19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development by pointing out that the supply of tin that has normally been available to British Commonwealth countries is now very uncertain owing to the unrest in Malaya. In the north-east portion of Tasmania, there are very rich deposits of tin which are not being developed because of lack of capital. Will the Minister look into this matter in the light of the local and overoverseas prices of tin, to see whether a concession could be made in order that the tin-mining areas that I have mentioned may be developed? Could a Commonwealth grant be made in order to provide an incentive for the miners, who are at present deserting those areas in favour of the cities, to continue tinmining? Will the Minister undertake to give this matter urgent consideration, in view of the world situation in relation to tin?
– I recollect being asked a somewhat similar question during the last sessional period of the
Parliament. However, I think that that question related to the obtaining of plant to operate the mines. I shall’ take the matter up with my colleague, the.Minister for Supply and Development, .and request him to prepare a. reply for the honorable senator as soon as possible; setting out what the Government can do in this matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to an article that appeared in the Melbourne Argus on the 11th October, respecting an application thai was made .by the Commonwealth Bank to the Equity Court in Sydney for the winding-up of an importing company trading as Arup and Bruhn Proprietary Limited, which was stated to have sold in Australia imports valued at £1,019,749 from Soviet Russia in. a period of eleven months? The newspaper report stated that the Commonwealth Bank, had sought the order because the company owed the bank £26,156 19s. 10d., which was unsecured.
– Order r The honorable senator is not in order furnishing information. He should ask his question.
– Is it a fact that the company had been refused overdraft facilities by a private trading bank? Will the Minister ascertain why this company, of apparency recent origin, waa granted overdraft accommodation to the amount of £26,159 19s. lOd. without security! As this instance of finance is probably symptomatic of the theoretical approach to commerce under the present system of one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank, will the Minister take urgent steps to appoint one or two men of practical experience in commerce to assist to protect the funds of the people’s bank from such exploitation?
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown). - Honorable senators, when asking questions, should not state opinions. I know that when proceedings are being broadcast honorable senators like to express their opinions, but they should wait until the proper time.
– I saw a newspaper reference to this subject, but I did not read it carefully. The honorable senator asked me whether I would obtain information about the details of the transaction, but I cannot give an- assurance that I shall do so. The question touches upon banking administration^ and the relationship between the bank and iti clients, matters which are not properly the subject of public debate. The honorable senator also asked me whether 1 believed that the Commonwealth Bank would be strengthened by the inclusion on the Board of Directors of. men of wide experience. On that point, there is no room for argument. There is an old saying that experience is the best school, even though the ‘ fees are high. I certainly believe that the strengthening of the board .by the addition of persons of wide experience would be to the benefit of the nation as a whole.
– Is it Government policy to allow the governor of the bank a free hand to make loans without security? If so, for how long has this practice been permitted on the ground that it is a matter affecting the relationship between the bank and its clients? Will the Government see that the practice is discontinued ?
– There has been no alteration of policy,, and loans arc being made now on the same conditions as in the past. The impression I gained from the newspaper report was that the advance referred to represented the balance of a loan, part of which was secured, the rest being unsecured. The Commonwealth Bank is subject to the control of the Treasurer now as it was while the Labour Government was in office.
– In view of the fact that the steelworks at Newcastle are working far below capacity because of the scarcity of coal, and that other heavy industries are slackening off because of the scarcity of steel, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply say what action is being taken to ensure that supplies of coal are made available to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited works? Is imported coal being diverted to the stockpile at the steelworks, and is coal being obtained from open-cut mines in an effort to relieve the present shortage? What is the Government doing to ensure that enough steel will be available for Australian industries?
– The policy of the Joint Coal Board is to make available ;to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited the kind of coal needed for the production of steel. Coal has been imported from India and South Africa for use in Victoria and South Australia. Had that not been done, some of the coal that has been supplied to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited steelworks at Newcastle would have had to go to the southern States. Every effort, is being made to keep the steelworks operating.
– Don’t forget the “ Comms “ !
– I am reminded by Senator Grant’s interjection that Mr. Gallagher, the Coal Tribunal appointed by the Chifley Government, has drawn attention to the fact that, due to Communist activity, the Burwood and Stockton mines, which supply coal to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, have been idle for many days. That has been the cause of the falling off in the supply of steel. I can assure the honorable senator that there will be a marked improvement of production as soon as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill has been passed.
– Did the Minister for Social Services notice a report in the Sydney Sun of the 11th October, which contained allegations that the Social Services Department was inefficient and that the Government was penalizing pensioners because it knew that they did not vote for its supporters at elections? If the Minister has read the report, has he any reply to make to these allegations?
– As the report to which the honorable senator has referred contained statements reflecting upon the administration of my department, I read it very carefully, although with a great deal of regret. The report contained an allegation by a member of the House o Representatives that the Government was raiding pensioners merely because they were not supporters of the Government I can assure the Senate that the Govern ment administers legislation faithfully, impartially, and without consideration of the political opinions of those whom it affects. However, the honorable member who made the allegation was incorrect because not only did pensioners do their share in the election of this Government, but also I believe that they will continue to support the Government when they see its budget proposals. The charge has been made that officers of the Department of Social Services are callous and indifferent in their dealings with social services beneficiaries. The department is large, but I believe that it is efficiently, courteously and sympathetically administered. I have been impressed, since I ha vo held my present portfolio, by the comparative scarcity of complaints by the public about discourtesy or inefficiency in the department. I am sure that my experience was also that of Senator McKenna and Senator Fraser, each of whom held the social services portfolio before me. I have heard tributes paid to officers of the department by honorable senators on both sides of thin chamber. The attack in this Parliament upon these public servants who, traditionally, are unable to reply to such criticism, was unmanly on the part of the honorable member. His remarks were mean and cowardly, and were designed to cause unrest, uncertainty, and -fear amongst social services beneficiaries, many of whom are in necessitous circumstances but are hesitant to insist upon their legal rights. They should be encouraged to seek what is due to them instead of being criticised and frightened away. I cannot speak in sufficiently strong terms of my distaste for such a miserable attack by that gentleman.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Government intends to increase age pensions by 7s. 6d. a week? If the report is correct, is the Minister aware that when, in October, 1948, the Chifley Government increased the rate of pension to 42s. 6d. a week the pension represented 36.4 per cent, of the basic wage, or an approximate increase of 2 per cent.? If the rate of pension is increased by 7s. 6d. a week, making the total pension payment 50s. a week, the new rate will be equivalent to only 35.2 per cent, of the present New South Wales basic wage, and the purchasing value of the pension will be lower than it was in 1948. If these statements are correct, will the Minister take the necessary action to provide in the budget that the pension for a single pensioner shall be at least 50 per cent, of -the basic wage, and that the pension be increased on a percentage basis in accordance with rises in the cost, of living. .
– The Government’s intention in relation to age pensions will be made apparent later in the day. when the budget is introduced. It would be fair for me to say that whatever increase is granted it will represent that much more than that granted by the Labour Government in the last budget, which was nil.
– Will the Minister for Social Services cause a report to lie prepared setting out in detail the work of each State branch of his department in relation to civilian rehabilitation, so that the Parliament and the people of Australia may have an opportunity to learn of the great Christian functions performed by this humane government undertaking and of the wonderful success that it, has achieved in restoring health and happiness to many long-suffering and sick persons in Australia ?
– I should be pleased to obtain the information asked for by the honorable senator and make it available to the Senate. Some information on the matter is contained in annual reports issued by the department, but I shall be glad to supplement that information.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for National Development is making a tour of the Commonwealth to investigate and co-ordinate developmental projects? If so, when does the Minister propose to visit Tasmania to devote particular attention to the vast mineral and hydro-electric potential of the west coast of that island?
– I know that theMinister for National Development is embarking on a number of interstate tours, but I do not know when he proposesto visit Tasmania and what his itinerary in that State will be. I shall obtain the desired information and inform the honorable senator.
– In view of ‘ repeated reports that drugs and valuable jewellery are being smuggled into this country, will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether adequate precautions are being taken in the examination of all arrivals at air ports ? Will the Minister inquire into the practicability of using mobile X-ray units for the detection of smuggled goods?
– It is conceivable that, despite the well-known vigilance of customs officers, some smuggling is taking place. The department is most vigilant in the detection and prevention of such practices, and very severe penalties are inflicted on those who are found guilty of breaches of the customs laws. The suggestion made by the honorable senator is well worthy of investigation. I shall have it examined.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate why Mr. Fred Cullen was not re-appointed as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board ? What special qualifications are possessed by Mr. Teasdale to warrant his appointment to that position?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was very conscious of the fact that, as the result of the action of the Labour Government, the taxpayers of Australia had to contribute £7,000,000 to the Wheat Stabilization Fund to cover the loss arising from one sale of wheat.
I refer, of course, to the sale to New Zealand. In view of the importance of the position of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, a body which acts as trustee in respect of crops worth hundreds of millions of pounds, the Minister exercised his right under the act to select for that position a man whom he considered the most suitable in Australia,. Incidentally, Mr. Teasdale was appointed by me to the first Australian Wheat Board established. I endorse the Minister’s opinion, because I, too, consider that Mr. Teasdale is one of the outstanding Australian authorities on the marketing of wheat. It is interesting to note that after he was sacked by the Labour Government - and r may add that he first learned of his dismissal from a radio report - the Government amended the law. Later - «nd this is to Mr. Teasdale’s credit - he was re-elected to the board by the. wheatgrowers of Western Australia. I say quite definitely that the Minister has the prerogative to appoint such a man; indeed, the Labour Government itself exercised that prerogative. The Minister appointed Mr. Teasdale because he wished to secure the services of a man well versed in the chartering of ships and the sale of wheat overseas.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Australian Wheat Board pays freight on wheat to all Australian States except Tasmania; if so, why is there discrimination against one State of the Federation ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
No. All States, with the exception of Tasmania are surplus producers of wheat, and do not normally obtain supplies from outside their own borders. The subsidizing of wheat freight charges to Tasmania is still being considered.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, has described the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers as the most unpleasant gathering attended by him during his eighteen years as Premier of Queensland? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister opened the conference by refusing to confer on matters which the States proposed to submit to him? Is it also a fact that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, severely criticized the Prime Minister and asked him whether he desired the Premiers to bow stiffly from the waist to him? Will the honorable senator place before the Senate details of the matters raised at the conference and which the Prime Minister rudely refused to discuss with the State Premiers? Will he do that in order to permit this chamber to discuss those matters and endeavour to correct the unfortunate position that has arisen ? Is the honorable senator also aware that the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty, refused to give a full report of the conference to the Parliament of Western Australia, although members of both the Government and the Opposition requested him to do so?
– A law should be passed to prevent the credulity of honorable senators from being imposed upon so easily. I have not seen all the reports to which the honorable sentaor has referred, but I have been reliably informed that Mr. Hanlon was extremely rude to the Prime Minister, who behaved with his usual courtesy and sense of responsibility to the public. I was not present at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, but it is quite conceivable that Mr. Hanlon attempted to take Commonwealth matters out of the hands of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and it is equally likely that the Prime Minister, with his sense of responsibility, refused to hand federal matters over to the caprices of a socialist State Premier. With regard to the suggestion that the proceedings of the conference should be made available in this chamber, that action would be most unorthodox, unprecedented and unwarranted. If Senator Cooke is really interested to know what transpired at the conference and the degree to which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer acceded to the requests of the State Premiers, he should consult reliable authorities and not permit himself to be misled by newspaper reports.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that a verbatim record is taken of proceedings of conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and published in printed form annually? Does his statement constitute an intimation that that practice is to be discontinued by this Government?
– Senator McKenna has much more experience of these matters than I have. If a record of the proceedings of these conferences is published as a pu’blic document and made available to the public, this Government will not deviate in any way from the practice of the Chifley Government and previous governments in relation to that matter.
– As the Senate was originally constituted as a State house of review, will the Minister inform honorable senators of the requests of State Premiers that were refused by the Commonwealth at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, in order to enable this chamber to function in the manner intended?
– I suggest that the honorable senator should peruse the record of the proceedings of the recent conference, when published.
– Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited cannot obtain sufficient labour to enable it to achieve its pre-war rate of production, apart altogether from industrial dislocations that occur from time to time and irrespective of the industries in which those dislocations take place ?
– As a result of investigations that I have made and discussions I have had with officials of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, I know that, although the organization is still short of labour, the immediate cause of the shortage of steel is lack of coal. If the company could obtain sufficient coal, it could, with the labour available to it now, increase its production considerably.
– In view of the great assistance that Scottish pipe bands iri Australia have given to charitable institutions in this country, will the Minister for Trade and Customs permit them to import their pipes and kilts dutyfree under existing by-laws ?
– The capacity of these bands to give is well known. The Minister for .Fuel, Shipping and Transpert tells we that they will give any given quantity of anything. I shall examine the points raised by the honora’ble senator.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs been informed that the basic wage has been increased by £1 a week for males, and by 75 per cent, of that amount for females? As an attempt will probably be made to increase prices to a degree that will absorb that increase, will the Minister state what measures the Government intends to take to prevent further inflationary pressure, and, if not to put value back into the £1, to maintain the value of the £1 at its present level?
– I have not been informed on oath that the basic wage has been increased, by £1 a week, but I believe that the majority of the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has awarded that increase. I gather from the tone of the honorable senator’s question that he is opposed to an increase of the basic wage. If that is so, I am very sorry, because we on the Government ‘ side of the chamber are very keen to give the fullest and highest standard of living to the Australian workers. The point now is not whether the increase would aggravate or accentuate the inflationary tendency, but rather whether available goods are in keeping with the available money. If the increase acts as an incentive to further production, I trust that, in spite of the honorable senator’s opposition to the increase, the Australian public would not unduly suffer from it.
– I point out to the Minister for Trade and Customs that I did not say, when asking my question, that I was opposed to an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage. All that I did was to draw his attention to the fact that further inflation would inevitably follow the race of prices to absorb the increase. I ask the Minister what measures the Government intends to take to safeguard the increase. I should be pleased if he -would now answer my question. I emphasize that I did not oppose the £1 a week increase of the basic wage.
– I accept the honorable senator’s explanation, and I suggest that he restrain his curiosity until the budget has been introduced.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by stating that I do not question the announced decision of the Government not to revalue the Australian £1. However, I point out that many Australian manufacturers are managing to remain in business only because of the very slender protection that is afforded to them by the existing exchange rate between Britain and Australia. They are apprehensive that if that protection were withdrawn, they would be compelled to cease manufacturing. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether, if the Government finds it necessary, upon a reconsideration of this problem, to alter the present exchange rate, have special machinery ready to set in motion to protect Australian industries that might otherwise go out of existence?
– The question raised by the honorable senator, although very important, is entirely hypothetical. The Prime Minister has already stated quite definitely and unequivocally that there shall be no revaluation.
– Will the Minister for Social Services confer with the Minister for Health to see whether copies of the regulations governing the provision of pharmaceutical benefits can be made available for honorable senators?
– I speak subject to correction, but I think that the regulations were tabled in the Senate a few days ago, and are thus available for perusal by honorable senators.
– As the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is probably aware, the grasshopper menace is causing grave concern to wheat farmers in Western Australia, particularly in the marginal areas.
– What about dingoes ?
– There are a few dingoes in the chamber. Will the Minister, in collaboration with the State authorities, take all possible steps, by intensifying research and otherwise, to combat this serious menace?
– I did not encounter the menace that the honorable senator has mentioned when I was in Western Australia recently. However, I shall certainly bring the matter to the notice of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with a view to all assistance possible being given to combat the menace.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate of the amount that was saved by the Treasury as a result of the discontinuance of the subsidy on superphosphate? Can he say what the increase in price of this fertilizer was, following the withdrawal of the subsidy?
– I am not quite sure, from memory, of the amount that the Treasury saved as a result of the withdrawal of the subsidy, but I understand that it was about £4,000,000 a year. However, if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain the information that he seeks.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation by pointing out that the purchasing power of the war gratuities standing to the credit of ex-servicemen has declined considerably due to the inflationary tendency in the Australian currency. As the amount of the gratuities was calculated on 1945 values, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has considered increasing the amount of the gratuities, which was intended as a reward to our ex-servicemen for services rendered, so that they will not suffer any financial loss?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator is one for consideration by the Treasurer, to whom I shall refer it.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Health lias decided not to go to the United States of America to explain details of his national health scheme to an American organization, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health in this chamber inform honorable senators whether the right honorable gentleman will now take the opportunity to explain the scheme to the representatives of the people in this country?
– I assure the honorable senator that the Minister for Health will explain his scheme thoroughly when it is ready.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting, for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
That information also answers the question asked by Senator Vincent on the- 5th October.
asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider the establishment of additional radio beacons at Cape Leeuwin, Cape Border, Gabo Island, Point Stephens and Cape Moreton?
– The provision of additional radio beacons on the Australian coast is to be considered at a meeting of the Lighthouse Advisory Committee tobe held before the end of the year, and the committee will be asked to place its recommendations in order of priority. Shipping, lighthouse and navigation interests are fully represented on this committee, which is a permanent body and keeps a close watch on matters affecting the safety of shipping.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for Minister for External Territories the following question, upon notice -
Is it a fact that some 50 Australian children enrolled for the new high school at present being erected at Wau, New Guinea, will find it difficult to enter boarding schools in Australia if this school is not completed in time for the proposed opening on the 1st February, 1951; if so, will the Acting Minister make a definitestatement as to when this school will be ready for occupation?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories has supplied the followinganswer : -
The Administrator of Papua and New Guinea has been authorized to issue in the territory a statement containing information, regarding secondary education and the proposed secondary school at Wau.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories has supplied the following answer : - 1 to 7. Practically all hospital facilities in Papua and New Guinea were damaged or completely destroyed during the war. Since the war it has been possible only to restore and extend those facilities on a temporary basis. The Government is fully seised of the necessity for improving and extending the medical services of the territory. A special committee consisting mainly of doctors with long experience in the administration of medical services in the tropics was appointed by the Government to review a comprehensive hospital programme including large base hospitals at both Port Moresby and Lae. The report and recommendation of the committee have been received and are now under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider the possibility of increasing the Papua-New Guinea native police force to such numbers as would allow a patrol to be maintained on the borders of Dutch New Guinea and thus preclude possibility of infiltration and the dissemination of adverse propaganda?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories has supplied the following answer : -
The police force of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea consists of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and the New Guinea Police Force. The numerical strength of the force is determined from time to time as may bc necessary to ensure the maintenance of law, order and good government in all parts of the territory.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
On the 22nd August, 1950, the PublicService Arbitrator issued Determination No. 36, granting increases to all postal officers and mail officers with at least twelve months adult service. The increases range from. £12 to £36 per annum and will be paid retrospectively from 29th December, 1949. Employees with less than twelve months’ adult service will receive an increment of £24 per annum on completion of twelve months’ service instead of £12 as previously.
The latest determination is more favorable than one issued in May, 1950, which granted an increase only to postal officers and mail officers on the maximum salary of their range.
During the year ended 30th June, 1950, 2.995 employees in the mail officer-postal officer group resigned. Of these only 350 were permanent officers. The average number of mail officers and postal officers employed during that year was approximately 11,500 and the wastage was therefore, approximately 25 per cent. Some discontent existed among employees of the Postal Department, but this should have been minimized as far as mail officers and postal officers are concerned as the result of the Arbitrator’s latest determination. Claims for salary increases in respect of other employees in the lower grades are now being heard by the Public Service Arbitrator.
It is agreed that wastage of staff ls uneconomical. It is doubtful however, whether the rate of pay is the major factor causing wastage under present conditions, investigations having shown that the position in the Postal Department does not compare unfavorably with that in industry generally, where the wastage at the time of the review was at the rate of CO per cent, per annum. For the same time the wastage in the Postal Department was 34 per cent, per annum or approximately half the turnover in industry.
The determination of rates of pay of postal employees and other Commonwealth public servants rests with the appropriate tribunals, the Public Service Arbitrator- and the Public Service Board. As I have mentioned, mail officers and postal officers have recently been granted an all round increase and other groups are now under review.
; - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the resumption of the debate upon Government Business, Order of the Day No. 1 (Communist Party Dissolution Bill), being made an Order of the Day for a later hour this day, namely, 2.15 p.m.
The purpose of the motion is to allow the Senate to proceed with the consideration of a measure which, on two occasions, has been declared by the Government to be an urgent measure, and regarding which the people of Australia gave the Government a specific mandate. I have suggested the resumption of the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill at 2.15 p.m. to enable the Opposition to secure the Senate’s final decision on a measure which, a week ago, honorable senators opposite declared to be one of great urgency - so urgent in fact that it warranted the unprecedented, and in my view unforgivable, action of taking Government business in this chamber out of the hands of the Government. That is something that should not lightly be done; it was done by the Opposition, ostensibly ‘because of the great urgency of the measure that it wished to have considered by the Senate. However, since the introduction of that bill, daily, and sometimes twice a day, we have given the Opposition a chance to proceed to a vote, and so finally to dispose of the bill. The Government is still prepared to vote on that measure at any time. Then, with the Opposition’s bill out of the way, the Senate could proceed to deal with something that is designed to be of real advantage to the security of this country, namely, legislation to place in the hands of the Government a weapon of offence and defence against Australia’s enemies. I can quite understand the predicament in which members of the Opposition find themselves. Last week, we saw them as a swaggering, although somewhat out-dated, majority. To-day, they are dispirited, bodies without souls, men without leadership or direction. Were it not for the fact that the country has to meet substantial expenditure to maintain the Senate, and that the Senate has a responsible and important part in the government of this country, the Opposition’s predicament would be humorous, although somewhat pathetic. As things are, however, we take a serious view of the lack of responsibility on the part of the Opposition, and we trust that, at a not far distant date, the people of this country will be given an opportunity to express their views on the time-wasting tactics of honorable senators opposite. It is common knowledge that their masters will speak on Monday. This disunited, leaderless legion on the Opposition .benches is unable to make up its own mind, .but has to accept the direction of a self-appointed sectional junta, which has no responsibility whatever to the people of this country. That body will tell this poor, bedraggled, dispirited, worn-out Opposition what attitude it is to adopt on a measure which the Government and the people of this country regard as urgent and vital.
