed board including five “ secret “ members enjoying the power that the Government proposes to give them is established, even the Government will have cause to regret it, and even if it does not, T am sure that the people will.
. -I propose to make only a brief incur sion into the debate “which, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along”. There are not many things on which the Government and the Opposition disagree in the proposals before us. The actual points of disagreement- may appear to be deep but there are not many, and, in any event, very little has been said about them by those who have so far taken part in the debate. In fact, I think it would not be unfair to s-av of the last speaker, that any similarity between the points at issue in this measure and the contents of his speech was purely coincidental, so I shall endeavour to show briefly what the points of disagreement are. However, before doing so I express my satisfaction that there is no= objection to the proposal to repeal that ill-starred piece of legislation, the Banking Act 1947, which is the main proposition in the bill now before us. I do not accept the contention that that act washeld to be wholly invalid by the Privy Council. 1 know that certain of its provisions were held to be invalid, but I believe - and I am supported in my belief” by sound legal opinion - that certain provisions which were not held to be invalid would have made it possible for Labour, if it again attained office, to reach, by rather more devious means, its objective of eliminating all competition in thebanking system of this country.
– And have it written, into the Constitution?
– I do not know whether Senator O’Byrne is a lawyer, but the opinion that I have expressed is supported by sound legal authority. I believethat the objective of the Banking Act 1947 is still the objective of the Opposition. I believe that the people cannot be warned too often of what the consequences to them may be if the retail control of credit becomes concentrated in thehands of one government bank or even, for that matter, in the hands of oneprivate bank.
– It is now virtually concentrated in the hands of oneprivate bank.
– I do not accept that contention, but even if there wereonly one private bank it would still have to face the competition of the Commonwealth Bank. We need to keep both institutions in order that the peopleof this country may not be unduly influenced in political mat-ers by economicpressure. I am very pleased, therefore,, that we are not opposed in our attempt to repeal the 1947 legislation; although I must say that I attribute that lack of opposition to a realization by the Australian Labour party that that proposal is the most unpopular that has ever been put before the people of this country and the fact that Labour would not again dare openly to espouse it.
Passing to the main arena in which discussion has concentrated, the two principal matters for decision are, first, whether there should he a board, and secondly, whether there should be a method by which the Parliament and the people can be informed in the event of any disagreement between the Government and the proposed board. I have been able to discover orly two objections to the proposal to establish a board. One of those objections was expressed quite powerfully by Senator McKenna last night; it is that the Government would force the board to carry out the Government’s policy. In other words, the Government, through the presence on the board of so many of its appointees, would influence the board to do exactly what it wanted. The second argument is that the board might influence the Government to make the Government do what it wanted, because the outside interests represented on the board would have the power to overthrow the Government and therefore, the Government would have to do what they wanted. Whichever of those- objections we accept we must reject the other, because they are mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, it has not been uncommon for both arguments to be advanced by individual honorable senators opposite in the course of their speeches, apparently, because they suffer from a form of political schizophrenia. However, I shall discuss the two objections separately. The main objection to a board is based on the contention that the relationship between a board and the Government will be the same as it was when the former board was functioning; in other words, that the board will be independent of the Government, and, therefore, control of the credit of the nation will be in the hands, not of the elected representatives of the people, but of the members of the board. If, indeed, the bill did make such a proposal, I should not be in favour of it, because I think that there is no great difference of opinion amongst us on the proposition that the control of the credit of the nation must rest in the hands of the elected representatives of the people. However, the fact is that there is no provision in the bill that would permit such a state of affairs to occur. The vital difference between the proposed board and the old board that whereas the former board was independent of the Government, the new board must do what the Government wants it to do, and in the event of any difference of opinion arising between them, the matter will be resolved by the Parliament.
Senator Grant interjecting,
– Prom the honorable senator’s interjection I assume that he is opposed to the Government’s proposal because he thinks that the board will do just what the Government wants it to do. However, honorable senators opposite can take it whichever way they like. The board must do what the Government wants it to do, either because the Government will appoint the members of the board or because, under the provisions of the measure, in the event of disagreement between the board and the Government, Parliament will decide the matter It will be seen, therefore, that it will not be independent of the Government, but must do what it is told to do. I suggest that that disposes of most of the arguments based upon the assumption that the proposed board will stand in the same relationship to the Government as did the board of 1930.
The provisions relating to the means by which the Parliament and the people of Australia will control or restrain the board and the Government have not been favorably received by the Opposition. It has been said that they will not be effective. Senator O’Byrne said that the proposed procedure would be useless, because the record of any disagreement between the Government and the board that was laid on the table of each House of Parliament would consist on-y of words. I shall deal with that point later. I cannot see how it would be possible to give to the people’s representatives any greater control of the actions of the Executive than that which is proposed in this bill. It is proposed that in the event of a. disagreement between the Government or the Treasurer and the board, the parties should first try to reach agreement, and that if they are unable to do so, the board shall submit its views to the Treasurer and that the Government should then instruct it as to the policy to be adopted. The board will be to that degree subservient to the Government. Similar provisions were contained in the old legislation, but now it is proposed that the matter shall be carried a step further and that there must be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament, for all the representatives of the people to see, a statement of the board’s views and a statement of the Government’s instructions to the board. Parliamentary life being what it is, I know that a Government would be unlikely to be defeated in the Parliament if a vote were taken on the question of whether it had acted rightly or wrongly in instructing the board to adopt a certain policy. That is not impossible, but it is unlikely. The value of the present proposal is that private members of all parties would know exactly what was being discussed, because the views of the Government and the board would be before them. In addition, the people at large would know what was in dispute between their government and their bank, and thus be able to form an opinion as to which party was right. I cannot see why objection should he taken to a proposal that the representatives of the people shall be made aware of relevant facts and thus be able to pass judgment on the question. I hesitate to think that the Opposition has objected to the proposal because it hopes that in future secret action can be taken to override the board or the Advisory Council and further the Labour party’s objective of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I hope that the people realize that a provision that important issues shall be brought into the full light of day is the greatest possible safeguard against the tyranny of socialism and one to which objection cannot be taken by persons who believe in real democracy.
– In making my contribution to this debate, I speak not as a legal genius or a great economist, but as an ordinary Australian. I believe that I view the position in the same way as do most of the electors. Before dealing with the bill, I shall offer a few comments upon statements that have been made by honor able senators opposite. Senator Gorton said that it would be a sad state of affairs if there were a GovernmentCommonwealth Bank banking monopoly in this country. If the honorable senator were to make inquiries in the part of Victoria in which he lives, he would discover what the associated banks did to the primary producers there and in other parts of the State during the period when they had a monopoly of the banking business of Australia.
– I said that we wanted neither form of monopoly.
– If the honorable senator reads the measure under which the Commonwealth Bank was established, he will discover that at no time did the members of the Australian Labour party say that the Commonwealth Bank should have a monopoly of banking business. Labour members of the Parliament who spoke upon that measure stated definitely that the intention was that the Commonwealth Bank should compete, as a trading bank, with other banks in all parts of Australia, and that if the private banks could meet its competition they were at liberty to go ahead.
Senator Gorton also said that a Commonwealth Bank Board was necessary. I have a letter that was written by Mr. H. I. Madden to the President of the Senate. It is not an anonymous letter; it was signed by the writer. It reads as follows: -
Dear Senator Brown,
Permit me to express my delight on learning of the resolute stand, intended to be taken by your department of Australia^ Federal Government, against these treacherous clauses contained in Fadden’s proposed Bank Act.
No good purpose can be served if the Labour Party avoids a fight to the finish for its sound financial policy, concerning a people’s hank in every aspect and meaning of the word and Commonwealth Constitution.
Further, Mr. Fadden has admitted it to be a sound business for shareholders in private companies (including private Banking Companies) to elect a board to guide their Company’s policy, and for this board to appoint a general manager to administer that policy.
Now, under our existing “ Bank Act of 1945” the people have elected a board to guide the policy of their Commonwealth Bank (the Federal Cabinet), and this “board” has
Appointed ils general administrator (the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank) through its Federal political Treasurer.
How dare Toryism connive at making it lawful for private competitors, against the people’s bank, to place a board of their appointees, with authority overriding that of the people’s elected board-of-control (Federal Cabinet) ? Would the press advocate that all companies be now controlled on Mr. Fadden’s idea how to run the people’s bank?
Yours fraternally, (Sgd.) H. I. Madden.
– He is the greatest “ crackpot “ in Queensland.
– With the exception of Senator Maher. Senator Hannaford quoted from a booklet prepared by his leader, or by some one who controls his leader, for use during the election campaign.
– A good book, too.
– It may be good from the point of view of those whom the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) represents, but it is not a good book so far as the people generally are concerned. I should, not have objected if Senator Hannaford had quoted the whole passage, but he left out the contentious part that did not suit his argument. Again, Senator Hannaford also said that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) had subscribed to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, but he omitted to point out that Mr. Chifley signed a minority report of that commission.
– I did not mention Mr. Chifley at any time during my speech.
– The honorable senator said that Mr. Chifley was a member of the royal commission-
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Then I must have misunderstood the honorable senator. It is true that Mr. Chifley was a member of the commission, but he disagreed with many of its recommendations and said so in the minority report. Senator Hannaford has told us that his party believes in the Commonwealth Bank. If that is so, he cannot favour this bill, because the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board would defeat the pur pose for which the bank was brought into existence. The Commonwealth Bank is a bulwark between the people and another depression. As we know, Senator Guy was once a member of the great Australian Labour party. I am sorry that he is not present now to hear what I am saying. Senator Guy sat as a Labour member in the House of Representatives from 1929 until he decided to leave the Labour party and join the anti-Labour forces. I do not quarrel with him on that account. This is a democratic country, and if a man wishes to change his political or other opinions he is at liberty to do so. A few days ago, Senator Guy denied that he had ever signed the socialization pledge of the Labour party, and he challenged me to prove that he had, saying that he would resign his seat if I could do so, and that I should resign my seat if I failed. I do not propose to accept such a challenge-
– If the honorable senator were sure of his ground, he would accept the challenge.
– I was sent here by the people to represent them in the Parliament, not to engage in mock heroics. I hope to prove my assertion that Senator Guy signed the pledge of the Labour party; but, even if I do, I shall not expect him to resign his seat. Senator Guy contested the Bass seat in the House of Representatives as the selected Labour candidate, and every endorsed Labour candidate is required to sign the party pledge. An exception may have been made in the case of Senator Guy because of the conscientious and meritorious service rendered to the Labour party by his father, who previously represented the party in this chamber. However, when Mr. Allan Guy, as he then was, was addressing a meeting in the Albert Hall, Launceston, in 1929, Senator Lamp being the chairman, he was asked by a Mr. Fitzgerald, of Launceston, whether he believed in the socialization plank of the Labour party, and Mr. Guy replied : “ Yes, 100 per cent.”
– Senator Guy must have known that you were going to expose him this morning. That is why he is not present.
– Probably. 1 hope that the press will give the same publicity to what I have just said as it gave to Senator Guy’s challenge about resigning his seat.
– The honorable senator has referred to something that happened twenty years ago.
– Yes, and the fact serves to remind us that the Australian Labour party has never changed its platform or its name during the last 50 years. I hope it will never do so.
– Evidently, the Labour party is not prepared to learn from experience.
– I learned in a different way from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer). I did not learn at a university. I learned in the school of poverty and adversity and that is why I say that the control of the Commonwealth Bank should be left as it is. Senator Guy also said that the depression was world-wide. One does not need to be an “Argus boy wonder” to know that, but we say that if the Commonwealth Bank, in 1930 and 1931, had been functioning as it now functions, the government of that day could have cushioned the effects of the depression, and prevented a great deal of suffering among the people. During the depression, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, was in a most invidious position. The Easter Labour Conference of 1930 was attended by the then Commonwealth Treasurer, Mr. J. A. Lyons, who afterwards supplanted Mr. Scullin as Prime Minister. Addressing the conference, Mr. Lyons said : “ The country, Mr. President and comrades, is broke. We are in pawn. We are insolvent. The Treasury to-day may be likened to my pockets- - it is empty. And what has made it empty? Nothing but the maladministration of those two political scoundrels, Bruce and Page “.
Sitting suspended from 12.^3 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was saying that Senator Guy had mentioned that the economic depression in the 1930’s was world-wide. We appreciate that fact and we are aware of the poverty and misery that afflicted our friends, the workers, in countries overseas. We say also that the depression could easily have been cushioned in Australia if the Commonwealth Bank had been functioning in those days as it now functions. I made some remarks in respect of Senator Guy prior to the suspension of the sitting when Le was not in the chamber, and as he is now present I shall repeat them. They related to some statements that he had made during the debate yesterday. I am not sure that his statements had anything to do with the bill, but he did make them. 1 said that Senator Guy was once a member of the Labour party, which is 100 per cent, behind the maintenance of the present control of the Commonwealth Bank. Speaking in Launceston £>s a selected Labour candidate in September, 1929, when the Commonwealth Bank was very much under discussion. Senator Guy made a certain statement when he was asked a question by a Mr. Fitzgerald, whom Senator Guy will no doubt remember. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether Senator Guy subscribed to the socialization plank of the Labour party platform, and Mr. Guy, as he then was, replied, “ Yes, 100 per cent. “ Senator Lamp was chairman at that meeting.
– From what is the honorable senator quoting?
– I am quoting from a statement made by the honorable senator himself.
– Surely the honorable senator will give me an opportunity to check its authenticity.
- Senator Guy said yesterday that he did not sign the Labour party’s platform, but he must have signed it otherwise he would not have been a member of the party unless he entered it by subterfuge as a stooge for the people to whom he transferred his allegiance in 1931. He was a selected Labour party candidate and every selected Labour party candidate must sign the Labour party pledge on being nominated for a seat. All candidates must honorably and justly accept everything laid down by the party. I should not have mentioned this matter to-day except for the fact that the Melbourne press to-day featured the challenge that Senator Guy issued to me yesterday. I hope that the Melbourne press will take notice of my answer to him. The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial said that Senator Guy challenged me to prove that he had signed the Labour party’s platform.
– Oh no, the socialist platform.
– That is it - the socialist platform of 1896. The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial reported him as saying -
I will resign my seat if you can prove I signed it, provided you will resign your seat if you fail to prove it.
– Does the honorable senator accept the challenge?
– I cannot prove it to-day, and as I said before I do not intend to accept any heroic challenge issued by Senator Guy, because I realize that if Senator Guy should resign his seat another Liberal party senator would replace him, and that if I resigned my seat in the State of Victoria, I would be replaced by an anti-Labour senator, owing to the present constitution of the Parliament in that State.
– The onus of proof is on the accused.
– I do not think that either of the honorable senators desires to leave here.
– When Senator Guy was a Labour candidate he was prepared to carry the banner of Labour and to support our traditional banking policy that was laid down by another Tasmanian, Mr. King O’Malley, and carried out by Andrew Fisher.
– I always opposed socialization, as the records of Labour party conferences will show.
– A true Labourite believes in majority rule, and at all the conferences that I have attended since 1920 the socialization platform has been endorsed by the party, and up to 1930 it was one of the planks of the party’s Platform
The Commonwealth Bank was established by a Labour government in 1911 because of the failure of the private banks in the land boom in the 1890’s. It was because of the fact that the people of Australia had been robbed by the direc- rn.ii tors of the associated banks of the money that they had saved to buy allotments of land on which they hoped to build homes, that the wise people who then led the Labour party early in this century decided that something must be done to give the people protection in the future. It has been mentioned here on many occasions that until recently money was still owing to those people who had made deposits with the associated banks in 1890. The Labour party introduced legislation to establish the Commonwealth Bank in 1911. If we could have a re-enactment of the proceedings in the Parliament in 1911, when that legislation was being debated, and also of the proceedings in 1924, when legislation to establish the Commonwealth Bank was before the Parliament, we should find the same arguments being advanced as are now being advanced in relation to this bill. The same defence was made of people who are stooges of the associated banks and big companies as is now being advanced here to-day. Senator Guy belonged to a party that believes in socialization, but he changed his allegiance because of some reason that I do not know. I say quite frankly that he is entitled, like any other person, to change his mind, but if he has in the past subscribed to policies that are honorable, he should admit it.
Senator Tate said that because of the provisions of the bill .members of the proposed board could not have any associations with private banks. That was also definitely stated in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech. It would be quite easy, however, for a Government appointee to the board, who is a director of a private bank or a person closely associated with private banks, to resign his seat on the directorate of a private bank one day, be appointed to the proposed hoard on the following day, and continue to carry out on that board activities that would be in the interests of the people that he represented.
– Such a thing actually happened before, and the man later went back to his old job.
- Senator Tate also asked me whether I paid taxes. Yes. I do, and I am very proud of the fact that to-day, because of the activities of a Labour Administration, most of the people of Australia are able to pay taxes. Under anti-Labour administrations, during the depression they did not have enough income to pay taxes. I do not know why the honorable senator asked that question unless it. is the intention of the party to which, he -belongs to. impose Saxes oil the post office, customs, and ether socialized utilities operating in the various States, It. would be quite useless to. impose, income taxation upon- the post office en1 the Department of Trade- and Customs.,
Senator- Tate also said that trade unions were controlled by a board. Hi’s statement was a case of a fool rushing in where an- angel would fear to tread. The honorable senator said that he belonged to some trade union, but I do not know what union he- could belong to, because no trade union that I know of is controlled by a board. Some- trade unions are guided in their deliberations by executive officers who conduct the affairs of those unions. They are elected by the rankand file of’ the various unions; I say to Senator- Tate that i£ the Governmentwhom he supports in this* chamber is prepared to submit a panel of names to the electors enumerating the people whom, the. Government proposes to appoint to the board, Labour senators on this side of the Senate would be. prepared to, accept such a plan. We believe that the- people should, be given an, opportunity to. decidewho the seven gentlemen to be appointed to. the bowl will be. If the Government were to do that we would/ have some causa to. believe that. its. proposals, are being made in the best interests of the people. Let us, examine the operations of the Commonwealth Bank Board- after 192.4. The Commonwealth Bank operated as an ordinary trading bank and did a- marvellous job during World War I. and until 1924. The people were called upon to vote on the issue of banking in the 1946 and, 1949 general elections.. It was. also an issue in the 1911 and 1914 general elections when, honorable senators will recall, the Labour party swept the polls because of the fact that the anti-Labour parties were not able bo issue such a flood of propaganda as they have issued ia the- last few years on the issue- of banking! In those years the people supported the policy- of the Labour party to bring down legislation to establish the Commonwealth Bank. In 1924,. however, the stooges of big business took away the charter that was given to the Commonwealth Bank by the electors. They waited until the time was opportuneand they used the “Little Digger”, William Morris Hughes, until he outlived his usefulness and was not prepared to play ball any longer, to sabotage theclass that made him. So they got rid of him and Mr. Stanley Bruce and Dr. EarlePage formed a government, which sneaked away, unbeknown to the. people of Australia, the charter that had been given tothe Commonwealth Bank. Did the Melbourne Herald ox the Sydney, Morning Herald or any capitalist newspaper, in 1924, make an issue of what the BrucePage Government had done? Certainly not. Very few people knew anythingabout what had happened because the debates in this House at that time were not broadcast, and the Government’s action was never given any publicity in the press. It was a tragedy that onceagain the monetary policy of this country was handed back to the wolves who had misled and mismanaged the country’s finances in the 1890’s. Now, because theCommonwealth Bank has been operating, in the interests of- the people, it has been made a. political issue, and propaganda against its control has been pouring out through the radio, stations and the- daily press..
The Treasurer has claimed’ that thepassage of the 1945. legislation was. dueto his administration in 1941. He has said also that the associated banks wereonly too willing to co-operate with him in 1941., That is correct. But what a grandi thing it would’ have- been for this Commonwealth of Australia if only the associated banks- had? been prepared to co-operate with. Mr. Scullin during thedays of the depression. Baa* the position was not the- same in 1929= and 1930 as it was in 1940 and 1941, because, in those Latter years the Treasurer said, “ We do not want the associated banks to make more profits “. No, of course they did not because the people had become rest.less,. Even- the great assets of the associated) banks were at stake, and they decided that if- their assets were to hesaved!,, they must fall into line with, the
Commonwealth Bank [18 May,
Commonwealth Bank in the control of finance during the war. So he agreed in principle to the associated banks giving control to the Federal Government during the years 1940 onwards, and he said in his policy speech that this legislation had operated admirably over the years. Why does he want to alter it?
The Government claims that it has a mandate from the people to alter the 1945 legislation. I say that the Government has no mandate to alter the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank, because that issue was never mentioned at the last general election except by individual candidates in passing. The issue at the election was the nationalization of banking which unfortunately the people of Australia are not yet able to understand. I hope that the time will come when legislation to nationalize banking will be introduced by a Labour government because it will bring great prosperity to this country. In 1946, at the general election, the people overwhelmingly endorsed the legislation introduced by the Curtin Government in 1945. This Government has no right to set up another bank board except that if one -enters into a contract, it must be carried into effect. The “ big boys who control the banking institutions and the combines of this country, who spilled hundreds of thousands of pounds in 1949 for propaganda, are asking for their pound of flesh and the Government is duty-bound to give it to them. Fortunately for the people of Australia there is & majority on this side of the chamber who will protect them and will not allow them to be blindly led astray as they were :at .the general election.