– The Opposition opposes the motion. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has said that the Government has tried, on a number of occasions, to have a vote on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill because of its urgency. I remind the honorable senator that the problem with which the Opposition’s prices referendum bill seeks to deal has been declared by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself to be -of extreme urgency and importance. That view apparently is supported by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who announced in Melbourne a .few days ago that inflation was our primary problem and that defence was a secondary consideration. The Minister for Trade and Customs has referred somewhat disparagingly to members of the Opposition, and has alleged that there is division in our ranks. There is ample evidence of the disintegration of the present Government. The people of Australia are tired of the Government’s hesitancy to tackle the problem of inflation. We are informed that the Government wants the Senate to pass the Communist Party Dissolution Bill so that certain action may be taken; but the Communist party could hare been dissolved three months ago! The original bill was not interfered with in principle by the Opposition. The Government already has the authority to dissolve the Communist party and to dismiss Communists from trade union offices and from the Public Service. The claim that the Opposition is delaying the implementation of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill is sheer propaganda on the part of honorable senators opposite. The Opposition proposes that the Senate shall continue its consideration of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill which we on this side of the chamber believe to be of greater importance to the people of Australia.
– I oppose the motion that has been moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). His statement that the Government has a mandate from the people fo.r the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in the form in which it was introduced into this chamber originally is untrue. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to show that ‘the Government secured a mandate from the people of this country for the onus of proof provisions of that measure. Those provisions are among the few points on which the Government and the Opposition differ. The Opposition has agreed in principle to the bill. The only other English-speaking country in which legis lation such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill has been introduced is South Africa, and in that country it will cause a civil war amongst the natives, the Indians, and the whites, and then between the British and the Dutch.
Senator Wright interjecting,
– I have often wondered why the honorable senator interjects. Now I know that he wants to prove the truth of the old adage that the busy fool causes more .trouble than a lazy idiot. That needs no exemplification in his case. The Minister for Trade and Customs claims that the Opposition is impeding government business, and that we are a disintegrating rabble. I remind him that, earlier this year, efforts by Opposition senators to obtain some information about petrol imports were met day after day by a wall of silence. As a student of oil production, I knew what happened. Mr. Attlee, Mr. Menzies, and Mr. Fraser, had agreed that the “Yankees” were practically beaten, and that if the British Commonwealth countries stood together, America would have to sell oil for sterling and build refineries in Great Britain. Our Prime Minister “ scabbed “ on that agreement. When honorable senators opposite talk about delay I am reminded of the refusal for two or three weeks by the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to answer questions about petrol. It is claimed that the Labour Opposition in this chamber is disintegrating. Let me read to the Senate what the Daily Telegraph said about the present Government parties last Saturday after a broadcast had been made by the Prime Minister -
The Prime Minister’s broadcast address last night on his Government’s plans to stop the collapse of the national currency was the desperate effort of a man who has been hobbled and tied to a stake.
Everybody knows that twelve members of the Cabinet favoured the appreciation of the currency and seven opposed it, and that as a result the Australian Government has become the laughing stock of the civilized world. When sterling was depreciated the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, acted promptly. Whether his decision was right or wrong, he made it overnight, as did also the Prime Minister of Canada. This Government has disorganized our currency in a manner that has made us the laughing stock of the world. No nation now . has confidence in it.
– Order t The honorable senator is departing from the motion.
– I shall relate my remarks to it, Mr. President. Honorable senators opposite have said that we are wasting the time of the ‘Senate in dealing with a subject that is of no consequence. High living costs, the price of wool, and the basic wage, which, I ‘believe, has been increased by a miserable £1 a week, are very important subjects indeed. The hypocrisy of the statement of honorable senators opposite that we are preventing the Government from dealing with the Communist party is apparent to every thinking person. Honorable senators -opposite know very well that that statement is a lie because we have agreed to pass a hill to ban the ‘Communist party.
– not true.
– If the Government claims that it has a mandate to include in its legislation to ban the Communist party a provision to place the onus of proof of innocence on a declared person let the Leader of the Government point out that part of the policy speeches of the leaders of the Government on which he relies to justify its claim. If he can do so we shall vote for the Government’s “bill. The Government has no mandate for the incorporation of such a provision in the legislation. It is the duty of this Senate, as a house of review, to ensure that no legislation for which the Government has not received a mandate from the people, shall be passed until it has been properly considered.
– I oppose the motion. During the last few days the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) :at least once a day has delivered a well-rehearsed speech of condemnation of Opposition senators. He has gone to -great trouble to choose the most suitable words in which to describe in hypocritical terms his view of what has taken place in this Senate. His careful choice of words has not concealed the hypocrisy of his utterances.
– The honorable senator must have been both deaf and blind during the last two weeks.
– The Opposition has shown its willingness to concede to the Government very wide powers to deal with the Communist party. Why the Government has not been prepared to accept the Opposition’s amendments to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, I do not know. Under the provisions of that measure as it was amended by the Senate the Government would have power to ban the Communist party and its auxiliaries, to seize the assets and property of the Communist party. It is obvious that the Government does not want the bill to be placed on the statutebook.
– Give it a chance to place the bill on the statute-book and see what will happen !
– During the last ten months the Government has used this bill as a smokescreen to hide its inactivity. Only yesterday the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), in reply to a question asked in the Senate, stated that 23 ships were idle because of an industrial dispute. The honorable senator said that he was convinced that that dispute had .been instigated by Communists. He said that the secretary of the Seamen’s Union at Brisbane was referring the matter to the general secretary of the Seamen’s Union, who is a well-known Communist. He suggested that he could not effectively handle the matter because the Communist Party Dissolution Bill had not been passed by the Parliament. The Government already possesses the widest powers to prevent disturbances of that kind under the provisions of the Crimes Act. A person who is responsible for fomenting a dispute which results in the tying up of ships in this country may be charged under the provisions of that act with sedition or sabotage. Why was not action taken under that legislation _ if in fact Communists were responsible for instigating the dispute? The Crimes Act provides that for certain offences the death penalty may be imposed. The members of the Government merely mouth wo/ds. They refuse to act and they seek to hide their inactivity behind the smoke screen of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. When honorable senators ask questions on matters relating to such diverse subjects as prices, television and health, Ministers hasten to blame the Communists for all their difficulties.
– And the honorable senator hastens to protect them.
– Not at all. The Opposition is prepared to pass the Communist Party Dissolution Bill provided that adequate safeguards are inserted in it for the protection of the democratio rights of the people. Why are Government senators afraid to discuss the subject of rising costs and prices ? Surely they cannot deny its importance. Why, then, do they endeavour to prevent the Opposition from surveying them? Government senators take the attitude that that subject presents no problem «;.id that the Government has already done a marvellous job, but they know only too well that in the ten months that the Government has been in office the cost of living lias increased immeasurably.
– The honorable senator knows that that statement is not true.
– It is obvious that the Minister does not realize the extent to which the cost of living has increased
– It has increased less than it did when the Labour Government was in office.
– The Minister should move among the people in order to sec- for himself the heavy burdens whir-h the housewives of Australia have to parry as the result of the inaction of the Government. Honorable senators on the Government benches desire the Senate to discuss one bill to the exclusion of everything else. They take the view that as soon as a bill is transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives the Senate must merely act as a rubber stamp, pass it without amendment and return it to the House of Representatives before the sun sets the same day. The Leader of the Government speaks with such assurance that one would imagine he and his supporters represented the whole of the people of Australia.
– Not at all; only the majority of them !
– Yesterday the Melbourne Argus published a survey of the position that has arisen between the Senate and the House of Representatives which is well worth embodying in the records of our debates. The article which is -headed “ The Senate’s Job “. reads as follows: -
Mr. Menzies, who wants to get on with the job of implementing the will of his electors as he interprets it, is not unreasonably annoyed that the Senate is frustrating that aim.
His viewpoint is entirely proper - if it is assumed that the Senate should be a rubberstamp for legislation initiated in the House of Representative. If that be so there would seem to he no point in having a Senate at all.
If the Senate is not to be a rubber-stamp, however, it is quite entitled to determine its own priorities in the urgency of public business and to take the view, for instance, that inflation is a problem of more immediate importance than that of invading the liberty of the subject by a reversal of the traditional practices of British law.
Mr. Menzies has a case, but so has the Senate. The case for the Senate is that, in unusual circumstances, if it feels bound to do .30, it should interfere with the decisions of the primary chamber. In doing so it exercises a fundamental responsibility. There is constitutional machinery for enabling the electorate to decide whether that responsibility has been properly exercised.
I suggest to honorable senators that that indicates a fair appreciation of the position with which I, and other members of the Opposition, are faced. I oppose the motion.
– I should not have interposed in this debate but for the fact that some completely misleading statements have been made by members of the Opposition. First, it has been said that this chamber provided the Government with a measure -which would, when enacted, effectively deal with the Communist menace. I deny that proposition. I remind honorable senators that the bill presented to the Government by the Opposition would have ensured that Communists should remain in the Commonwealth
Public Service to carry on their work, unless the Government could prove beyond all reasonable doubt to twelve members of a jury that they were Communists. That was the proposition made to the Government by the Opposition. Members of the Opposition have persisted with that attitude all the way, and as far as I know, they are still persisting with it to-day. It will be interesting to see what attitude they adopt on Monday.
– It will be just the same.
– The second matter to which I wish to direct attention is the fact that there is nothing to prevent the Opposition in this Senate from passing that bill with the same amendments as it inserted on the last occasion. This nonsense about the Senate not being a rubber stamp of the House of Representatives is beside the point. The real point that the Government wishes to make is that it desires to deal with this measure, and that the Opposition should have sufficient courage to express its views on it by vote. The Government would like that to be done to-day. But there is a reason why it should not be done to-day, or, if the Opposition is able to avoid it, at any time during this session. The reason is that the members of the Australian Labour party now know that if they cast their vote as they have threatened to cast it, there will be an immediate double dissolution, which they are not prepared to face on this issue. That is my belief, and that is the only conclusion that can be drawn from their conduct. If they are prepared to face a double dissolution, and if they believe that the public support them on that issue, why cannot we have a vote to-day? Why cannot the Opposition to-day insist upon the amendments being inserted in this bill? If that were done the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) could seek a double dissolution to-morrow morning. I assure honorable senators opposite that if a vote is taken to-day, the Prime Minister will most certainly move to-morrow for a double dissolution. The plain truth is that the Opposition has not the courage to face the issue.
– It has been said that moaning is .the symptom of self-pity.
– That is the best we have heard so far.
– The honorable senator is right. It is a good one, and it applies excellently to the speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) which discloses quite clearly that he is a victim of the complaint. The harangue by Government members that the Communist Party Dissolution Bill is urgent did not start within the last few minutes; it began in this chamber months ago when there were guards on the door, when the Leader of the Opposition was refused entry by the side door, and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told the nation that if the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 was not passed urgently, within a few weeks the people of Australia would be crushed by the Communist menace.
The Attorney-General (.Senator Spicer) has told us that the hill as amended by the Opposition is not accepta’ble to the Government, and that it it is not a measure under which Communists could be dealt with effectively. On that point I thoroughly agree . with the honorable gentleman. One of the most heinous offences which can be committed by a parliament is for it to make a law providing a penalty for one person or section of persons in the community, and at the same time to permit a privilege to other persons to commit the same offence and go unpunished. Although the proposed legislation would not effectively deal with Communists, it would single out certain people in the community against whom the Government desired to vent its political spleen. I quite agree with the Attorney-General that it is not an effective measure, but are we to believe, as the Government would have us believe, that the only effective measure would be one which would permit Commonwealth security officers at any hour of the day or night and without authority to bash open a person’s home, search him and his wife, and confiscate their belongings? That was the type of effective measure the Government desired and submitted to thi3 chamber iri the original bill.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing Order 419 says that no senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion or anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the notice-paper. I suggest that the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 appears on the noticepaper, and that discussion of it is being anticipated by Senator Cooke.
– The honorable senator’s point of order is not well, taken. The subject under discussion is a very wide one. The question is whether, as a matter of urgency, a bill to alter the Constitution in order to provide for control of prices by the Australian Government, should be introduced, or whether the Senate should agree to the suspension of Standing Orders, in order to allow the Communist Party Dissolution Bil] 1950, to be discussed. Honorable senators have addressed the chamber as to what matter is the more important. The question before the Senate is whether the Standing Orders should ‘be suspended so that there may be no delay in debating the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950. It would be almost impossible for me to confine the debate to narrow limits.
– As I remarked previously, when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 was originally presented, it was stated to be of an urgent nature. It was then a very vicious bill. Even the members of the Government now admit that its viciousness appals them. When the measure was introduced, the Government, with the support of certain sections of the press of this country, accused the Opposition of delaying its passage. The Opposition did delay it, and for a very important reason. It wished to delete from the bill certain provisions which, had they ‘been allowed to remain, would have produced evils as serious as those sought to be removed by the legislation.
– What is the reason for the delay now?
– The reason why the Communist Party Dissolution Bill is not being discussed by the Senate at the present time is that it has been decided that we should discuss a measure that is more urgent. The Opposi- tion in this chamber has been subjected to a continual barrage of solid criticism from every section of the supporters of the Government. Almost daily, we have suffered insults from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). We have been accused of not being game enough to discuss that bill, but we have treated that accusation with the contempt that it deserves. Despite the criticisms and the threats to which we have been subjected - honorable senators opposite have talked about us threatening them, but we have been threatened continually - we have stood our ground. By causing a number of amendments to be made to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, we believe that, we have protected the civil liberties of the people and the sanctity of their homes. Let us never hasten to destroy liberty. We shall not allow the Government to do so.
The Opposition claims a prior urgency for a measure to check rising prices, which are adversely affecting the men, women and children of this country and causing hardship to the pensioners and persons on fixed incomes, over whom honorable senators opposite shed crocodile tears. Government supporters have wept over them, but they have done nothing to alleviate their distress. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill is a most important measure. Why should honorable senators opposite delay continually
– We do not want to delay it. We want to give it to you.
– The Government should give it to us, but will the Minister for Trade and Customs promise that it will be accepted by the House of Representatives ?
Government senators interjecting,
– Order! There are too many interjections. Every honorable senator who wishes to speak on this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders will have an opportunity to do so. In my opinion, many of the interjections have been childish. I hope that they will cease.
– I apologize if I have strayed from the terms of the motion, but sometimes interjections lead a speaker astray. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill relates to a matter that is vital to the welfare of Australia. The seizure of power by Communists in any country has always been preceded by a period of inflation during which the economy of the country has gone “ haywire “ or got into disequilibrium. “We are not prepared to allow the Government to fiddle while our economy smashes, as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The passing of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill would do nothing to stabilize the Australian economy. I agree with the Attorney-General that it would not be an effective measure. The Labour party has submitted to the Senate a bill designed to prevent the existence in this country of the conditions that preceded the seizure of power by the Communists in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, China and the Asian countries in which they are firmly and strongly established. We are now moving rapidly towards those conditions. The Opposition hae presented to the Parliament a measure designed to arrest the drift and protect the producers and workers of this country - the men who have only their wages or a fixed income on which to live. The urgency of that measure is so great that it should take precedence of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– I have been sitting here quietly for a long time, and I intervene in the debate only because of the attitude adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and the statements made by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). It is peculiar that when members of the Government have no arguments to advance in favour of some action, they abuse those who are in opposition to them, and sometimes they receive abuse in return. I do not think that the abuse should be started by such eminent men as the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Attorney-General.
What is the present position? The Opposition desires to discuss the important subject of prices. Since the control of prices was taken out of the hands of the National Parliament, prices have risen considerably, and the Australian economy is now in such a condition that it is very difficult for ordinary people to meet “their commitments, and even people who are better off than the ordinary working man are complaining about the increase of the cost of the articles that they use for the purposes of production. In those circumstances, the Opposition considers that, as a major factor in the stabilization of the Australian economy, the power to control prices should be given to the Commonwealth.
I do not want to discuss the merits and demerits of the Communist Party Dissolution Bil], which the Government apparently considers to be of greater importance than the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. I have noticed an extraordinary tendency on the part of Ministers of this Government. Irrespective of the question that is put to them by a member of the Opposition, on almost every occasion when they reply they make reference to the Senate not having given the Government power to deal with the Communist party. Almost everything is blamed upon the Communists. According to the Government, the present state of dis-equilibrium of our economy is the fault of the Communists.
– And the high price of wool.
– I have not yet heard it said by the Government that the high price of wool is attributable to the Communists, but doubtless that will be said before very long. The Government is indulging in a propaganda campaign. I do not object to a propaganda campaign ; let there be no mistake about that. The Government wants, if possible, to create in the minds of the Australian people so great a fear of the Communist party that they will swing behind the Government and say, “ Take the Communists out and drown them, or do what you like with them “. It wishes at the same time to create in the minds of the people a suspicion of its opponents so great that the people will say, “ Take them, too. Drown them, hang them, or do what you like with them, as long as you do not let them come into the Parliament”. Supporters of the Government have made many promises that they had no intention to honour. I remind honorable senators opposite that we on this side of the chamber are more earnest in our desire to do something for the people of this country than they are. Some of their promises have been utterly irresponsible. Ever since the present Government has been in office all that it has done has been to make further promises about what it will do after the Communists have been defeated, or after the proposed Royal Visit or after some other event. Because the control of prices by the Commonwealth is one of the keystones of stabilization, we believe that it is in that connexion that a start should be made on the great problem at present confronting this country. When it became known that Labour intended to introduce the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) arranged to broadcast two speeches about problems associated with inflation. In his first speech he repeated a number of the assertions that had already been voiced by the Opposition in this chamber, and in his second speech he outlined a formula to combat inflationary tendencies, and forecast that certain things would happen after the budget had been brought down. The right honorable gentleman gave no details of what the budget would contain, but merely made more promises. The very fact that he endeavoured to cut the ground from beneath the Opposition iti this chamber proves that the curbing of inflation is a matter of extreme urgency. Government senators have stated that the Government is willing to allow the bill to control prices to go to the vote at any time. However, I point out that every honorable senator is entitled to state his views on measures that come before this chamber. The reason for the present sit-down strike by Government senators is that they have no arguments to advance against Labour’s claims. That is clear from the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs that the Government was prepared to put the matter to a vote before 8 o’clock to-night. Obviously the Minister’s object in wanting the vote to be taken before 8 o’clock to-night is to prevent further discussion. In effect, he seeks to gag honorable senators. I invite honorable senators opposite to say why they consider that the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill should take precedence over the measure introduced by the Opposition. I hope to be able to contribute to the debate on the anti-Communist measure in due course. The Minister stated that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were dispirited and disunited men without souls. That was because we are opposed to him, and contend that the Government is doing wrong. Another honorable senator opposite claimed that the Opposition was doing something that had never been done before, instead of complying with precedent. I point out that in every upper house in Australia precedent has been broken. Only quite recently in Victoria the Legislative Council forced the lower house to the country. Although supporters of the Government keep on harping about the probability of a double dissolution occurring, I assure them that we are not afraid of such an eventuality. However, they have good reason to. be afraid of a single dissolution, at the will of this Senate. Although I am not making a threat, I suggest that they should take that aspect of the matter into consideration before they repeat their threats of a double dissolution. When the time 19 opportune the Opposition will not be afraid to go to the people. I advise honorable senators opposite to consider how their threats could rebound to their disadvantage.
I take this opportunity to draw the attention of honorable senators to the standard of conduct in this chamber since the Parliament re-assembled. An element of larrikinism appears to have crept into our proceedings, which is most undesirable. Because some honorable senators opposite consider that they represent a majority of the people, and that the Labour Opposition in this chamber is thwarting their will, they have continually abused us. They have directed frightful epithets at us, and have asserted that we are only an insincere rabble. I advise them to look at their own stables before slating us. If honorable senators opposite cannot advance any arguments to refute the contentions of the Opposition, they should remain quiet.
– This being a States house, and honorable senators having a responsibility to the States they represent, we believe, just as much as does the Government, that the most urgent business should be given precedence.
SenatorO’ Sullivan. - I submit that Senator Aylett is out of order because there is not an effective motion now before the Chair. The motion to which he was addressing himself is as follows: -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the resumption of the debate upon Government Business Order of the Day No. 1 (Communist Party Dissolution Bill) being made an Order of the Day for a later hour this day, namely, 2.15 p.m.
The hour of 2.15 has passed, and the motion cannot possibly become effective. I submit, therefore, that there is no motion before the Chair.
– The point seems to be well taken. As the hour is past 2.15 p.m. there is really no point in continuing the discussion., I shall therefore put the question.
A division having been called for, and the bells having been rung,
– Is it in order to divide on a motion that has lapsed ?
– Taking everything into consideration, I rule the motion out of order. The division is, therefore, called off.
. - by leave - In May, 1950, the Government appointed a committee to investigate the question whether a special subsistence allowance should be paid to Australian servicemen who, during the 1939- 45 war, became prisoners of war in enemy hands. The committee consisted of Mr. Justice Owen, of the New South Wales Supreme Court Bench, LieutenantGeneral Sir Stanley Savige, and Dr. W. E. Fisher, Each member of the committee was well qualified for his task by service and other experience. The committee was asked to report -
The committee’s report, which has now been received, consists of two documents. The first states the conclusions of Mr. Justice Owen and Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Savige, whilst the second is signed by Dr. Fisher, whose views differ in a material respect from those of the majority. The two main issues before the committee were -
On that question all three members of the committee agreed that both Germany and Japan failed to meet the provisions of the convention, and thereby caused undue hardship to Australian servicemen. The other issue was -
The majority report is to the effect that the Commonwealth Government is under no moral obligation, and it therefore does not recommend that a special subsistence allowance be paid. In the opinion of the majority, if a captor power failed to fulfil its obligations to its prisoners, thus causing them extreme hardship, and it was intended to grant some compensation, this should be made by the defaulting power, and not by the power to whom the prisoner belonged.
In his minority report, Dr. Fisher expresses the opinion that a payment of 3s. a day should be made out of reparations, if any.
The Government has considered the report, and will act upon the view of the majority. It does, however, feel that there will be, perhaps, many cases of special hardship or disability among former prisoners of war which may be outside the scope of provisions now made for the services generally. It therefore, proposes to establish a “Prisoners of War Trust Fund “ of £250,000 to be administered by a board of trustees to be selected by the service Ministers and the Minister for Repatriation. Payments from the trust fund will be made to prisoners of war of the 1939-45 war considered by the board to have suffered special disability not common to other members of the services, as a direct result of their war imprisonment. I need hardly add that all payments made from the trust fund will be additional to repatriation benefits to which the recipients are otherwise entitled. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Report of Committee appointed to investigate question of payment of special subsistence allowance to Australian prisoners of war, 1939-45 war.
– I refer you, Mr. President, to Standing Order 36, from which I quote the following: -
Provided that when a Paper has been laid on the Table, a Motion may be made at any time, without notice, that the Paper be printed.
In accordance with that standing order, I move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Bbown.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 11th October (vide pag 585), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When I obtained leave to continue my remarks yesterday, I was emphasizing that although inflation was the most important problem confronting this country to-day, unfortunately, in the Government’s ranks there was some difference of opinion on that matter. I pointed out that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) believed that inflation was our most pressing problem, but that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) who is the Leader of the Government, in this chamber, claimed that the dissolution of the Communist party was the most urgent task confronting the Government. For once, the Opposition in this chamber finds itself in agreement with the Prime Minister. As I said last night, the right honorable gentleman has conceded that the greatest crisis that has ever threatened Australia is upon us to-day. He was referring, of course, torising prices and the danger that our economy would slip into depression conditions.
– We are not merely slipping; we are rushing into a depression.
– I use the word “ slip “ because, admittedly, we are still some distance from the return of the depression conditions of 1930. If we were rushing towards a depression, it would be upon us very quickly. I believe that, at the present rate of deterioration, our standard of living will be down to the 1930 level by the time the term of office of this Government expires. There is no certainty, of course, that the Government parties will hold together for as long as that. In fact, the disintegration has already .started. We have read in to-day’s press that one member of the Australian Country party has threatened to resign if the Governmentdoes not change its policy. As I have already pointed out, two members of the Government in the House of Representatives, including the Prime Minister, are in conflict with two Ministers in this chamber on the subject of inflation. Clearly, although the Government has held office for only ten months, it is already disintegrating. Conflict within its own ranks has prevented it from even attempting to fulfil the -promises that it made to the people at the 1949 elections. I mentioned last night that the Prime Minister had enumerated fourteen points :>f a compaign to cure inflation. I have c b e j ‘1 y flcr.lt with the ten causes of inflation listed by the right honorable gentleman. It is a coincidence that he should have in mind ten causes, of inflation, because that is just one for each month that the Government has been in office. Apparently, the Government’s inflation problems have cropped up at the rate of one a month. Although the Government has not yet done anything to arrest the inflationary trends in our economy, the Prime Minister agrees that rising prices constitute our greatest problem to-day. He believes, in fact, that this problem is so vital that Australia to-day is under the darkest cloud of crisis with which it has ever been threatened. Presumably, the right honorable gentleman believes that the crisis now looming will be greater even than that of World War II., when a government led by himself and the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) brought this country to a state of muddle almost as bad as that in which it finds itself to-day and then walked out, leaving Australia defenceless, and its economy in a state of chaos. That occurred when the anti-Labour parties had a majority in both houses of the Parliament.
In spite of the Prime Minister’s election promise to reduce taxation, we find that the second of his fourteen points to cure inflation is the introduction of an excess profits tax. Therefore, not only has the right honorable gentleman failed to fulfil his promise to put value back into the £1, but also he proposes now to depart from his undertaking to reduce the already heavy tax burden carried by the people of this country. The third cure for rising prices suggested by the Prime Minister might have some result if effect were given to it. He says -
The Commonwealth Bank, and through it the trading hanks, are to pursue more selective credit policies in order that some sensible curb may be placed on the present indiscriminate demand through investment for capital facilities, factories, plant, materials which are still grievously scarce.
Apparently, it has taken the Prime Minister ten months to wake up to the fact that money which should have been diverted to essential production, has been going into luxury industries. He now realizes that, without governmental control, it is quite impossible to guide money into the proper channels. Seeing the Australian economy going “haywire “, he proposes to introduce control of investments in spite of the fact that he and his colleagues stumped the country during the election campaign criticizing “ Canberra bureaucrats “, and promising that, if returned to office, they would end controls and permit people to do as they pleased. The intention to control investments is confirmed in point number four, which is -
We propose to re-instate capital issues control so that absorption of capital, and therefore of labour and materials, into industries of minor importance, at the expense of those of major importance, 7nay be restrained.
I do not disagree with the re-introduction of capital issues control. The point I am making is that the re-imposition of such control will mean the breaking of another election promise. -Capital is to be diverted into essential industries so that the economy of this country may be stabilized. Capital issues control operated successfully when the Labour Government was in office, but it was criticized by the anti-Labour parties as being undemocratic and everything that was bad. When we said that control of capital issues was necessary to stabilize the economy of this country, we were told that we did not know what we were talking about. Clearly, if what honorable senators opposite said then was correct, what they propose to do now is incorrect. Apparently, it has taken the Government ten months to realize that the Labour view was right, and honorable senators opposite now find themselves obliged to adopt -a part of Labour’s policy that they condemned so strongly. If that is not a complete reversal of front, I do not know what it can be called. The next cure for inflation suggested by the Prime Minister was expressed in the following terms : -
We propose a control over basic materials, our plan being that until certain grave shortages have been repaired, vital materials which many people now need for essential purposes, should not bo allowed to be diverted to less important uses.
Essential materials were controlled for a time when the Chifley Government was in office, and supplies were diverted to undertakings in which they could be put to the best use. Thas control, too, was subjected to bitter criticism by the then Opposition parties led by the present Prime Minister, and in that connexion also we heard frequent references to “ Canberra bureaucrats “, who were restricting the freedom of the people to produce whatever they liked, and to dispose of their product in any manner they thought fit. In those days, honorable senators opposite had no thought for homeless people, who could not get iron, nails, and other materials to build nouses. The Prime Minister promised that, if returned to office, he would ensure that all those materials were made available so that the lag in home construction could be rapidly overcome. Now, the Government finds itself unable to overcome that lag without re-1111posing controls that its supporters condemned when they sat in Opposition in this Parliament. I can not understand why the Government did not wake up to these things within its first month of office. It has remained idle for ten months in spite of the fact that outgoing Labour Ministers did everything possible to acquaint their successors of what was happening.
The next cure for inflation suggested by the Prime Minister is outlined in his sixth point, which reads -
We propose substantial increases in the taxation upon articles of luxury.
It is most interesting that the Prime Minister should confess his intention to increase taxes, in view of his promise during the general election campaign that taxes would be reduced. Who will determine what constitutes a luxury? In this chamber, we have heard many definitions of what constitutes a luxury from supporters of this Government. Indeed, on one occasion, an honorable senator opposite said that he regarded a refrigerator as a luxury for a working man. Honorable senators opposite have frequently described as luxuries articles that are commonly found in the average Australian home. Undoubtedly, heavy increases of taxes will be imposed on goods that fall within this category. If the Government will give us an assurance that additional taxes will not be levied on essential goods, we shall probably support this proposal 30 long as no attempt is made to discriminate between wealthy persons and basic wage workers.
Last night, I made some comments about the Prime Minister’s point No. 7, in which he has intimated that he will cut the departmental works programme by 40 per cent. On the last occasion on which a non-Labour government slashed public works it hastened the onset of a depression. Apparently, the works programme is to be cut by 20 per cent, this year, and by a further 20 per cent, when the supplementary budget is introduced, making a 40 per cent, reduction in all, notwithstanding the fact that this vast plan of public works has been declared to be of No. 1 priority and to be essential for the ‘ defence of this country. The right honorable gentleman has indicated that he will not interfere with the defence programme. What lines of production will be affected by these cuts ? Every line of production, apart from a few luxury goods, is essential to the defence of this country. The only interpretation we can place on this statement is that production which, is vital to the defence of the country will be cut by 40 per cent.
The Prime Minister’s eighth point reads -
We will, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Bank, institute a savings campaign to supplement the ordinary loan campaigns.
I agree with the proposal to conduct a savings campaign, but I direct the attention of the people to the fact that when we were in office and we instituted such a campaign, the then Opposition parties did not give it much support. I trust that this proposal will not mean that a loan will be raised to pay interest on loans that were floated twenty years ago. as was done on former occasions when anti-Labour governments slashed public works and at the same time borrowed money overseas for the purpose of paying interest on existing loans. Such a policy can have nothing but dire consequences, and will provide no cure for the evils of inflation. In the years preceding the economic depression of .the ‘thirties, the anti-Labour government cured the evil of rising prices so effectively that nobody had money to buy anything.
In his. ninth point the right honorable gentleman promised to destroy communism. He said -
Immediately upon, the passing into law ot the Communist legislation, we will set about destroying the influence of the Communists in key industries.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the only reason why the Government has failed to stem the rising tide of prices is because the Labour Opposition in this Senate has adopted obstructive tactics in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. The , truth of the matter is that the Labour party has opposed only the onus of proof clauses in that measure. The right honorable gentleman’s claim that we have prevented the Government from disposing of the bill and of dealing with the Communists is false and untrue. We have not hindered the Government in any way. It possesses the requisite power to deal with the Communist party and its auxiliaries. I venture to say that the Government ha3 already prepared a complete dossier containing the names of every member of the Communist party. If it had been prepared to accept the bill as amended by the Senate it would have had full power to ban the Communist party and confiscate its property, to remove Communists from their positions in the Public Service, and to prevent Communists from occupying key positions in trade unions which are associated with industries necessary for the defence of this country.
The Government, not having the courage of its convictions, has refused to face up to the problem of rising prices. It has been looking for a smoke-screen to hide its inactivity. If, in fact, Communists are sabotaging the economy of this country, I challenge honorable senators opposite to state clearly and concisely why the Government refused to accept the Communist Party Dissolution Bill as it left this Senate. If the Government has sufficient evidence upon which to convict Communists of sabotage, why has it failed to take action against them? Obviously it is too spineless and weak-kneed to do so. Honorable senators opposite have asked what the Labour Government did to curb the activities of the Communists. I remind them that some of the persons who were found guilty of subversive activities and gaoled while the Labour Government was in office are still in gaol. This Government has squibbed the issue and evaded its responsibilities, and it is now endeavouring to hide its inaction behind a smoke-screen.
The tenth point of the Prime Minister’s plan reads -
We will invite employers and employees to join with the Government in a drive for production. We are anticipating the co-operation of the members of the Opposition.
If the Government believes a conference of employers and employees might evolve some means for the prevention of inflation, why was not such a conference called ten months ago?
The eleventh point made by the Prime Minister relates to the Public Service. The right honorable gentleman said -
We will continue to re-organize Commonwealth departments in the interests of efficiency.
If, in fact, Commonwealth departments are not efficient - and I do not agree with that contention - why did it take the right honorable gentleman ten months to ascertain that fact? On the other hand, if our public servants are efficient, as i. believe them to be, does not that statement by the right honorable gentleman constitute a vicious slander of a great body of loyal officers who have propped up this Government despite its imperfections? What action has the right honorable gentleman taken in connexion with the Commonwealth Public Service? Since he has been in office an additional 5,000 or 6,000 persons have been appointed to Commonwealth Government positions. If the appointment of those additional officers represents the right honorable gentleman’s attempt to improve the efficiency of Commonwealth departments it is a complete contradiction of his promise to the electors that if he were returned to office he would dispense with the services of many excess officers who were falling over one another because they had nothing to do.
Announcing his thirteenth point the Prime Minister said -
Early in 11)51 we will review the economic and financial position. - If necessary, we will introduce a supplementary budget.
Although we are now nearing the end of 1950 the Government has not yet taken any action to cure the evils of inflation. We are now told that action will not be taken to that end until next year. His next point was -
Wherever that seems useful, we will continue and extend a policy of subsidizing local sales to keep prices down.
Such a statement is amazing in view of his decision, almost immediately after having assumed office to withdraw the subsidy on superphosphate and partially to withdraw the subsidy on tea, thus greatly increasing costs. During the general election campaign the right honorable gentleman told the people that if his Government were returned to office he would continue the payment of subsidies as a means of keeping prices down. His failure to honour that promise brought about chaos in the community. The right honorable gentleman now proposes to subsidize local sales in order to keep prices down. He contends that prices have not risen as rapidly during the ten months of office of the Menzies Government as they did during the preceding twelve months.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator Critchley) put -
That Senator Aylett be granted an extension of time for thirty minutes.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
I had been dealing with the only excuse put forward by the Prime Minister in defence of rising prices. His excuse was that prices were rising at the same rate during the last twelve months in office of the Australian Labour party. The right honorable gentleman claims, and according to the statistics his claim is correct, that the increase during that period was about 9 per cent, and that prices have increased at about the same rate during the period his Government has been in office. That being so, it indicates another broken promise, because he promised the electors that he would halt the spiralling of prices. It also clearly indicates that the promise to put value back into the £1 has been broken. The Prime Minister told the people that their fi would buy as much or even more than it purchased when Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister of this country. Instead, we find that under the Menzies Government the £1 note will not buy nearly somany goods as it did on the day that that Government assumed office. The Prime Minister has, therefore, failed to honour that promise.
The Prime Minister declared that a government led by him would ban the Communist party. All the necessary powers to do that have been available to the Government, but it has not had the courage to use them. He also said that it would put value back into the £1. I have just explained to the Senate that the £1 note to-day buys much less than it did at the time Mr. Menzies and his Government took office. The right honorable gentleman also promised to stop inflation. I have dealt sufficiently with inflation to prove to this chamber that he has definitely failed to honour that promise. Another promise that has been broken was his undertaking to abolish controls. Instead of abolishing all controls he is, apparently, now proposing to introduce additional controls. He also undertook to continue subsidies in order to keep prices down, but the first thing his Government did was to cut subsidies down. I shall deal with that at greater length later. The right honorable gentleman also stated that his Government would stabilize Australia’s economy. But we all know that the economy has been going “ hay-wire “ during the ten months his Government has been in office, so that that also is a broken promise. He also promised a national health scheme. Although that promise has been broken, I shall not discuss it further because it has very little to do with prices.
The promises of the Prime Minister to reduce taxation and his undertaking to increase production by means of a quicker turn-round of ships, and bring about peace in industry have not been fulfilled. What has the right honorable gentleman done to promote quicker turn-round of ships? It would be interesting to have some statistics showing how that quicker turn-round has been effected. Every one of those matters I have mentioned is connected with high prices and inflation. I have detailed to the chamber ten broken promises, or one for each month that the Government has been in office.
The Prime Minister also stated that the housing of the people of this country was the responsibility of the National Parliament. But what has been done about that responsibility? The Government is importing a few prefabricated houses. It is crying out about the low output of the Australian worker. Yet the prefabricated houses being imported are costing £1,000 more than those produced by Australian workers. The Prime Minister is belittling the Australian worker and at the same time exhorting him to produce more. If the Australian worker is doing as little as the right honorable gentleman would have us believe, what must the employees be doing in those countries where a prefabricated house costs £1,000 more to produce than in this country? Some State governments have refused to accept imported prefabricated homes because they consider the prices demanded are ridiculous.
Furniture and other articles necessary to complete a home are important in the promotion of happy marriages and the contentment of the people. Yet prices of such articles are spiralling. A lounge suite for which, a year or’ so ago, a working man would have paid £50, to-day costs ‘ £150. If honorable senators opposite do not believe that that is so, they should walk round Melbourne with their eyes open and study the prices of those things. Prices of clothing have risen considerably and the Government has done nothing to check that rise. The Opposition proposes that a referendum should he held on the question of handing back to the Government, regardless of its political colour, control over excess profits and rising prices, but the Government is dumb to-day because it has no answer to that proposal. As Senator McCallum stated in this chamber the other day, it does not know what to do to check inflation. Those are his words, not mine. With prices rising ‘so quickly how can a new Australian or any other Australian about to marry expect to be able to set up a home? How can he do it on the basic wage? Senator Mattner, who is laughing, is sufficiently fortunate to own a few thousand sheep, and his income is such that it is subject to a tax of probably 15s. in the £1. He has no feeling whatsoever for the unfortunate man who must endeavour to live on the basic wage. The honorable senator sneers and laughs, as, no doubt, others of his kind did when they saw unfortunate Australians walking their shoes off during the 1930’s.
According to the Prime Minister it is the high price of wool which has brought about the high price of meat. What has he to say about the price of meat before any wool sales were held during the lastwool season ? The price of meat rose by 3d., 4d., and 6d. a lb. in one leap before there were any wool sales this season at all, yet the right honorable gentleman uses that as an excuse for the present high price of meat. Surely there has never been a weaker excuse. The Government claims that there should be no control of prices, although the people in the capital cities are paying as much as 2s. 9d. for a small part of a cauliflower. It claims, in other words, that the working masses of this country should not eat vegetables, the prices of which are completely out of their reach.
The Prime Minister, in the programme that he outlined for the checking of inflation, did not refer to the price of petrol, which has been increased not once but three or four times recently, and is now more than 3s. a gallon. The increased cost of petrol is reflected in increased costs of primary products and manufactured goods. It is being passed on to the consumer, thus accentuating the present inflationary trend. The Prime Minister did not say a word about that matter. It will not be long before the oil companies ask .for a further increase of the price of petrol and, if their request be granted, costs of production and the prices of goods will again rise. Where do the members of the Australian Country party stand to-day in regard to the price of petrol, a commodity vital to rural industries? They have not said a word about it.
It has been forecast in the press, and will probably be announced in the budget, that postal charges are to be increased. Does the Prime Minister suggest that that increase will not cause production costs to rise, that it will not be passed on to consumers in the form of increased prices, and that it will not cause further inflation? The cures suggested by the right honorable gentleman will lead to higher prices, and some commodities are already so costly that it is beyond the capacity of the ordinary working man to purchase them. If the Government is sincere in its protestations that it wants to check inflation, it will support this measure. One of the objections that has been raised by Government supporters is that it will take time to hold a referendum. They have said that they want quicker action than that, but they have not suggested an alternative course, apart from one or two proposals in the fourteen points announced by the Prime Minister. Ten or eleven of those f ourteen points can be torn to pieces and thrown into the waste-paper basket, because they can be regarded only as a smoke-screen. Some of the cures suggested by the right honorable gentleman will make the position worse than it is now. I agree that it will take time to hold a referendum, but if somebody does hot move now the position will become completely chaotic. We are not asking for an alteration of the Constitution to give Labour power to control prices. We are asking that the Constitution shall be altered so that the Australian Government, regardless of itspolitical colour, will be able to control the economy of this country and hold it. somewhere near stability, in order that the Australian people may again be able to enjoy the standards of living that they enjoyed in the past.
The cancellation of subsidies has caused prices to rise. The payment of the £4,000,000 subsidy upon superphosphate has been discontinued and that £4,000,000 will be paid by consumers. Laying a smoke-screen to cloud the issue, the Government has said that increased meat prices have been caused by the high wool prices. The price of meat has been rising gradually since the discontinuance of the superphosphate subsidy, which was paid to assist the rural producers who produce the food that the consumers eat. The discontinuance of the subsidy has increased production costs. Demand exceeding supply, producers are in a position to say, “ If you take £4,000,000 out of our pockets, we shall take it out of the pocket of the people who buy our products”. That is what is happening to-day.
I do not want to detain the Senate for much longer.
Senator LARGE (New South Wales) T3.22]. - I support the motion for the second reading of this bill. I note that, as usual, when I rise to speak honorable senators opposite expect something humorous. That is a pleasant compliment from certain members of this chamber, some of whom interject quite loudly and others of whom interject sotto voce. One of them is a big man with a small voice. 1 am a little man with a big voice.
I say in all sincerity that I believe this measure to be far more urgent and important than is the bill that the Government has been making great efforts to bludgeon through this chamber, and which provides for the banning of the Communist party, with certain strings attached. Personally, I have no time for the Communist party. I have made it clear on several occasions in this chamber that, as far as the Communists as a body are concerned, I would gladly throw them to the wolves.