The day has arrived when big business is telling the members of the Government that it wants the profits from banking. The big financial magnates who control the associated banks want to do with the Commonwealth Bank the same -.thing as the Bruce-Page Government did in 1934. There is a reason. Nobody would suggest that the Commonwealth Bank failed to make a profit between 1911 and 1924 and from 1941 until 1950. The Commonwealth Bank made a profit of £85,000,000 in those periods and that money belongs to the people of Australia, not to the few who control the
1950.] BUI 1950. 2815
affairs of the associated banks. I invite honorable senators to consider the profits that must have been lost by the associated banks during the years from 1911 to 1924 and again since 1945. On the other hand, just imagine the profits that the associated banks must have made between 1924 and the year 1945 when the banking legislation of the Labour Government was brought into operation. The people who made this Government possible are after that money. They are demanding that control of the Commonwealth Bank shall be given back to those who supported the Government. The Government has named some of the bank personnel as members of the proposed bank board but it is not prepared to give honorable senators the names of the other five persons or even a panel from which those five will be selected. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber can draw only one conclusion and that is that the five to be chosen will come from the section from which they were drawn in 1924.
– Did the Labour Government announce a panel of names when it was appointing conciliation commissioners ?
– The Government appointed as commissioners men who understood industry in the interests of the people. Senator Guy was disappointed when his name was not accepted by the Attorney-General of the day.
– I was offered a job and refused it.
– Senator Guy was an -applicant ,and because of his lack of experience in industry, the wise Attorney-General ‘©f the day (Dr. Evatt) refused ;the honorable .senator’s application and appointed men who knew industry. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that the Government will follow the same principle. It will appoint men to the bank board who understand .banking, but who understand it in their own interests. In 1931, when the Commonwealth Bank Board could have cushioned the effects of the depression on the poor, the starving and the needy, the bank board refused to help them. Ample money “us made available to fight the war when the assets of big capital were at stake, but when the war was finished they vent back to the old days of exploitation, want and misery. If it was right to make money available for war it was doubly right to make it available during the depression. When the Treasurer of tha day and Mr. Scullin appro-ached the. Commonwealth Bank Board, which was controlled by Sir Robert Gibson, a man who was nominated by the associated banks—
– And appointed by the Seullin Government.
– Quite rightly so; but two wrongs do not make a right. If Mr. Scullin had exercised his right and appointed somebody who would be more sympathetic to the people, the Labour Government would have been maligned for giving the job to somebody who was sympathetic to the Government. The men appointed to the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Bank are men of ability, with no interests outside, the position that they occupy. There arc many men of that type in the Commonwealth service who gave all that they had in the war years but were branded then, as they are now by the Government, as the bureaucrats controlling Chifley and Curtin. They are available to-day and could serve this country in its best interests, but the Government is not prepared to give them the job. Mr. Melville and Dr. Roland Wilson have been named as two who will be appointed but they could be dismissed over-night and two stooges who represent the banking organizations could be placed in their positions. I shall read to honorable senators a quotation dealing with organizations tied up with the associated banks and I ask honorable senators where the Government is going to get the men to fill the positions on the bank board? This is the quotation -
In addition to the power they have us a result itf their control over industry through loans, overdrafts, mortgages, discount rates and direct investments, the controllers of the banks have consolidated their hold on the economic life of Australia by their system of interlocking directorates. It can safely be said that the group of wealthy individuals who control the banks are the actual rulers of Australia.
They were the rulers during the depression and if the Parliament is prepared to give control back to them, they will rule again. The people who should rule this country are those who took the nation through the war years. The following review of the profits of the banks demonstrates the nature of such undertakings.
– What is the honorable senator reading from?
– It is not a publication from which the AttorneyGeneral would read. This is an authentic document, published in the interests of the people. It states thai the Bank of New South Wales, established in 1817 with a paid-up capital of £7,423,440, made a profit of £825,082 in the year ended September, 1923. The dividend that year was 10 per cent, and reserves totalled £4,054,539. These figures relate to a period prior to the depression and show the profits that were made by the associated banks during those profitable years following World War I. What a sorry spectacle they made during the depression years! Foi the year ended .September, 1924, the Bank of New South Wales made a profit of £S46,834 and paid a dividend of 10 per cent. In 1925 the profit was £973,383 and the dividend 12 per cent. Profit in 1926 was £1,099,559 and in 1927 it was £1,226,247. In 1926 and 1927 the dividend- again was 12-J per cent.
It i’s not the poor people who hold shares in these associated banks. The only banks the workers of this country knew during the depression were the banks of the rivers and the creeks where they lived, and the only thing they drew was their breath. Only the wealthy control the banking institutions, which have paid such remarkable dividends on such a comparatively small amount of capital. If this Commonwealth is to be developed as a nation the Government must control the national purse. That was proved in the war years when there was in control party which believed in the socialization of the means of life and also that financially the war could be fought internally. Because there was an advisor; committee and a Commonwealth Bank and a federal government to legislate for the people and not for a few, this country was left after the war with a treasury filled to overflowing instead of being mortgaged to overseas interests. As a result of sane legislation and monetary control during the war, Australia has a credit of £400,000,000 in London instead of the deficit that followed “World War I. Loans owing to America have been reduced and the Labour Government left £100,000,000 in the Federal Treasury for the enactment of social services legislation besides about £250.000,000 for publ ic works. That is the position of this country to-day after a second world war. In World War I., the United Kingdom paid for most of the equipment of the Australian Imperial Force. In World War II., Australia equipped, clothed and fed, not only the 2nd Australian Imperial Force but also the Allied forces that came to this country. Australia is solvent to-day as the result of the efforts of those people who are opposed to legislation such as this. What are the business affiliations of the private banks? For instance, the National Bank of Australasia Limited is connected through directorates with the following organizations: Australian Glass Manufacturers’ Company Limited, Caledonian Collieries Limited, Dunlop Rubber Company of Australasia Limited, Howard Smith Limited, Metropolitan Gas Company, New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited, Trustees, Executors and Agency Company Limited, Goldsbrough, Mort and Company Limited, Union Trustee Company of Australia Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited, National Portland Cement Company Limited, Strachan, Murray and Shannon Limited, and the Victorian Legislative Council. We want to know who the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board are to be. If the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) is sincere in his approach to this measure, and wishes to be honest with the people of Australia, he will announce, not to-day, but on the next occasion when the Senate is on the air, the names of the men whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board.
– He does not know.
– No, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) does not know, because the controllers of big business have not yet made known the names of their nominees. If the Government really intends to appoint men who are not biased against the Commonwealth Bank, it should have no hesitation in announcing their names as soon as possible. We all know of course that it was the support of big business that made the election of the present Government possible. The Prime Minister and his colleagues would have us believe that the Liberal party depends for its funds upon membership fees at the rate of 2s. 6d. a member. In Victoria, a drive for membership was made by means of a house-to-house canvass, and I venture to say that when the history of the whole affair has been written, the people of the Commonwealth will be startled to learn how many Communists belong to the Liberal party to-day. Only recently the daily press reported that a Communist had been endorsed by the Liberal party as its candidate at the forthcoming New South Wales elections. Apparently, the Liberal party did not know that he was a Communist. During the last Commonwealth election campaign, thousands of bank clerks were forced by a gestapolike organization to act as propagandists for the cause of the associated banks. Unfortunately, many people, regardless of their political views, were forced to work for institutions whose aims are diametrically opposed to the Labour outlook on life. That applies of course to the private banks. I know some such people, but I cannot give their names lest they be victimized. Some of them attended political meetings at which I spoke. Although totally opposed to the policy of the banking institutions, they canvassed the suburb in which I live because they were afraid that if they refused to do so, they would be immediately dismissed. One life-long friend of mine is the manager of a branch of a private bank in Melbourne. He has been a supporter of the Labour party all his life, but, at the last election campaign, he was unable to give his customary support to Labour candidates because he was close to the retiring age and was afraid that he might lose his job. He was forced by th« institution of which he is an employee to support the campaign that was waged by the private banks against the Labour party.
– That takes some believing.
– Nevertheless it is. true. The honorable senator apparently cannot understand that. In fact I am inclined to believe that some honorable senators opposite wonder how they ever became members of the LiberalAustralian Country party Senate team. I am sure that they were not selected on their ability. Admittedly the leaders of the Government parties are selected on their ability, but then the anti-Labour forces say, “ We must get some blind stooges to follow those leaders and support legislation that will suit us “. In spite of the denials of honorable senators opposite, I repeat that during the last election campaign, employees of the associated banks were forced actively to support the policy laid down, not by Mr. Menzies or Senator O’sullivan, but by the people who control them. Those who claim that the Liberal party depends entirely for its funds upon the half-crown subscriptions paid by members are being deliberately misleading. We on this side know what elections cost. We are not able to use broadcasting, advertising and transport as they are used by the anti-Labour parties at election time. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were expended to ensure that stooges would be sent to Canberra to destroy that great institution, the Commonwealth Bank.
– I rise to order. I understood the honorable senator to refer to members of the Government parties as stooges who were sent to Canberra. That is not a parliamentary expression. It is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Did you, Senator Hendrickson, refer to Senator Maher as a stooge? If so, Senator Maher regards the expression as offensive to him, and asks that it be withdrawn.
– What I said was that the anti-Labour forces looked around to see if it was possible to get stooges to represent them in this Parliament. I did not say that Senator
Maher was a stooge. I thought that he might have been able to ally himself with those intelligent people of whom I spoke as the leaders of the Liberal party, but if he is one of those-
– Order ! Did you call members of the Senate stooges?
– Yes. If Senator Maher connects himself with that expression I withdraw it. This bill shows that the banking interests of this country are demanding their pound of flesh from the Government, but we on this side of the chamber will do everything in our power to retain the present administration of an institution which has done so much to ensure the social security of the Australian people. What happened in this country during World War I. when the finances of this nation were in the hands of the associated banks? Prices rose alarmingly. The associated banks made ample money available to the government of the day, but at exorbitant interest rates. Subsequently, when prices fell sharply, people who had ‘borrowed money to build homes or buy farms were forced into bankruptcy because they had no equity in their property. In the depression years, with our monetary system still substantially in the hands of the private banks, it was necessary to pass moratorium legislation to protect Australian farmers. The private banks lent the money to the Commonwealth Bank, which in turn lent it to the farmers to pay their debts to the private banks. Monopoly control of our banking system in the depression years caused the greatest financial crisis in our history. The lot of the Australian people was misery and starvation. Had the Commonwealth Bank been free in those days to operate as it has done since 1945, it could have cushioned the worst effects of the depression. It could have made money available at low rates of interest to build homes and roads, to enable primary producers to fence their properties, and eradicate pests such as rabbits and dingoes. Had the Commonwealth Bank been under the control of the Parliament at that time, unemployment could have been substantially reduced. Under the present administrative system, the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank is the Cabinet of Australia, and in effect, every member of the community is a shareholder in the bank and a contributor to its prosperity. Even the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has admitted the Commonwealth Bank has done splendid work under the control of the Governor since 1945. Why not let the present system of control continue so that this country may continue its march to prosperity? Labour would not object to the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board if it could be sure that the members of that board would be free of associations inimical to the bank, and therefore would be respected by the people of this country. Under ‘the Constitution, members of Parliament are compelled to submit themselves to the will of the people at certain intervals. Whilst we are members of this legislature we are the custodians of the financial system. We are responsible to the people, and it is our duty to ensure that the people shall have all the things to which they are entitled. Control of ihe monetary system of this country rightly should rest with the elected representatives of the people as it has done since 1941, but under such a system, of course, the private banks are unable to make huge profits and pay high dividends. It is not true to say that the Commonwealth Bank seeks a monopoly of banking in this country. All we want is that the Commonwealth Bank should do what it set out to do in 1911, that is, function as a national bank, a people’s bank and a trading bank. What was the position of the farmer, the man in industry and the small businessman during the depression? They could not obtain loans to carry on their business without paying exorbitant rates. I know that in order to purchase a motor car during the depression I had to pay 15 per cent, interest to Auto-Terms Limited. That is why big business is cracking the whip over honorable senators opposite now. Big business wants again to be able to exploit the monetary needs of the community. Suggestions have been made that the Government might precipitate a double dissolution of the Parliament if the Senate rejects this measure; but, in view of the result of the successive State elections held on the last three Saturdays, I doubt whether Government supporters are now so optimistic about their prospects. However, even if they are rash enough to force this matter to a double dissolution, I am confident that the good sense of the people will prevail and that Labour will again be returned to office under Mr. Chifley.
.- This is a very short bill. It sets out to accomplish two things; first of all, to repeal the Banking Act 1947, and, secondly, to establish a board to control the Commonwealth Bank. The repeal of the 1947 banking legislation is vitally important. Although certain sections of that act were declared invalid by the High Court and later also by the Privy Council, it is necessary to repeal that legislation in order to make certain that the proposal to nationalize the banks is disposed of once and for all. At the general election on the 10th December last I consider that the people showed unmistakably what they thought of the proposal to nationalize banking. I recall that when the earlier legislation, the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, was under discussion I remarked that the progeny of that legislation could be described in racing parlance as “ Paper Money by The Printing Press out of Caucus “. In amplification of that statement I point out now that when that legislation was enacted the note issue was £100,000,000, but by March of this year it had increased to £225,000,000. In turn the 1947 legislation could be expressed in breeding parlance as “ The Blue Duck by The Quack out of The Mare’s Nest “. A great deal of confusion inevitably surrounds any discussion of finance and banking. Many of us confuse banking practices with credit.
– The honorable senator should speak for himself.
– I hope that I can; at least, I am not instructed how to speak. I think that the reason why the 1947 legislation was so distasteful to most people was that many people have bank accounts and they have had considerable dealings with banks. I bank with the Bank of Adelaide Limited, probably, if I might express it in this way, because it suits my personal, selfish interests to do so. As every one knows* under the present system of private trading banks no one is . compelled to bank with any particular institution, and since people value the right to do with their own money what they desire, they rejected the idea of nationalizing the banks. I said a few moments ago that a lot of confusion surrounds the idea of bank credits. More misunderstanding and illusion is created on the matter of credit than on any other aspect of banking. In my view credit is simply deferred payment. The Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 established the system of central banking. 1 believed at that time, and I still believe, that the control of credit should be vested in the Commonwealth Bank, which is the central bank. If one approaches a private trading bank to-day for a loan, that bank has to obtain the approval of the Commonwealth Bank before it can advance the loan. I know, because I have an overdraft.
I propose to say something now about the connexion between full employment and economic recessions. Full employment has never been subjected to the acid test of reality. Many people have propounded elaborate schemes for full employment. Our present full employment is not due to any theory, but is the result of six years of war. Since the war we have not been concerned with providing work for people or with avoiding the recurrence of a depression; the greatest task that has confronted us has been to prevent inflation. If we can prevent inflation, then we shall be better armed to combat and control any recession that may occur. Full employment is still a theory. Briefly, the advocates of full employment base their argument on three theories: first, that it maintains and stabilizes demand ; secondly, that the Government can improve our economic condition by reducing taxes and can extend social benefits; and, thirdly, that as private spending decreases the Government can increase its expenditure to stabilize the national economy. Those theories may be quite all right in a nation that has a closed economy; but is not every nation virtually dependent upon an interlocked economy? Australia, in particular, has not a closed economy, because we are vitally dependent on our great export industries, and in that respect our economy is highly vulnerable.
It has been suggested in this chamber that a recession has already begun. If it has, it began during the regime of the previous Labour Administration. What provision did Labour, which is now in Opposition, make to meet a recession when it was in office?
– It set aside more than £700,000,000 for public works.
– I am glad that the honorable senator mentioned that fact, because I propose to deal with it in a few minutes. If full employment is to become a permanent feature of our economy, what contributions and what sacrifices have to be made by the community? I believe that it is proposed, in the event of another depression, to expend £743,000,000 on public works. What people do not realize, however, is that the implementation of such a vast public works programme must inevitably mean that men will be removed from their occupations, transported to other parts of Australia to work, and will very likely have to change their permanent residences. Furthermore, have honorable senators considered the time that must elapse before the change-over in our economy is completed ? Looking now at the practical side of the proposals, I ask honorable senators to consider whether proper preparations have been made for such a huge works programme by setting aside the necessary materials - steel, cement, machinery and so on. Of course, it is all very well to say that we have approximately £740,000,000 available for expenditure, but where is the money? When a depression comes it will not be the theorists who will help the unemployed ; that task will fall upon the business men and the trade unions. I said earlier that we are very vulnerable because we are an exporting nation. If the overseas prices of our products fall substantially our national income will fall, and with it will fall the full employment theory. The supporters of that theory argue that a decrease of the national income would be countered by internal inflation; but they overlook the fact that not only will exporters have to suffer reduced incomes, but they will then pl«-o have to contend with rising costs. Whether we have full employment or not, the purchasing value of wages is the most important single factor in the volume of employment. It cannot be said that under all circumstances an increase of wages will reduce unemployment; nor, conversely, will a decline of wages necessarily encourage employment. Full employment is very largely built up on Lord Keynes’s idea, which found expression in this country during the depression, in the Premiers plan, that an all-round reduction of wages by 10 per cent. i3 necessary at times to restore a nation’9 economy. In times of prosperity we cannot be too careful to avoid sowing the seeds of a future depression. Many people say : “ Full employment can be left to the Government “ ; but no Government, and no political policy, can hold back a depression. No matter what government is in power, it must have the co-operation of every section of the community if it is even to alleviate the consequences of a depression. I do not want to see another depression in this country. Supporters of free enterprise and persons who, by their thrift and industry have bought houses or established businesses, have a larger stake in full employment than have the members of any other section of the community. If there were another depression, not only would they suffer financial loss, but also they would lose their personal liberty, business initiative and freedom of enterprise., Another depression could destroy all small businesses in this country. The owners of the small businesses of Australia, whom I hope that we represent, are the greatest employers of Australian labour, and all our big industries depend upon them. It is the persons who took their courage in their hands and established their own businesses who gave this country the prosperity that it now enjoys. The supporters of free enterprise - and I include among them thrifty men throughout the community who work for wages and have bought their own homes - would lose much if another depression occurred. It is arrant humbug to say that we want another depression.
Clause 3 of the bill provides for the repeal of the Banking Act 1947. Whether that act will in fact be repealed depends upon honorable senators opposite. The measure provides also for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I support the proposal to establish the board, because I believe in the probity of my fellow citizens. Those who say that, if a man is appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, he will forthwith forget his duty to his country and to his fellows, exhibit a sad lack of knowledge of the greatness of human nature. I supported the proposal to reestablish the Commonwealth Bank Board when it was put forward in 1945.
– We shall remember that.
– I am quite prepared for the senator to remember it. Honorable senators opposite have said that they cannot think of any five men in the whole of Australia who would be satisfactory as independent members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Although they do not know who the five outside members of the board will be, they have already condemned them. Let us assume for the purposes of argument that Dr. Coombs is no longer Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and that the position has been filled by one of those five men. Would not honorable senators opposite wish him to have some assistance? If this bill becomes law, the five officials who are specified in the bill or have been mentioned by the Treasurer will be appointed as members of the board, and the five remaining members will be chosen by the Government. When all is said and done, there are men with brains on this side of the chamber. In my opinion, it would be a good thing if five men of experience, drawn from various parts of Australia and engaged in various industries, brought their combined knowledge and experience to bear upon the task of making the Commonwealth Bank function as it should function. It is a great slur upon the men of Australia to say that it will be impossible to find five men of ability, courage, and honesty to act as members of the board. I said in 1945 that I hoped a representative of the trade unions would be appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board if it were established. I still entertain that hope. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize, but when a man is given a responsible job, he begins to think and his outlook change?. It would be of benefit to the trade unions of this country if they had a representative on the board who would take responsibility for any decisions that were made. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– Two questions that are exercising the minds of persons who are interested in this bill are, first, why has it been introduced, and secondly, why is the Opposition opposing certain of its provisions? The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) told us that the measure can be regarded as another instalment in the implementation of the election promises that were made by the present Government parties prior to the 10th December, 1949. If that be so- and there is no reason to believe that it is not - this measure is a strong indication of the danger of making election promises. A supposedly responsible political party, in the tumult and turmoil of a general election, makes all kinds of promises to the electors, HOt with the object of rectifying a social or economic evil, but in order to catch votes. To use a colloquialism, it becomes vote happy. While it is vote happy, it will say almost anything, regardless of the consequences of its statements or of what is politically and socially necessary or desirable. When such a party is returned to power, it can do one of two things. Either it can admit frankly and _ courageously that there is no need to introduce a certain measure, or it can proceed blindly to implement the rash promises that it made on the eve of the election. We now have a bill before the Senate that suits hardly anybody. Clause 3 contains only one line. It reads as follows: -
The Banking Act 1947 is repealed.
If ever there were a superfluous and redundant clause of a bill introduced into the Parliament, it is that one. .The Banking Act 3947 has been declared by the High Court of Australia, the highest court in this land, and by the Privy Council, the highest judicial tribunal in the British Commonwealth, to be largely invalid. The Banking Act 1947 is as dead as the dodo. Yet this Government has written into this bill a clause providing for its repeal. The clause is cheap melodrama. It has been written specifically for the great ham actors of our time.
When the present Government parties were returned to power on the 10th December of last year, I thought that the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament might be discontinued, because, through the microphones in this chamber and in the other chamber, the ineptitude of the present Government would be broadcast to the people of Australia. But when I go to the House of Representatives and listen to the present Prime Minister of Australia speaking to the people whom he represents, after they have dined and wined well and are smoking expensive cigars, I realize how wrong I was. I know that while Mr. Menzies occupies the position of Prime Minister the proceedings of the Parliament will continue to be broadcast, and I believe that eventually he will arrange for them to be televised. If ever a great man fell in love with an inanimate object, it is the present Prime Minister who has fallen in love with the silver microphone on the table at which he sits in the House of Representatives. Clause 3 of the bill is a cheap melodrama written for the ham actors in the Government parties.
– Nonsense !
– Senator Robertson says “ Nonsense “. She should know a lot about nonsense, because she is surrounded by it on the side of the chamber on which she sits.
As I have said, this bill suits hardly any one. Senator McKenna pointed out that the Wheat Growers Federation of Australia condemned the provisions that seek to establish a Commonwealth bank board. Even a section of the Liberal party passed what amounted to a vote of censure upon its parliamentary representatives because of its dissatisfaction with some provisions of the bill. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) was present at the meeting. When I read the report, I had a great deal of sympathy for him, because I could imagine him, the creature of his own party, being faced suddenly with the venom and hatred that exists only in that party, and being stripped of the one thing with which nature has endowed him to resist the attacks of the outside world. I refer to the charming smile that his Maker has given to him. Doubtless it was not in evidence at that meeting, because no one would expect him to smile in those circumstances. When I read the report, I thought immediately of Adam, who had nothing to protect him from the blasts of the wind. In trying to redeem a rash promise, the Government has introduced a bill that does not suit even its own supporters.
I turn now to what may be described as the meat of the bill, that is, the provisions relating to the Commonwealth Bank Board. The proposed Commonwealth Bank Board has a long line of ancestors of which nobody could be proud. It springs from conflict, emotion, promises, capitalism and mass hysteria. To explain my opposition to the establishment of a board, it is necessary to refer briefly to the history of control of the Commonwealth Bank. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) reminded us the other night that the Commonwealth Bank had been established in 1911, and placed under the control of the Government. That is so, and the proposal to establish the bank was vigorously and viciously attacked by the interests which the present Governments represents. We know that in 1924 the Bruce-Page Government did its best to wreck the Commonwealth Bank by placing it under the control of a board. The Attorney-General made an interesting point, although his deductions were illogical. He said that, because a Labour government had placed the bank under the control of a governor in 1911, and another Labour government had reverted to the same form of control in 1945, that was an example of conservatism. He invited us to assume, however, that because an anti-Labour government appointed a Commonwealth Bank Board in 1924, and another anti-Labour government proposes in 1950 to do the same thing, that is not an example of conservatism. The AttorneyGeneral, although a King’s Counsellor, is not very logical. He should be careful in declaring people under the legislation which is now before the House of Representatives. I believe that communism can result only in war, and that conservatism tends in the same direction. I suggest that the Attorney-General should be certain of his ground when he sets out to declare any person. There is, of course, a logical reason why the Labour party favours the tried and proven method of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a governor, just as there is a good reason why a conservative government - or a Liberal one as it now calls itself - wishes to place the bank under the control of a board. Prom the time of its establishment in 1911, the Commonwealth Bank, under the control of the Governor, served the people of Australia in the way the Labour party intended that it should. Then, in 1924, a government representative of the present Opposition parties placed the bank under the control of a board, after which the bank did what those parties and their supporters wished. It is natural that the Labour party should want to restore a system under which the bank served the people well. It is also natural, in view of its origins and tradition, that the present Government should try to stop the bank from serving the people.
The Attorney-General said that, because of the attitude taken up by the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1931, the government of the day appealed to the people, who declared in favour of the board. I remind honorable senators that, during the 1931 election, the minds of the people were more concerned over unemployment than with what was happening in the Parliament. During the third quarter of 1931, unemployment rose to its highest peak of 118,000 persons, representing 28.3 per cent, of registered trade unionists. Does the Attorney-General really suggest that the people consciously endorsed the action of the Commonwealth Bank Board in preventing the Government from taking action that would have lifted the country out of the economic morass ?
– The people did not return the Scullin Government.
– No, they made the same mistake then as they made in 1949, and they will regret their recent mistake as they regretted their mistake of 1931. What did the Commonwealth Bank Board do in 1931?
– Tell us about it.
– I will. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has shown by his interjection that he knows very little about what happened. In 1931, the Labour Government introduced a bill providing for a fiduciary issue of bank notes to the value of £18,000,000. Those who opposed the proposal were able to create the same scare, based on mass hysteria, in connexion with the word “ fiduciary “ as was recently induced in connexion with the word “ nationalization “. To-day, the principle of a fiduciary currency is accepted without question. Perhaps the most contumelious document ever prepared was one issued by the Commonwealth Bank Board during the depression. I quote from it the following paragraph :-
Subject to adequate and equitable reduction in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively cooperate with the Trading Banks and the Government of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
What a state of affairs, when an outside institution could take upon itself to dictate to the elected representatives of the people the policy to be applied - and yet the Attorney-General has said that the people endorsed such behaviour.
– Why did not the Prime Minister of that time go to the country on the issue?
– Why does not the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) refrain from interjecting? Senator Willesee should be allowed to speak without continual interruption, and I particularly ask Ministers to refrain from interrupting.
– Put them out.
– If they interject too much, perhaps I shall name them.
– To-day, the Commonwealth Bank is under the control of a Governor who works in association with an Advisory Council that represents probably the finest collection of intelligence, so far as banking is concerned, to be found in Australia. The council consists of the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Commonwealth Statistician, and Mr. Armstrong, manager of the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank. It is the function of the council to advise the Governor, who is himself directly responsible to the Treasurer, just as the Treasurer is responsible to the Government. No Government supporter has questioned the qualifications of the members of the Advisory Council, or criticized the administration of the bank. Indeed, the Government proposes to place three members of the council on the Commonwealth Bank Board. However, it is also proposed to appoint five other members, so far unnamed, who will be able to override the decisions of the three erstwhile members of the Advisory Council. Who are the phantom five to be appointed to the board ? So far it is a closely guarded secret. However, if we note what resignations take place from the staffs of the trading banks between now and the time this bill is passed, we may get some indication of who is likely to be appointed to the board. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited occupies a prominent place in the economy of the country. Perhaps a member of the board will be drawn from that organization. Perhaps the newspapers will be represented also, because the present Government owes much to the support of the newspapers. As I have suggested, there may also be a representative of the private hanks on the board. I wonder whether there will be on the board a representative of the gold-mining industry. It is a great dollar earner, but perhaps it is too much to expect that it will be represented. Western Australia is the principal gold-producing State, but if we may judge from the contemptuous treatment of Western Australia by this Government, which did not even give it representation in the Cabinet, it is unlikely that the gold-mining industry will be represented on the bank board.
Is there likely to be harmony among members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, representative as it will be of conflicting interests? Senator Mattner said that he had great faith in his fellow Australians. So have I, but my faith has been tempered by clashes that I have had at conference tables and in the Arbitration Court. I do not think that we can expect a captain of industry, who for 30 or 40 years has been actively associated with a particular interest, to break away from his traditions and the environment of a lifetime when some big national issue comes up for decision. We cannot expect an impartial judgment from a man who, for all his active life, has been engaged in promoting the interests of a particular industry. Let us assume that .one of the members of the board will be a large exporter while another will represent the newspapers, and that the board is called upon to decide whether the Australian fi should be appreciated in relation to sterling. We know that the newspaper industry stands to make a cool £1,000,000 if the Australian £1 is put on a par with sterling, whilst the exporting industry would stand to lose many millions of pounds. On such a proposal there would be an immediate clash, and the opinions of the experts would be overborne by those representing selfish interests. The Government could remove much wellfounded suspicion if it were able to point to some mistake that the present administration of the Commonwealth Bank had made since 1945 - if it could say that it proposed to alter the present system because this or that wrong decision had been taken. It would also tend to allay suspicion if the Government were to publish the names of the phantom five who are to be appointed to the bank board, so that the people would be able to judge the proposals on their merits. In the absence of such information, the people have every right to be suspicious.
I now come to those provisions in the bill dealing with disputes between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Treasurer over matters of policy. The Attorney-General has told us that in the case of a dispute the Parliament will have the last say, but I submit that the honorable gentleman’s approach to this matter is very naive, indeed. In the first place, a dispute would not come before the Parliament at all unless it were on some vital issue, and I cannot imagine that after the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has placed bis five outside representatives on the board, it will be likely to disagree with him on any important issue. However, the age of miracles and flying saucers is still with us, so we must assume the possibility of a disagreement between the board and the Treasurer. It is then provided that all the documents relating to the dispute shall be laid on the table in the Parliament - something which I maintain should not be done. There are persons who would pay thousands of pounds, who, indeed, would give their right arms to obtain some of the information that those documents might contain. I have faith in my fellow men, but not sufficient faith to believe that there are not in this chamber some persons who, for a consideration, would carry such information to those who could make use of it. If the dispute occurred over some highly important and confidential matter affecting economic policy, information regarding it should not be spilled out so that any one who was interested might pick it up. What would happen about it if it went to another place with the party numbers as they are at present? The Attorney-General has said that we could move a vote of censure, but what good would that do? If we had taken that course in respect of everything with which we disagree we should have already moved twenty votes of censure against the Government. If we did so move now the Government could gag the debate in the lower House where it has a majority, and that would be the end of it. By the time a dispute between the bank board and the Treasurer is reported to the Parliament the matter will already have been resolved. In other words the Treasurer will have had his way. Because money bills cannot be amended by this chamber much of the debate on them is just so much sheer humbug. This bill has a strange ancestry. The fact is that the Government is not courageous enough to admit that it hates the Commonwealth Bank, which is a purely socialistic undertaking. The Government hates, but cannot destroy the Commonwealth Bank owing to the weight of public opinion and so it intends to do its best to .strangle the bank. The Attorney-General made one of the nicest suggestions that I have heard. He said, “ We appointed a banking commission which recommended the establishment of a board of approximately the number of members that we intend to appoint”. But he forgot, in his delightful way, to say that that commission’s report was issued in 1935 and now, fifteen years later, the Government intends to carry out its suggestions. The facts are that after the commission produced its report in 1935, the Treasurer of the day introduced a bill to implement its recommendations, but it never got beyond the second reading stage and has not been heard of since. Was that its fate because certain people who had some influence with the anti-Labour government of the day did not want the recommendations of the commission to become law?
Apparently it takes fifteen years for an anti-Labour government to move in financial matters, and so to my colleagues who have been asking questions about the Government’s promises to put value back into the £1, I now say that they know how long it will take the Government to do so. In 1911, when the Commonwealth Bank was established, the anti-Labour forces of the time said that it would soon be possible to buy “ Fisher’s flimsies “, as they dubbed Commonwealth banknotes, on the street corners of Sydney and Melbourne for ls. a bag. We shall be able to buy Commonwealth banknotes at that price on street corners only if this Government does not carry out its election promise to check the inflationary spiral.
I have tried to explain the reasons why this bill is before the Senate. I submit that there is no logical or valid reason for its introduction. The facts are that the present control of the bank has proved a great success since it was established under the 1945 legislation. In that year the parties opposite had all sorts of things to say about the then Government’s proposals to abolish the bank board, but during the debate on this bill not one of the members of those parties has been able to make any complaint about the bank’s operations since 1945. They cannot accuse it of having done anything with which they disagree. When an organization has been operating smoothly and successfully, and has been rapidly expanding, why should its control be altered? The fact is that the Government desires to destroy that system of control because of something silly that its candidates said in the heat of the moment during the last election, campaign when they were “ vote-happy “ and instead of having the welfare of Australia at heart were intent on catching votes. If they have any honesty in their political make-up, which I am beginning to doubt, why do they not tell us who the five mystery directors are to be ? If they were to do that there might be some justification for this bill but there is no justification for it while they withhold the identities of these individuals and so cause suspicion, and while they cannot give one valid reason for changing the control of the bank. The Labour party is opposed to the reinstitution of the bank board system because it remembers what happened in 1931 and because of the fact that the bank has been operating successfully since 1945 when the previous board was abolished. Surely we were not elected to this place just to pass legislation for the fun of passing it. Legislation that comes before us should be either necessary or desirable , in the interests of the people. The Labour movement would be less than responsible in its actions if it did not oppose this measure with all the vehemence at its command. Therefore, I say again that there is no need for this bill and that now that the Government has brought it here it should state who the five directors are to be. While the bill is in its present form the Labour movement will oppose it and I am proud to be associated with that opposition.
– I support the motion for the second reading of this bill for the reason that banking was a vital issue at the last general election when the present Government was returned with a majority. The Government pledged itself during the election campaign to repeal the 1947 legislation and to establish a small board of directors to direct the policy of the bank. Senator Willesee asked for one valid reason for the introduction of this measure. I shall give him one in a few words - “ To improve the position of the Commonwealth Bank in Australia “.
– To wreck it.
– To improve it.
– I do not believe it.
– I believe it. Had the electors returned the Chifley Government at the last election, I, for one, would have realized that they desired bank nationalization and I should have accepted their verdict. A great deal has been said about the activities of the bank officers in the last election campaign. I was not sent here to fight their battles.
– But the honorable senator is fighting their battles just the same.
– I am fighting on behalf of the people of Australia. I believe, however, that the bank officers were entitled to take an active part in the election campaign because they considered that they were fighting for their jobs. We often find that during political campaigns statements are made about ourselves and our opponents that we know to be untrue, and we do not like them. The reason is that every enthusiastic worker in an election campaign cannot be kept in check. That has gone on for years and unfortunately it will go on whatever we may do to try to prevent it. I find it hard, however, to believe that there are men in Western Australia, as was mentioned by one honorable senator, who wore undated returned soldiers’ badges while they were canvassing during the election campaign although they were not entitled to wear them. When I came to Canberra I had a 1950 returned soldier’s badge and I lost it, and so I am guilty of wearing an undated badge.
Much has been said about the proposed board and about who will be on it. I do not know the identities of the appointees any more than honorable senators opposite do. I shall wait and see.
– Why does not the honorable senator wait and see before he votes on the bill?
– I have hopes that the primary producers will have representation on the board, because Australia is a. big country and the operations of the bank are spread throughout its length and breadth.
– Perhaps the Government will put a “ Com “ on the board.
– I should not think so.
– I do not believe that it will, but how can the honorable senator know whether it will or not?
– The control of a bank which is growing and will continue to grow is too great a job for one man. The Commonwealth Bank operates not only in Australia but it has branches in other countries also. It is easy to see how much easier it would be for a board of directors to control the bank than for one man to control it, because the responsibilities of control are growing all the time. Many honorable senators have said that the bank has done a wonderful job in the past few years. Nobody will deny the truth of that statement, but I point out that in view of the conditions of this country’s finances as a result of the high prices that we have been receiving for our primary products, any bank could have proved a wonderful success during those years. I do not consider that it is necessary for all directors on the proposed board to be experienced in or authorities on banking. Naturally it is most necessary for some of them to be so qualified and the measure provides accordingly. I suggest that men of ability, sound judgment and experience, whether in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, pastoral or any other sphere, could do a good job on the board. Unlike Senator Willesee I am hopeful that Western Australia will have a representative on the board, as all of the outlying States should have. Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have conditions with which the people of Victoria and New South Wales are not familiar. As far as the number of directors on the proposed board is concerned I remind honorable senators that banks throughout the world have boards of directors numbering from five to 24. I consider, therefore, that a board of ten, as is proposed, is not too large. I believe that two heads are better than one and I believe that there is security in numbers. Many honorable senators have pointed out that under a Labour administration the bank was controlled by a Governor and a Cabinet of about eighteen directors, which was equivalent to a board. Compared to such a board our proposed board of ten is small. Would honorable senators opposite say that all the Cabinet Ministers, who would in fact be directors of the bank under the system that Labour desires, could be classed as experts on finance ?
– Certainly not.
– That interjection indicates that my suggestions are on the right lines. Listening to statements that have been made to-day and yesterday, one would believe that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation is opposed to the board system to be provided by this measure. I shall quote from the same newspaper as that from which Senator Fraser quoted this morning, but I shall quote more of it than he did. The paper is the Farmers’ Weekly of the 27th April, 1950. I point out that in every walk of life people have different political ideas. Some of them are Labour, some of them are Liberal and some are Australian Country party supporters.
– Any “ Commos “ ?
– I did not mention them. The head-l;ne in the newspaper to which I have referred reads -
New Bank Board.
A second head-line reads -
The A.W.G. seeks adequate representation.
The article reads -
A plea that any new Commonwealth Bank Board should provide for adequate representation of the primary producers was made at the annual conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which also expressed opposition to the creation of a board on similar lines to the previous one.
So do we. The article continues -
A motion along these lines was submitted by the South Australian delegates (Messrs. W. J. Marshman and A. Gosling).
Had the honorable senator gone a little further this morning and read more in the same column he would not have been left with the same idea.
– Read the lot.
– I shall do so. It continues -
Mr. K. Scilly (JT.S.W.) said that the previous legislation introduced by the Chifley Government provided that the Federal Treas urer should be a financial dictator of the Commonwealth. Governments changed, and this was considered far too great power to place in the hands of one man. Whilst a Government was in power, whose views were deemed to be sound by the majority of the people, things might be satisfactory, but Governments were turned out and it was deemed dangerous that such authority should be vested in one individual. Prior to the Chifley legislation there was a board on which provision was made for producer representation. “ We should demand representation on any board which may be elected to deal with financial problems “, said Mr. Scilly.
It was understood, he said, that the new bill would provide that in the final analysis Parliament should have the last say, and he moved as an amendment to the motion -. “ That the Federation advocate the creation of a Commonwealth Bank Board with adequate representation for primary producers, and that it be subject to the control of Parliament at all times “. Thi3 would mean that Parliament and not one man should be the supreme head.
Mr. C. Henderson (Vic.) expressed himself hs opposed to both the motion and the amendment. He doubted if the point already raised, that the Treasurer should dictate the policy of the bank, was being overcome by the present legislation. If a dispute arose between the Treasurer and the Board, all the latter was required to do was to table the appropriate document in Parliament. If the Government had a large majority it could refuse to even allow the matter to be discussed. “ This is a very dangerous motion, and 1 feel the people will resent interference ‘ with the Bank Board just as they resented interference with the private banks “, said Mr. Henderson.
Mr. W. F. Nicholls (S.A.) said he could see no danger in the motion. A Bank Board would be created if the Government got its measure through Parliament. When a deputation waited on the present Federal Treasurer recently he said th”* *‘1e primary industries would not he overlooked when appointments were made to the proposed new Board. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator If. O’sullivan ) was approached on the question he said that he was not so much concerned with the industry an individual represented, hut with his competence to be appointed to the Bo:, rd. The Government was sincere in seeing that producers were represented.
The Secretary (Mr. T. C. Stott) said that producers did not want a repetition of what happened in 1!)32 when the Governor of the Bank refused the recommendation of tho Government in respect to wheat payments.
M thin stage Mr. Scilly withdrew his amendment and the motion was carried.
I repeat that there are wheat-Growers in Western Australia who are not opposed to r.he board. They hope that the-e will be representation for them on the bank board. T hope that the VH w’1] hp carried because it will he for the benefit of the bank and the people of Australia.
– A peculiar point about this bill is that no honorable senator on the opposite side seems to know or wants to know who would constitute the bank board. I have heard it said again and again that the Government has a mandate to bring in this piece of retarding legislation. It is true that the policy speech of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) covered many subjects. The electors were informed through the radio and by page advertisements in the newspapers that the socialists were going to take away their homes, farms, and factories. The people were forced into a fear complex and as a result of its fear campaign, this Government was elected. It now claims that this -bill is part of its policy and that it proposes to do certain things.
Whenever political parties of the same colour as the Government have gained office and attempted to put forward retarding legislation, they have always used the socialist bogy. Away back in 1910 they said that anarchy was hiding in every plank of the socialist platform and similar statements have been made at every general election since then. The Government claimed that Mr. Chifley and the Labour party were socialists. If honorable senators on the Government side are to continue to cite me as a socialist, I say that they are fascists. The Prime Minister said in New South Wales that if elected he would ban Communists and “ fellow travellers “ and that the Labour party was a step ahead of the Communists, Honorable senators do not say that, but they describe honorable senators on this side as socialists. My reply is that they are fascists.
This proposed legislation is nothing new to the Australian Parliament or to its people. It is well known that the Bruce-Page Government determined to get rid. of Sir Denison Miller. A representative deputation inquired from Sir Denison Miller what the Commonwealth Bank would do to retard a depression and promote a scheme of public works and Sir Denison Miller replied that the bank would do what it bad done during the World War I. when it found money for the war. But Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page determined that that was not to happen. They elected a bank board and got rid of Sir Denison Miller. This bill proposes to place a stranglehold on the Common-, wealth Bank. 1 believe that it will do all the things that members of the Opposition have claimed. It will retard the business of the bank and bring about a return of that policy under which managers of the Commonwealth Bank were unable to accept any business from a customer if he was then doing business with a private bank.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have been accused of having a grudge and with supporting class distinction. I recall when the late Mr. John Beasley made representations to the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of a constituent. The bank was then under the direction of a bank board. The constituent, who was seeking a position, had good scholastic qualifications, and was able to do any work required by the Commonwealth Bank. But Mr. Beasley was told that although the girl had the requisite qualifications, the bank regretted that it could not find employment for her because her father was a tram driver. That is class distinction.
– I rise, to order. I submit that the honorable senator’s statement has no relation to the bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order! The honorable senator is in order provided that he connects his remarks with the bill.
– That is the position that applied under a bank board instituted by the Bruce-Page Government, and I believe that it will revert to such practices again if a bank board is formed. A Labour government altered that position. The bank act was amended to provide that those who desired to be employed in the service of the bank would be appointed on merit alone. Just imagine an institution like the Commonwealth Bank telling people who wished to become employees that they could not be accepted because their parents worked in a job of a standard that was not suitable to the bank board ! I understand that the controller of the staff at that time was named Latham. I know that Latham is a name well known in this Parliament.