The bill that the Government is so eager to. get through this chamber is nominally a measure providing for the banning of the Communist party, but, to my mind, it has a definite objective that is much more far-reaching than the banning of that party. I believe that its objective is the smashing of trade unionism. There is no doubt about that in my mind. When the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said yesterday that, by standing firm on the onus of proof provisions in that bill, we were enabling Communists-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - A ruling that the two matters are related was given this. morning by the President. I see no reason to depart from it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The Attorney:General is correct and I uphold his point of order. Senator Large must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I take it that I should be in order so long as I continue to connect my remarks with the bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Yon will have an opportunity to discuss the other bill later.
– I am very much concerned about the tender susceptibilities of the Attorney-General. I ventured to approach the matter to which I was about to refer in order to show that he is trying to lead the Senate up a back lane; but, out of deference to his tender susceptibilities, I shall not proceed with it. He probably does not want too much light thrown upon a “ snide “ or shrewd method of pulling wool over the eyes of the general public. The AttorneyGeneral spoke yesterday at a time when our proceedings were being broadcast, and I was inclined to take a point of order then, but I did not. As a rule, I do not do that kind of thing. I believe that if we give these people enough rope they will hang themselves.
The members of the Government have congratulated themselves upon what they regard as their wonderful victory on the 10th December of last year. Their conception of fair play is to have their opponent bound hand and foot and then to snipe at him from a safe distance. The present Government parties have always had the support of - >I was going to say a corrupt press, but I shall say a press that has been entirely unscrupulous and irresponsible.
– Then why do honorable senators opposite continually quote from the press?
– I have never complimented the press of this country. I do not fear it at all, because it has nothing on me. The wages of sin is death. This Government is due to meet its end in the not-far-distant future.
– What about the bill?
– I am dealing with the bill. I regret the attitude of our Liberal friends. and of the press, which led to the incident that occurred yesterday. Senator McKenna, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, found it necessary to rise in order to counter certain suggestions-
– I rise to order. I have displayed some patience since I last interrupted the honorable senator. He has not mentioned the bill. He has said nothing about it. He is proceeding now to discuss a matter that is quite extraneous to the bill, and I submit that his remarks are out of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I do not know what Senator Large is going to say, but if he connects his remarks with the bill he will be in order.
– I am prefacing my remarks with an expression of regret at the cause of a certain incident. I have referred to the press, which is an important factor in the prices spiral. I shall connect my remarks with the bill. The members of the present Government parties and the press work cheek by jowl. They were responsible for the defeat of the prices referendum in 1948. I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber found it necessary to ask for leave of the Senate to make a statement in reply to statements that had been made by the Prime Minister. An article in a newspaper subsequently was headed “ Attack on the Prime Minister “. Honorable senators will recollect that Senator McKenna’s chief complaint at that time was that he had had to suffer a blackout, but that fact was not mentioned in the newspaper article. He could not get a reply to the calumny published in the newspapers. As I have mentioned before, the Government’s idea of fair play is to snipe people from a distance, after making sure that they have been tied hand and foot. It is deplorable that the press should be so one-sided in these matters. My aim has always been to uplift the conditions of the working classes. In the past I have always been prepared to defend the ordinary press roundsmen, who work hard to get- their copy. I have had some rather unsavoury experiences of unfair treatment, which I have mentioned in this chamber before, but I considered that the reporters were not to blame. It is because I am a trade unionist that I feel so keenly about the attempts that are being made to smash trade unionism. Although an ethics committee has been established by the Australian Journalists Association, I have never seen it in operation. In some States that association has affiliated with the Trades and Labour Council; therefore, it must support trade union principles.
– i rise to order. Bearing in mind the provisions of Standing Order 427, I recall to your mind, Mr. Deputy President, the remarks that were made by Senator McKenna recently about rudeness being given expression to in the Houses of Parliament. Why should this debate be permitted to degenerate into a deluge of dirty, crude, criticism when our Standing Orders provide-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - What - is the point of order?
– Our Standing Orders provide that if there is to be a complaint, it shall be made in a certain way. I submit that I am perfectly in order asking you to take cognizance of Standing Order 427 and allow any complaint about breach of privilege by the press-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- You he ve made your point of order.
– I have not completed it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- You are referring to Standing Order 427 which provides that a senator shall produce a copy of the newspaper concerned, and move a certain motion in regard to it.
– I wish to say, if I am to be permitted to continue, that if an. honorable senator has a complaint with regard to a breach of privilege by a newspaper, he is required to bring it before the Senate in a particular way.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator is not referring to privilege at all. Senator Large may continue.
– I rise to order. The point that I make is that Senator Large is persistently abusing his privileges under the .Standing Orders. He is breaking the Standing Orders all the time by putting material before the Senate that is quite immaterial to the subject under discussion. I submit that it is not within the power of a member of this chamber continually to refer to irrelevant matters, and, in order to be able to claim that he is acting within the Standing Orders, to say that he proposes to connect his remarks with the subject before the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- As I have already indicated, if Senator Large connects his remarks with the measure before the chamber, he will be in order.
– Before passing to another aspect of this matter, I should like to offer a little advice to the Australian Journalists Association. If I, as a member of an engineering union-
– What has that to do with the Australian Journalists Association?
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) should be patient. If my manager or foreman took my work and mutilated it, I would rebel ; therefore, no longer can I offer the excuse to those members that they were not responsible, but that somebody else higher up was responsible.
– That is as clear as mud.
– I do not know of any newspaper in this country that supported the proposal that the Commonwealth should continue to control prices. In 1948, supporters of the present Government, probably not realizing what would be the ultimate consequences of their actions, went around asking the people to vote against the proposal to extend the powers of the Commonwealth, and assured the general public that their interests would be best served by State governments controlling prices. They asserted that prices could be controlled better by individual State governments than by a central body. In that way, they committed a grave sin against the people. Supporters of the Government capitalized the people’s repugnance of restrictions and controls during war-time. They cashed in on the people’s resentment. I remind honorable senators that at the time that prices were controlled by the Commonwealth, Australia enjoyed a better balanced economy than that of any other country. Although some prices rose, wages also rose proportionately, and the Australian economy was the envy of the world. Four years ago, during a trip abroad, I visited India, parts of China, Egypt, Italy and France. My experiences in those countries convinced me that I could live more cheaply in Australia than elsewhere. At that time, the Commonwealth controlled prices. Honorable senators opposite must have known, when they exhorted the people to reject the proposal, that a central body could more effectively control prices than could six separate State bodies, particularly in view of the fact that political parties of different colours were in office in the States. They must have known that only chaos could emerge from the attempt by the States to control prices. Quite recently, the State Premiers practically begged the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to take action for the control of prices by the Commonwealth. As honorable senators are aware, prices have continued to rise ever since the Commonwealth relinquished control. Unlike many honorable senators opposite, I do not read newspapers merely to find something about which I can fire a question across the floor of the chamber. Any questions that I ask at question time emanate from my own intellect and experiences. According to this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, the prices of pumpkins, carrots and swedes have reached record levels.
– There is a Labour government in office in New South Wales.
– That bears out my contention, that, irrespective of the political colour of the governments in office, the States cannot efficiently control prices. I was about to say that, far from being delectable, pumpkins, carrots and swedes are merely the basic vegetables of wage earners, and pensioners. The prices of these and other commodities have spiralled ever since the act of sabotage that was committed against the people.
– The honorable senator had better be careful.
– I used the word “ sabotage “ in its dictionary sense. An act of sabotage was perpetrated by the press and by the parties which support this Government.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that prices would be lower if the Commonwealth had retained control ?
– If control had remained with the Commonwealth, prices would have been more stable. I do not believe that there is anybody in the community who thinks otherwise. In 1947, we were enjoying the most stable economy in the world. As I have said, during my visit abroad, when I visited many countries, including India and Egypt, it was evident that living conditions in Australia were cheaper and better than in any other country. “We should still have been in. that fortunate position but for the cant and humbug of Government supporters, aided by an irresponsible press.
– In those States where there are Labour governments, prices are higher than in the other States.
– I am not discussing that phase of the matter. Because the State governments represent various political parties, it is impossible for them to act together in order to control prices. Within one month of the defeat of the Labour Government’s prices proposal at the referendum, people were beginning to realize that they had made a mistake, and from then on there has been a steadily growing clamour for another opportunity to vote on the proposal. I recognize that, even if the proposal were agreed to at a referendum, it would be impossible to return immediately to the conditions that obtained in 1948. I am convinced, however, that just as the prices control machinery was able to stabilize conditions in 1948, so the re-imposition of controls by the Commonwealth would again have the effect of stabilizing our economy.
– Why cannot the Premier of New South Wales control the price of pumpkins in Sydney?
– I take it that the price of pumpkins is governed by the general price prevailing throughout the Commonwealth.
– Why should that be so?
– Because prices are determined by an organization which the Government does not wish to disturb.
– Whom does that organization represent?
– The primary producers. I should say, from looking at ^Senator Hannaford, that he is a farmer, :ind he should know the answer to his own question.
– Can the honorable senator tell us why he thinks that the Commonwealth Attorney-General would be able to control the price of pumpkins better than can the Premier of New South Wales.
– I thank the honorable senator for his attempt to help me, but 1 remind him that this is not a quiz session. Why do not honorable senators opposite rise in their places and say something on this measure, if only to indicate why they are opposed to it? Are we to assume that they have been forbidden by a higher authority to express their opinion, or is their silence due to natural timidity? Honorable senators opposite have charged the Opposition with obstructing government business. We claim that the measure now before the Senate is of greater importance than the one which the Government has been trying to bring forward.
– The Opposition even refuses to dispose of the present measure, which it claims to be so important.
– We shall dispose of both measures in due course. Indeed, one has been passed already. I have here a record of what occurred in the Senate between 1929 and 1931 when a Labour Government was in office, and the Opposition had a majority in the Senate.
– I object to this as being irrelevant to the matter under discussion. The history of what happened between 1929 and 1931 has nothing to do with the bill before the Senate. With great respect, Mr. Deputy President, I submit that a responsibility rests upon you to see that the honorable senator does not misuse the Standing Orders.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I do not know what Senator Large intends to say. If he connects his remarks with the bill he will be in order.
– Let me congratulate Senator Spicer upon exercising intelligent anticipation. What I am going to say may be hurtful, and he is trying to prevent me from saying it. To that extent, he has exercised intelligence. During a period of about fifteen months, from the latter part of 1929 to the early part of 1931, the then Opposition, on no fewer than 35 occasions, refused to allow the Labour Government to put its proposals through the Senate, and took the business out of the Government’s hands. I do not propose to traverse the whole 35 incidents, but on the 17th April, 1931, the Senate threw out legislation providing for the issue of fiduciary notes to the value of £18,000,000. The money was to be used to provide food for the people. Of the total, £12,000,000 was. to go to country interests, and £6,000,000 to secondary industries. The circulation of that money, it was confidently expected, would have done much -to offset the effects of the depression. I fear that if the present Government remains in office much longer there will be a return to the conditions that existed in 1931. I hope that what I am saying will influence the minds of honorable senators opposite, and make them realize that it would be better for them to support the proposals of a humanitarian party that exists in order to help the poorer sections of the community, rather than merely to sit “ pat “ and smile vacantly. What the anti-Labour majority in the Senate did in 1931 was a crime against humanity. Its action was responsible for many suicides, for great suffering and for much malnutrition among the people, including young children. When the last war broke out, many of the young men were so undernourished that they failed to pass the medical examination for entry to the armed forces. One of the first casualties of the war was a youth of eighteen who was reared in the district in which I live. He had never had a job until he joined the Army, and for that the anti-Labour majority in the Senate in 1930 was responsible.
The present Government, and the irresponsible press which supports it, must accept the blame for the present position. No one can deny that there is misery in Australia as a result of high prices. Persons on fixed incomes are in a very serious plight. However, it was men on fixed incomes, but on big ones, who set in motion the machinery which produced the economic depression of the early thirties. They had no consideration for the poor age pensioners. They had the money in the banks on fixed deposit, and were living on the interest. When, as is customary after a war, prices and wages began to rise, they found that the purchasing power of their income was depreciating, they went to the banks and demanded that value be put back into the £1, otherwise they would withdraw their money. The banks came to heel and called in overdraughts. Thousands of men lost their jobs, commodities became cheap, and money scarce. That was what precipitated a depression, but unfortunately for the bankers, they lost control of the situation. Their plan would have succeeded had it not been for the action of thousands of small investors who liv: by switching their capital from one enterprise to another in accordance with the dividends that they receive. At the onset of the depression, the small investors, hearing of bankruptcies and business failures, decided to button up ; and so control of finance slipped from the grasp of the banking fraternity. That was the reason for the severity of the depression. I challenge any one to deny that. I can foresee a recurrence of those happenings. The Government promised during the election campaign to put value back into the £1, but that can only be done by cheapening commodities, and how can commodities be cheapened? They can be cheapened, of course, by smashing the trade unions and forcing men to work for low wages. We have heard certain supporters of the present -Government say that .a small -percentage of unemployment is essential -to a sound economy. Obviously the idea is that there should be men at the factory gates waiting to take the places of employees should they :be ‘dismissed. Cheapening commodities by encouraging unemployment can only result in widespread misery. To-day, the ;low wage-earner and the pensioner are living in semi-starvation conditions. When I was asked at a meeting at the Grand Council of Old Age Pensioners last year what the then Government proposed to do to improve living standards, I said that a review of the entire social services scale was being made, and that by the following March, new rates of pensions and other payments would be announced. I pointed out that it would not be fair to deal with age pensioners only, and to deny increased payments to other social services beneficiaries. I indicated that a substantial increase of pensions could be expected. Although no public statement was made, the increase that we had in mind at that time was at least 7s. 6d. a week.
The Government answers us that the law of supply and demand will stabilize prices. That belief is completely without foundation. If workers received a remuneration sufficient to enable them to buy a fair share of the commodities that they produced, the law of supply and demand might have some value, but that is not so. For instance, I need a pair of boots. I walk down a street and look at boots in shop windows. I see just the pair I want, but the price is perhaps 6d. or ls. too high. I go into the shop and ask for something in the same style but at a price within my means. There is nothing to suit me. The shopkeeper remains adamant on the price of the pair of hoots that has attracted me into the shop, and points out that he cannot be expected to run his shop as a charitable institution. The result is that I do not buy the boots. At the end of a day, quite a number of people may have followed my example, and the shopkeeper is at a loss to understand it. He reduces his order to the factory and the factory in turn has to dispense with the services of some of its employees to curtail production. That is an example of ‘how supply does not necessarily fulfil the prophecy. A better illustration perhaps might be given d-n relation to -fruit -and vegetables which are sometimes dumped to keep prices nap. References to the so-called inexorable law of .supply and demand leave me cold. There is no such inexorable law, and when an authority such as our Prime Minister says that the law of supply and demand will ad just .prices, I am convinced that he is either deliberately misleading the people or does not understand the true relationship between supply and demand.
The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) has hinted that the budget will contain provision for an increase of invalid and age pensions. God knows it is long overdue. When somebody asked how much the increase would be, the honorable senator said that he could not say, but whatever it was, it would be that much more than they received in the last budget. As I have already stated, we asked the pensioners to be patient until March of this year. Had Labour remained in office they would then have received an increase of 7s. 6d. or 10s. a week which, in view of cost of living increases since then, would be the equivalent of 13s. a week to-day. The increase would certainly have been much more handsome than anything that is likely to be .granted in the forthcoming budget.
Unfortunately rulings already given in the course of this debate preclude me from dealing with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, although I had hoped to show the relation between that measure and the one now under discussion. I might have been able to say a few things that would have got under the skin of honorable senators opposite.
– That would have been very unkind.
– I always like to think that honorable senators opposite are learning something from my remarks. The only way to be sure of that is for me to- say something that gets under their skin. I think it was Senator Hendrickson who said that the only way to get anything into the head of one honorable senator opposite was with a brace and bit. I shall not say anything as crude as that, hut quite candidly, I believe that the people of this country are crying out for an opportunity to vote at another prices referendum.
– We are not stopping them.
– Will the honorable senator vote for this bill?
– The Opposition will find that out.
– The Opposition can ensure the passage of the bill. It has a majority in this chamber.
– We are fearful of the power of an irresponsible press, assisted by honorable senators opposite. I am getting on in years, and I know how elderly people must feel when they find that although they have endeavoured to be provident during their working years, they have not sufficient money on w hich to live. W e all like to look forward to comfort and security in our declining years.
– The pensioners cannot eat a referendum.
– I should like honorable senators opposite to make more intelligent interjections, but perhaps I hope for too much. The people should again be given an opportunity to record their views on this important subject. I have no doubt that if they were given the opportunity they would wholeheartedly agree that this Parliament should have power to deal with prices. In order to make assurance doubly sure I am appealing to honorable senators opposite to see the light. I should not like to see any harm come to them particularly the lady senators from a wrathful people. I am a great champion of women. I believe in women’s rights and I believe, too, that women generally have been given a poor deal in this community. I believe that they play a more important role than men do in human affairs. If honorable senators opposite will not debate this bill I trust that they will endorse it when it goes to a vote. I regard it as the most important piece of legislation that has been brought before us since I have been a member of the Senate. It is ridiculous for honorable senators opposite to claim thatother measures, such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, are of paramount importance. The Government already possesses power to curb the activi ties of the Communists. If honorable senators opposite fear that the acceptance of amendments insisted upon by the Opposition in the onus of proof clause of the Communist Party . Dissolution Bill will permit some Communists in the Public Service to go scot free, let it get to work on the others who are disrupting industry. I assure them that we will do nothing to help the Communists. I have no time for them and when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill is again before us I shall leave no doubt in the mind of any person about my views in relation to them. If honorable senators are honest surely they will agree that the problem of rising prices and the dreadful spiral of inflation which is inflicting injury on the general working community to a greater degree as each day passes are of far more urgency than is the bill to deal with the Communists. Every day the Government fails to deal with these important problems, it turns the knife in the wounds of the aged and invalid pensioners who depend upon a mere pittance to eke out their existence.
Motion (by Senator Reid) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator REID (New South. Wales) [4.24J. - Another opportunity has been given to honorable senators opposite to demonstrate their sincerity about this measure, but, because they have failed to grasp it, I believe that I should state the reasons why honorable senators on this side have not participated in the debate. Other measures which are of extreme importance to the welfare of this community are listed on the notice-paper and the Government is prepared to demonstrate how urgent it considers this measure to be by voting on the motion for its second reading at any time the Opposition so desires. By proposing the motion “ That the question be now put “ only a few moments ago I gave the Opposition another opportunity to dispose of the measure without further delay. Even if this bill were passed to-day, months must elapse before the peole could be given an opportunity to vote on the proposal contained in it, and, accordingly, its provisions could have no immediate effect on the cost of living. If, however, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill were passed without further delay, the Government could immediately deal with persons in the community who are fomenting unrest, retarding production and causing prices to rise. In presenting this measure to the Senate the Opposition has demonstrated its insincerity. Opposition senators are not game to face the real issues which are the stabilization of our economy and the removal from high office in the trade union organizations of those persons who aim to destroy it. Day after day, Opposition senators, have deliberately prevented the Government from implementing its policy because they are not game to face their masters. They hide behind this measure in an endeavour to hoodwink the electors into believing that they have their true interests at heart and they will continue to adopt these tactics until their real masters, the federal executive of the Australian. Labour party decides on Monday next what they shall do in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
.- Never has any honorable senator shown greater insincerity than did Senator Reid a few moments ago. Imagine an honor able senator in a deliberative assembly such as this proposing a motion “ That the question be now put “ and then immediately after the motion had been negatived rising to his feet and speaking to the question before the chair! Conduct of that kind would not be tolerated in any other democratic assembly.
– The honorable senator’s statement is an offence to Mr. President. It is tantamount to saying that the President has no knowledge of the Standing Orders.
– Order! The President can look after himself.
– I am challenging the right of the honorable senator to speak on. this bill after having proposed a motion “ That the question be now put “. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), and Senator Reid were addressing the Senate I remained silent. I ask Senator Reid to extend a similar courtesy to me. Let us< examine the reasons why prices control has become essential in Australia. The first commodity for which a price was fixed in Australia was labour power. When wages were fixed by law, about five years after the commencement of this century, and the workers were able to obtain a fair living wage, they found that the benefit of every little improvement of their conditions of work that was obtained through the instrumentality of the State wage-: fixing tribunals or of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was immediately filched from them. The Attorney-General and the Minister for Trade and Customs are about as sincere as the honorable senator who addressed us previously. They say, ‘’ We want this bill, and we shall not offer any objection to its passage “. But we were not taken into their confidence and told that they relied on the House of Representatives to throw it out. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), in reply to a question by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber, stated deliberately that he would not have this measure. I suggest that honorable senators on the Government side are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. They know that 57 per cent, of the people have demonstrated, hy the result of a Gallup poll recently held, that they are in favour of the proposal submitted by the Opposition.
The Australian Labour party, when it was in office, endeavoured to secure prices control for the people of this country.. Under the National .Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, the Australian Government had power to determine prices, and to set up tribunals for that purpose. After the war the Government continued those controls in order to protect the people. Then a High Court judge intimated to the Crown that the controls should not be allowed to continue for very much longer, and shortly afterwards, the validity of the price-fixing regulations was successfully challenged. When that Government’s power was upset, it consulted the people, as the Opposition is challenging the Government to do to-day. Before the Labour Government had had time to prepare for that referendum, the press and the whole of the broadcasting systems of Australia were immediately brought into line, with the result that the government of the day was, to all intents and purposes, defeated from the beginning.