I am convinced that this- is not the hill that the banks demanded the Government should put before the Parliament. My authority is the New South Wales Liberal party. At a meeting of the Liberal party in New South Wales there was a motion condemning the Government for its meekness. The Government was criticized not because the legislation was wrong but because it did not go far enough. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) is chairman of the Liberal party and he was at that meeting. He was able to defeat the motion because of his knowledge of what the Government had to do to get this legislation through. He explained that there was a Senate to get past and that the Government had to do certain things,* He told the conference that the bill was the best that the Government could put up at the moment. His statements then demonstrate to me that this bill is- not sufficient as a pay-off to the banks. They will demand more.
The Senate does not know the names of those who will be appointed to the board, and until honorable senators have more information I hope that the bank board proposal will be excluded from the bill. The appointment of the board would interfere with the Commonwealth Bank. Who are the people to be appointed? Are they to be like Lord Bruce who wa3 the Prime Minister of this country and is now a member of the House of Lords? He retired from Paterson, Laing and Bruce Limited. Immediately he was defeated by Mr. E. J. Holloway, he returned to the board of directors of that company. Will the members of the new Commonwealth Bank Board be men who have resigned from the directorates of the private banks ? Will they be representatives of wheat broking organizations such as Lindley Walker Wheat Company Limited? Will they be members of wool broking firms that extract as much as they possibly can from the wool-growers of this country? Nobody seems to know who the members of the board are to be, but I have a shrewd suspicion that they will be hand-picked by the bankers. I believe also that the Secretary to the Treasury, and the governmental representatives who at present constitute
Senator Amour. the Advisory Council, will soon, be supplanted. They will be appointed, to other jobs, and replaced on the Commonwealth Bank Board by men who will do the bidding of the bankers. The Commonwealth Bank has functioned very well during the last five years. It has made substantial profits, advanced millions of pounds for home building and for the expansion of industry. Why then should a board be appointed to curb its activities? If it is doing all these things and doing them well, and at the same time making handsome profits, why alter the system of control unless the object is to sabotage the bank and restrict its activities? Not one honorable senator opposite will deny that the bank is doing a good job. The appointment of a board can only mean the strangulation of the bank. It is true that under this legislation the Treasurer may, if he disagrees with a decision of the bank board, refer the matter in dispute to the Parliament, but as the Treasurer himself, in collusion with the private bankers of this country, will appoint the members of the board, why should he ever have to quarrel with them? The board will do the bidding of the Treasurer, and there will be no occasion for him to report a disagreement to the Government. No Government that had a majority such as this Government has in the House of Representatives would bring such a matter before the Parliament. Therefore I am not misled by the provisions of the bill relating to disputes between the board and the Treasurer. No one will be misled by them. I shall be very happy to vote against the clause providing for the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
The Labour party’s policy is against control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board. Our banking policy has stood for 50 years. During that period, some people have left the Labour party and joined the Nationalist party, the United Australia party, the Liberal party, or perhaps the Communist party. Probably, whilst they were members of the Labour party, they did much to spread the Labour gospel throughout the community. Some may even have lectured for the Labour party and so have educated the working classes in the true meaning of socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Now that they are members of other parties, it is hoped that their services will he availed of sometimes to instruct members of those parties in Labour’s policy. It is a sad day for Australia when we find before us in this Parliament legislation aimed at retarding our national development. Senator Mattner claimed that he believed in board control. He said also that the trade unions should be represented on the Commonwealth Bank Board. He may have been quite sincere in expressing that opinion, but he knows as well as I do that if this Government decided to appoint to the board one man to represent Labour’s point of view, it would make sure that a majority of the other nine held contrary views. I hope that the Labour movement will dissociate itself from any proposal to appoint one trade union representative to the Commonwealth Bank Board. If the Government wants Labour thought to be expressed on the board, let it appoint five Labour men, and five others, with an independent chairman. Apparently the Government does not consider it necessary that all members of the board should have bad banking experience. Therefore there is no reason why there should not be five trade union representatives on it. As Australians they would be quite capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and of using common sense. What the Labour party wants to know is who the members of the board are to be. It is sad indeed to contemplate the fate of this great institution which financed Australia in two wars, the first to make this a land fit for heroes to live in, and the second to enable all members of the community to share alike in the national wealth. These fine sentiments were all right when the Japs were knocking at our door, but the war years have passed and, with the security of this country no longer threatened, the Government is attempting to destroy this great institution which is the baby of the Labour party. The bank was unshackled by Labour in 1945; now the Liberal party proposes to shackle it again at the behest of the private banking institutions.
– I shall come at once to what I considered to be the most important part of the bill - the repeal of the Banking Act 1947. Honorable senators opposite say that that legislation is a dead horse, and ask why we should flog a dead horse. I do not think that the horse is quite dead. It is still kicking, and as I am against cruelty to dumb animals, I shall support this bill, which is the bullet that will put the horse out of pain. Undoubtedly the present Government parties received a mandate from the electors, and we intend to carry it out. Banking was the main issue at the last election, and it may be the main issue at future elections. If this debate has done nothing else, it has provided us with valuable information for future election campaigns. We have heard from honorable senators opposite a long rigmarole about the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. That is not relevant to the consideration of this measure. We give credit to the Labour party for what it has done, and we take credit for any good that we have done. We admit that we have made a few mistakes, and we consider that the Labour party too has made mistakes.- Looking back over history it is very easy to point to mistakes that have been made; it is more difficult to legislate for the future without making mistakes. Honorable senators opposite accuse us of wishing to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. Beyond making that assertion over and over again, with the voices of successive speakers becoming louder and louder, the Opposition has failed to give any reason why we should be accused of wishing to destroy this bank. We have been accused also of being the representatives in this Parliament of the private banks, and of seeking now to repay those banks for the help that they gave us during the election campaign. Therefore, honorable senators opposite must not object if we, in a few days time, accuse them of repaying a debt to certain other people.
– If that is true we shall stand up to it.
– And we are standing up to this one now.
– We are satisfied now that the honorable senator has admitted that. It will be on record in Hansard.
– I have not admitted it. Labour’s main objection is to the proposal to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. Apparently honorable senators opposite accept the principle of board control in everything except banking. In Great Britain, the Labour party accepts the principle of board control in banking, because the Bank of England, the greatest bank in the world, is controlled by a board. If that bank can be operated in the interests of the people of the United Kingdom under board control, I maintain that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia can also be operated by a board in the interests of the people of this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) said that he would have no objection to a board that was not subject to outside control. What did he mean by “outside control “ ? I assume that he meant control by the private banks. In other words, be was insinuating that the private banks would issue orders to the Commonwealth Bank Board and that those orders would be obeyed. On the other hand, Senator McKenna said that on the Commonwealth Bank Board theN would be two members who would be officers of the bank or of the Public Service. They would take very careful note of what the Treasurer said, and would influence the rest of the board. Th:board would then do exactly what the Government told it to do. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. I say that the board will listen to what the Government says because the bill specifically provides that the Government shall control the policy of the bank. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that; in fact, the complaint is actually made by many of them that the Government will control the bank.
– What is wrong with the present system of control ? What is the bank doing now that it should not be doing?
– I shall deal with that matter presently. The Leader of the Opposition said that we intend to alter the policy of the bank, and that we propose to do that by appointing a board-
– The board will do it all right.
– The board will not do it.
– Why does the Government want to establish a board if that board will not do so?
– We do not propose to alter the policy of the bank; what we propose to alter is the machinery for controlling the bank. Proposed new section 9a (2.) makes it clear that the policy of the bank will be “ directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia “. Furthermore, by increasing the capital of the bank we shall enable the bank to render even greater service to the Australian people. It is also contended by honorable senators opposite that we are anxious to establish a board so that we can pass on to it the responsibility for deciding contentious matters of financial and economic policy. For instance, it is suggested that a dispute is taking place amongst the parties represented on this side of the chamber concerning the value of the £1, and that that dispute could be resolved by referring it to the proposed board.
– That is exactly what we have been pointing out.
– Did the British Government have to get the board of the Bank of England to “carry the baby “ when it decided to devalue the pound? If the present Government wanted to implement a particular policy it would not look for someone to act as a stooge for it. We are quite capable of standing up and doing what we want to do. The Opposition has also complained at the number of members proposed to be appointed to the board, and has contended that it is not necessary to have ten members on the board. Does it object to the appointment of ten members on grounds of economy? Of course, honorable senators opposite have not given any reasons for their objection, but if their real objection is the ground of economy, I say that it ill-behoves them to mention it, because the previous
Labour administration cost the people of Australia a lot of money by increasing the membership of the Parliament.
Honorable senators opposite criticize the proposal to appoint seven “ unofficial “ members to the proposed board, five of whom have not yet been named. It is alleged that we shall select five individuals who will be the direct representatives of certain outside interests, and that in that way the control of the Commonwealth Bank will pass to those interests. However, I remind honorable senators opposite that the bill provides that three of the members will be officials, and of the remaining seven members the Government has disclosed that two of them will be also officials. In any event, the bill provides that in the event of disagreement amongst the members of the board the Governor of the bank shall have a casting vote. Concerning the complaint of the Opposition that the Government has not given any indication of the identity of . the five “ outside “ members who will be appointed to the board, I point out that we cannot do so because we are not prophets. “Wild allegations are made by members of the Opposition that we will smash the Commonwealth Bank, and so ruin the country -
– The antiLabour parties did so once before.
– Whether or not that is true, the fact remains that the bank is in a flourishing state today. Honorable senators opposite also contend that it will not be possible to obtain five suitable appointees who are not connected with banks. Since the Government will be able to choose from the ranks of every profession and calling in Australia, I think it is absurd to suggest that it will not be able to obtain five suitable appointees. Then, of course, it is said that the appointees will be under the influence of the private trading banks, that they will be wealthy individuals and directors of companies. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. What about the financial connexions of the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who receives a very generous salary and must invest a lot of money? He must have substantial financial interests of his own, and I ask whether honorable senators opposite have taken the trouble to “ screen “ that gentleman and some of their other advisers. Labour supporters also claim that although the five unnamed appointees will be appointed for a term of five years, the remaining two “ unofficial “ appointees may be dismissed at pleasure. However, the two gentlemen concerned are virtually public servants, and every one knows that a public servant is never thrown out of a job unless he has almost committed murder. ‘ It is obvious, therefore, that the security of tenure of those two gentlemen will he adequately safeguarded.
Having listened to the barrage of criticism directed at us by honorable senators opposite, I say that it would be impossible to bring forward a measure that they would not criticize. We have been accused of all sorts of things. Apparently members of the Labour party believe that we have no political honesty at all. Our intentions are misconstrued and our statements are twisted to support the theories of honorable senators opposite. We are not really a lot of rogues! Whereas we are out to help the Commonwealth Bank by establishing a board of members with very wide interests to control the bank, honorable senators opposite persist in misrepresenting our action as an attack upon that institution. As part of their campaign against us, honorable senators opposite contend that the bank has been run more profitably under the present system than it was under th<; former board. However, that statement can be easily disproved by examining the relative figures. I have taken the trouble to look at the balance-sheets of the bank which show that during the last four years of board control the hank showed a rate of increase in profits of £1,186,000, and that during the corresponding four years of control under a governor the rate of increase of profits amounted to £2,200,000. I point out that the last four years of board control were the worst years because they included the war, whereas during the past four years when a governor has had sole control the country has enjoyed great prosperity. Senator Nash referred to the good work done by the hank during the war, and mentioned that loans were over-subscribed and that the interest on money borrowed for the prosecution of the war was only 3£ per cent. However, I point out that the bank was controlled by the board during at least a part of the war.
Another allegation made by our friends opposite is that the former bank board caused the depression. Although a great deal was said immediately prior to the recent election about the causes of the last depression, and Labour spokesmen blamed the trading banks and the nonLabour parties for the depression, it is perhaps significant that nothing whatever was said about the former Commonwealth Bank Board. Now we are hearing a great deal about that body. It is alleged that during the depression that board refused to advance money to the Government. What actually happened was that the board advised the Government to take certain steps. What a poor Government it must have been to allow the bank board to dominate it! Allegations are also made that the board proposed to be established under this bill will tie up money and will not make it available for developmental projects. It has been suggested that even such a project as the Snowy Mountains scheme may not be able to obtain finance from the board. Surely it would be a weak government that could not get around the board in such a matter! However, the real position will be that when the Government controls the board, as we intend that it shall, the board will not have the say in such matters. Since the Snowy Mountains project has been mentioned by honorable senators opposite, I ask them whether, when the previous Labour Administration decided to implement that scheme, it had to go to the bank and ask it for the money to finance the scheme? To put the matter more plainly, did the former Government decide that the scheme was to be implemented, or wa9 the decision made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in that Administration?
In conclusion, we claim that the establishment of the proposed board will not only enable the bank to continue to function efficiently and in the interests of the people, but that, because the board will represent a cross-section of the corn- munity, including industry and trade, it will also function more successfully. Honorable senators opposite seem to imagine that the board will be composed of multi-millionaires and individuals with large incomes, who wilt resign from banks one day in order tobecome members of the board thenext day. That is not our intention. We intend that the board shall be a cross-section of the Australian community and that, under the control of the Government, it shall manage the Commonwealth Bank for the good of the country. I support the bill-
’.. - This measure proves conclusively that anti-Labour parties, whenever they get an opportunity to do so, “ sell out “ enterprises that have been established for the good of this country. The sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers is another indication that, in various disguises and under various names, they will sell out to the vested interests that they represent immediately they get an opportunity to do so.
Although honorable senators on this side of the chamber have asked the Government repeatedly to state the reason why it wishes to establish another Commonwealth Bank Board, no real answer has been given to that question. It is admitted that since 1945, under the present system of control, the Commonwealth Bank has done a remarkably good job. The Government must be actuated by some motive in proposing to alter that system. I suggest that the motive is that it desires to sell out to the private trading banks. Senator McKenna referred to the fact that we have not heard one word of protest by the private banks against this measure. I ask the Senate to contrast the present position with that which existed in 1947 when a Labour government introduced a measure to nationalize the banks. It was almost impossible to move in Parliament House here or anywhere else owing to the number of agents of the private banks who were protesting against that measure.
Let us examine the history of banking in this country from 1890 onwards. I know that honorable senators opposite do not like- it when we examine past events.-
The Attorney-General, in reply to an interjection to the effect that the proposed board might do the same things as those that were done by the previous hoard in 1931, said the times are different now and that this proposed board might not do the same things. To my mind, that statement indicates that he believes there is a. danger that it will do so. Almost every honorable senator opposite who has spoken in this debate has referred to the Scullin Government, which was in office during the depression years, when this country was, in effect, under the control of the private banks. During that period the private banks, through the Commonwealth Bank Board, actually dictated the financial policy of this country. Senator Guy said that governments had no control of the factors that caused the depression. We know that they had not. We know that there were outside influences at work over which the governments of that period had no control, but we know also that if the Commonwealth Bank had acted in the interests of the people, as it was intended that itshould act, the privations that were endured during the depression by the people of this country could have been at least alleviated. The Scullin Government was in office, but not in power. The anti-Labour parties had a majority in the Senate. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) was one of the members of those parties in this chamber who voted against a proposal by the Scullin Government to make £18,000,000 available for the relief of distress. Those are facts. Honorable senators opposite will not deny that although tens of thousands of our own kith and kin were literally starving during the depression, we had or could have produced what was required to feed, clothe and house them. Surely they will not deny that those things could have been provided. The only commodity of which we were really short during those years was money.
Senator George Rankin interjecting,
– We have had another interjection by the Bendigo “bulldozer”. It is well known that the Scullin Government could not get assistance from the hostile anti-Labour majority in this chamber, but now that the Labour party is in a majority here, appeals are made continually to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to co-operate with the Government. What co-operation did the Scullin Government receive from the anti-Labour parties? The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said that the Scullin Government was to blame for a lot of the unemployment and starvation that was then rampant in Australia.
– I did not say that.
– Although the Attorney-General may not have used those words, he implied that. But neither he nor other honorable senators opposite who have spoken in this debate have said a word about the frustration, by the anti-Labour majority in this chamber, of the Scullin Government’s attempt to alleviate the distress from which our people were then suffering.
I propose to go back to 1924, although I know that honorable senators opposite will not like it. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) was then the “ Tragic Treasurer “. Now he is the “ Doleful Doctor of Death “.
– Why does not the honorable senator go back to 1066?
– I am prepared to go back to 1893, when the private banks of this country literally robbed thousands of people of their savings. In 1924, the Bruce-Page Government established the Commonwealth Bank Board. The members of the board were mainly representative of the interests of the private trading banks. One member was a representative of the trade union movement, but obviously he was only a voice crying in the wilderness. I shall remind honorable senators opposite of one of the first things that the private trading banks did when the Commonwealth Bank Board was established by the Bruce-Page Government in 1924 -
In August, 1924, the associated banks notified the wool councils that sales would not be financed without additional notes or “ rights “ to same.
They had issued a demand on the Commonwealth Bank for the right to draw.
They promised released credits and reduced rates. The note issue board capitulated.
– From what is the honorable senator reading?
– I am reading from a document that is very informative. I am prepared to let the AttorneyGeneral look at it later. It sets out alarming and irrefutable facts, and it may do him a lot of good to study it. Incidentally, it was not edited by a member of the Liberal party or of the Labour party.
– By whom was it edited ?
– By somebody for whom I have a great respect. I ask the Attorney-General to listen to what he said -
In September the right to draw another £5,000,000 was conceded, but credits were not released; they were tightened. Rates were not lowered; they were raised.
Honorable senators opposite know that there were no pro-Labour newspapers in Australia at that period - at any rate, not big daily newspapers -
J he newspapers announced that at the Adelaide sales the price of wool dropped because buyers could not obtain bank credits, no matter on what security. The Sydney Daily Telegraph-
That is not a pro-Labour newspaper - described the situation as a financial hold-up. The banks responded to the outcries by a demand for an additional £10.000,000, promising abundant credits and lower rates if conceded.
What follows is an indication of how the financial policy of this country at that time, when a Commonwealth Bank Board was in existence, was dictated by the private banks -
On Oft. 10, 1924, the Bruce-Page Government proclaimed the Commonwealth Bank Act. Under this Act, the bank and the note issue were combined under the chairmanship of Mr. John Garvan. Next day, the bank board, the Bruce-Page Government and the associated banks went into secret session. On Oct. 14, the newspapers announced that the associated hanks had delivered their ultimatum to the Government and won on every point.
– Who said it was an ultimatum ?
– That is a matter of interpretation. It was not said by a King’s Counsel. I would not go to a King’s Counsel for an interpretation of this kind -
The terms imposed by the banks were, the associated banks to have the right to draw another £10,000,000, no interest to be paid for the right to draw, 4 per cent, on notes actually drawn.
It will be seen that the private banks had complete control. They secured the right to draw. They agreed to pay 4 per cent, on notes actually drawn, but they did not draw any at all; they operated on their right to draw.
– What amount did they draw?
– They drew approximately £15,000,000.
– On which they had to pay interest of 4 per cent.
– They did not draw it; they had the right to draw it. They agreed to pay 4 per cent, on notes actually drawn, but they did not draw any. They operated on their right to draw, and paid nothing. If honorable senators opposite want evidence of the dictation of financial policy, they should refer to the actions of the late “ Joe “ Lyons, who was the Prime Minister of Australia in 1932, at a time when he had left the Labour party and assumed the leadership of the United Australia party, as the Liberal party was then known. Incidentally, the initials U.A.P. stand for “ Unemployment and Poverty “. That is all that we had when it was in power. Mr. Lyons, speaking at a public meeting in Adelaide, intimated that it was only because the private banks had confidence in his Government that it was able to carry on. That was a frank admission by the Prime Minister of the day that his Government was able to carry on only because the banks had confidence in it.
– The people had confidence in it.
– The people had confidence in it only because in 1931 the anti-Labour parties, by the use of their majority in this chamber, frustrated every effort of the Scullin Government to alleviate the distress that was then rampant in Australia.
– Then the people destroyed the Scullin Government.
– The “ Hobart Howler “ has interjected. The people do not understand banking. All they knew was-
– Supporters of the Labour party destroyed the Scullin Government.
– I advise the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to refrain from interjecting. Ho has an unenviable record. He recorded his vote against measures that wen.* -designed to feed starving men, women and children. I do not like rubbing it in, but if the Minister will interject he must be reminded of what he did. “We are often told of the closing of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank, and the New South Wales Labour Government has been blamed for it. Here is an admission by Sir Robert Gibson, the bedstead manufacturer, who was appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board by an anti-Labour government.
– He was appointed by the Scullin Government.
– No, he was reappointed by the Scullin Government, which had no option in the matter because it did not have a majority in this chamber. In the course of a broadcast speech delivered on the 31st May, 1931, Sir Robert Gibson said -
The Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was forced to close its doors because the people who had deposited their money in that hank were led to believe by the foolish statements of those who should have known better, and the statements of those who desired to bring about disaster, that that Bank was not in a safe position. . . . The Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was in a perfectly sound position. There was no good reason, on acount of lack of soundness, why it waa compelled to close its doors.
There is the answer to the charge so frequently made that the New South Wales Government Savings Bank was forced to close because of what was done by the Kew South Wales Labour Government. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have made it clear that they will not countenance a return to the previous system of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board. We want to know the Government’s motive in seeking to appoint a board. Even Government supporters admit that the bank has done a remarkably good job since 1945. The Banking Act 1947 has been dragged into the discussion for political reasons only. That act is dead. The Government says that it will appoint to the board five men not connected with banking interests. Where will it find thom ? Does it propose to appoint dress designers or milliners?