In every propaganda speech and on page after page of the daily newspapers, members of the Liberal party warned the people to beware of Canberra control. They were told that if they permitted such control it would not be very long before the Government would seek to control the nature of their employment. But time, of course, teaches us many things. We all know perfectly well what happened when the prices referendum was held. The Labour Government did not desire power for itself but for this Parliament. Why is the Government of to-day so afraid of the Parliament having that power? I suggest that it is attempting to camouflage the destruction towards which Australia, at the present time, is travelling. The Government believes that if it introduces some other measure, such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, it may be able to scare the electors of Australia. But time is on our side, and the Government is perfectly well aware of that fact. It also knows that if a prices referendum is held, it will not be in a position to administer prices control legislation, and that that will be once again the function of the Australian Labour party.
I do not suggest that all honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber are bad men, or bad women, because I know perfectly well that some of them really believe their own utterances. I am also aware that many of them do not believe half the statements they make in this chamber. I am told that in Sydney to-day, ham costs 8s. Id. per lb. The workers of this country require the Parliament to do something in order to combat rising prices. It is no concern of mine whether it is the Labour party or the Liberal party that does something for the workers.. When a young man and a young woman marry to-day, it costs them more to furnish a house than it did to purchase two complete homes when I myself was married . To-day, it costs them £400 or £500, at the very least, to purchase decent furniture for their home in order to make it habitable. All young men and women and all mothers and fathers cherish the idea of owning their own home. But what hope have they of doing so ? To-day, it will cost them between £2,000 and £3,000 at the very least. What a terrific struggle confronts those young men and women! If they are lucky, they are able to save, perhaps, £1,000 in order to give them a start when they go into their home. But how do they save it? The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should be publicly exposed for charging the workers with lack of production. Let me tell the story of the ordinary young man and woman of to-day. After they marry the girl continues to work, and they take their honeymoon during their annual leave. That is not an isolated instance; it is happening in thousands and thousands of homes in this country at the present time. Those are the young people who must look to the Australian Labour party for the protection of their economic interests. There is no other hope for them, because if they look to the present Government for protection, they will be told that they must produce more, and also tighten their belts.
When we read the fourteen points propounded by the Prime Minister, we find that they are all linked up with the problem of the cost of living. I believe that our present Prime Minister is an intelligent man, but that he is the head of a political organization, the views and aims of which are those of the gigantic organizations of capital. The Prime Minister is emulating Mr. Truman now, and he has come out ‘with his programme. In it he includes “ Increased luxuries tax, removal of Communists from key industries, a special production drive, reorganization of federal departments, conferences of Commonwealth and States, increased subsidies for butter, cheese, &c.” ‘ One of the fourteen points is that there should be special organization of industry. I suggest that what he proposes to do in regard to that point is to make possible the perpetuation of the present order, and that in order to achieve that objective, Australian workers will very shortly be treated in exactly the same way as are workers overseas. I claim to speak with authority when I say that the great bulk of the trade union leaders of this country will support any government which seeks to protect the economy of the country, but they do not intend to stand idly by and watch their liberties being taken away.
On the question of increasing prices for commodities essential to domestic life, I should like to quote from the Sydney Sun of the 11th August, 1950. The newspaper contains a report that ordinary green peas in Sydney were then being retailed at 2d. a pod, and that spinach, which is bought in bunches, cost 2d. for each leaf. In Melbourne, the workers to-day are buying cauliflowers by the half and the quarter, and they are paying twice as much for a quarter of a cauliflower as they did for a whole cauliflower a- few years ago. The same position exists in regard to every other, vegetable. Spinach, which wa9 being sold in Sydney at 2d. per leaf, cost 3s. 5d. a bunch. Imagine green peas and french beans costing 3s. 6d. per lb. ! Is it any wonder that the people of this country are becoming discontented and dissatisfied with our parliamentary system? They may well feel that the Parliament has done nothing to protect the interests of the great mass cif the people. When the Australian Labour Party introduces a measure designed to protect the house wives and the homes, it is charged with lacking the courage to go to the country. J remind honorable senators that this party has never been afraid to go to. the country upon any issue. The Opposition believes that the Government has led the country into such a chaos that its leaders and its treasury officials are unable to cope with the financial problems confronting it. The result is that today we hear a great deal of discussion concerning revaluation of the £1. We hear one day that the Government has decided to impose an export tax on wool, but the next day that idea is thrown overboard. In the meantime, the workers of Australia are paying increased prices for meat and for every other commodity. In to-day’s Sydney newspapers it is reported that beef has gone up by 3£d. or 4d. per lb. It is now common for the week-end joint for an ordinary family to cost approximately £1. In those circumstances, is it any wonder that the Opposition, which is concerned with the welfare of the great ma9s of the Australian people, has introduced this measure ?
High vegetable prices have a bad effect upon the health of the community. What is the use of the Government giving persons a half ounce of a sulpha drug or a spoonful of penicillin free of charge when the very foundation of the health of the people is being destroyed by their inability to afford to buy a proper quantity of vegetables? Let me quote from the Sydney Sun. Nobody will suggest that that newspaper has ever been given to supporting the Labour party, either in or out of office. An article in the Sydney Sun contains the following passage : -
Public eats fewer vegetables. Consumption in Australia of vegetables has fallen from an average of G9 lb. a head between 1936 and 1939 to 53 lb. last year.
The average quantity of vegetables consumed annually by every person in New South Wales has decreased by 16 lb. That i3 not good for the community. It is useless for the Government to build sanatoriums and at the same time to stand idly by while vegetables, which are the very basis of health, are being retailed at high prices. Let me tell the Senate of what happened last week in the
Mildura district of Victoria. Ten vegetable farmers transported green peas and, I think, a few beans, by motor truck to Sydney. I am not so foolish as to suggest that those farmers or market gardeners worked their land themselves. Naturally, they employed some labour. They received £150,000^ or £15,000 each, for the truckloads of green vegetables that they sent to Sydney. I do not condemn them for taking advantage of the modern capitalistic system to increase their profits or get the better of the persons who were compelled, by necessity, to pay high prices for their products. Under this competitive system, they are entitled to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to increase their profits, but the fact remains that the people of Sydney are being forced to pay extortionate prices for vegetables. That is one of the reasons why we have introduced this bill!
Let us consider the price of clothing. When present stocks of socks are exhausted, the average citizen will have to pay from 12s. 6d. to 17s. 6d. for a common every-day pair of socks. The three lady senators probably know more about household budgets than I do. I venture to say that the ordinary household expenses of Senator Wedgwood have risen immeasurably If a woman wants a. tinpot coat of a kind, that she would not have worn five years ago, she must pay £25 for it In Melbourne, slop-made suits cost £82 They are called readytowear suits. The lady senators could not buy a decent pair of shoes for less than £4.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– His figures are extravagant.
– My figures are not ‘ exaggerated. They are perfectly correct.
– The honorable senator said that ten market gardeners received £150,000 for their vegetables.
– I stand or fall by that statement. I knew that it would be contradicted by honorable senators opposite. It was published in the Melbourne Age and has not been contradicted.
– It was probably a misprint.
– It was not. To-day, graziers are getting more for a sheep than they used to get for two bullocks. A newspaper cutting that I have in my hand reports that recently a record price of £9 4s. was paid for young wethers.
– I do not doubt it.
– Of course the honorable senator does not doubt it. Everybody knows that that is correct. The same remarks apply to almost every commodity.
The man on the land is in a fortunate position to-day. No one desires to take away from him the benefits that have accrued to him, but what is the good of allowing prices to rise to such a degree as to cause discontent in the community? That is what is happening at the present time. The best thing for the Government to do, if it is sincere, is to give us its word that it will support this measure in the House of Representatives. We know very well that the present Government parties are not in favour of prices control, and that they never have been. All that they want to do is to peg wages.
– I heard a member of the Labour party advocating the pegging of wages the other day.
– Although the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said many things with which I disagreed, I had sufficient good manners not to interject while they were speaking.
Let us examine how prices have risen between December, 1949, the month in which the present Government was elected, and July of this year. I want it to be clearly understood that I am not condemning the persons who have sold the commodities that I am about to enumerate at the prices that I shall mention, because they have only taken advantage of the system under which we are living. There is no real prices control. The State Premiers have said, “ Let the Commonwealth administer prices control ; we cannot do it “. That is what honorable senators on this side of the House believe should be done. The members of the Government parties, on the other hand, say that prices control should not be the responsibility of this Parliament. In December, 1949, the wholesale price of a 24-1 b. half -case of tomatoes was 10s. lOd. On the 28th July of this year the price was 16s. lid. During that period the wholesale price of a bushel of peas rose from 19s. lid. to 42s. id., and the retail price from 26s. lid. to £2 10s. 3d. One could be pardoned for assuming on some occasions that honorable senators opposite take a keen delight in the fact that the people are being forced to pay high prices for vegetables, and that they would, if they could, prevent the people from having peas at all. Recently in Melbourne one could not buy a potato, even on the black-market. People in Sydney have been paying ls. or ls. 3d. for an onion, but people in Melbourne could not buy an onion.
– The whole trade has been ruined by prices control.
– If, when the Minister for Trade and Customs was speaking, I had interjected in the way that Senator Wright is interjecting now, I should have been called to order by the President, but I had sufficiently good manners to control my feelings. It is possible that Senator Wright cannot do so. The attitude and actions of honorable senators from some States other than Victoria makes me wonder whether I can any longer believe in an adult franchise. If they are the products of one vote one value, one is inclined to wonder whether some mistake has been made. I believe that Victorian senators, irrespective of the party to which they belong, know how to behave themselves, but some honorable senators from other States have, as it were, lobbed into the Parliament and want to take control of it. They might be all right as criminologists or in other capacities, but they are hopeless when it comes to dealing with the prices problem, which is of vital importance to the people of Australia. T do not believe the electors know half the goings-on in this Parliament.
We of the Labour party and the trade union movement, not honorable senators opposite, have had to fight the menace that the Government says is threatening this country. It will be the Labour party that will get Australia out of any mess into which it may get as a result of the inaction and misdeeds of the present
Government. In his younger days the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was a student of economics. He knows perfectly well what the trend of events indicates, and he understands the economics not only of our country but also of the world generally. He is fully aware of the problem that is confronting Australia to-day. However, some of his supporters apparently have little or no knowledge of what is transpiring in other parts of the world where the people have been badly treated, in many instances being put into concentration camps because they dared to open their mouths and say what they thought was right. Eventually those down-trodden people seized those countries. We are anxious to preserve the White Australia policy and our way of life in this country. We want to see that every man, woman, and child in Australia shall have the opportunity to live a healthy and useful life. During the war years and immediately afterwards the Labour Government liberalized educational facilities available to the people, so that they would be able to advance themselves and develop a better Australia. We must now take steps to prevent them from being exploited by having to pay exorbitant prices for food, clothing and housing. We want the people - particularly the young people of Australia - to have an opportunity to develop this country still further. I believe that the people will endorse every sentiment that has been expressed by honorable senators who have spoken in support of this measure. I do not consider that they would be side-tracked by the statements of honorable senators opposite that Labour has adopted delaying tactics in this chamber. Time and time again supporters of the Government have moved motions for the closure of debates, and for other purposes, and on each occasion wasted about ten minutes of the time of this chamber. At times I have doubted the sincerity of arguments that they voiced against legislation that has been proposed by the Opposition. Obviously they have seen the writing on the wall. The man in the street realizes that the present Government must fail because of the degree to which prices have risen. I do not think that honorable senators opposite will be able to save their skins by means of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. It is now too late for them to resuscitate themselves. Not only will the passage of the measure before the chamber protect the interests of the people who have to purchase commodities, but it will also make way in the very near future for the democratic Australian Labour party once again to obtain control of the treasury bench of this country.
– We on this side of the chamber agree with what has been stated by the Opposition that our leaders and other responsible Ministers have stressed the great need to halt rising prices. Every section of the community is aware of that necessity. Although the Opposition apparently introduced this bill in good faith, and honorable senators opposite have stressed their, anxiety that it should be placed on the statute-book, whenever they have been given the opportunity to pass the bill they have stone-walled. It has always been my impression that Senator Katz would not claim as facts anything that he could not substantiate, and I believe that the figures that he has cited were supplied in good faith. However, the honorable senator mentioned that ten vegetable growers at Mildura sent peas to the Sydney market in their own trucks. Although it is unlikely that the growers would own trucks capable of carrying ten tons, let us assume that they did. A full consignment would comprise a hundred tons of peas. If the consignment realized £150,000, as stated by Senator Katz, that would represent 13s. 4d. per lb. Yet he tells us with all sincerity that that is correct. If his other arguments were similarly deduced, it is easy to see how ridiculous they were. I am inclined to think that he did not himself work out the prices that he quoted.
I shall now mention wool, which is a highly inflammable subject at the present time. People who have said a lot about it know that they could burst into flames very quickly. I do not think that one honorable senator who has said a great deal about wool in this chamber realizes that the British Government acquires every pound of wool grown in Great Britain, and sells it again on the open market. Last year the Government of Great Britain made £2,000,000 in thisway, but the public had to pay full market price for woollen clothing. This year, in view of the increased pricesbeing realized for the Australian clip, the British Government should make considerably more out of the British people. I am glad that the question of primary production has been raised. When referring to peas an honorable senator opposite stated that prices varied between December and July. As with beans, so there is a summer crop and a winter crop of peas. The growers cater for the luxury trade, that is people who can afford to buy tomatoes particularly at times when it is not possible to grow them except in glass houses. Reference has been made to potatoes. I confess that I do not know very much about potatoes^ but-
– We will tell the honorable senator about them.
– Although I have been growing potatoes for a number of years, I realize that there is still much for me to learn about them. Today potatoes are bringing £25 a ton in Adelaide-
– Not enough !
– I would rather accept £16 a ton in April and May, when I dig potatoes, than get £28 2s. 6d. a ton as they are bringing on the Adelaide market to-day. I received the price last week, and I hope to send more potatoes to market this week.
– That is double the 1939 price.
– As we have tospread the crop over the marketing period, storage is necessary. We have todo that to try to keep our customers ; the general public comprise our best customers.
– Do not growers keep them to get a higher price, and take a risk about losing a percentage?
– For Senator Aylett’s information I should like to point out that a producers’ board has been ‘established in South Australia. That board advises the growers of the quantities of potatoes to be stored so that we can spread the period of supply as far as possible. I have always abided by the decision of the board, and I have spread my deliveries from the time I started to dig in March until now.
– In other words, the growers are controlled?
– It is a better business proposition to sell freshly dug potatoes for £16 a ton than to hold them and get £20 a ton later. I remember that out of one stack of 1,200 sacks of potatoes we get less than 800 sacks subsequently, because of wastage. That would not occur if cold storage facilities were available. The price and production of potatoes is a pointer to what i9 happening in connexion with all primary production. As I have said before, unless steps are taken to increase our production, there will not be enough food grown in Australia to feed ourselves in the very near future. In five years’ time there will be insufficient beef to supply requirements, owing to the influx of population. Furthermore, if our population continues to increase - as I hope it does - within ten years there will not be enough mutton produced in this country to supply our own requirements. For purposes of comparison I shall take units of production in 1938-39 as a basis : 23.4 tons of fencing wire was produced in that year, compared with only 10.8 units in 1948-49. The respective figures for other commodities were : Barbed wire 10.5 tons in 1938-39, and 7.9 tons in 1948-49; wire netting 14.2 tons in 1938-39, and 9.4 tons in 1948-49. Only 39 per cent, of the requirements of fencing wire was produced, 43 per cent, of the requirements of barbed wire, and only 9 per cent, of the requirements of wire netting. The production of wholemilk, meat, and wool is only a little above the quantities that were produced in 1938-39. Wheat production has increased, but our exports of dairy produce and meats have decreased. Another cause of loss of production is that there, are 60,000 fewer persons employed in the primary industries now than in 1938-39, although the population of Australia has increased by nearly 1,000,000. During the same period, the number of persons employed in secondary industries has increased by 500,000. Senator Hendrickson said that he sup-, posed that honorable senators on this side of the chamber - and he was looking at me - had never taken off their coats and done a day’s work in their lives. I should like Senator Hendrickson to spend some time on my farm, and see whether or not we do a day’s work. I am sorry that he is not in the chamber now, because I should like to ask him for some information about several things, including sugar.
I hope that those who are administering our immigration policy will endeavour to obtain immigrants possessing an agricultural background. Australia was successfully colonized because so many of the immigrants who came here from Great Britain and Europe had experience in agriculture. When we compare production figures in Australia with those in Canada the result is alarming. In both countries there is practically full employment, but in Canada, the output per man has increased by 30 per cent, since 193S-39, whereas in Australia it has increased by only about 3 per cent. Moreover, in Canada, they have concentrated on the production of essentials, such as iron, steel, building materials and farm equipment. What is the attitude of the Australian Labour party to production? Labour supporters are always asking for more social services, more leisure, more pay, less work, more migrants, more races, more beer and more lotteries. All those things make for inflation.
Prices will continue to rise unless every section of the community does a little more work. At present, we are not producing enough to satisfy the internal demand. We have the money, and it is a reflection on all of us that we are not producing the goods we need. A high standard of living does not consist in having a lot of £1 notes that cannot be exchanged for goods that the people need. Under the policy advocated by the Labour party, we would go from bad to worse.
If the bill now before the Senate is as urgent as honorable senators opposite have said, let them take their courage in their hands and go to the people. Then, if they can persuade the people that they are right, they can become the Government within six weeks. This is a democratic country, but although the people gave their verdict in 1948 on this issue of prices control members of the Labour party are not prepared to bow to the will of their masters.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) [5.221. - This is a bill to alter the Constitution by empowering the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to prices. The Government has tried on five separate occasions to cast its budget and, before every fresh attempt, it announced in the press and in other ways that new measures had to be adopted in order to correct the prevailing economicdisequilibrium, both internally and externally. The Government’s difficulty is that it. was financed into power by so many different pressure groups that it cannot satisfy them all. There is one powerful group that wants the £1 to be revalued, and at one time the Government gave very serious consideration to that proposal, but eventually rejected it. A minority group in the Cabinet favoured the re-introduction of economic controls similar to those by which the Labour Government maintained the stability of Australia’s economy during and after the war. Responsible men in the organizations which support the Government admit that inflation is the gravest problem that faces Australia to-day; nevertheless, up to the present time, the Government has made no attempt to correct the situation. Finally, the Opposition, in an attempt to cheek the constant rise of prices, was forced to bring in the bill now before the Senate. The Opposition is really frightened that inflation will get out of hand, with the inevitable result that the present inflationary period will be succeeded by a slump during which the poorer people and the middle classes will lose practically everything they possess.
The purpose of this bill is to give the Commonwealth authority to control prices, aud thus to protect Australia against the influences of inflation overseas. In Australia, certain interests, which appear to have the active support of the Government, are so greedy for profits that they want to obtain the bene fit of the highest possible prices obtainable overseas, even to the detriment of the best interests of the people of Australia. In order to take advantage of high overseas prices, they are exporting goods that are urgently needed in Australia.
We have been told that, in order to combat inflation, it is necessary to produce more, but statistics show that we are producing more in Australia than ever before. The trouble is that we are also exporting more than ever_ before. In the course of an inquiry by Judge Kelly into the meat industry in Western Australia, it was shown that certain persons were buying sheep and cattle and vegetables at extraordinarily high prices in order to supply the export market. In the areas where the livestock was bought, principally in the northern parts of the State, residents could not buy any meat at all. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty, admitted that black marketing in meat was rife; yet, when he opposed Commonwealth control ‘ of prices, his main argument, was that it led to black marketing. Ho claimed that black marketing would cease if the control of prices were handed over to the State. However, the Royal Commission on the Meat Industry and the distribution, of meat in Western Australia found that black marketing was rife, and recommended the retention of prices control. The commission found that meat producers in Western Australia were demanding for their meat prices far in excess of what the economy could stand. There was a certain amount of meat going on to the market as a result of normal culling. If we denude the home market of goods and supplies necessary to meet normal demands so as to reap a greedy benefit from world inflationary prices we will be forced to pay world parity prices for goods in this country. We would have to keep pace with world inflation. Honorable senators opposite apparently fear that the re-imposition of prices control will prevent some of their supporters or financial backers from making high profits. High profits can readily be made by exporting commodities surplus to the requirements of
Australia, and at the same time maintaining a home price in conformity with a regulated and lower Australian economy. Unless the people of this country are able to buy Australian . products at prices permitting the development of a healthy home market and stable economy it must be reasonably expected that when the inflated markets overseas are no longer available many of our industries will find themselves in a serious plight. They will find that they are over-capitalized, and that they cannot repay borrowed money or meet the interest bill on it. Their only hope of continuing in production will be either to secure a Government subsidy, or to seek the protection of prices control. Therefore, if it is fair that our internal economy should be controlled when markets are depressed, to stabilize primary and other industries it is equally fair that, in periods of inflation, we should have controls that will keep values somewhere near normal, thus avoiding an embarrassment when ordinary marketing conditions return. In the absence of such safeguards hardship will be suffered not only by the workers, but also by those persons who, in their greed have sought to extract from the public the highest possible prices that they can obtain for their products, regardless of the effect of such action on our economy.
The inflationary conditions from which we all suffer to-day show just to what degree the Government deceived the people of Australia not only during the prices referendum campaign, but also during the election campaign last year. It is possible that honorable senators opposite believed in their own recipe for curing our economic ills, but an examination of that recipe shows that it is bad. The Government parties promised, that, if elected to office they would end rationing. That promise was kept. The rationing of tea was terminated, and the price of tea immediately rose. Increases in the price of most commodities since the Commonwealth relinquished prices control in 1948, have been almost as spectacular as the rises that occurred in America when control of prices was removed in that country. Incidentally, I remind the Senate that prices control was re-imposed in America not long afterwards. It is true that official rationing of commodities has ended in this country, but in its stead, we have a much more vicious form of rationing - rationing by price. People who cannot afford to pay inflated prices have to curtail their purchases or do without some things entirely. To a family which includes three, or four, or perhaps five children, everything is rationed. Purchases of butter, tea, meat, and other essentials must be kept within the family income. At the other end of the scale, people in receipt of high incomes suffer no such restrictions. Petrol was freed from rationing, but its price is now so high that it is, in effect, rationed. The Australian consumption of petrol has increased beyond a reasonable figure, but the average family man is not able to enj’oy the pleasure of unlimited motoring. Other consumers however, who are able to pass on the cost of petrol in the selling price of their commodities or services to the community use infinitely more petrol than when controls existed. State control of prices means a complete lack of coordination, and an absence of balance between the quantity of the goods exported, and the quantity retained in this country to meet our own requirements. A lady senator has complained about the price of onions. I was a member of the Onion Board in Western Australia when the prices of onions and potatoes were controlled. I was also a member of the Marketing Trust in Perth, and I have some knowledge of the operation of controls. Had it not been for those controls, no onions would have been available in Western Australia for four months of the year. There was a substantial demand for onions overseas, and inflated prices could be obtained by exporters but exports were restricted. The growers were assured of an average good-season return. The growers were satisfied, and there was a reasonable supply of onions at 3d. per lb. The surplus in excess of local demands could be sold on overseas markets at ruling prices. The reason for exercising strict control over the prices of onions and potatoes was that they are the only two vegetables that are included in the cost of living index series.
A difficult situation has arisen with meat supplies. Australian meat is being sold overseas, under contract, for high prices, and there is insufficient reserve to meet our home requirements at a reasonable price. Metals also are being exported to the detriment of local requirements. The problem confronting the Government to-day is whether to permit a free marketing system under which no restriction will be placed on exports to countries that are able to pay high prices for our products, or to control our internal economy to ensure adequate local supplies of goods at reasonable prices. Honorable senators opposite argue against the re-imposition of prices control, but there is evidence that their confidence in their ability to stabilize our economy is waning. Speaking in this chamber on the 23rd February, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said - . . the Government will . . . prevent the cost of living from rising.
On the 7 th March, the Minister for Labour and National Service said -
The Government has expressed its determination to grapple with the problem in-order to get value back into the fi.
On the following day, the Minister for Trade and Customs said -
The Government is taking action to prevent increases of the cost of living.
On the 14th March, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) said -
I am confident that the situation will be dealt with adequately. [ can quite understand why honorable senators opposite sit muzzled or dumb during this debate. They are barren of any ideas for dealing with the economic problems with which they are confronted. They realize now that any attempt to stabilize the economy of this country will require the reimposition of controls that they once criticized so strongly. They are silent not because of lack of intelligence, but because of their fear of being honest. On the 19th April, the Minister for Trade and Customs said complacently -
I am happy to say that considerable progress has been made in restoring the purchasing value of the £1.
Then, on the 16th May, he said -
We are encountering great difficulty in arresting the slide.
Notice the change in the honorable senator’s tone in that short period. On the 19th April he was quite happy about things, but on the 16th May he was most concerned. One might almost be led tobelieve that a sudden collapse of our economy occurred between those dates, but we know that that was not so. We realize that the Minister’s earlier statements lacked truth and sincerity. On, the 25th May - nine days later - he said - . . decisions will he announced in duecourse. Parliament is entitled to that information.
When the honorable senator made that statement nearly six months had elapsed, since the Government’s election to office.. However, I shall leave the parliamentary junta for a moment, and quote a statement by the President of the Liberal, party, Mr. Ritchie. Apparently, that gentleman has been taking quite an interest in proceedings, because, on the 5th August, he had this to say -
If we attack the position with the realism it deserves, we would immediately revert to conditions of the 56-hour week.
That is his solution. Apparently, he would scrap our arbitration awards. A 56-hour week undoubtedly would increase production and would permit the exporting of surpluses to the inflated markets of the world, but everybody knows that the world economy will eventually return to normal. What would we do with our over-production when world prices fell? There would then be no profit in the workers, because they would have overproduced. Should that day come, we should be in a desperate plight unless we had taken steps to maintain a sound internaleconomy. Most of our hopes of maintaining a stable economy faded on the- 10th December last, and the Government is now frantically endeavouring to copewith its growing economic problems. Already its budget has been re-cast four times. There is evidence of discontent and disunity amongst members of the Government parties. What have they tooffer as a cure for our economic ills ? We are told that the Government will reintroduce capital issues control - one of those “ Canberra controls “ that were soseverely criticized when they were exercised by a Labour government. The removal of capital issues control by this
Government was immediately exploited. Now, it is to be re-imposed. Another election cry of the present Government parties was that Labour was stultifying production by excessive taxation. Taxes, we were told, were destroying the initiative of the people of Australia. Now we learn that an excess profits tax is to be imposed. Announcing this, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said very humbly that he would not like the tax to ‘be regarded as another “ Canberra grab “ ; yet it was in such terms that he himself referred to similar impositions when the Labour Government was in office. It is the old story - when Labour does something, it is vicious, but when the antiLabour parties do it, it is a necessity. The excess profits tax imposed by the Labour Government was not inordinate. Production was maintained at a high level. When the prices of imported goods are fixed as a means of protecting our internal economy, difficulties begin to arise, because price fixation of that kind is in itself inflationary in effect. If we impose duties on imported goods as a means of protecting our economy we must return to the public through Australian industry some of the money so collected. If we correct the price of rayon by the imposition of a flat rate of duty of, say, ls. 6d. a yard, irrespective of quality, the net result is that the Treasury receives about £12,000,000 over a period of three years, which it places in Consolidated Revenue; but the imposition of die duty inflates .the price of rayon to the consumer. The Tariff Board has recommended that the tariff on certain lines should be restricted and that the Government should pay a bounty to local producers thus enabling the price of the locally produced articles to be kept at a level which will enable them to compete with the imported goods. The objective of keeping down the prices of locally produced commodities can be achieved by reducing tariff duties and by providing out of the duties levied a bounty which would he paid to those Australian manufacturers who sold their commodities at the lowest possible price to Australian consumers. This Government, however, is intent only on getting as much revenue into the Treasury as it possibly can. The institution of a system of prices control is absolutely imperative if our economy is to be preserved. The Government cannot see the logic of our arguments and proposes instead to control excess profits. If a manufacturer is prevented from making satisfactory profits he will refuse to produce to full capacity, and therefore this move on the part of the Government will not make the economic position one whit better than it is to-day. Indeed, it may make it worse. A manufacturer may say, “ If I keep my output at a certain level I can obtain a satisfactory financial return from my undertaking. As long as I can operate on a free market and sell my products at a high price it will profit me as a manufacturer to sell on that market and no other “. On the other hand a manufacturer who has to maintain a high output in order to make his business pay may have to increase production fiftyfold in order to carry on under a system of fixed prices. A cloth manufacturer operating in a period of uncontrolled prices may sell his output at 3s. 6d. a yard, but if prices are controlled’ and the selling price of his product is fixed at 2s. 9d. a yard, he may have to increase his .output by 50 per cent, in order to make his business pay. Those hardest hit by inflation are the recipients of fixed incomes and those on low wages. The rationing of commodities is not needed in these days. They are effectively rationed by high prices to all those on low or middle incomes.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have received many letters from invalid and age pensioners requesting that representations be made to the Government that the pension rate be increased to at least one-half of the basic wage. They point out that the existing pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week is insufficient to enable them to meet their outgoings for rent, fuel, clothing and food. The Western Australian Pensioners’ News recently published a letter from a pensioner in which she stated that in the expectation that the promises that were made by the leaders of the anti-Labour parties during the general election campaign would be honoured, she had bought articles of clothing on the lay-by system, and is now in grave difficulties. She appealed for assistance to extricate ner from her difficulties. Although most pensioners are now living under sub-standard conditions the Government will do nothing to help them. No matter how generously the Government may treat them, if prices continue to increase, their condition will not be improved. The Government can assist them only by halting the rise of prices. It should take steps to retain essential commodities in this country, and distribute to Australian industry such excess profits as are earned by our exporters on the inflated world markets. If such a policy were adopted we would be in a very much better position to withstand a reverse, should a slump eventuate. When economic conditions are normal controls of that kind are, of course, unnecessary.
Our export position is very sound. In 1939 the f.o.b. value of wool exports was. £42,737,000. In 1949 it was £231,664,000. As the result of inflated wool prices, the f.o.b. value of this season’s clip amounts to no less ‘than £450,000,000. To-day there is a shortage of wool and woollen goods in Australia and woollen goods are becoming too expensive to huy. It is stupid for the Government to contemplate the imposition of a wool tax and to permit wool to be sent out of the country in unlimited quantities as a means of adjusting our economic position. Wool represents only one commodity which affects our economy. Wool-growers have an obligation to the community, and they should be extended similar consideration to that enjoyed by other sections of the community. Adjustments must be made in our overall economy, because to isolate a portion of our economy for special treatment is wrong. Let us consider the position in relation to our exports of wheat and flour. In 1939, the value of our exports of those commodities was £13,275,000, but by 1949 the value had increased to £:)S,196,000. In 1939 butter to the value of £12,S92,000 was exported. In .1949 the value of our exports of that commodity increased to £23,811,000. Exports of sugar have jumped in value from £4,178,000 in 1 ‘39 to £13,290,000 in 1949. The value of o-ir exports of meat in ten years increased from £11,780,000 to £29,753,000; of lead from £4,276,000 to £22,108,000; and of dried fruits from £2,865,000 to £3,456,000. The export of fresh fruits fell considerably during the years in which the acquisition scheme was in operation in two of the most important fruit-growing States. That scheme has now been abandoned and the open market system has been revived. The value of our exports of fresh fruits has increased by £.1,100,000 since 1939. In 1939 our total exports were valued at £122,543,000. Last year their value increased to £542,609,000. Thus our export trade is in a very flourishing state.
Let us not deceive ourselves by thinking that if we increase production in this country our economy will be improved to any great degree. That can be done principally by the regulation of exports to the markets of the world. We should keep sufficient quantities of commodities in this country to enable us to stabilize our own prices. We can find many instances in which the Government, prior to the lifting of prices control, retained essential goods in Australia, fixed the prices at which they were to be sold and, if necessary, guaranteed subsidies to provide manufacturers with a reasonable return, as a means of protecting our economy. If the Government refuses to seek power to fix prices the resultant inflation will destroy our internal economy. Our vast overseas credits may well be lost to us either by devaluation or revaluation. The Government is only temporizing in its proposals ;o prevent inflation. Unless we adopt a system of internal prices control to keep our economy stable, we shall rapidly enter a boom period, and the subsequent burst, will bring to this country all the misery that its people suffered after the last boom and burst period when the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) earned his famous soubriquet. We have had a great deal of experience of bow the people have been exploited since prices control was lifted. The States have endeavoured to administer prices control under very difficult circumstances within their own limited fields. Different prices for the same commodity operate in different Slates. When, as a result of the disastrous floods, the vegetable crop in New South Wales failed, the people of that State were forced to buy their requirements from suppliers in other States at extortionate prices. The New South Wales Prices Minister has been unable to do anything in the matter because the source of supply is outside his jurisdiction. This Government is content to allow the state of inflation to continue without making any attempt to check it. It is trying to deceive the people into thinking that it is unnecessary for it to do anything in the matter beyond the institution of, not the sort of controls that helped to balance our economy in the war years, but other untried controls which will do little to bring our economy back to a stable footing.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was tracing the spiral of prices and I think I have made it clear to the Senate that the most vicious form of rationing that can obtain in any country is rationing occasioned by inflation, so that only those persons with money can afford to buy commodities. It will be necessary for me to trace our economic position through to a stage which it will undoubtedly reach should price fixing not be introduced. However, I have been informed that the Senate has other business to deal with, and I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1951;
The Budget 1950-51 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable A.W. Fadden on the occasion of the budget of 1950-51;
National Income and Expenditure 1949-50. and move -
That the papers be printed.
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is delivering, in another place, a statement on the estimates of revenue and expenditure for 1950-51, together with details of actual revenue and expenditure in 1949-50. I propose to inform honorable senators of the main features of his statement and to give details of certain proposals affecting revenue and expenditure contained in it. In a review of the economic situation it is emphasized that Australia is in the midst of a vast and many-sided movement of expansion. Governments and all their connected authorities are pushing on with large programmes to provide essential facilities for a larger population and a more highly developed economy. Private firms, in all branches of production, are increasing their present capacity, or launching new projects. Immigrants are pouring in from overseas. Immense amounts of capital are coming here, a great part of it for permanent investment.
Whilst in times like these, real and substantial progress is always made, there is also a danger that the effort to expand will outrun resources and spread itself too widely, creating bottlenecks, competition for scarce labour and materials and a bidding-up of prices and costs. For a considerable time past it has been clear that something of the kind is happening in Australia, and the problem has been greatly accentuated by a large and increasing surplus of purchasing power in the hands of the public. Nevertheless the Government, from the outset, hasbeen determined that migration and essential development shall go on, and, so far as possible, be accelerated. It is convinced that the general economic problem must be attacked in fundamental ways and not by mere palliatives. In particular, it holds that there must be a vast increase both in production and in the resources for production.
With these ends in view, the Government has taken measures against promoters of industrial strife. It abolished obstructive and unnecessary controls. It intensified efforts to relieve labour shortages in basic industries. It has done everything in its power to encourage essential imports. It has remitted duties under by-law on a great number of articles, and has subsidized imports of coal and prefabricated houses. The Treasurer expressed the view that under circumstances such as the present, we should obtain from abroad as much as we can both of equipment and materials for production and of finished consumable- goods. The overseas: supply position has considerably improved in the past year ois two. The removal of currency difficulties? under the European Payments Union has helped to increase the flow of goods ‘ from important industrial countries- in Europe-.
At the 30th June, this year the total international currency reserves of Australia stood at £650,000,000. A part of this: total, however; has been accumulated through the temporary inflow of capital, and when allowance is made for this factor and for the greatly increased value of imports and. exports as compared with earlier years, the total cannot be regarded as excessive for our requirements. With a view to improving the availability of essential dollar equipment, the Prime Minister (Mr. -Menzies) negotiated a loan of 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for immediate use in purchasing, vital, plant and equipment. Furthermore, by arrangement with the International Bank a. mission will visit Australia early next year to study our developmental requirements for dollars over a period of five years. As the Prime Minister has said, the loan by no means removes the dollar shortage. What the loan does, however, is to give Australia the chance to get key types of equipment which will have an enormous value in raising the productivity of our. industries and furthering the progress of developmental works.
There have been two recent developments which must tend to increase the difficulties of the general economic prob-lem. One is the worsening of the international position and the consequent necessity for increased military preparedness. As this will intensify the problem of resources, the Government proposes to set up a national security resources board, which will have the task of examining our civil and military resources and needs and making, recommendations to the Government on national planning and priorities. Furthermore, as the Prime Minister has announced, the Government will establish an organization to supervise the general^ allocation of key materials and productive equipment. It has also proposed to re-institute capital issues control. The other development has been the sensational rise in wool prices, notably during the past few months. This rise in wool prices-‘ will add to- our international ner serves and from that standpoint it can be counted a national advantage because of the larger quantity of imports we will be able to ‘buy. The internal consequences, however, might be very disruptive unless firmly controlled.. The Government will therefore require woolgrowers to make certain prepayments of taxation in this financial year. On the other hand, growers will be enabled to use their credits for these prepayments to meet tax. obligations at a later -date.
Excluding the self-balancing items, total revenue in 1949-50 was £567,000,000. This was £35,000,000 greater than the Budget estimate.
The main revenue increases over the Estimates were -
Total expenditure in 1949-5.0 was £592,000,000.. This was £25,000>000 more than the estimate. The principal items in which increases over the estimates occurred were -
An amount of £123,300,000 was transferred to the National Welfare Fund. An expenditure of £92,800,000 was made from the fund. Allowing for interest received the net. addition to the balance in the fund in 1949-50 was £31,200,000. The deficit for 1949-50 was £25,000,000, compared with a budget estimate of £35,000,000.
On the basis of existing legislation, estimated expenditure on defence services in .1950-51 is £83,000,000. Actual expenditure in 1949-50 was £54,000,000. This estimate takes account of measures under the Government’s three-year defence programme including the introduction of national’ service, the establishment of a Citizen Air -Force Active Reserve, the re-establishment of the women’s services in the Navy, Army and Air Force, and a production programme designed to equip the Navy and the Air
Force on the most modern lines. It includes commitments in respect of the forces in Korea and Malaya and provides for the very substantial increases in pay of the forces which were announced recently. The Government is keeping defence preparations under the closest possible review. On the basis of existing commitments, net expenditure on war and repatriation 1939-45 services in 1950-51 is estimated at £106,000,000. Expenditure in 1949-50 was £98,700,000.. Estimates for this year include £30,600,000 for war gratuity. Together with the balance of £36,700,000 in the war gratuity reserve, this amount is intended to cover the estimated £67,300,000 payable on the 3rd March, 1951. War pensions in respect of the 1939-45 Avar are estimated at £12,300,000 on the basis of the present rates, and miscellaneous credits at £5,900,000.
The works programme as a whole has been most carefully examined by a subcommittee of Cabinet, assisted by a departmental committee, to ensure that only works of the highest priority are included. Original departmental schedules were reduced by 20 per cent. In carrying out the programme the Government will aim to ensure that there is no undue competition for available resources. Moreover, a very large proportion of the Estimates, especially for such authorities as the Postal Department, represents overseas expenditure, the effects of which will not be inflationary. Expenditure on post office works and services in 1950-51 is estimated at £26,250,000. Immigration capital works and services are estimated to cost £9,300,000, and £6,000,000 is provided for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project. The provision for war service homes is £25,000,000.
In. addition to the £9,300,000 for capital works and services connected with immigration, expenditure on immigration ordinary services is estimated at £13,200,000. Thus the total expenditure on immigration in 1950-51 is estimated to be £22,500,000. This represents an increase of £6,300,000 on last year’s expenditure.
On the basis of existing legislation and commitments, total payments to States in 1950-51 are estimated at £104,200,000.
On a similar basis, the amount that would be transferred to the National Welfare Fund is estimated at £132,000,000. .The amount provided for existing subsidies is £24,400,000, including £11,300,000 for butter, £3,200,000 for imported coal, £7,000,000 for tea and £1,500,000 for subsidy on imports of prefabricated houses.
On the basis of existing legislation and commitments and excluding self-balancing items, total expenditure in 1950-51 is estimated at £691,000,000, compared with actual expenditure of £592,000,000 in 1949-50.
Because of its concern at the growth of public expenditure, the Government proposes to- re-constitute the Public Accounts Committee in the near future in order to make parliamentary control of public finances more effective.
Total revenue in 1950-51, on the basis of existing legislation and rates of taxation, is estimated at £631,000,000. At present rates, income tax and social services contribution are estimated t. yield £319,000,000, customs and excise £162,000,000, sales tax £51,000,000 and pay-roll tax £26,000,000. The total amount of revenue from sources other than taxation is estimated at £57,500,000 and Post Office revenue, on the basis of existing rates and charges, at £41,200,000.
In considering the financial outlook for the year 1950-51, it is emphasized that there is a plain obligation on governments and all other public authorities to ensure that their outlays do not outrun their receipts from normal sources. To meet expenditure from bank finance, and so add further to the volume of community spending power, would be wholly indefensible. Commonwealth expenditure is likely to increase very considerably this year, mainly because of new defence requirements and the expansion of immigration and development plans. In addition there is the large non-recurring item for war gratuity, and proposals which involve additional payments to the States, increased war, age and invalid pensions and extensions of health services. State loan . programmes are also much larger than last year. The government has thoroughly examined the whole financial position and, whilst making every effort to eliminate unnecessary expenditure, it has had to face the probability that some forms of expenditure, especially in respect of defence, will continue to rise strongly. Recognizing that, government finance should not contribute to inflationary pressure by resort to central bank credit, it has formed the conclusion that, subject to action necessary to correct anomalies and relieve hardship, present sources of revenue from taxation must be preserved, and further, that when rising export prices are adding to inflationary pressure, special forms of financial action should be used in due measure to correct these effects. Certain proposals which will be submitted to the Parliament and which involve expenditures additional to those provided for in the Estimates were outlined by the Treasurer.
In view of developments overseas and the necessity to increase our defence preparations, the Government has decided that measures should be taken to build up in Australia reserve stocks of certain key materials and equipment needed for the defence services and war industries. £50,000,000 is provided in the Estimates for this purpose. Legislation will be brought down to establish a strategic stores and equipment reserve trust account, and it is proposed to transfer the above-mentioned amount to the trust account,
Including new proposals, provision which has been made in the Estimates for payment to the States in 1950-51 is £111,200,000. This represents an increase of £10,000,000 over 1949-50. Under the formula in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act, it is estimated that the tax reimbursement grant payable to the States in 1950-51 will amount to about £70,393,000, an increase of £7,856,000 over 1949-50. In view of the budget difficulties confronting the States, the Government proposes to make available to the States this year an additional tax reimbursement grant of £5,000,000.
It is proposed to introduce legislation shortly to authorize a new scheme of roads payments. All payments under the new legislation will be financed from the proceeds of petrol taxation, the proposed hypothecation for roads purposes being 6d. a gallon customs duty on imported petrol and 3-Jd. a gallon excise duty on locally produced petrol, excluding in each case aviation spirit. These allocations are expected to yield about £12,000,000 in 1950-51, or approximately £2,700,000 more than- the payments made last year under the former legislation. The roads grants to the States will fall into two categories, one grant being for general roads purposes and the other grant for roads in rural areas. Explicit provision will be made to enable State governments to make any portion of the grants available to local authorities. The new arrangements will operate for a period of five years as from the 1st July, 1950.