I suggest that the Government intends to leave the way open for the appointment to the board of representatives of the trading banks. The Government is not game to say who the five members will be, or perhaps it has not yet been told by those who are dictating its actions. We know that any director of a trading bank can resign, and be appointed to the board of the Commonwealth Bank the following day. Moreover, certain appointments to the board can he terminated at any time. We are forced to the conclusion that this bill represents a partpayment to the trading banks in return for the colossal sums they expended on behalf of the anti-Labour parties in the general election campaign. This bill is a sell-out to the trading banks of the same kind as that attempted by Mr. Richard Gardiner Casey in 1938. Honorable senators opposite know that, and this legislation is merely an attempt to cover up the Government’s intentions. The Government has already sold out everything it can for the benefit of the interests it represents. We have been told that the banks, when they participated in the election campaign, were merely trying to defend their rights. I know one bank manager in “Victoria who refused to go out, on the door-knocking campaign, and hp was sent out into the bush.
– Where was that ?
– I can prove what I say. The man told me himself. I have seen a letter from one of the banks to its employees instructing them what to do at political meetings, what questions to ask at Labour party meetings, and what questions to ask at Liberal party meetings. Bank employees, who were sent out electioneering, received their ordinary salaries, plus overtime. Many of them were required to act against their own judgment. The trading banks are determined to regain control of the nation’s economy. It stands to reason that the five unnamed members of the board will be connected in some way with the trading banks. We know how industry throughout Australia is associated, through its management, with the banks. It would be practically impossible to pick on any prominent businessman whose business was not in some way connected with the trading banks.
T.his Government undoubtedly intends to sell out the Commonwealth. Bank to the trading banks as the Bruce-Page Government did in 1924. The Commonwealth Bank was rescued by the Labour Government in 1945, and if this bill becomes law a future Labour government will have to rescue it once more from the financial oligarchy in whose- interests this Government, is working-
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [5.91. - Despite the ordeal we have to undergo in listening to the mutterings of Senator Sandford, I am. intensely proud of the privilege of being able to speak in support of this bill. Despite the fact, that this so-called great, but now not so great, Labour movement enjoys a majority in the Senate chamber, we have seen the white flag raised in connexion with the predominant part of the bill. The Labour majority in this chamber is cowardly in the extreme, because it is not game to assert its strength in support of its policy of 1947, and what is, according to Senator McKenna, still its policy - that is, the nationalization of banking. We have been assured in advance of the passage of the main part, of the bill, and have been told that members of the Labour party, as democrats, are harkening to the voice of the people.
The white flag of truce has been raised, and Senator McKenna has very significantly told us that it is merely a truce, and not a surrender. Speaking as Deputy Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, he told us that his party still believed in the nationalization of banking, a statement which will be interpreted by all thinking Australians as an indication that if the. Labour party ever returns to power it will once more attempt to drive through the Parliament legislation similar to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1947.
– It will be in the best interests of the country.
– I am glad to be reminded that there are among members of the Opposition some who, like Senator Ward, are so frank and persistent as to continue to expound to the people the policy of nationalization of banking. We should all stand in admiration of the candour of the honorable senator who has been so completely frank in stating the objectives of his party. However, it is to the eternal shame of the Opposition that, during the election campaign, the results of which honorable senators opposite resent so bitterly, it resorted to subterfuge and camouflage to a despicable degree. In his policy speech the present Leader of the- Opposition (Mr. Chifley), instead of. coming out frankly, as Senator McKenna- did last night, and saying that he and his party believed in the nationalization of banking, and would,, if returned to power, resurrect the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1947, resorted to camouflage, and, speaking with all the authority of: the: Prime Ministership, said -
Our opponents will endeavour to catch votes by raising scares and bogys. False and malicious statements are being circulated to the effect, that th& Labour party intends to nationalize all industry. The Labour party has no desire and no plan to do anything of the kind1.
I have here .before me a document that I am quite willing to have tabled at the request of any honorable senator opposite. It is the official platform of the. Australian Labour party as printed in 1948, and, so far as I know, unamended since that date. The document sets forth the objectives of the Labour party as endorsed at a secret conference, and they include the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange-. It is stated that industry is to be socialized through the control of banking by the nation, and in the forefront of the objectives are nationalization of banking, credit and insurance. However, in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition, pretence, not plain speaking, was resorted to. He did not tell thepeople what were the objectives of the Labour party. On the contrary, besought to conceal from them the intentionof the Labour party to nationalize banking. He knew that if he could succeedin getting back into power for another term he could surreptitiously put into effect this foreign and odious doctrine of nationalization.
– A great majority of the people want it.
– I am always prepared to listen with respect to Daniel when he comes to judgment. Senator
McKenna spoke of the Banking Act 1947. When I reflect upon it and re-read it I get a certain amount of merriment from the sentiments that have been mouthed in this Parliament during this debate. That act was printed with good British money in the heart of a British community and forced through a British parliament so hurriedly as to prevent the people from having any vote upon it before it came into operation. Even the proceedings taken by those whose destruction was threatened by that legislation were opposed. Those people sought only the protection of the courts of the country which they asked to adjudicate upon the validity of that act. Yet in relation to another matter honorable senators opposite argue vehemently, not in defence of democracy, not in defence of institutions lawfully carrying on the business of banking which is not unlawful in itself, but in defence of organizations that are satellites of the Communist party. The official policy of the Labour party, of which Senator McKenna is the Deputy Leader in this chamber, is the nationalization of banking, and that policy is identical in that respect with the policy of the Communist party. But how did honorable senators opposite and their friends seek to give that policy legislative effect? I shall read to the Senate appropriate passages from the judgment of Mr. Justice Dixon of the High Court in relation to that act. I could not convey to the Senate in a more lucid way the substance of the act whose interment we are now carrying out. Mr. Justice Dixon said -
The principal objects to which the provisions «i the act are addressed may be indicated briefly. In the first .place, its application is conf nd to a list of what it calls “ private hanks an expression meaning the corporations or companies carrying on banking. The list comprises all the institutions carrying on business in Australia which are commonly called trading banks.
– I rise to order. I desire to move that the honorable senator be given leave to read his speech.
- Senator Wright is quoting only. He is not reading his speech.
– He is not even original. He is reading what somebody else said.
– I pause to state that what I am reading is a relatively brief extract from the judgment of His Honour, Mr. Justice Dixon, which was adopted by the highest tribunal to which the Australian Attorney-General of the day appealed. I refer to the Privy Council, which recognized the value of the judgment from the point of view of conveying an understanding of the act and its constitutional invalidity. I point that out because a moment’s reflection may elicit even from honorable senators opposite some degree of respect for that very elevated contribution to our constitutional knowledge, which, although it is remote from their level of thinking, may nevertheless some day he reached by them.
– If we keep on listening to the honorable senator we shall degenerate.
– The honorable senator is quoting the opinion of only one man.
- Senator Grant must not attribute his degeneracy to me. The judgment continues -
These private banks, as the act calls then-, are divided into those incorporated in Australia, those incorporated in the United Kingdom and those incorporated elsewhere. The Commonwealth Bank is authorized to purchase by agreement shares in a bank incorporated in Australia or in the United Kingdom. The Treasurer must approve. Shares in an Australian bank so purchased are, by force of the act and in spite of anything the articles of association may say, vested in the Commonwealth Bank, which thereupon becomes a member of the company. This is the first operative provision (secs. 12: 14: 10:). Next, the Treasurer is enabled to publish a notice in respect of any bank incorporated in Australia that on a named date the shares situated .in Australia shall vest in the Commonwealth Bank. The consequences are twofold. On the expiry of the notice shares then on the Australian register, or afterwards coming upon it. i-pst in the Commonwealth Bank which, as before becomes a member of the company, notwithstanding the articles of association. At the same time the directors are removed and nominees of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, approved by the Treasurer, take the place nf the directors and assume a)] the powers of the company.
I shall now paraphrase the judgment without directly quoting it. In the third place the judge referred to the fact that under the act the Commonwealth Bank could compulsorily acquire the businesses of the private banking companies, and fourthly, that under the act the Treasurer took power to forbid the companies to carry on their banking business. Fifthly, he said that, as the Constitution requires, compensation was to be paid to the companies, such compensation to be assessed by a Court of Claims especially established for the purpose. Lastly, the judgment said that the act contains provisions regarding the staffs of the banks. And so, at the arbitrary will of the Treasurer of the day, the shares and assets of the banks were to he acquired by the Commonwealth or its agencies, and the livelihood of those whose futures were wrapped up in these banks were compulsorily to he directed by a government agency. When we realize the arbitrary nature of that piece of legislation, and how fundamentally destructive it was of the very roots of these rights of the British people to earn-
– I hope that we shall hear about the British rights next week.
– I was referring to the rights of the British people to earn that by which they may live and acquire for themselves independence, that it, private property. Is it not the considered view of this chamber that this is a great day fo* the British? The people gave a magnificent majority to our distinguished Prime Minister at the last general election. It is a great day when this legislation can go through this chamber despite the continued existence of a socialist majority. This measure spells death to the foreign and iniquitous piece of legislation that was designed to nationalize this country’s banks. Honorable senators opposite are still disparaging the employees of the private banks who took part in the defence of their own livelihood. Those honorable senators have been unworthy enough to defame the bank officers and to impugn them by saying that they simply acted as stooges and not at the dictate of their own consciences. I say that those officers very definitely took their lives in their hands and came out in defence of their livelihood against that arbitrary legislation. Because they did so they were the targets for attack by honorable senators opposite. I say here and now that thosepeople are entitled to a respectful mention, and it is entirely discreditable tothe Opposition that their good name iscontinually besmirched in this chamber.. They were fighting for the continued existence of the banks that provided their livelihood.
– Bank clerks were treated as slaves.
– The Banking Act 1947 received a severe blow at the handsof the courts despite all the legal ingenuity that was used by the Chifley Goverment and which it recruited at great expense. The decision of the tribunalsshowed that the legislative machinery that had been framed to give effect to the evil design of the Labour party’s bank nationalization policy was quiteunconstitutional.
– The Privy Council decided that it was unconstitutional only in part.
– The majority of the High Court held that it was plainly unconstitutional and the Privy Council sealed its legal doom. Not only do honorable senators opposite cavil at the decision of the people on political grounds. Last night Senator McKenna took it upon himself to criticize from a legal point of view the decision of the Privy Council itself. I need say no more. I hop? that if ever I should bring to my appraisal of a Privy Council judgment such a lack of understanding as the honorable senator has brought to his appraisal of it,. I, too, shall forsake the police court for other fields.
There is another part of this bill which is just the luggage carrier of the caravan. The Labour party socialists have decided that they will let bank nationalization go. They realize that they dare not oppose the will of thepeople as expressed at the general election, and so they have decided that to defeat the will of the people they will snipe at this bill. They say to themselves, “ If we don’t let down the tyres on the wheels of the main carriage we ahull at least bump the trailer off the road.” So they have decided to concentrate their attack on the provision to re-establish the board system of control of the Commonwealth Bank.
The Opposition’s first criticism, in relation to the proposed board causes me some mirth. It complains that the Prime Minister’s promise that the board would be small is not to be fulfilled. They regard a board of ten as not little enough. I suggest, that the Opposition’s conception on these matters can only be appropriately stated in words that occur in Alice in Wonderland, which are -
Little oars by little bands with little skill are plied.
The next criticism made of this board is that it will not be independent.
– When does the Christian Endeavour meet?
– Immediately after the I.W.W.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– I do not know why Senator Grant seemed to bridle at the reference that Senator George Rankin had made to my use of the word “ independent “ and its connexion with the I.W.W. The word “ independent “ was used in the title of the I.W.W. which meant the Independent Workers of the World, and honorable senators will recall that it was used in that instance as a complete lie because it was adopted to conceal the fact that the I.W.W. was dependent upon a foreign organization. Senator McKenna chose to give it a different context. Because it is proposed- in the hill to go outside the Public Service in appointing some members of the board Senator McKenna has suggested that those who will be appointed will not have the independence that was promised to the people by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. If I may humbly say so, that is rather a naive idea. That view presupposes that nobody in the Public Service has any interest in private busi- ness or in any licence returning profits. It also assumes that none of the previous executive board, the Cabinet of the day, had private interests in shares or in licences or in any property. No honorable senator will readily accept either assumption. It has been said also that if one goes outside the Public Service into the public field it is impossible to get five men in Australia of experience on the level proper to the requirements of the Commonwealth Bank Board who will be free enough from other financial interests to discharge their duty to the bank. The office of a member of the bank board, for this purpose, seems to be no higher than that of a judge of the Supreme Court, a member of Parliament, an income tax commissioner, a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, the Coal Mining Industry Tribunal or any of those institutions that Parliament constantly constitutes, and they have a very high level duty to carry out.
To suggest that five of the members of the proposed bank board should be proscribed because of the presumption that they will have disqualifying private financial interests seems to me to proceed from a guilty conscience. With all respect to those who have uttered those reflections on the men who might accept those positions, I say that that opinion proceeds from a very warped and unworthy conception of the standards of the ordinary experienced man who would take an appointment on such an organization. It is proposed that the appointee shall not be a director or employee of a bank, but it does not follow that he might not have been a shareholder the day before he entered the job. It is quite common for a man who has held private interests to fell them and be free of their fetters when he is appointed to a position of trust. I remember Lord Bruce declaring that during his term as Prime Minister of this country, he sold all his private interests and held only Commonwealth stock. I refer now to what I consider the most ignominious passage in this debate.
– Does that exclude the remarks of the honorable senator himself or not?
– Great care has been taken to ensure that the Parliament shall have an express opportunity to pass judgment upon any major decisions once a board is appointed to administer general policy, leaving the day to day administration to the Governor. If honorable senators will read the bill closely they will see that whenever the Treasurer of the day is in disagreement with the board, the reason for the disagreement shall be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days. Yet honorable senators have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) declaiming that there is nothing in the bill which gives the Parliament any control over the board. He declared that the bill divorced the hoard from Parliamentary control. I only hope that a little more reflection will convince the Leader of the Opposition that once a document is tabled in the Parliament, it is within the jurisdiction of the Parliament to take such action as the majority of members decide. I cannot understand how the. Parliamentary experience that precedes leadership of the Labour Opposition in the Senate enables the honorable senator to suggest the view that Parliamentary control will disappear.
T have taken the trouble to look to the debates in the House of Commons on the nationalization of the Bank of England, which was debated in 1940, and it will be of some interest to the Leader of the Opposition to discover that it was left to a Communist member of the House of Commons, Mr. Piratin, to ask what the effect of this influence would he. I quote Mr. Piratin as follows: -
When the right honorable gentleman says that the members of the board and the Bank of England will be appointed by the Crown, does that mean they will be responsible to the House or to somebody outside the Bouse.
Mr. Dalton, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, replied -
Appointment by the Crown means appointment by His Majesty on the advice of his Ministers. It would be possible, and indeed it would no doubt become regular under the new constitution where advisable, for periodical debates to take place, as they cannot take place while the bank is only private, upon the general policy of the bank and the monetary and credit policy generally in which debates the Minister would be responsible on all the larger issues. The Minister most naturally responsible would be the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I hope that a little consideration of that passage will completely destroy the argument of the Leader of the Opposition. I want to turn next to what I think is the real nigger in the woodpile and the real reason why the socialist Opposition is opposing this part of the bill. When the management of the Commonwealth Bank is left to the sole control of the Governor and the management of the whole Parliamentary machine, when the Labour party is in power, is left to the one-man control of the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, it is not nearly so difficult for secret policy to be put into effect by secret means as it is when there is a completely democratic parliamentary machine, such as the Liberal Government, and completely democratic control of the bank by a board as is provided in this bill. The real purpose of this vital fight to retain one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank is that all the mechanism that characterizes the Labour caucus may be retained, and that secretly and not by means of documents placed publicly on the table of both Houses, the socialist policy may be squeezed into the community whether the people know it and whether the idea is approved or not.
Honorable senators have heard the old record on the subject of the depression. Honorable senators opposite have said that there was a bank board in existence during the last depression and that it pulled down the depression upon the nation. It is just as true to say that the Labour Government was in existence during the last depression and that it pulled down on the people all the misery that the Opposition has described. The truth is that during the great economic depression that involved this country and almost every other country of the “world in the early 1930’s, members of the party that now sits in Opposition in this Parliament, pulled down the blinds of their houses. In their shadows they are afraid to face the sunlight, and to see the real remedies that should be applied. A few moments of impartial consideration would be sufficient to convince them that their stories about the Commonwealth Bank Board having caused or aggravated the depression in this country are stuff and nonsense. For those reasons, 1 wholeheartedly support the bill.
Sitting suspended from 5-JhB to 8 p.m.
– The measure before the Senate is a most interesting one. It has entailed more discussion in the Parliament than has amy other measure in relation to a public institution in this country. Senator Wright stated that the white flag had been displayed by the Opposition. However, in view of the threats that were made by the opponents of Labour when tile 1,945 banking legislation was being considered by the Parliament, it is obvious that Labour has .not surrendered. Senator Wright was not a member of the National Parliament in .1945. The antiLabour Opposition in 1945 was very condemnatory of the Commonwealth Bank. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) truly said in his secondHeading speech -
In 1845, -we foreshadowed that, when reelected to -the treasury bench, we would regard ourselves as being obliged to review the working of the 1945 banking legislation and that w’e w-rmM reconstitute a Commonwealth BankBoard. In 1847, we left no doubt whatever *f our intention to defeat the nationalization proposals by every constitutional means at our command.
I shall deal first with the proposals that were contained in the 1947 banking legislation, which provided for the complete nationalization of banking in Australia. In .an excellent speech last evening, Senator McKenna outlined the reasons that prompted the Chifley Government to introduce the banking nationalization legislation in 1947. History records what happened to that legislation. Our own High Court, and subsequently the Privy Council, decided that the Australian Parliament did not have power to nationalize banking. It is not a matter for congratulation that the National Parliament, which consists of men and women elected by the people of Australia, and is charged with the duty of legislating for the betterment of this country, should be denied the power to do what it considered should be done towards that end. Although supporters of the Government have rejoiced that that legislation was declared invalid, I remind them that in the future some of their legislation may be declared invalid. From time to time since federation legislation that has been enacted by anti-Labour governments has been invalidated by the High Court of Australia. To-day Australia is playing a most important part in world affairs.
It is expected by other great nations of the world that we shall play an everincreasing part in relation to the problems associated with countries to the north of Australia. I stress the importance of the provision whereby any act of the Australian Parliament, whether of major importance or otherwise, may be tested before “the High Court, or the Privy Council, by any person who feels aggrieved. Over 50 years ago, after much discussion, the founders of the Commonwealth wrote into the Constitution that -the Australian Parliament should have power to deal with hanking, other than State banking. I remind ‘honorable senators that the members of the conventions that framed the Constitution which was acceptable to the people of Australia were not supporters of Labour. Indeed there is no evidence that they were men who believed in the socialization of industry or banking. Not long previously the banking institutions of this country had failed. I refer to the great -bank smash of the ^nineties. After seeing the difficulties that had been experienced by the various States they considered it advisable to vest the National Parliament with power to legislate concerning banking. However, nearly 50 years later their desires have been frustrated by a judicial decision. During this debate, as well as during the election campaign last year, honorable senators who now support the Government have made a great display against nationalization of banking, despite the fact that the High Court had previously announced its decision. Vast sums of money were expended by the private banks, which employed persons to travel from one end of the country to the other, canvassing for votes for antiLabour candidates. I recollect that on one occasion, when I was in a train travelling from my home town to Melbourne, a lady sitting opposite to me said to her friend, “ My word, it’s terrible to think that the Labour candidate has won the Bendigo seat, considering the way that my husband worked during the campaign. He was released by the bank for twelve months, and personally canvassed 8,000 houses in the electorate of Bendigo and the adjoining electorate of Lalor. We thought we would win Bendigo.” Of course she did not know who I was. The election results that had just been announced showed that the Labour candidate, Mr. P. J. Clarey, had been successful. 1 also recollect an occasion when I was travelling to Colac by train to open my election campaign. When the train was nearing Colac I said to a fellow-passenger, with whom I had been conversing, “ This is where I commence to woo the electors “. He said, “ I am on the same job”. As I did not identify him as a candidate I asked him which party he represented. He then informed me that he was representing the banks. There were four other representatives of the private banks travelling with him. During the campaign in” the western district of Victoria I saw them almost nightly at political meetings canvassing for votes for non-Labour candidates. Obviously the private banks wished to destroy the Labour Government. It was most significant that the private banks were willing to expend large sums of money canvassing for votes for non-Labour candidates, because as an honorable senator remarked this afternoon, following the decision of the Privy Council nationalisation of banking was as dead as the dodo.
Senator Wright has suggested that Senator McKenna had a sinister motive when he stated that he favoured the nationalization of banking. I remember addressing a political meeting at which a representative of the banks asked me whether it was not a fact that the Australian Labour party believed in the nationalization of banking, and whether it was not a fact that I had stated on a previous occasion that the Constitution should be amended. I replied that Labour -did favour the nationalization of banks. He said : “ How do you expect that it will be brought about?” I said: “By an alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution “, and the matter was subsequently discussed and debated during the campaign. At a later meeting he asked me: “ Can you tell me and the audience when the referendum will be held?”. I said : “ Yes, I can tell you almost the exact date.” Let me tell honorable senators now that whilst the Privy Council has declared against the validity cf our proposals to nationalize banking, and whilst the nationalization of banking might be a dead issue at the moment, it is quite possible that that issue will be resurrected later. It will be resurrected and a referendum of the people will be taken, and I prophesy now that the referendum will be carried if it is taken on the next occasion on which the private banks of this country seek to inflict upon the people a repetition of the misery, degradation, starvation and poverty suffered by the people during the depression. , If Labour had had a majority of supporters in both Houses of the Parliament during the regime of the Scullin Government it might never have been necessary for that Administration to consider submitting a referendum to the people, because, undoubtedly, the former Commonwealth Bank Board would have obeyed the direction of the Parliament. Those who have read the history of the depression and know the efforts made by Mr. Scullin to help not only the workers but also the primary producers during that period will remember that Sir Robert Gibson, who was then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, said that he would obey a direction of the Parliament, but he would not obey a direction of the Government.
Of course, we know that there is a great difference between a decision of the Government and a decision of the Parliament. It is quite obvious that a decision made by a government need not necessarily be approved of by the Parliament. A decision of the Parliament connotes the approval of both Houses of the Parliament. Had a direction to the bank come from both Houses of the Parliament, I believe, as I have already said, that the bank board would have carried out that direction. However, since it was not possible to obtain the concurrence of the Senate in the giving of any such direction, the Government had to consider the alternative of holding a referendum; and I believe that if the Scullin Government had submitted a referendum to the people on the nationalization of the banks the referendum would have been carried, and we should not now be discussing this important matter. But that is all in the past. To return to the present, I say that whilst the banks may have escaped nationalization recently because of legal technicalities, L suggest to them that they beware of the future and behave themselves. They should recognize that they play a most important part in the economy of the nation. They are quite welcome to any little crumbs of comfort that they may obtain from the first portion of this bill, which merely enacts formally that the Banking Act 1947, which has already been mutilated by the decisions of the courts, is no longer pf any force and effect. However, the provisions of this measure which affect the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 must be a sad disappointment to the private banking inst;tut:ons and those who spent so much it on nv before, and during the recent election campaign in the effort to remove Labour from office. After all, their real intention was to destroy the effect of the 1945 legislation, sp that they would be able to continue along the road that they followed before that legislation was enacted. Those who take the trouble to peruse the speeches made by anti-Labour members of the Parliament during the passage of the 1945 legislation must be bitterly disappointed with the present legislation, and if ever political parties were guilty of an act of cowardice, which let their supporters down, they are the political parties who are represented opposite.
One of the most serious of the cr: plaints made against the 1945 legislation was that banking would be subjected to political control. Later it waa suggested that Labour introduced the 1947 legislation in order to give effect tr its policy of socializing the means of production, distribution and exchange. Those who attacked the 1945 legislation during its passage through the Parliament declared that it was iniquitous that the trading banks should have to deposit with the Commonwealth Bank their surplus assets, because, it was suggested, those surplus assets might be made use of by the Commonwealth Bank to compete against the private trading banks. Tt was also contended that, the Commonwealth Bank would be in a much more favorable position than that occupied by the trading banks, inasmuch as the Commonwealth Bank would not have to pay rent, rates and so forth. It was argued that all the advantages enjoyed by the Commonwealth Bank over its competitors would enable it to exterminate them. Comparing those criticisms of the Commonwealth Bank with the provisions of the present legislation, I cannot discover any provision to remove the bank from political control. Of course, the verbiage of the present legislation is somewhat different from that of the 1945 legislation, and this measure contains certain elaborate provisions to apply in the event of a difference in policy between the Treasurer and the members of the proposed board. Where the 1945 legislation mentioned the “. Governor “ we find that in this measure the words “ the Board “ are substituted. But does this legislation represent any real departure in substance from the 1945 act? Another consideration that I commend to supporters of the Government is that the present measure when passed, will be on the statutebook for use in a few years’ time when Labour returns to office.
Adverting to Labour’s 1945 legislation on the Commonwealth Bank, I point * out that if there was anything sinister in it one would expect that the present Government would have sought to repeal it. But, as I have already pointed out, this measure does not propose to repeal any substantial part of that earlier legislation. It is of particular interest to recall the speech made by the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who was the Leader of the Australian Country party and sitting in opposition, when the 1945 legislation was being enacted. In fact, that measure was so obnoxious to the right honorable gentleman that he moved an amendment that the bill should be virtually abandoned and the Government instructed to introduce legislation to restrict the note issue and to achieve a number of other objectives. I ask honorable gentlemen to contrast the right honorable gentleman’s utterances on the note issue on that occasion with the speech that he made when he introduced this measure in the House of Representatives, which was repeated by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) when he introduced the bill to this chamber. On this measure both Ministers said -
So far as the note issue is concerned, the Government, in preparing this bill, considered whether statutory provisions should be made for a limitation upon the amount of notes that could be issued, but, having made provision fop the Government to bring policy issues before Parliament where the bank is required to adopt a policy determined by the Government, it has decided that further statutory provision in respect of the note issue is not necessary.
The references made by the Treasurer in 1945 to political control of banking are particularly amusing in the light of the foregoing passage. Apparently, at that time political control of banking was a sentiment that, presumably, existed only in the minds of Labour supporters, who, it was alleged, regarded it as an opportunity to socialize the means of production, distribution and exchange. However, the Commonwealth Bank Act has operated since 1945, and the Commonwealth Bank has played a most important part in promoting the economic welfare of the nation. The following is another very interesting passage from the speech delivered by the Treasurer in the House of Representatives and repeated by the Minister for Social Services in introducing the bill to this chamber : -
Tt is clear that in Australia to-day, as in other modern communities, the note issue is a.n indicator of the general credit situation rather than a means of controlling credit and. to reverse trends in the note issue, it may be necessary to modify the whole credit policy. The policy of the bank in relation to the note issue is thus part of the monetary and banking policy of the bank, and is a matter upon which the bank is required to keep the Government informed and one which the Government mav. if necessary, bring to the notice of the Parliament.
That i’s n very nine statement to make to the Parliament to-day! Of course, the Minister was not a member of the antiLabour Opposition in 1945, but the Treasurer was one of the most bitter critics of that legislation. Now, he gives one of the most important principles of the 1945 legislation his unqualified blessing ! The reason why we do not find representatives of the banking institutions in the lobbies now is probably that they are heartily disgusted with this legislation. Senator McCallum asked, by way of interjection, why we were oppos- ing this measure. “We are opposing it for good and sufficient reasons. We object to an institution that, for the last five years, has played a prominent part in the economic life of this country again being controlled by a board. The history of banking, and especially the history of banking institutions controlled by private persons, is not a very happy one. The Commonwealth Bank, during its comparatively short life, for some period of which it was prevented from playing the part that it should have played in our affairs, has been subjected to great stresses and strains. It has been called upon to finance two wars in which the nation was engaged and to provide money for rehabilitation and reconstruction. I believe it to be one of the greatest financial institutions in the world. Believing that, I am very interested in the way in which it is controlled. Honorable senators opposite have stated that it was the Bruce-Page Government that invested the Commonwealth Bank with authority to act as a central bank. I do not wish to detract from that achievement of the Bruce-Page Government, and I am prepared to give the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) all the credit that he deserves for it, but it must not be forgotten that the legislation that invested the Commonwealth Bank with that power also reduced its ability to serve the people of this country.
In the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1 945, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, made reference to the suggestion that the Labour party wanted the Commonwealth Bank to be converted from a bankers’ bank into a people’s bank. He felt that there was something very sinister in that suggestion. The right honorable gentleman, in discussing that bill, said -
The measure professes, on the face of it - and, indeed it was so explained by the Treasurer - to be one that is enlightened and’ progressive, and designed to give increased security to the people, whereas in fact, carefully analysed - and I propose to-night to submit it to analysis - it is reactionary and unsound.
He comforted himself with the thought that, because a general election was to be held approximately eighteen months from then, there would be some soft-pedalling and that the Government would not be in a hurry to expand the Commonwealth Bank in the manner for which the bill provided. The right honorable gentleman’s expectation was not realized. At the 1946 general election, the people of this country expressed in no uncertain manner their confidence in the Labour Government that had introduced the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, which some persons thought would destroy the country and which the present Prime Minister described as “ reactionary and unsound “. During this debate, honorable senators opposite have been forced to admit that the Commonwealth Bank, under the powers conferred upon it by that act, had proved to he a great and wonderful institution.
The Minister for Social Services in his second-reading speech suggested that this measure should not he approached in a partisan spirit. He said -
In reviewing the 1945banking legislation, and in the preparation of this bill, the Government has been deeply conscious of its responsibilities to the people, and particularly of the fact that these responsibilities require -
One would have thought that the Government,having in mind the success of the Commonwealth Bank since 1945 and knowing that the private hanks are now immune from socialization or nationalization for as long as they behave themselves, would have approached this matter in the spirit suggested by the Minister for Social Services, and that instead of throwing the apple of discord into the political arena it would have been satisfied to permit the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank to continue. Repeated requests from honorable senators on this side of the Senate to be informed of the way in which the hank has failed while under the control of a Governor and why it is thought to be necessary to alter the present system of control have been met by the Government with complete silence. Honorable senators opposite have not given one reason why the proposed change should be made and why, once again, banking should become a live political issue in this country. In view of past history and having regard to the fact that our requests for information have been met by silence, and notwithstanding the bitter disappointment over the terms of this measure of the interests that supplied the money to defeat the Labour party, I think I am justified in believing that there is a nigger in the woodpile. I feel that if this measure is passed, the institutions that have fought the Commonwealth Bank may once again be able to utilize it for their own purposes, or at least to prevent it from playing the part that it should play in the development of this country.
It is proposed that in future the Commonwealth Bank shall be subject to control by a board. We have very unhappy recollections of the members of the previous Commonwealth Bank Board. Despite the protestations of honorable senators opposite, we know how easy it would be to evade a provision that no person who is actively associated with banking may be appointed as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. When the present Viscount Bruce became Prime Minister of Australia, he resigned from his position as a director of his firm in Melbourne, but immediately he was defeated at an election he again became an active member of that firm. Does the Government consider that we are so simple as to believe that men whose whole lives and prosperity are dependent upon the success of commercial undertakings with which they are associated will be able, immediately they are appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, to divest themselves of all their previous associations? There are not many persons who believe that that could happen. Those of us who have studied the ramifications of industry realize that the interests of various commercial organizations are interlocked. The 1945 banking legislation provided, among other things, for the establishment of a department of the Commonwealth Bank to which small industrial undertakings that desired to expand their actitivies could apply for financial assistance. That phase of the legislation was bitterly opposed in this chamber and in the House of Representatives by the present Government parties. It was opposed because the interests of the great captains of industry are interwoven with the interests of banking institutions. Those of us who happen to be acquainted with captains of industry know where their sympathy lies. We know that they make use of their positions in order to promote the development of the various industries with which they are associated. From time to time, honorable senators receive circulars and booklets from financial institutions. They also receive copies of prospectuses of new companies, setting forth the names of the directors, and after a while one begins to notice that certain of the directors are interested in a wide range of industries. Those who control industry in Australia do not want the Commonwealth Bank to be free from the domination of vested interests so that it may serve men who are trying to establish new businesses. To-day, Australia is entering an era of great development. Indeed, since the outbreak of the last war, industrial development in this country has been very rapid. Despite assertions that the workers have been “ going slow the fact remains, as is proved by the balance-sheets of companies, that industry is constantly expanding. Of course there are those who wish to prevent small industrialists from extending their operations to the point of challenging established monopolies. I believe that there is a sinister motive behind the Government’s proposal to appoint a Commonwealth Bank Board. As Senator McKenna said, it will bc impossible to find, outside the Public Service, disinterested men to appoint to I he board. We shall find, when the board is appointed, that the Commonwealth Bank has once more been brought under the control of the representatives of private enterprise, and for that reason 1 oppose the bill.
I also believe that the bank board, when appointed, will be used by the Government as an excuse for evading responsibility in the event of another economic crisis. In spite of the fact that it is proposed that the Treasurer shall retain power to direct the bank board on matters of policy, and that in the event of a dispute, the issue shall be laid before the Parliament, I do not believe that the present Treasurer would ever push the matter so far. He would shelter behind the formula, “ The board has recommended this, and the Government accepts its recommendation “. The AttorneyGeneral has said that, in the event of a dispute’ coming before the Parliament because of the refusal of the Treasurer to accept recommendations of the board, the elected representatives of the people would rise in their wrath and, by carrying a vote of no confidence in the Government, ensure that proper action was taken. The days when governments could be defeated on the floor of the House on a motion of want of confidence have long since gone by. There was a time when a Prime Minister did run the risk of defeat over an unpopular measure, but can any one imagine that the House of Representatives, constituted as it is to-day, would ever carry a motion of .want of confidence in the Government over some policy sponsored by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who is also Leader of the Australian Country party? Therefore, what the AttorneyGeneral said was just so much moonshine, and merely served to emphasize the Government’s hypocritical approach to this matter.
No good purpose can be served by passing this bill, because there is no need to alter the method of control of the Commonwealth Bank. In 1945, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), speaking as Leader of the Opposition, said that if his party were returned to power, it would appoint a hoard to control the Commonwealth Bank. It is a poor excuse for this legislation that the Government feels obliged to give effect to an idle boast made five years ago. Neither the present Prime Minister, noi1 any one- associated with him, believed in 3945 that he would be in power within five years’ time. In their hearts, they believed that their record was such that it would take them many more years to regain the confidence of the people. However, the age of miracles is not yet, passed. By a miracle, the present Government finds itself in office, but. although it has been there for more than five months very little constructive legislation has yet been submitted. The Government seems to be content to drift. If it were suggested that the Commonwealth. Bank Act 1945 prevented the Government from giving effect to its policy to restore value to the £1, the Government might have some excuse for introducing this measure. Even then, if the Government really wishes to put value back into the £1, the best way to set about it would be to assume control over the financial institutions of the country. I wonder whether the Government believes that it can put more value into the £1 by putting the primary producers back into the position they occupied before the Labour Government assumed effective control of the Commonwealth Bank. When the bank was controlled by a board, there was certainly good value in the £1 for the person who had any pounds, but the primary producers were getting very little for their products, and the wage-earners were getting very little for their work. Those who had money were able to buy property cheaply. They became rich out of the poverty of their fellows. There was plenty of value in the £1 - for those who had a £1 - when the Commonwealth Bank Board refused to allow the elected representative of the people to help the nation out of the depression.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator Arnold) put -
That Senator Sheehan be granted an extension of time for thirty minutes.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 9
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
The fact is that in the High Court of Australia, where the justices are able to express their individual opinions and majority decisions count, there was a marked disagreement between them about the power of the Parliament. I mention that in passing because I have noted a certain smugness among honorable senators on the opposite side, especially those who are members of the legal profession, when they recalled that the majority of the High Court had a greed with the contention of the present Government. Disagreement between the members of the legal profession is nothing new. If they were unanimous they would be out of a job. It is regrettable, and nothing to rejoice about, that all the actions of this Parliament are subject to legal scrutiny in the High Court. The fight that took place on the banking issue was no ordinary fight. Wealth and privilege were linedup on one side and the ordinary people on the other. Unfortunately wealth and privilege won for the time being. That is only a continuation of the fight that has been going on throughout the ages.
As I have a bad cold, I did not expect to be able to speak for very long to-night, but the importance of the matter now before us has been sufficient inducement for me to carry on, and I am proud that I have been able once again to defend this great institution that is the creature of the Labour movement. This legislation may wound the Commonwealth Bank, and may perhaps retard its progress, but I venture to say that, in the years to come, the people of this country will rejoice to think that there was at least one party that stood for the protection of that great institution. I oppose this bill because I believe that it is not in the best interests of the nation. It will retard Australia’s development, consequently, I shall vote against it.
.- I realize that I shall find it difficult at this late stage to say something that has not been already said in this debate, but I believe that I should be inconsistent were I not to answer some of the attacks that have been made upon the Labour movement by various honorable senators opposite. The Labour party does not deny that, on the 10th December last, the present Government parties received from the electors of Australia authority to attempt to put into operation the policy that was enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at the beginning of the election campaign. Speaking on behalf of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party the right honorable gentleman said -
We believe that a Central Bank ought not to be able to ignore the wishes of the elected representatives of the people.
We therefore propose -
To set up under control by Parlia ment, a small Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, of which the Governor of the Bank shall be Chairman;
To provide that if the Treasurer disagrees with the Board’s policy he shall refer the matter to Parliament for its decision.
The right honorable gentleman continued -
That is, we shall restore the sound principle that . great financial decisions shall not be secret, and that the elected representative in Parliament shall be able to control them.
To provide some much-needed check to inflation of currency, we shall restore Parliamentary control over the Commonwealth note issue.
I believe that L. C. Jauncey was correct when he wrote -
It is most important that there be no “ politics “ in the banking operations of the Commonwealth Bank. During its 35 years’ existence do case has arisen showing any political interference in the personal affairs of any customer of the hank. In this connexion the distinction between policy and “politics” should receive emphasis. In a democracy the Government sets the policy the banking system must follow. The Commonwealth Government has always directed the policy the Government bank must follow, but it has not interfered with the banking business of individuals and should not do so in the. future.
The last sentence of that quotation cannot he contradicted. Whether the Government in office is a Labour government or an anti-Labour government, to successfully administer its policy, it must be able to direct and control the finances of the country. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner)-, in his second-reading speech on this measure, said -
I remind honorable senators that there are few countries in the world with banking systems as highly organized and efficient as the Australian banking system. Moreover, it is, I- feel,, appropriate to recall that the essential features of the 1945 banking legislation were based1 upon the war-time banking control regulations, which themselves were based upon an agreement arranged between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks in 1941, during, the term of office of the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden).
Later, the Minister said -
The importance of monetary policy has frequently been stressed in Parliament and the fact that it has a significant effect upon the welfare of the people has been fully recognized. Although it is easy to fall into the error of thinking that monetary policy can cure all economic ills, it is nevertheless true, as the Prime Minister pointed out in his policy speech, that great financial ‘ decisions, if they are wrong, are wrong on so vast a scale ag to injure many thousands of people. We therefore believe that such decisions should not be made by one man either in the bank or in the Government.
I have yet to be convinced that the concluding sentence of that quotation is not a direct contradiction on the earlier part of it. In any case, the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board means that the Government will pass the buck to the board and the elected representatives of the people will be ignored. The Minister continued -
We are convinced that responsibility for the determination of monetary and banking policy should be a collective responsibility, and the hill now before the Senate is designed to give effect to this principle by setting up a Commonwealth Bank Board under the chairman ship of the Governor and by restoring to the elected representatives of the people the ultimate responsibility for monetary and banking policy.
Later I propose briefly to state some facts about conditions in countries where bank boards function. The Minister further said -
The same principle was embodied in the Commonwealth Bank Bill which was introduced in 1924.. By that act, the control of- the note issue was vested in the bank and provision made for a board of eight directors.
No’ one can deny, I suggest, that every Australian Government since the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, has found that the full implementation of its policy has depended upon control of the financial system. Therefore, the oft-repeated cry “ Hands off the Commonwealth Bank “ becomes meaningless. No government can. function efficiently unless it has some say in the control of the finances of this country. Senator Wright made an interesting contribution to this debate.. He was, perhaps, a little bitter and satirical, but he couched his remarks in language that I .should like to have a.t my command. He said that we had held up the white flag. I remind him that the practice in British communities when the white flag is flown is to accept graciously the surrender of an enemy who has fought valiantly. Instead of doing that, however, Senator Wright smote us hip and thigh because he knows there is. no surrender. In the Sunday Sun of the 19th March, an article appeared under the prominent headline “Bank Bill Surprise”. The article stated -
If the Labour Party, 10 or 15 years ago, had tried to- introduce a banking bill such as that which Federal Treasurer Fadden brought down this week, anti-Labour parties would have been horrified.
It would certainly have been condemned as a dangerously radical move. Fadden’s bill reveals the progressive thinking on banking’ that has taken place in Australia.
That article bore the signature of a wellknown political correspondent, Oliver Hogue. No one can argue, that, over the years, the Sunday Sun has shown Labour leanings. With many clauses of this bill, the Labour party cannot find fault. Apparently, therefore, there is still some hope for the vilest sinner. Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than many people think, even greater recognition may come our way. Senator Wright and some other honorable senators opposite have expressed the fear that the 1947 bank nationalization legislation may be revived. In common with other political parties, Labour believes that the law of the land should be observed. We realize that constitutionally, the nationalization of banking is impossible at present. It is sheer hypocrisy for the opponents of Labour to suggest that Labour anted contrary to the best interests of this country by introducing its 1947 banking legislation. I refer honorable senators to my remarks when that legislation was before this chamber, as reported in Hansard, volume 195, at page 2498. They would he of particular interest to anti-Labour South Australian senators. Some honorable senators opposite have stated that the nationalization of banking would stifle competition. I point out, however, that the private banks are an associated body. There is virtually no competition between them to-day. In saying that, I am fortified by an incident that took place at the depth of the depression, when I was a member of the South Australian Parliament. I refer to the remarks of the late Sir Richard Butler, who was for many years Liberal Premier of South Australia. When he made his statement he was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly in that State. In reply to an interjection by Mr. Archie Cameron, who at present occupies the Speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives, Sir Richard Butler said -
There is no competition between them, but there may be between associated banks andthe State Bank. Aslongasthe associated banks thought there was a benevolent government institu tion to carry a man whose creditwas doubtful, they did not mind sending him to the StateBank.