The States have requested the Commonwealth to continue to reimburse them in 1950-51 as in the last two years in respect of the cost of the controls over prices and rents, and the Government has agreed to this request. It is estimated that these grants will amount to £660,000 in 1950-51, compared with £706,000 in 1949-50. Control over land sales has been abandoned by the States, and hence no reimbursement is required, for this.
Substantial increases in war pensions are proposed. The special rate war pension for totally and permanently incapacitated members is to be raised from £5 6s. to £7 a week and the 100 per cent, general rate war pension for incapacitated members from £2 15s. to £3 10s. a week. The pensions payable to the wife and each child of a special rate or 100 per cent, general rate war pensioner are to be increased by 6s. 6d. to £1 10s. 6d. a week and by 2s. 6d. to lis. 6d. a week respectively. The war widows’ pension is to be increased by 10s. to £3 10s. a week and the domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. a week now payable only to war widows with one or two children is to be raised to 10s. a week, and will be payable to all war widows who have children or who are 50 or more years of age. The war pensions payable to the first and each of the remaining children of a war widow are to be increased from 17s. 6d. to £1 2s. a week and from 12s. 6d. to 15s. 6d. a week, respectively. The war pension for orphans where both parents are deceased is to be raised to £2 a week, the increase being £1 2s. 6d. in the case of* orphans of fourteen years of age and under and £1 a week in other cases. It is also proposed to increase service pensions by 7s. 6d. to a maximum of £2 10s. a week.
Other proposals include increased medical sustenance allowances, increased pensions for widowed mothers, increased allowances for war pensioners with certain specified disabilities, the removal of certain time limits for dependants and the provision of specially equipped motor cars for certain disabled ex-servicemen. The cost of the war and service pensions increases and the repatriation proposals is estimated at £5,800,000 in a full year and £3,900,000 in this financial year.
It is proposed to increase by 7s. 6d. a week the living allowances payable to Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees and to settlers under the war service land settlement scheme and the business re-establishment allowances for ex-servicemen engaged in agricultural and other occupations. The additional expenditure involved is £160,000 for a full year and £107,000 in 1950-51.
The full year additional cost of £15,000,000, which will be payable this year in respect of provision of child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age, will raise expenditure on child endowment to £45,600,000 in 1950-51. It is proposed to increase age and invalid pensions by 7s. 6d. to a maximum of £2 10s. a week. The additional expenditure involved is estimated at £8,250,000 for a full year and £5,500,000 in this financial year. The increase of 7s. 6d. a week in these pensions will result in an automatic lifting of the maximum permissible income, inclusive of pension, of a single pensioner from £3 12s. 6d. to £4 a week, and in the case of a man and wife both eligible for age pension, from £7 5s. to £8 a week. It is also proposed to increase the class A widows’ pension, that is, the pension payable to a widow with one or more children, by 7s. 6d. to a maximum of £2 15s. a week; and to increase the widows’ pensions payable to other classes of widows by 5s. a week. These proposals will, it is estimated, raise the cost of widows’ pensions by £700,000 for a full year, and £500,000 in this financial year. The Government will also propose amendments to raise from £200 to £500 the exemption for means test purposes of the surrender value of life assurance policies, and to exclude war pensions from income in assessing unemployment and sickness benefits. I might mention that in the case of the United Kingdom defence personnel on loan to the Australian services, whose families are residing in Australia, it is proposed to pay child endowment for each child.
The free provision of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs under the amended regulations of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, together with the free supply of pharmaceuticals in hospitals, is estimated to cost £2,300,000 this year and £3,000,000 in a full year. As a means of improving nutritional standards, the Government is planning free milk supplies to all school children, through the instrumentality of the States. The scheme is expected to cost £500,000 in the current financial year, and about £1,500,000 in a full year. The States have been approached, as a preliminary to the review of the hospitals benefits agreements which expire shortly, and these negotiations are proceeding. The Government is also developing its plans for a medical benefit scheme. An amount of £2,000,000 has been included in the estimates of the “National Welfare Fund to cover the cost of medical benefits in the current financial year, including a general practitioner service, and a wide range of medicines for age, invalid, widow and service pensioners and their dependants. Expenditure on these additional social” services and health benefits will, of course, be met from the “National Welfare Fund.
Amending legislation will be introduced to provide that, pending the’ general review of the superannuation scheme in 1952, the value of the first eight units of pension, where the contributions therefor are required to be made to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, shall be increased by 20 per cent. Similar amending legislation will be submitted in regard - to pensions payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. Comparable action will also be taken in respect of future benefits from the Provident Account of the Superannuation Fund.
The estimated cost is £340,000 in a full financial year, and £227,000 in 1950-51.
As a means to offset the effects of recent higher auctionprices for wool on prices of woollen products used locally, the Government proposes to pay a subsidy in respect of such goods produced in Australia for local use. An amount of £20,000,000is being provided in 1950-51 for this purpose.
The Government considers that in the light of the inflationary economic situation, and of present and prospective expenditure commitments, no general reduction can be made in rates of income tax this year. Nevertheless, the Government proposes to make certain major reforms in the taxing system which will, in themselves, contribute in an important way towards amelioration of the tax burden. These reforms are -
The reforms and concessions contained in these proposals will provide relief in particular to taxpayers with family responsibilities, heavy medical expenses, superannuation and like payments. The loss that these proposals would involve, estimated at £7,000,000 in the current financial year and £15,000,000 in a full year, is considered to be more than justified by the benefits which will result.
The avowed purpose of the social service contribution, when introduced in 1945, was to provide a firm basis for the financing of the National Welfare Fund. But it is unnecessary for the proper protection of the National Welfare Fund for separate calculations in all their ramifications to be made. In fact, for the great majority of taxpayers, the separation of the income tax field into two levies is fictitious rather than real. So far as conversion of the system of concessional rebates to concessional deductions is concerned, the simplification achieved will be of a major character. In association with the slight adjustments which are proposed inthe rates at various points, the result will be that taxpayers generally, who are entitled to dependent allowances or to allowances in respect of superannuation, medical expenses, &c, will benefit to a small extent. At the same time, every taxpayer will be able to calculate his taxable income and the amount of tax and contribution payable quite simply. It is proposed to print the scale of rates on the back of assessment notices in such a manner that the tax and contribution payable on any taxable income can be readily ascertained. The proposed simplified scale of rates, which will retain sufficient flexibility to enable any desired change in the incidence of taxation to be made in the future, will be expressed in pence without the present complications of decimals or fractions of a penny. The rates will apply to income steps of £50 (or multiples of £50), but will be so designed that the liability will not differ materially from that under the existing scale. In respect of the deductions to be allowed for dependants and expenditure on such items as medical expenses, superannuation payments, and the like, it is proposed : -
to extend the concession to medical expenses incurred by the taxpayer on behalf of any dependant on whose account he is entitled to a deduction;
The annual loss of revenue due to these concessions is estimated at £1,500,000 in a full year. The cost of revenue in the present financial year will be negligible. Although no reduction is being made in the rates of tax payable by companies, an adjustment is being effected in the basis of taxation of the undistributed profits of private companies. This adjustment will enable private companies to retain an additional amount of profits free from undistributed profits tax. This increased freedom from undistributed profits tax will tend towards a closer approximation of the weight of tax on private companies and their shareholders, and the weight of tax on partners in a comparable partnership.
It was noted that a special appropriation of £30,000,000 to the National Welfare Fund will be necessary in the current financial year. The appropriation will replace the provisional contribution that would be payable if contribution and tax were imposed as separate levies. This appropriation will ensure that the element of social services contribution contained in the single levy will be applied to the provision of social service benefits only, and that the resources of the fund will not be adversely affected by the merging of the contribution and the tax. When added to the £71,000,000 which will be appropriated directly, it will bring the total appropriation to the same amount as it is estimated it would have been if provisional contribution had been separately calculated. For the financial year 1951-52 it is estimated that the amount of social services contribution payable as a separate levy on income of past years will not exceed £10,000,000. It is proposed that in 1951-52 and subsequent years the fund willhave an assured income estimated at no less than it would have had if the existing provisions had continued.
As a result of a comprehensive review of the sales tax law, it is proposed to remove certain anomalies and assist housing construction by removing the tax from such items of building requisites as still remain in the taxable field. The most notable item in this category is builders’ hardware. Certain foodstuffs are also being removed from the taxable field. The loss of revenue in a full year will approximate £1,000,000 and in the current year approximate £640,000. It is proposed to increase the rate of sales tax on certain goods, the manufacture and sale of which are considered to cause inordinate competition for materials in short supply, and skilled man-power. The additional revenue which it is expected will be obtained as a result will be about £10,000,000 in a full year, or approximately £7,500,000 in the current year.
As part of an organized and balanced plan to bring inflationary forces under control, it is proposed to draw off some part of the abnormal profits of business. The various methods that may be employed are receiving close examination at the present time.
The Government’s proposal is that a proportion of the proceeds of wool sales should flow to revenue in anticipation of the income tax that will ultimately become payable by the producer. Effect will be given to this proposal by requiring wool-selling brokers and dealers in wool to pay to the Taxation Branch one-fifth of the amount realized on the sale of wool. These amounts will be held to the credit of the producers, and will be applied in payment or part payment of the income tax payable by the producer on that income. This proposal imposes no extra tax on wool producers, but merely requires earlier payment of the income tax that will be subsequently assessed. If price increases reflected in wool sales so far held are maintained throughout the season the amount of deductions is estimated to be £103,000,000.
Because inescapable expenditure of the Postal Department this year is likely to exceed revenue by a considerable amount, the Government will propose certain increases in postal, telegraph and telephone charges, details of which will be given shortly when legislation is brought down. These increases in rates, which will operate from a date to be approved by Parliament, are expected to yield additional revenue amounting to £6,700,000 in a full year.
It is proposed this year to vary the practice adopted for a number of years past of showing all items of expenditure, except advances to States for housing, as charges to Consolidated Revenue - a practice which conflicted in various respects with sound accounting principles, especially where capital items of a recoverable nature were made a charge against revenue. Two such items of expenditure - war service homes and war service land settlement - will this year be excluded from Consolidated Revenue and charged to Loan Fund. The total estimated expenditure on these two items is £29,000,000.
Bringing into account the revenue and expenditure proposals just outlined, the budget for 1950-51 may be summarized as follows : -
On the basis of the estimates given and the various revenue and expenditure proposals set forth, it would be possible to finance the whole of Commonwealth expenditure this year without resort to treasury-bills. Furthermore, since a considerable amount of the budget expenditure will be overseas, it can be said that the budget makes a susbtantial contribution to anti-inflation measures. The budget has been planned, as part of the general economic policy of the Government, to restrain inflationary pressures. It is emphasized, however, that the policy embodied in it is in the best sense progressive, and seeks to promote the free flow of worthwhile initiative.
Debate (on motion by .Senator Ashley) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 687).
– After listening to the budget statement, I am all the more convinced that something must be done to stabilize our economy, and to stop inflation. In this morning’s press, it was reported that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had increased the basic wage by £1 a week. In view of present high prices for commodities the increase is justified. Indeed, the increase will not be sufficient to compensate the workers for price increases that have already occurred. However, in the absence of prices control, any increase of the basic wage will inevitably be followed by a further rise of prices. “We have just learned that it is proposed to expend more than £300,000,000 on defence. That estimate was based upon conditions as they existed under the old basic wage, and the cost will now be increased by approximately 12£ per cent. The cost of public works will be increased by the same percentage. So great will be the added burden on the community, that most undertakings now in progress will be over-capitalized when normal economic conditions are restored, and a situation will exist similar to that which existed in Australia when Sir Otto Niemeyer was brought here at the beginning of the last economic depression. The Government has raised a loan of 100,000,000 dollars. That may be necessary, but the money will be expended under conditions of inflation. Therefore, as I have said, it becomes all the more necessary that a system of controls should be restored in order to keep capital expenditure as low as possible, while maintaining a decent standard of living for the workers.
Living standards cannot be maintained merely by increasing wages. Unless prices are controlled, the standard of living will inevitably fall. Under present conditions, businessmen must expend so much money to pay wages and buy stock that their businesses become over-capitalized, and they have to charge prices beyond the capacity of the public to pay. This must have the effect of causing the demand for goods to decline, with the result that there will be a surplus of goods, followed by unemployment. The immediate effect of inflation is to impose a vicious form of rationing on families, which cannot afford to pay the high prices that the ordinary small traders are compelled to charge. To-day, the average worker with family responsibilities can buy only a small percentage of the goods that he requires to enable him to maintain himself and his family on a reasonable standard of living. The small storekeeper cannot do anything about rising prices. His profits are less now than they would be under a system of prices control. He is compelled to stock up his shelves with goods purchased at inflated prices. When a collapse occurs and prices fall, as they . must fall some day, he will suffer a substantial loss. Similarly, purchasers of homes and properties at inflated prices are running the risk of losing them should a recession occur. We cannot control inflation overseas, but there is a bounden duty upon the Government to stabilize the economy of this country by fixing prices and regulating imports and exports. By all means let our exportable surpluses be sold on inflated markets overseas, but let us keep in this country sufficient goods to meet our own demands. In the absence of controls, this country must join in the world-wide .inflationary process so that its economy will be on a par with those of the countries with which it is trading. It is poor consolation for the general public to know that people on high incomes are paying high taxes and thus contributing substantially to government revenue. The farmer has to buy his equipment on an inflated market. The result is that his farm is over-capitalized. If prices overseas collapse, and our own economy has been permitted to go sky high, the farmer will not be able to continue production or even maintain his position in the community. He will be forced to mortgage his property and ultimately his farm will probably find its way into the hands of the banks and financiers. Every endeavour should be made to maintain our economic equilibrium so that the development of this country may proceed with the minimum possible indebtedness. In the last few years, our income from wool has increased by more than 200 per cent. The value of this year’s clip is estimated at £400,000,000. The Government proposes to draw off a certain percentage of that money under a sort of government estimate of pay-as-you-earn taxation scheme. That money presumbably will go into national revenue and will be expended. But we do. not exist for just one year. We must go on. The present inflationary prices may drop in the following year. The levy that has been imposed upon this year’s wool exports and swallowed up in Consolidated Revenue will be of little use to us then, lt is essential that the Government should take immediate steps to introduce some system whereby we can adjust our economy in such a way that every person in the community will have reasonable access to the goods that we produce. That is denied to many thousands of people under the present inflationary conditions. Already the Government has back-pedalled somewhat on the policy on which it was elected on the 10th December last. It has announced the re-imposition of capital issues control, the introduction of an excess profits tax, and the drawing off from the public spending pool of a percentage of the wool cheque; but governmental expenditure and staffs are increasing. In- fact, the whole budget is very similar to those which preceded the onset of the depression of the early 1930’s. This wild, glorious spending cannot be maintained. The result of continued inflation can only be poverty and misery for hundreds of thousands of working people. Again I implore the Government to consider the wisdom of the Opposition’s proposal for the re-introduction of prices control by the Commonwealth. A subsidy of £4.0,000,000 is to be paid on the manufacture of woollen goods in this country. In the absence of price fixing how can any one ensure that that subsidy will be passed on to the consumer? Recently the Government granted rebates of duty on certain building materials that had been imported into this country. The concessions were made retrospective with the object of reducing building costs. We do not cavil at that but, without price fixing, how do we know that the benefit of this concession will be passed on to home-builders? As the people of Australia will have to bear the cost of this tariff concession, their rights should be protected. Every effort should be made to ensure that the remission of duties has its intended effect. Only by introducing an efficient system of price fixing can the Government ensure that the people of this country will not be exploited. I believe that Commonwealthwide price fixing is urgently needed, and I support the bill.
– The speech made by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) to-night on the Government’s budget proposals has more than justified the stand that the Opposition in the Senate has taken during the past few days. We have maintained that inflation is the most important problem now confronting this country. For weeks the people of Australia have been eagerly awaiting this Government’s first budget. However, once again the mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse, just as it did when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) created an air of mystery about his proposal for an alteration of the method of electing members of this chamber. This budget should be known as the “ tiddleywink “ budget. I am convinced that Government supporters have not the slightest conception of the precariousness of Australia’s economic position to-day. As usual, they attribute our economic ills to the Communists. Every misfortune that has befallen this country in the last few years has, in the eyes of honorable senators opposite, been the work of the Communists. However, the Communists have been very quiet during the past few months. We have heard little about Communist-inspired strikes. In the course of this debate, honorable senators opposite have been continually invited to express the Government’s views. They have all refused to do so, with the exception of .Senator Mattner, who admitted that the wool-growers are getting too much. Everybody knows that the wool-growers are getting too much, but I have never listened to such a preposterous suggestion as the Government’s plan to take one-fifth of the wool-grower’s income temporarily, and then return it to them by offsetting it against tax indebtedness. What would people think if the workers were told that they would receive £40 a week, but that £20 of that would be withheld to meet subsequent income tax assessments? Do honorable senators opposite believe for one moment that intelligent people in this community are prepared to permit an increase of £150,000,000 in one year in the value of our wool cheque ? We are told ‘by this great intellectual, the Prime Minister, that Ave have to produce more commodities in this country, and import increased quantities of raw materials; but lo and behold, what does he do? He does not alter the rate of exchange, but with the Australian £1 worth two dollars instead of four as it should be, he obtains a huge loan from the United States of America, which will have to be paid back at the present disproportionate rate of exchange.
We are facing a phenomenon to-day that has bamboozled all the economists. There is no precedent for it. I agree with practically everything that Senator Cooke has said. The situation to-day is, in some respects, the converse of what it was during the depression years, but sooner or later, we shall get back to the conditions that existed in those days. In the early 1930’s, hundreds of thousands of men were out of work. Stores were filled with goods that nobody could buy. To-day, nearly everybody has money, and there are more jobs than can be filled from our available labour resources, but there are few commodities available. This state of affairs cannot possibly continue. The budget, generally speaking, is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
The DEPUTY. PEESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - Order! The honorable senator must not anticipate the budget debate.
– I shall not do that, but I assume that I may refer to statements made by the Minister for Social Services earlier to-night.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The / honorable senator must not refer to any statements made by the Minister on the budget.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy President. As I have said, the chief difficulty to-day is the inadequate supply of goods. The volume of money is increasing with greater velocity than is the supply of commodities. One proposal with which I agree is that a subsidy should be paid on woollen goods. If we are to make any substantial contribution to the stabilizing of our economy, we must immediately impose rigid controls. Not long ago, the Prime Minister said that his Government wouk not impose any controls. Now he has changed his mind and proposes to institute certain controls which I wholeheartedly endorse. The Wor situation to-day is even more serious than it was during the Avar years,- when we exported so much tallow that insufficient supplies were available for the manufacture of our soap -requirements. We must retain a sufficient quantity of wool in the country to enable us to fix the price of wool or
Ave shall be rich on paper, as the result of the sales of wool overseas, but too poor to buy it because of its high price.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad to notice that honorable senators opposite are beginning to come our way.
– Maybe the honorable senator is beginning to come our way.
– At all events, wherever I may be, I shall be amongst the intelligensia. We are now somewhat in the same position a3 Great Britain was at the. time when it declared war on America.
– Do not spoil it!
– Nature has already spoiled the honorable senator. At the time of which I speak the people .were ringing the bells and a very eminent Englishman asked why the bells .vere ringing. His secretary replied, “Britain has declared Avar on America. They are ringing the bells now; soon they will be wringing their hands “.
We have been told that the basic wage is to be increased by £1 a week. I do not believe that the increase will have immediate all-round application. A certain modus vivendi has to be adopted before the fruits of this small gift can be enjoyed by the workers generally. Women workers will in future receive 75 per cent, of the basic wage. I know of no reason why they should not be paid the full basic wage for work equal to that done by men. I have made some arithmetical calculations covering the effect of this decision. I have been appalled by the result ; it runs into millions of pounds. I have estimated that the increase of the basic wage will cost the community approximately £88.000,000. How will it affect the finances of, say, the Postal Department? How will it affect the New South “Wales Government? In the near future this Parliament will debate a bill to provide certain grants for the States. How will those payments be affected by this increase? In New South Wales tram fares have risen to fantastic heights. No doubt, honorable senators opposite will say that that is only to be expected, having regard to the fact that a Labour government is in office in that State. During the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties, hundreds of thousands of men were out of work in every State. Prior to the depression, the New South Wales Labour Government had commenced the construction of an underground railway system in Sydney. Only a small portion of the work had been completed. We suggested that advantage should be taken of the opportunity of the plentiful supply of materials and labour to complete the project. At that time men were aimlessly walking the streets in search of employment. When a worker returned home his wife would greet him at the door, saying, “Have you got a job yet?” When the unfortunate man shook his head, she would say, “ Never mind ; you will probably get one to-morrow “. The Australian anti-Labour Government at the instigation of Sir Otto Niemeyer and others of his ilk refused to sanction the provision of funds to complete the project on the ground that the New South Wales Government had no mandate to undertake it and the project was shelved. How will this increase of the basic wage affect that work? The effects of inflation are apparent throughout the community. The ordinary huckster on the street corner, even if he is an honorable chap, must sell a box of matches at -Jd. more than it cost him because he cannot sell it for less than that without making a loss. Nothing breeds inflation like inflation. Although on a per capita basis Australia is probably the richest country in the world, its people are scared to death. Their riches exist, only on paper.