That is what members of the Australian Labour party have said for years. Our political opponents have declared time and again that members of the Australian Labour party have said that they were firmly convinced that the private trading banks were solely responsible for the depression. I contend, however, that had the policy of Labour that was given effect in the 1947 legislation been implemented prior to the depression, many of the happenings of those years would have been averted. Principally for the benefit of South Australian senators, I shall relate an incident that occurred at Birkenhead, a suburb of Port Adelaide, during the depression. Early in July, 1928, the United Milling Company’s premises were destroyed by fire. Shortly afterwards the company’s bankers, the Bank of Adelaide, petitioned in the courts of South Australia against the company for £53,957, with the result that the company “ went through “. It was common knowledge at the time that large quantities of wheat destroyed in the fire belonged to the wheat-growers, who received no compensation. In 1931-32 Verco Brothers had branches in many country districts in South Australia, including one in the immediate vicinity of Senator Hannaford’s homestead. At the commencement of the harvest in November, 1931, they commenced business in the usual way, and acquired wheat offered to them by farmers. The Bank of Adelaide forced them through the insolvency court, as a result of which many farmers lost the result of a year’s efforts. Although legally right, that action was morally wrong because the bank must have known the financial position of Verco Brothers before the commencement of the season. Had Labour’s policy in relation to banking been in operation at that time those unfortunate incidents would not have occurred. During the debate in 1947 I referred to a most disgraceful episode concerning a former Treasurer of Queensland in a Nationalist Government. The following is the introduction to an article that was published in Smith’s Weekly of the 8thSeptember, 1934:-
Hon. W. H. Barnes’ Pathetic Pleading with Union Bank.
When the Hon. W. H. Barnes, Treasurer of Queensland in the Moore Nationalist Government died last year, the northern State lost a great man, who had given 30 years of his life in the cause of public service. … It has been left to his widow to unveil the tragic end of this worthy man who. while grappling with the State’s problems, handling millions, washimself harassedby financial worries and the demands of the Union Bank of Australia (Brisbane Branch) for repayment of his overdraft of £2,391.
Some Queensland senators will remember that incident very well. In view of what has happened in Australia in past times of adversity, the sooner the people realize that Labour’s policy in relation to nationalization of banking should be implemented the better. After the 1947 measure had been introduced it was not long before various sections of producers were voicing their complaints and doubts. Even the members of industrial organizations were taunted because they held out on various aspects. 1 repeat what I have said on many occasions before during my quarter of a century in politics, that if the primary producers of this country were united their lot would be much easier. They are very interested in the measure that is now under consideration. This is borne out by the following report that appeared in the West Australian on the loth April -
WHEAT GROWERS’ VIEW OF BANK. BOARD.
A resolution opposing the creation of a new Commonwealth Bank Board of similar constitution to the previous board was adopted at the annual conference of the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation in Perth yesterday. It was agreed that, if a board were created, primary producers should have adequate representation on the board and that it should be subject to the control of Parliament at all times.
I consider that I have advanced sound reasons why Labour should continue to try to convince honorable senators opposite that they should adopt a sound method of finance. I shall refer to the remarks of Senator Mattner on the 3rd July, 1945, in relation to the banking legislation that was then before this chamber. I am not unmindful of the honorable senator’s personal views in this matter, and I wish him-more success. In referring to that measure in horsebreeding terms and names, he said that the progeny of the measure would be called “Paper Money, by Caucus, out of Printing Press “. Subsequent events proved him wrong. However, I join with the genial senator in his study of nomenclature, and offer a suitable name for the progeny of the bank officers’ propaganda during the 1949 election campaign. I suggest that it should be named “ Votes, by Bank Directors, out of Fear”. At all events, the mating produced votes to the degree necessary to elect a non-Labour government to office.
– I still have faith in the genial senator from South Australia. I admit that his efforts will not be very considerable, nor will they do much to remove the prospect of starvation so long as he adheres to his present political faith. He said that the management of the Commonwealth Bank .should be vested in a board of directors, and he went on to mention that the central banks in Canada, South Africa, India and New Zealand were managed by boards. However, he omitted to mention the parlous condition of the working class in those countries, nor did he mention the percentage of unemployed, the cost of living or the external credit of those countries.
In order to show that it is the responsibility of the central reserve bank to control and to protect the national economy and to mitigate undue .fluctuation of trade prices and employment, I shall quote the preamble to the Bank of Canada Act, which is as follows : -
Whereas it is desirable to establish a central bank in Canada to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation, to control and protect the external value of the national monetary unit and to mitigate by its influence fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, .prices and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of the monetary action, and generally to promote the economic and financial welfare of the Dominion: Therefore, His Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows: - …
When Senator Guy spoke yesterday afternoon he made some reference to banks in other British dominions, and referred particularly to the Bank of Canada. He also expressed his admiration of the Labour contemporaries of Andrew Fisher, and I should like now to remind him and the Senate generally of the violent obstruction which Labour men of that time encountered in their efforts to establish the Commonwealth Bank. Abuse, lips and slander were employed against them. Nevertheless Andrew Fish pr and his contemporaries, if they were alive today, would take the greatest pride in the progress that has been made by Labour.
That progress has been in the face of continued obstruction and abuse; in fact, vitriolic abuse of the kind hurled at us by Senator Guy in the course of his speech is not uncommon. Incidentally, I took particular notice of the honorable senator’s contention that the Scullin Government did not believe in the nationalization of banking. The fact is that in 1932 Mr. Scullin made several speeches in favour of the nationalization of banking, and he reiterated his plea for the nationalization of hanking at a speech which he delivered at a big public meeting in Richmond, Melbourne. Senator Mattner’s utterances reminded me of the complaint of an ex-member of the Parliament, who once lamented that it was a pity that Hansard could not be destroyed .because it brought back mournful memories. I propose to bring back a mournful memory to Senator Guy by reminding him of something that he said in the debate on the Constitution Alteration .(Power of Amendment) Bill 1930 when he was the honorable member for Bass in the House of Representatives. On that occasion he said -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham J and others opposite are very much afraid that if the people agree to the Government’s proposals this Parliament will extend its life. While I admit that it would be very desirable for the present Parliament to remain in existence for many years to come, I do not say that it will extend its life.
At that time he was a supporter of the Scullin Labour Government, and he advocated that it was desirable that that Government should extend its life. Now he tells us that the policy of the Scullin Administration was in many respects entirely wrong. Of course, as a man grows older he may change his views because he may no longer be able to subscribe to his former political beliefs. I do not object to a man changing his views, because this is a democracy, and, after all, we fought two wars for the right of freedom of thought and speech. However, we are entitled to expect of a man who has changed his political views that he will be at least tolerant of those who still share his former views.
– The honorable senator may yet change his political views again.
– It is interest-, ing to recall that when the honorable senator was formerly a member of the Parliament he supported the Scullin Government, which was opposed by a hostile majority in the Senate, and to-day the Menzies Government, which he supports, is confronted by a hostile Senate.
To return now to the subject of board control of central banks in other countries, I point out that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), when introducing the bill, admitted that the monetary and banking policy of the Commonwealth Bank is closely interwoven with the financial and economic policy of the Government. That fact is exemplified by international financial statistics published by the International Monetary Fund in February, 1950, which should be read in conjunction with the International Labour Review of January, 1950. From those two journals I have extracted the following figures. The Bank of Canada is managed by a board which consists of fourteen’ individuals. The overseas credits of that institution amounted to 2,000,000,000 dollars expressed in Canadian currency, but the number of unemployed in that country in November, 1949, amounted to over 152,000, and was increasing. The cost of living based on the 1937 index of 100 was 197. Passing now to South Africa, the journals to which I have referred show that the Reserve Bank of South Africa, is managed by a board of eleven individuals. That ‘ bank had overseas credits of only £104,300,000, and the number of unemployed white people was then 10,000 and was increasing. The cost of living based on the same index as Canada was 169. I pause to point out that South Africa is the greatest gold-producing country in the world. The Bank of New Zealand, which is managed by a board of ten directors, had overseas credits of only £41,000,000. The cost-of-living index was shown at 167. The. figures of unemployment are, fortunately, not disturbing. I invite honorable senators to compare those facts with the present financial and economic condition of Australia. Our present prosperity is undoubtedly due in large measure to the operation of the Commonwealth Bank, particularly during recent years since that institution has been liberated from control by vested interests. Australia has no unemployed and has accumulated overseas credits of £418,000,000. The cost of living index is the same as that of New Zealand. When the International Monetary Fund’s statistics were compiled Labour was still in office in this country, and our overseas credits were even higher then than they are now. Those facts prove beyond any doubt that the Commonwealth Bank has done a magnificent job. I refer honorable senators now to a statement that appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 31st J anuary, 1950, under the heading “ Company Meeting - Union Bank Reports Rapid Progress “. The report is as follows : -
Level of Overseas Funds
The gross figure of Australia’s international currency reserves rose very sharply during the year, and, at 30th June, 1949, amounted to £A.450,000,000. In view of the present high values of commodities, the probability of a greater fall in export than in import prices in the event of a decline in world trade, the unstable nature of part of the capital inflow, and the need for goods for replacement and expansion, the level of external funds is not perhaps unduly high.
That is eloquent testimony to the efforts of the Commonwealth Bank, operating under its present control. The Curtin and Chifley Labour Administrations must also share the credit for that institution’s success. I submit that in the face of the evidence that I have placed before the Senate, the present proposal to transfer the control of the Commonwealth Bank to a board is both unnecessary and unwise. Apart altogether from the successful operation of the bank under its present control, the hitter recollection of the part the bank was forced to play during the depression, when it was under the control of a board, must awaken every honorable senator to the danger of placing the bank again under the control of a board, and satisfy even our critics that Labour would do wrong if it supported this measure.
– I did not intend to speak on the bill, but as the debate progressed I became impressed more and more with the fact that members and supporters of the Government had no real idea of what was involved in the arguments advanced by the Opposition. Honorable senators opposite seem to entertain the idea that only a trivial difference divides the Government and the Opposition on this measure, and that that difference concerns only the proposal to place the bank under the control of a board, which they have been inclined to treat as of little or no importance. However, I submit that the subject of board control is of the greatest importance, because the proposed board would be able to decide who should obtain credit and who should not. In other words, it would be able to assist its friends and to refuse assistance to ite. opponents. I point out briefly now, as. did Senator Sheehan, that the strugglethat is now taking place has gone on eversince the days of the Jewish dispensation,, when the faithful were told that theusurer was a curse. Ever sin.09 then the struggle for. the control of the means of life has proceeded between those who sought to dispense the means of life for their own profit and those who had to obtain the means of life in order to exist. With the rise of the intelligence of the people, the idea has grown that man is a social animal, that he must purchase things for his social needs, and that, therefore, things must be sold to satisfy his social needs. Primitive men lived in villages, and the commodities that they exchanged were primitive commodities. Their needs were few and their knowledge was slight. They may have known about the people in the next village, but, apart from that, they knew nothing of the rest of the world. If they wanted to trade with the people of the next village, they took their primitive commodities there and exchanged them. It is probable that the human race was on this earth for millions of years before the idea of some medium of exchange was conceived. While men could easily carry from one place to another the articles that they wished to exchange, they did so, but as their horizon became greater, as science, step by step, wiped out superstition, as commercial relationships became more complex and when comparatively heavy articles were used which could not easily be carried from place to place, it became necessary to evolve some medium of exchange. If a man had to carry an article that he wanted to exchange from one place to another, and the man with whom he exchanged lt had to carry it to another place, quite obviously much unnecessary labour was involved. Therefor, a medium of exchange was evolved, but many ages passed before gold as a medium of exchange was known to the human race. The expression, “ All Lombard-street to a half-penny orange “ is a common one. Lombard-street is the street of bankers in London. The name is derived from Lombardy in Italy. In Lombardy, people began to get precious stones, gold and valuable ornaments. In those days, a great risk was involved in carrying such articles about, and some people conceived the idea of getting safes. Then they asked other people to come to them with their valuables and deposit them in their safes. People actually paid money for the right to have them in the safes, in which they were protected from thieves who might wish to steal them. As time went on, the people who had the safes discovered that very few people who had put valuables in the safes came along to claim them. They said to themselves, “ We can make money out of this “. They gave receipts for the articles deposited in the safes, and they kept the articles. Then other persons came to them who wanted to use some of the articles. In other words, they wanted credit. The safe owners discovered that they could lend some of the things that were not their own, and could lend them at interest. That was the modern banking system in embryo. It has since developed to the international burglars’ outfit that it is to-day.
I was interested to hear Senator Wright say that bankers had safeguarded the interests of the people. A statement of that kind can be made only by some one who is exceedingly ignorant of the evolution of banking. I have yet to learn that private bankers have any interest in the people at all. I have yet to learn that banking, as an institution, was brought into existence for the benefit of the people or that when bankers lend money, they do so because they are interested in the purpose for which it is wanted. I am not one of those who blame the bankers, as bankers. If somebody wanted money to produce poison gas or to build a house of ill-fame, I should, if I were a banker, lend him the money, provided the security was adequate. I have yet to learn that banking has anything to do with humanity. Honorable senators opposite have talked about wasting time. One could talk to them about banking from now until a double dissolution - perhaps disillusion is a better word - and they would not understand it then. The Bank of England was founded by a Scotsman. When he received his charter, he said, in effect - I do not suggest that these are the words he used - that it was a charter to get money from people and to give credit on money that did not belong to him. In other words, it gave him the right to rob the people with impunity, not by lending them something but by giving them credit on their own deposits. One would not expect a Scotsman to engage in banking because he wanted to be a philanthropist. Banking has nothing to do with humanity. All the bourgeois history about banking that has been peddled is dope and nonsense. If some one came to me, as a banker, and said that he wanted to build a hall for Saint Vincent de Paul. I should fay, if I were a Catholic, “ That is a very laudable object, but I am not in business to assist either masonic lodges, the Catholic Church or atheists. What is your security ? “ If the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church approached a Scottish banker for a loan, that banker would not give him a better hearing than he would give to a Mahommedan if the security that he offered was inadequate. The motto of the bankers is, “ No advance without security “. If some people came to me, as a banker, and said that, in their opinion, there was going to be a bacteriological war and that they wanted to establish a factory for the production of bacteria, it would not be my business to tell them that that was not a very laudable object. As a banker, I should say, “ What is your security ? If you can show me that by the development of bacteriological warfare you will gain control of markets upon which I can have a lien, I shall certainly give you credit “. A banker has nothing to do with morals, ethics or humanity. If he had, he would soon go broke.
The members of the Commonwealth Bank Board that is to be established will be persons whose ideas are similar to those of the Liberal party.. Otherwise they would not be appointed. I do not expect that the Government will wait until Comrade Sharkey is released from Long Bay gaol and then appoint him to the board. We do not blame the Government for doing what it wishes to do, if it can do it, hut we object to honorable senators opposite saying that it will be done because the Government wishes to look after the interests of this country. It will be done because the banks subsidized the last lying and fraudulent election campaign of the present Government parties. That campaign was a fraud from beginning to end. Everybody knew that nationalization of banking was dead. Everybody knew that the Communist party and the Labour party were not the same party, but the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) stated at meetings throughout the country that they were. Everybody knew that it was a lie to say, as the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said again and again, that if the Labour party were returned it would conscript labour at the point of the bayonet. There was never such an organization in Australia as that which existed during the last general election. One could hardly get to the polling booths through the bank clerks who were distributing how-to-vote cards. All that has got to be paid for. It was not clone for nothing. The question asked was, “What is your security ‘ “ The present Government replied, “ If we are successful we shall ensure that the capital that you invested in the election not only is returned to you but also is returned with interest “. If honorable senators opposite do not admit that, they do not know anything at all about capitalism.
Senator Mattner showed that he had at least a little knowledge of economics. He said that we had stated that the
Labour party could prevent a depression. We said nothing of the kind. I agreed with the honorable senator to a certain degree when he said that if the prices of agricultural products fell it might be impossible to implement our social services programme. I remember saying much the same thing some time ago. I think it was the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) who was opposing the continuous increase of wages - incidentally, if is not continuous - on the ground that the country could not afford it and that it would lead to disaster.
– I have never opposed increases of wages.
– It might not have been the Minister. I was giving him credit for a little intelligence that seemingly be does not possess. That statement was quite consistent with the point of view of the Liberal party. If it was not made by Senator O’Sullivan, it was made by another member of the Opposition, or perhaps I should say of the Opposition at that time.
– The honorable senator should make up his mind.
– I have a mind to make up, which is more than I can say about the Minister.
– The honorable senator conceals it very well.
– A man who cannot, conceal anything from the Minister has no power of concealment. The idea was that the price of agricultural commodities should continue to go up and up, while the money value of wages should remain stationary. I admit that if prices of agricultural products fell, wages should fall also, and then the whole social structure might be in danger of collapsing. I pointed out that; it was wrong that one section of the community only should benefit from rising prices. The only thing to do in the circumstances was to increase pensions, which we did on three occasions, and also to increase child endowment, &c. We know– that we are living in a time of deflation, and unless we are careful our last condition will be worse than the first. However, by exercising wise control over banking something could be done to improve the position. Let us take any Australian town at random - Inverell for instance, which is a wealthy place. In that town, the system for dealing with sewage is unworthy of the middle ages. In the days of the Soman emperors Rome had its aqueducts and sewerage. Versailles, however, in spite of its wonderful buildings and gardens, had no sewerage! at all. In Inverell, the system of -…… is not even as good as that in Rome more” than 2,000 years ago. During the depression, employment could have been provided by setting people to work installing sewerage in various parts of the country. Visitors to Australia are astonished to learn that even in a suburb like Wahroonga, which is. the home of the elite, the sewer system is very primitive. Had there been no Commonwealth Bank Board during the depression, improvements such as the installation, of sewerage could have been effected, and the efficiency of the people would have been increased. I know that under the capitalists’ system it is not possible to issue money ad lib, because, unless production increases correspondingly prices will rise.
Let me give another illustration : During the war, our friends the Americans came here. When their help was sought, our Duke of Plaza Toro - I shall not -ay who he is, but he now stands in a prominent position in another place, like Ajax defying the lightning or like Napoleon on the summit of the alps - said we were being disloyal to Britain. We did not want the Americans, he, said; Britain would help us. Now we are to erect a monument to. the Americans, and they deserve it. YOU may ask, Mr. President, what this has to do with banking.
– Well, I was just wondering.
– You will not have to wonder much longer. When the Americans were here, a construction corps was formed, and placed under the control of one of the best organizers in Australia, Mr. E. Gr. Theodore. Its job was to build roads that should have been built during the depression, but, of course, the banks at that time could not see any profit in such undertakings. I am not blaming the bankers themselves. They are a part of the system-. They are- there to protect the interests of the shareholders, and they cannot afford to lend money unless the security is safe, and the remuneration immediate. Under pressure of war, however, old men were forced into the Civil Construction Corps to build roads that should have been built in the time of Sir Robert Gibson.
The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) will not reveal the names of the five men who are to he appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, because he does not know. Government supporters are living under the dictatorship of one man. The other night, he made an announcement of policy about which no one in his party previously knew anything. We know, however, that the men to be appointed to the bank board will be of the same kidney as .Sir Robert Gibson. Does any one think that the bank board will be interested in providing hospitals? The trading banks poured out their money to support the United Australia party, or the Liberals, or whatever they call themselves, in the last election. The banks will not be able to obtain a return of that money except through profitable investments, and there is. no- profit to be made, in the opinion of the bankers, out of hospitals. Our lunatic asylums,, in New South Wales at any rate, are a disgrace to the country. Much as, I love Australia, I am compelled to say that - and this has been a good country to me. I think I can claim to have done, my bit to make it a good country. Australia,, because of its natural resources, should be one of the wealthiest, countries in the world. Despite all the: efforts of the chemists, no synthetic substitute has been found for our wool, and no other country can produce wool to compete with it. When I was in Canada,, I was shown some, of the wool grown there, and it was as hard as a board. In spite of all- this natural wealth, however, we have slums in Newtown, St. Peters, Waterloo and Alexandria, as bad as those to be found anywhere- in the world.
– As bad as those of Cairo.
– I hope the honorable senator does; not knew, too much a,bout the slums: of Cairo- Those whom the Government represents know that another depression is coming. In the United States of America, despite its wealth, 5,000,000 persons are out of work all the time, and at present the number is 15,000,000. Already there is a great surplus of primary products, and the authorities are destroying foodstuffs, particularly potatoes. They are terrified that when Marshall Aid ceases no employment will be available for the people. The other day, I read in a conservative Canadian magazine that on the West Coast of Canada 15 per cent. of the workers are out of employment, whilst over the whole of Canada there is 7 per cent. unemployed. While Britain is buying meat and other foodstuffs from Argentina, there is in Canada more bacon, eggs, milk and flour than any one knows what to do with. We know that as soonas the glut becomes serious, international trade agreements will go by the board, just as our social services went by the board during the depression. In Belgium there are hundreds of thousands of persons out of work. In France there are strikes, upheavals and economic chaos. The powers that be can see that a depression is coming here, and they are terrified of it. They know that under capitalist economics rises are inevitable. We are told to produce more, but already in Sydney entrepreneurs in the clothing trade say that clothing is being overproduced. The purpose behind the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board is quite plain. If there is to be another war, the same people will pay for itas paid for the last one. If civilization is not destroyed there will be a new order for the bankers. Senator Wright spoke of the Bank of England, but without the wealth-producing energy of the workers, the banks could do nothing. They pretend to give people credit, when they are actually exploiting the national credit for their own benefit. The banks merely exploit other people’s activity. There is only one source of wealth - labour applied to national resources. As Robert Burns said -
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.
What happened to the mighty Bank of England when the 1914 war broke out? It closed its doors for three days, and did not resume trading until the Government- fame to its rescue. Honorable senators opposite talk about individual enterprise, but when war broke out, individual enterprise was, to use a Yankee-ism, “ right on the bum “. Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and he told the people that the Government was behind the Bank of England, and after three clays the bank resumed payments. A bank is like a bookmaker; so long aspeople believe it is sound, everything is all right.
– Where did the honorable senator get his knowledge of bookmaking?
– If the honorable senator were in the field, the chances against him would be 100 to 1 in any race. I can understand why he is so stupid. He never listens. But the honorable senator is going to hear this whether he learns it or not. Enormous credits were issued and the bank charged the people of England 6 per cent. Yet honorable senators on the opposite side talk of private enterprise. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave not granted.
– I did not know that honorable senators had lost all sense of courtesy. The banking system is interwoven with all industries and with armaments. That is why honorable senators on this side of the chamber are opposed to a bank board. It is not merely a question of Jones and Brown being on the board. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber know that Jones ana Brown would be part and parcel of commercial vested interests. In the United States of America, the Internationa] Chemical Trust, which is part of the international banking combine, controls certain monopolies and patents. When the war broke out, it refused to allow the allies to use those patents. That organizationis connected with mining, transport, electricity and all kinds of undertakings. Who controls the banks? Lord Rothschild once said, “ Let me control the money of the country and I do not care who makes its laws “. In the last depression, 41,000,000 white people were out of work. Mr. Montagu Norman gave Hitler £6,000,000 and said-“ It does not matter whether we get it hack or not as long as it is used against the Bolsheviks.” Years ago I had a long conversation with Mr. Ernest Bevin who was then head nf the Transport Union in England. He told me that his office was alongside that of Lord McGowan for many years. Mr. Bevin said to Lord McGowan one day that he noticed that Lord McGowan was going to Czechoslovakia very often and asked, “ How are things in Czechoslovakia ? “ The reply was, “ Czechoslovakia is no good. Tt has no organization. What it wants is German organization and British bankers.” That is what happened. I believe that the Czechs had £6.000,000 in the Bank of England. When Hitler walked into Czechoslovakia
– Mr. President, would it be out of order if the honorable senator referred to the Commonwealth Bank Bill?
– Order! I am in the chair.
– It is a far call from Hitler to the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– If the honorable senator knew anything about the subject he would understand that if the international banks had been prepared to back the Weimar Republic there would have been no Hitler at all. Despite what the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has said about the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, vested interests will decide who gets the money and who does not get it.
– Can the honorable senator define vested interests?
– If the honorable senator does not know what vested interests are, he should not be in the Parliament. The investment of money for exploitation alone without any regard for humanity has brought the world to its present condition. We are providing £8,000,000 for the relief of poverty in the Far East. That sum would hardly give the people of the Far East a grain of rice each.
What is happening in the Far East under the control of private banks? It is said that those countries are being developed. Burma was fairly well developed but in whose interests ? As it waa developed, social conditions went from bad to worse and that is why Burma was lost to Great Britain. The banking system in Malaya existed for the purpose of taking everything out of the country for the benefit of a few people who lived in England on the interest. In the development of Malaya the people were not taken into consideration. Humanity had nothing to do with it. I remember that when I lived in the United Kingdom, man after man went to Malaya not to help the people but to represent oil and banking interests. When the Japanese arrived in Malaya, there was no organization. The banks had not even lent enough money to build fortifications. The people of Malaya were told that the Japanese were coming and their reply was, “ What does it matter? It does not make any difference “. The guerrillas fought for years in Malaya and then the white people returned when it was all over to restore the position. What happened in China under the banking system there?
– I rise to order. The bill has nothing, to do with international banking. lt concerns the Commonwealth Bank and the matters raised by the honorable senator are quite irrelevant.
– I point out to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that I am. in the chair, and if the honorable senator is not speaking to the bill, it is my duty to call him to order. The discussion on the second reading of any bill is of a general nature and although honorable senators have wandered somewhat from the Commonwealth Bank Bill during this debate, at least Senator Grant has been connecting the Commonwealth Bank with international banking. It has been very interesting, and I do not think that I should stop him. If he can connect his remarks generally with banking he will be in order.
– I will try to keep my remarks within the range of the intelligence of honorable senators. In mathematics, one proceeds from postulates to axioms and goes on to prove points. I postulate now that the proposed banking board will act detrimentally to the interests of Australia. Whenever private interests dominate a bank board, the interests of the country are subservient to the making of profits for the shareholders. If we can learn anything from history it is that history repeats itself.
– So does the honorable senator.
– I know, but the more I repeat a statement the less the Attorney-General knows about it. Is there any reason to assume that, if another bank board is appointed, it will be anything different from the previous board? The difference between honorable senators on the two sides of the House is fundamental. The Prime Minister knows who is going to be on the bank board and the reason why he does not say who they will be is obvious. A confidence man has to take his victim in first and then he takes the lot. The Prime Minister has taken a few tricks before but he will not take this one. Who is to be on this bank board? Why cannot honorable senators have the names now? The private banks have been likened to a man who lends an umbrella when it is dry and takes the umbrella back again when it rains.
– I have owed the banks a few pounds at odd times, but they have never taken the umbrella away from me.
– Then the honorable senator must have been home and dry. It is said that Scottish people have no sense of humour and cannot see a joke; they can see a joke all right if there is money in it. I shall finish on a serious note. The economy of the world to-day is in a deplorable state. We in this country cannot afford to allow people whose main interests are their private interests, to have any real say in the control of our nationalbank. The world situation will not permit such a state of affairs. Honorable senators opposite speak of the virtues of private enterprise; do they not realize that we are living in theage of the atomic bomb when 100,000 people can be wiped out in a minute? Private enterprise cannot cope with that. It would be just as sensible to have a navy under private control as it is to have a national hank under private control - -
– Socialism cannot cope with the atomic bomb age either.
– How does the honorable senator know that? True socialism has never existed. I hope that before this measure has passed through the Parliament, the Prime Minister will announce the names of the men whom he proposes to appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Professor Hytten will be one.
– The honorable senator’s guess is as good as mine. All we know, is that so far, the names have not been mentioned. We have a right to know them.
– The jobs will not exist until the bill has been passed.
– Apparently the Government has not even considered who the members of the board are to be. That is even worse. If the appointments had been considered and the names of the appointees announced the Government would have been at least partly logical, but it is now asking us to vote for something to which no consideration has been given. I leave it at that.
Motion (by Senator Arnold) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sittings of the Senate - Flourmilling - Gliding Clubs.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I regret that owing to the somewhat unexpected interest that has been taken in the bill that wa9 before the Senate earlier to-night, it will be necessary for us to meet to-morrow.
– Until what hour?
– That will depend on the progress that is made. I had hoped that we should be able to get through in the morning.
– We are prepared to stay here all day.
– That may be necessary. I am quite sure that honorable senators opposite will co-operate with the Government in this matter. I am not complaining. We are here to debate the legislation that comes before the chamber - I only wish it were debated - and I ask for the co-operation of honorable senators opposite. Important legislation will be coming to us from the House of Representatives soon, and, in the ensuing weeks, it may be necessary for the Senate to meet from Monday to Friday inclusive. I mention this so that honorable senators may make their transport arrangements accordingly.
– Recently I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question about flour-milling in South Australia, and the shortage of mill offals that has been created by reduced milling operations. Since I asked that question I have been informed that the position has become more acute, and that it is not possible to buy pollard, bran, and other mill by-products. Consequently, poultry- farmers, pig-farmers and other users of these offals are facing a difficult problem. I asked the Minister to ascertain whether arrangements could be made to have more wheat gristed in this country, so that we could export flour instead of whole grain. I urge the Minister to regard 4hifi as an urgent matter, and to endeavour to arrange for increased sales of flour overseas, so that mills in this country may be kept in full operation and the shortage of mill offals thus relieved. If it is not possible to make contracts now for the sale of more flour, the Government could consider advancing credits to build up stocks of flour in this country to fulfil contracts that may be made in the near future. It is most desirable that our flour mills should be working full time and that the scarcity of mill offals, particularly in South Australia, should be relieved.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) stated that the Senate would meet to-morrow until some unspecified hour. I asked him at what hour he expected the Senate to rise, and his reply was that that would depend on the progress that was made. That leaves many people in a state of great difficulty. Many honorable senators travel to Canberra from distant States. Transport arrangements have to be made with at least some notice. Air travel is involved in almost every instance, and uncertainty about the sitting hours of the Senate can cause great embarrassment to the staff of the Parliament. It is necessary for bookings to be made many days ahead, and I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Customs will appreciate the grave difficulties that officers of the Senate will have in making those arrangements. It was expected, perhaps without reason, that the Senate would not sit to-morrow and most senators made arrangements to leave for their homes to-morrow morning. Accordingly bookings were made, and will now have to be recast in view of the Government’s decision. That, of course, is unfortunate, not only for the transport officers and the airline operators, but also for honorable senators. I do not question the Government’s decision that the Senate should meet to-morrow morning. I ask the
Minister to endeavour to give an indication to the Senate of the probable hour of rising to-morrow. Obviously that would be a convenience to tha Senate staff, who are. required to make transport arrangements. Furthermore, it’ would enable honorable, senators to determine whether, in the unexpected circumstances, they would return to their homes for the week-end or remain in Canberra. I am sure, that my submission will appeal to the Leader of the Government as a reasonable request, having regard to the convenience not only of the staff, but also of all honorable senators.
– I am in complete accord with what Senator McKenna has said about the matter that has been brought before the Senate this evening by the Leader of the Government, in the Senate. The fact that the Government wishes the Senate to meet tomorrow is not necessarily due to the great, interest shown .by the Opposition in the banking legislation that is being considered.
– I said that the interest in the measure was. unexpected.
– The Government should have anticipated the interest that the Opposition has shown in this measure, because honorable senators on this side of the chamber have evinced great interest in the debate from the. commencement. I point, out that until 8 o’clock this evening the Government had not decided whether the Senate should sit to-morrow. That is an aspect of the matter to which I personally take great exception. I agree with the objections that have been stated by Senator McKenna. If the Government knew its business, its leader in this chamber should have been able to announce much earlier than this evening that the Senate would meet to-morrow: The Minister has said that the measures coming before the Senate are so important that it may be necessary for this chamber to sit from Mondays to Fridays in future., Personally,, I have no intention to agree to the principle of legislation by exhaustion.
– The. Opposition should, cease- stone-walling.
– I prefer to treat, every measure that comes before this chamber for consideration in a reasonable manner.
– That is what the Government desires, also.
– Throughout to-day honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have spoken to the banking legislation.
– There has been tedious repetition.
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) claims that there has been tedious repetition. However, the fact remains that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have contributed to the debate. Tuesday’s sitting was wasted discussing a motion of dissent from the ruling of the President, based on a very flimsy ground. The Opposition discussed that matter at length in order to teach Senator Wright - who moved the motion - a lesson, and to show him how little he knew about the Standing Orders. I remind the Senate that both the mover and the seconder of that, motion were, supporters of the Government. I shall do all that I can to prevent the Senate from sitting from Mondays to Fridays to consider this legislation.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) [11.5). - I should like to draw attention to the fact that over three weeks ago I addressed a question about gliding clubs to the Minister representing the Minister foc Civil Aviation. I subsequently heard in a radio broadcast a similar question asked in another place om the following dag?, when an answer - perhaps not so complete as was desired - was furnished. However, my question still remains on the notice-paper. I should appreciate an answer to- it by to-morrow at the very latest in order that i can. supply the. information required to. a gliding club’ in Tasmania whose members are vitally interested.. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan’) to take the necessary action to ensure that answers to other questions still standing, in my marne shall tie supplied expeditiously.
– I take grave exception to the exhibition of ill-breeding, ill manners, and discourtesy that has been displayed by the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) in this chamber to-night. I recollect that during the regime of the Scullin Government a select committee held up a bill for ten months. The present. Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) was one of the first members of this chamber to move that the regulations should be disallowed. What has happened in this chamber tonight is a reflection of the state of confusion of the Government. Although it is obvious that the Government is seeking legislation by exhaustion, surely the wives and families of honorable senators are entitled to consideration. At 9 o’clock this evening I asked the Leader of the Government what hour he expected that the Senate would be sitting till to-morrow. He replied that he did net know. Obviously the Minister did not know his own mind. If a government does not know at 9 p.m. what it is going to do on the next day, surely the country is unsafe under its control. Many members of this chamber bring to Canberra with them sufficient clothing to last them, with normal changes, only two or three days. They are not being shown any consideration in this instance. In the past this chamber has sat all night on occasions, but honorable senators have received timely notice of the Government’s intention. I protest against the Minister’s exhibition of discourtesy to-night. Should Labour have acted similarly I should have protested likewise. I hope that better counsel will prevail when the heat has passed.
– We are not heated. We only want to get on with the work.
– The Minister has exhibited bad temper in connexion with this matter, which is not characteristic of him. I am sure that in no other parliament in the British Empire would the Opposition be treated by the Leader of the Government so discourteously as the Opposition in this chamber has been treated to-night.
Senator HENDRICKSON (Victoria) [11.8 J. - I consider that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) is entirely out of order in the way that he treats the members of the Opposition. The time has arrived when both he and the other supporters of the Government in this chamber should be realistic. The Minister has stated that the matter that we have been discussing was not of much importance. I consider that it is one of the most important measures that has been brought down for many years. The Minister should realize that the Opposition is numerically stronger than the Government in this chamber. All honorable senators owe a duty to the people of the States that they represent. I owe a duty, also, to many branches of organizations in which I am interested in Victoria. I normally visit them during recesses of the Parliament. All of the branches to which I have referred have carried resolutions against the Government’s proposed legislation on banking. Although the Minister , has become piqued because things do not suit him. I remember when he apologized to the Senate a few weeks ago for his hastiness. I wish to point out that I have brought my wife and family with me to Canberra, and have arranged to remain here during the coming week-end. Hovever, honorable senators who have certain obligations to the people that they represent have in many instances made arrangements to travel to distant places to-morrow. I always advise the transport officer of my intended movements, because I realize that his job of arranging transport for members of this chamber is an onerous task. I venture to suggest that if, because of the cancellation of seats that have been reserved for honorable senators on tomorrow’s aircraft, Senator O’Sullivan could not obtain a seat when he required it, he would be very hurt. Of course I realize that Ministers enjoy a priority. which he would probably exercise, whilst other members of this chamber would be forced to remain in Canberra, instead of returning to their homes. I remind honorable senators, also, that the Leader of the Government in this chamber is a political accident so far as the leadership of the Senate is concerned. His experience has been very limited. He has little knowledge of the manner in which business has been transacted in this chamber during the last ten years. During the most critical years of the war, the then anti-Labour Opposition held up the business of this chamber by frivolous tactics. The Opposition at that time used its numbers in this chamber to delay the business of the Government, which was conducting the war on behalf of this country. Those things should not be forgotten. To-day the Opposition is numerically stronger than the Government in this chamber. It is therefore necessary that we should take more time than Government senators during debates on important measures. In connexion with measures that have been introduced to diminish the social rights of the people of this country, it has sometimes taken honorable senators on this side of the chamber five or ten minutes longer than usual to complete their addresses because of the necessity for them to trace the ramifications of the organizations that brought about the depression in Australia in the ‘thirties. I realize, of course, that honorable senators opposite have no say at all in what legislation will be brought down; their minds are made up for them. I want to warn the Leader of the Government in this chamber that, along with Senator Armstrong, I shall not be a party to carrying legislation through this chamber to suit the party that he supports if that legislation will act to the detriment of the people that I represent. I am prepared to come here at all times that the Leader of the Government desires to call the Senate together. In fairness, however, he should credit honorable senators on this side of the chamber with being intelligent men. He should have informed honorable senators this morning that the Government had decided that the Senate would be required to sit tomorrow. Recently he assured honorable senators that in future this chamber would rise normally on a Thursday night, but that if it was intended to sit on Friday he would warn honorable senators in ample time. The Minister’s statement in this connexion is recorded in Barnard. I suggest, therefore, that he should reconsider the matter before the motion is carried. I should not mind sitting throughout next week, if the Leader of the Government in thi? chamber considered that that was necessary. If Government business demanded that course, I am sure that the Opposition would be prepared to assist him. I remind the Minister that honorable senators have obligations to their wives and children, whom they respect. If the Minister is not prepared to respect honorable senators on this side he should at least respect their families by informing them of the expected time of rising to-morrow, so that they can advise their homes. In many instances honorable senators are compelled to travel by air to attend the sittings of this chamber, and their wives are anxious until they arrive home. I repeat, that it is recorded in Ilansard, that the Minuter promised to give honorable senators timely notice if the Government decided that this chamber should sit on a Friday.
– I think that this matter should be approached in a common-sense way and without heat or party spirit. We are assembled here to do a job, and we must do it. While we waste the time of the Senate discussing a matter like this, we could be getting on with the job. If we meet for two hours to-morrow morning we cannot accomplish any more than we can by sitting for another two hours now, which would obviate sitting to-morrow. Many honorable senators have made travel bookings to go to different States, and if the Senate has to sit to-morrow it will upset their plans. Goodwill and common sense must be shown in our approach tn this matter, and I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) for co-operation. Let us continue sitting until 1 a.m., in order to meet the legislative requirements of the nation, and so avoid the need to meet to-morrow. After all, the Government has a legislative programme to complete, and if the Senate is to rise in June that programme must be completed by then.
– I dissociate myself from the remarks made by Senator McKenna, who initiated the agitated outburst made hy members of the Opposition. I understood the honorable senator to say that he was speaking on behalf of all honorable senators, and I wish to make it quite plain that he was not speaking on my behalf, nor do I believe that he was speaking on behalf of any honorable senator on this side of the chamber. I ask him in future not to be so presumptuous as to speak on behalf of honorable senators who do not belong to his political party and do not owe allegiance to his- leadership.
– I regret that there has been some difference over this matter. During the present Parliament I have given every cooperaton to the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) to facilitate the proceedings of this chamber. All day I lave inquired about the Government’s intentions concerning the sitting of the Senate. I told members of the Opposition privately that the Senate would probably be sitting to-morrow, hut they have not all been able to reserve accommodation for to-morrow. From my point of view it is immaterial whether the Senate completes its business to-morrow or on Saturday afternoon. Aa Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, I have given much greater co-operation to the present Government than was given by some honorable senators opposite when we represented the Government in this chamber during, the war. Some honorable senators opposite took every opportunity to waste time and obstruct us in every way possible. Having taken this stand, I must intimate that in future no arrangements will be made with the Leader of the Government. In order to meet the convenience of the Government I agreed that the debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill should proceed immediately after the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) had made his second-reading speech. However, there will he a clean sheet in the future, and the Opposition will conduct itself in the manner which seems fitting to it. There will be no further arrangements with the Government.
. - -m reply - I regret that some warmth has been infused’ into= the debate when there is no need for it. Apparently there has been some misunderstanding. I think Senator Large said that there had been a breach of contract, and Senator Armstrong complained that he had been informed of the arrangements only at. 8 p.m. to-night, whilst Senator Hendrickson apparently learned of thearrangement later. It is quite true that a fortnight ago I promised the Senate that I would give at least one week’s notice if there were any risk of the Senate meeting on a Friday. However, I told the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) last week to be prepared to sit on Friday of this week-
– That was not definite.
– That is so,, but I warned him to he prepared. It must be understood that, although we on this side of the chamber represent the Government, we have not the actual control of the proceedings of the chamber. It is not so much a matter of the length of time that the Senate sits, as of how much legislative business it transacts. Since it is the business of the Government to have its legislation passed,, the Senate must sit until that legislation is passed. That can be done in a short, medium, or a very long time, according to the degree of co-operation shown by the Opposition. Therefore, when the Leader of the Opposition asked me whether the Senate would meet to-morrow, I said then that it depended entirely on himself and’ his supporters.
– That is correct.
– I pointed’ out that in the House of Representatives the Government had declared a certain measure to be urgent. After all, it is only a few months since the election, and the Government has a definite and specific mandate. I do not like to haveto remind honorable senators opposite that many of them are the remnants of a 194& mandate. We on this side of theSenate received our mandate in 19”49.
-. - Apparently the Leader of the Government in the- Senatebelieves that it is a pity thai we have a parliament at all.
– Thank God for the existence of this Parliament. Whether tile Senate will meet on Fridays will depend on the progress we make in disposing of the business before the Senate. That, in turn, will depend on the good offices of those who constitute the majority in this chamber. Whether or not the Senate meets on Fridays is a matter solely for honorable senators opposite to decide.
– For what purpose does the Minister think this Parliament was instituted?
– It is a deliberative chamber and it must deal with the business placed before it with reasonable expedition. Tt is not for me to criticize the speeches that were made by Opposition senators in this chamber to-night. The merit or otherwise of their contributions to the debate is a matter for the people to decide. We must make progress with our legislative programme. The speed with which we dispose of it will depend entirely on the extent of the co-operation we receive from the Opposition.
Senator McKenna has asked how long the Senate proposes to sit tomorrow. ‘ I remind him that that, too, depends entirely on the programs we achieve. We have not asked the Senate to meet merely for the purpose of putting in hours. .We do so in order that the legislation placed before this chamber may’ be considered with . reasonable despatch. The days and. hours of our sittings will be determined by the progress we make with the legislation before us. The Opposition, being in the majority, knows more than I do about that matter. When I discussed it with the Leader of the Opposition I asked him if I could have his assurance that the Commonwealth Bank Bill would- be completed by the hour at which the sitting would normally be suspended for dinner on Wednesday next.
– I could not give any such assurance.
– I realize that. The honorable senator replied, “I can give no undertaking in that regard “.
In the light of his statement, how can I give any indication, either to my own colleagues or to the Opposition, of the length of our sittings? I still seek the co-operation of- the Opposition. If honorable senators opposite are prepared to extend to the Government their cooperation, the business of the Senate will be disposed of without delay. It would he presumptuous of me to request honorable senators opposite unduly to restrict their speeches; hut it would not he presumptuous of me to ask them not to unduly prolong their contribution to the debates. That matter rests between them and their electors. I see no reason for becoming heated . about this matter. The Opposition has the numbers;. it has called the tune. If the tune is inharmonious, I am sorry. We are here to carry out a legislative programme, and we shall do bo to the best of our ability.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following, papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report (or year 1948-49.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Works and Housing D. F. Major, P. N. Self.
Senate adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500518_senate_19_207/>.