We have been told that defence is of the utmost importance. If that is so, why i-3 the Minister for Defence (Mr. Harrison) in London, 14,000 miles away?
If defence is of such great importance the Government should have directed him to return to Australia. Some time ago when I was returning by ship- from a visit to the United States of America, I met the Minister and two leading theologians, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant. I became very friendly with the Catholic churchman, who occupied a very high position in his church in Victoria. He said, “ When I left Australia in 1946, when the Chifley Government was in office, I thought that it had too many controls. Now, I am satisfied that Australia is the economic wonder of the world “. At that point the Minister for Defence intervened and said, “ If we abolish Commonwealth prices control, costs, instead of being increased, will he reduced. The States can make a much better job of prices control than has the Commonwealth “. Do honorable senators opposite still believe that to be so?
– I am glad to have that admission. The Prime Minister promised the electors during the general election campaign that he would reduce the number of public servants. Although I have had very little association with public servants I have always found them helpful and efficient. My only complaint against them is that when I was helping them to select cadets for appointment to the Department pf External Affairs they would continue working until the early hours of the morning. What steps has the Prime Minister taken to honour his promise? We have been informed that since this present Government was elected to office the number of Commonwealth employees has been greatly increased.
I am glad that the opportunity has been given to us to debate this important subject. As honorable senators opposite know, I am a strong advocate for the revaluation of the £1. I cannot see any logic in the Prime. Minister’s statement that we must import machinery to enable us to produce goods not now produced in this country when he insists on the maintenance of an adverse exchange rate of 25 per cent, with the United Kingdom and 40 per cent, with the United States of America, from which countries that machinery must be obtained. Although I am a firm believer in the protection of Australian industry I believe that our economic problems are so complex that they should be thoroughly investigated by an expert body. If social services payments are increased and production remains at its present level the commodities available will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the recipients of those benefits.
The basic wage has now been fixed at £8 2s. 6d. a week. “Women workers, who will receive 75 per cent, of the male basic wage, will in future get about £6 a week. Day after day we have read in the newspapers that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has left his office at midnight tired and weary. The Cabinet haggled over the problem of the revaluation of the £1 for weeks and during that time international burglars transferred large sums of money to this country in the expectation that the exchange rate would be brought to par with sterling. How can the Government ask the workers to produce more when such a state of affairs is allowed to exist in this community? To-day, a wool-grower has so much money that he is able to go to a builder and say, “ I want a house. Build one for me “. When the contractor asks him how much he is prepared to pay he replies, “ I do not care what it costs within a thousand or two “. In 1939 our wool-clip was valued at £39,000,000. This season’s clip is valued at £450,000,000. That is why the wool-grower is able to say to a building contractor, “ If your ‘ brickey ‘ wants £2 or £3 a day, give it to him “. What incentive is given to the working man to increase production? Supporters of the Libera] party did not have the guts to say to the Treasurer and the other members of the Australian Country party as they should have done : “ The woolgrowers have had a good go; we must look after the interests of the people as a whole “. The Labour party approves of the granting of assistance to our agricultural industries when they need it. When the price of wheat fell to 2s. a bushel the La bour party helped the wheatgrowers out of their difficulties; but it will not be a. party to greasing the fatted pig. Recently the Prime Minister at the con clusion of an anaemic speech on the subject of inflation, said, “We do not intend to revalue the £1 “. If Senator Mattner was swinging a pick on a road job for £7 or £8 a week and was told by a fellow worker that in a single night he could earn more, than that amount in tips at a night club in Sydney, would he continue to swing the pick? I am sure he would not do so. If the present state of affairs is allowed to continue our economy will be destroyed. The Government must offer some incentive to the workers if it requires more production. I agree that there should be more production because the workers cannot get houses unless more materials are made available. There is no incentive for people to produce more to-day because they can see that it will be the old story over again : “ They toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was. not arrayed as one of these “. It is useless to say that the squatters work hard. No members of the community produce !c3s than they do. In many instances the very poorness of the soil is an advantage. It is well known that the wool grows while the squatters sleep, and it has been proved that if the rainfall is very heavy and the grass of too high a quality it is useless for wool-growing. The very poverty of the soil is often responsible for their wealth.
– The honorable senator is talking rot. He obviously knows nothing about the subject.
– Whether I know anything about it or not, the fact is that the sheep produce the wool. Can the Minister inform me how many men are employed in the sheep industry per capita of population ? What I wish to point out is that the wool-growers represent a section of the community which employs only a few boundary riders and shearers.
– The honorable senator obviously is thinking of 100 years ago. He is back in the days of the blades and he is speaking of something he knows nothing about.
– I do not recollect saying anything about blades.
– The honorable senator would not know what they are used for.
– I may not know rauch about it, but if the honorable gentleman is able to get into the ministry there is certainly hope for me.
– At least I talk about something I understand.
– If the Minister cannot understand what I am trying to say it is because he is a “ pommy “ like myself. In any case, I cannot understand him.
– Then we are two of a kind.
– The honorable gentleman does not understand what I am saying because he does not like it. He does not understand it because I am saying that the people who are receiving more than £450,000,000 for their wool clip employ practically no labour. Even the man engaged in mixed farming pays quite a lot for machinery. The squatters may ‘be in the Riviera in Southern France, but their sheep will be still working for them.
– They might get well shorn there.
– I appreciate that, but they can afford to be well shorn.
Let us consider what this Government is doing. “We have been told that Mr. Menzies hooked up all the radio stations’ to broadcast his wonderful talk on the contents of the budget. He told the people certain things that the Government intended to do after the budget was presented. I say emphatically that that was entirely wrong. There was once a very able British Chancellor of the Exchequer named Dr. Dalton. I knew him well, and he was a very able man, as are most members of the Labour party in England. There are also very able men in the Australian Labour party. Dr. Dalton, quite inadvertently, happened to make a comment to a pressman friend of his, just as he was entering the door of the House of Commons. The comment was made quite by accident, with no evil intent or design, and not deliberately, as was the case with the Prime Minister’s broadcast. Dr. Dalton’s remarks were published in the afternoon papers in London, simultaneously with his budget statement to the House of Commons. Such was the public consternation in Great Britain that Dr.
Dalton resigned immediately and never occupied that position again. In Australia, apparently Mr. Menzies may hawk such details with impunity. Had a Labour Prime Minister done the same thing he would have been hounded out of the country. There was also another gentleman in England, named J. T. Thomas, who had a similar experience. Although not a very intellectual man he wielded great influence in the British Labour party. He was the secretary of the railway workers union, whose members gave him a house worth £45,000. Mr. Thomas was an illiterate man and repeatedly dropped his aitches. We are told that one day when he was with Lord Birkenhead down at Plymouth, after dinner he said to Lord Birkenhead, “ I think, Fred, we will have a walk round the O ‘ “. He referred, of course, to Plymouth Hoe. Lord Birkenhead replied, “I think we have already had a walk round the aitch “. Jimmy Thomas divulged to some of his friends details of what would appear in the budget. The people of England hounded him out of the House of Commons and public life. He could never again appear as a speaker in any decent community in Great Britain because he had divulged Government secrets to individuals for their own gain. I do not say that Mr. Menzies was in alliance with certain people and was receiving money for doing what he did, but I say that hi3 action was unethical, stupid and unpardonable. The Minister for Social Services, like Dr. Dalton, made a very slight mistake, although he divulged hardly any information at all. Opposition members said at the time, “ The Minister may not divulge anything contained in the budget “. But the Prime Minister was allowed to make his broadcast because he was frightened, on ‘ this question of prices, and he commenced the broadcast by saying that that was the most important question confronting this country. When I heard him broadcasting I said to- myself, “ This is a frightful thing”, and when I looked at the stock exchange reports the next day I discovered that some shares had fallen by 2s. or 3s. That statement can be verified by reference to the Melbourne Age. The press of Australia was lacking in its duty to the public when it did not expose such a state of affairs.
I Iia ve discovered to-day that the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Chifley) is a wiser man than I thought he was, although I always did consider him wise. It was said that he overdid things and that he would not grant increases to people who needed them. But his attitude was that anything can he overdone. He held that in times of inflation there must be heavy taxes. Mr. Menzies declared that ho would reduce taxes, but any one who talks about reducing taxes in times of inflation should read some works on economics, and particularly those of Keynes. Mr. Chifley’s attitude was that there, should be heavy taxation when there is inflation and light taxation when there is a depression. That is the Keynes theory. So far as I know, no economist has even tried to contradict Marx’s theory that from the very inception of capitalism there would he depressions and that those depressions would continue to become more frequent and more profound. Whether we agree with that theory or not, it has had more influence on world thought than all the theories pf other economists put together. It has given rise to more discussion than all the other economic theories propounded by economists from Aristotle to the present time. Marx predicted that the .crises would become deeper and more frequent, and to date he has been proved correct. He declared that, there would be inflation and then wars; that wars would be caused by the struggle foi’ markets, and so on. When a depression came along the economists, particularly those of Great Britain and America, said something would have to be done. They agreed with Marx when he stated that if it were ‘ allowed to continue, the expropriators would be expropriated. Marx also stated there would be a revolution because of starvation in the midst of plenty. Then Keynes appeared on the scone and forecast another depression. That great man, President Roosevelt, acted in conformity with Keynes’ theory when he inaugurated some of the great schemes now in operation in America. Here, unfortunately, we followed the advice of a gentleman named Sir Otto Niemeyer. Since then we have learned something that the Prime Minister has not learned, which is that if we wish to be prepared for a depression and aim at averting inflation, we can only do so by increasing taxes. It was said that Mr. Chifley was parsimonious because he would not increase pensions and do this or that. He realized that even if he increased pensions-
– Keynes supported the Premiers plan.
– I do not think so, but even if he did, his last book was not written at that time. The Premiers plan is not in accordance with the Keynes theory. It is stupid for this Government to say that it can cheek the present inflationary trend with few controls, or even with no controls, and with reduced taxation. I think the Labour party is exceedingly lucky that it is not in power now. I am not one of those who believe that the Labour party can cure all the ills to which the capitalist .system gi ves rise. In my opinion, the only alternative to communism is some form of democratic socialism such as that now in operation in Great Britain. I have never been afraid to say that. The principle of the capitalist system is laisser-faire - every one for himself and the devil take the hindmost. It is too stupid.
– That went out in the nineteenth century. The honorable senator is fifty years behind the times.
– What is the individual free enterprise about which honorable senators opposite talk if it is not laisserfaire? What is objection to controls if it is not laisser-faire ? Probably the Liberal party will expel the Minister for Social Services if he repeats what he said just now. Dealing with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill,, members of the Government parties have said repeatedly that there is no difference between the Labour party and the Communists. The Government’s proposition is that if we ban the Communist party everything will be all right. Franco exterminated communism in Spain, but the cost of living in that country is higher than it is in Australia. Many Spaniards are living in caves.
– There are plenty of eaves in the Labour party at the present time.
– There is already one deserter from the Australian Country party. In view of the increase of the basic wage, I believe the budget will have to be re-drafted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the ‘bill.
– I do not want to go on labouring this point indefinitely. I say in all sincerity that it is not true, as alleged by honorable senators opposite, that we are defending the Communist party and keeping the cost of living up because we will not permit the Government to deal with the Communists. Perhaps they mean by “ deal with them “ that we should allow them to do as Henry VH I. did. He said to one of his colonels, “ Arrest the Bishop of Winchester, try him and hang him”. That reminds me of the onus of proof provisions in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. We must be serious, because we are in a very serious plight. There is no doubt that it is the workers who are suffering most from inflation. The cost’ of living will rise still further-
– Does the honorable senator mean that the .study of economic theory has come to a standstill and that there is nothing that we can do?
– I do not say there is nothing that the Government can do. 1 say that it must impose economic controls, increase taxes and, if necessary, impose a capital levy.
– Does the honorable senator advocate the fixation of wages a” well?
– I am never afraid to answer an intelligent question. If the Government fixes the price of commodities in Australia, including wool, the honorable senator can ask me that question then. If the Government , believes that the workers will agree to wage-pegging while, the wool-growers have an open go, the maximum price, of wool now being -40d. per lb. and the average price approximately 120d. per lb., it should think again..
– The honorable senator said he advocated the institution of controls. I have asked him a simple question. . Does he believe that wages should be fixed?
– Wages are controlled now. There are margins for skill.
– The rates fixed are not maximum rates.
– They are minimum rates, but the fact that there is a minimum rate has a great effect upon the maximum rate.
– Does the honorable senator include wage-pegging among the controls he is advocating?
– There is a library in this building. It is not as good as it should be, but I advise the honorable senator to visit it and read the books upon this subject that are available there.. I know that capitalism is so full of contradictions that-
– It is not like Senator Grant to avoid a straight question.
– What was the question ?
– Does the honorable senator believe in pegging wages ?
– I do not. I say that we can discuss that matter when the prices of all commodities in Australia have been fixed. The Prime Minister said the other night, and it has been said also by other members of the Government parties, that prices of commodities have not increased to a greater degree this year than in the previous year. I do not believe that, nor do the housewives, despite the figures based upon the “ C “ series index or any other index. Not one person in any of the capital cities of Australia believes that the cost of living has not increased more during the last six months than it did during the previous six months.
– What is the use of having a Government Statistician?
– The “O” series index is based upon certain commodities. The prices of fruit and many vegetables are not taken into consideration. Something drastic must be done. I put this to the Senate before I finish.
– I ask Senator Grant not to finish jet. If he sits clown now, we shall have to listen to another honorable senator opposite, and we prefer to liston to him.
– The New South Wales Government and the Labour party in that State have been subjected to much criticism in relation to electricity failures, the cost of power houses, and other matters. The Sydney electricity undertaking was once controlled by the Sydney City Council. During thu many years that 1 was a member of the electricity committee none of the members of the committee was paid. Then a New South Wales government of which the brother of the Minister for Social Services was a member introduced a bill into the New South Wales Parliament. It provided for the electricity undertaking to be taken out of the hands of the City Council and controlled by five councillors elected by the alderman. The proposal was so “ hot “ that American bondholders refused to accept it unless they were offered security by the City Council, and a Liberal Government gave it to them. Mr. Forbes Mackay contrived to get himself appointed as manager of the undertaking at a salary of £3,500 a year. He is dead now, I am sorry to say. At least, I am sorry to say what I am saying when he is dead, which is somewhat different from saying that I am sorry he is dead. The first thing that the councillors did was to put their heads together, elect one of their number as chairman and agree to pay him £500 a yeal1. We did our work for nothing in the City Council, and there was not a. scandal in our time. The Bunnerong powerhouse was built by the City Council. We had. plans ready for years ahead; other units were ready to be built. I suggested that generators should be obtained from Germany, but my proposal was rejected. Then the councillors increased the pay of the chairman to £750, £1,000, £1250,’ and eventually £1,500 a year. Later the present honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) became chairman. The whole thing has been a washout from the time that the bill to which I have referred was passed at the instance of a Liberal government that was put out of office because the brother of the Minister for Social Services accused the Premier of faking his own budget. But be that as it may. The press has been saying that the blackouts in Sydney are due to the activities of the Communists, but the blame for them can be laid at the door of legislation introduced into the New South Wales Parlia-‘ ment by a Liberal government. I was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council at that time, and when I hear honorable senators opposite talk about the Labour party in this chamber taking the conduct of business out of the hands of the Government I am reminded of what happened in those days. In the upper house of the New South Wales Parliament then there were seven knights. It was a house of terrible knights. That old tory, Sir John Peden, was president of the council then. When a proposal was made with which they did not agree, they moved that it be referred to a select committee, the question was put, and nothing further could be done.
We are facing a crisis, and something has to be done. I arn- glad that the present Government and not the Labour party is faced with the task of dealing with it. The Government says it can handle the crisis if the Communist Party Dissolution Bill is passed, but I say that if that bill were passed the Government would be in a far worse mess than it is in now. If it thinks that it can handle the economic crisis, inflation, defence preparations, the trade unions, the Labour party and the Communists together, it. is pretty good. The intellectual standard of the contributions made by honorable senators opposite to the debates in this chamber is not very high. Every one of them says, “ Communist, Communist ‘”. If it began to rain before question time began in this chamber and I were to ask the Minister to tell me what caused the rain, probably he would say it was the Communists. The ordinary people of this country are not very interested in the Communists. The average housewife is more interested in obtaining sufficient food and clothing for her family. Today many housewives buy only a quarter of a cabbage instead of a whole cabbage as formerly, and instead of taking home a dozen oranges, they cannot afford to buy any. Those women who still buy oranges and other fruit cannot afford to get their furniture renovated, or to replace worn-out floor coverings in their homes. On many occasions recently I have been asked by people in the street what is going to happen, and how they are going to continue to live, because of rising prices. Not one person in the street has asked me a question about communism. There is no denying that people are worse off now than formerly. I am convinced that members of Parliament are worse off now than if their parliamentary allowances had not been raised. Although I was pleased to hear the Minister for Social Services announce this evening that an increase of 7s. 6d. a week would be granted to age and invalid pensioners, those unfortunate people will still find it difficult to make ends meet. Before this’ debate is concluded, I should like one of the Ministers to inform the Senate whether the Government favours the proposal that the Commonwealth should be again vested with power to control prices. I should also like an admission by honorable senators opposite that the attitude that they adopted during the rents and prices referendum in 1948 was a wrong attitude. I was very pleased that Mr. Holland, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, saw fit to admit recently that his predecessor in office, Mr. Nash, who is an extraordinarily able man, was right when he revalued the New Zealand currency.
– Does that mean that the present Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Chifley) was wrong last year?
– Not necessarily, localise it was impossible to tell at that time; it was an entirely different situation. The inflationary tendency was not then so pronounced as it is now. It must he. remembered that the right honorable gentleman’s decision may have been influenced by political expediency, and in :’ 11 /. case, he did not have much time to think it over. Furthermore, the cost of living has not risen in New Zealand to the degree that it has risen in this country. 7Tn..,..1,1. senators opposite should admit that the position here is entirely different. In my opinion the Australian currency should be immediately revalued.
– Your -colleague, Senator Armstrong, would not be prepared to agree with you.
– I remind the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that he should not permit the other members of the Cabinet to influence his judgment.
– It is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
– I suggest that there are two tales* - the one that I will not tell now, and the other that I told the first time. It must be apparent to. the Government that it will not be able to continue to buy and sell Australian currency as it has been doing. What is there to prevent the AttorneyGeneral from saying emphatically tomorrow that the Australian currency must be revalued ? Unless the Government takes this step, the position will deteriorate still further. It is patently uneconomic to obtain capital machinery from dollar areas, to implement vast projects in this country, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, at the present rate of exchange. It is not right that our currency should stand at a discount compared with the currency of Great Britain. When I was in Singapore recently, it was obvious to me that the international speculators there were not keen on either English or Australian currency. They realize that, just as on a racecourse, false prices cannot be offered for long. I suggest to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that -he should make up his mind on this issue to-night. He should also endeavour to persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet that it is ridiculous to allow, for income tax purposes, a depreciation deduction of 40 per cent, for certain machinery and motor vehicles. Something must be done to correct the watering of capital that is at present taking place.
I repeat that the average person is more interested in what he can buy with his wages than who shall control the Commonwealth Bank. What does he care whether the Commonwealth Bank is controlled by Dr. Coombs, or myself, or a board? Everybody knows that the problem will be the harder to solve as a result of the fi a week increase in the basic wage announced to-day. The Opposition realizes that the Government is faced with a huge task, and, if the Government desires to do anything, in accordance with the principles of Labour, to correct the position, it can count on the assistance of the Opposition, because honorable senators on this side of the chamber have the interests of Australia and Australians at heart. Honorable senators opposite are well aware that the Opposition agreed to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill under certain conditions. The Minister for Trade and Customs claims that the Government has a mandate from the people for the bill in its present form. However, I defy the Prime Minister or any of his Ministers to show me where it was indicated in the Prime Minister’s policy speech that he would introduce a measure to ban Communists, but placing onus of proof of innocence on the individual. Honorable senators opposite appear to forget that one of the cornerstones of British justice is that a man is innocent until proved guilty. Senator Wright is attempting to interject. Why does he not make a speech on this subject? He is a likeable sort of fellow, a quick-change artist, who appears to be able to change his countenance from one reflecting the direst gloom, to the nicest smile, as occasion demands. Of course, I believe that this is only the second time that he has been on the mainland; he will be all right when he advances along the road a little further.
– I presume the honorable senator is addressing the Chair?
– We have had a very entertaining evening, and although I have endeavoured to introduce humour into lIly remarks, the position is very serious, and one that the Government should take urgent steps to remedy.
– The honorable senator cannot justify his remarks in that way.
– As I have told Senator Wright before, mother nature has already made a job of him, and I will not try to improve on her work. However, I appeal to honorable senators opposite to call a combined meeting of the parties that they support, and endeavour to solve the problems with which the country is confronted. Australia is really in a_ terrific mess, and such a drastic situation requires drastic remedies.
– We are debating a bill for a referendum to enable the people to decide whether power to control prices should ‘ be vested in the Commonwealth. I wish to refer to the mathematical genius who furnished honorable senators with some figures this afternoon. I refer to Senator Mattner, who will probably be declared for having broken the silence on the Government side of the chamber. He referred to potatoes. I wish to make it clear to the Senate that in South Australia there is a potato board, and the price for potatoes in South Australia was fixed at £19 a ton at Mount Gambier. Just across the border, the price was £23 a ton. Although the growers in that area were supposed to send certain quantities of potatoes to the board in Adelaide, in some instances they sold their crops to buyers in Victoria, in order to obtain the higher price. I mention this matter merely for the purpose of showing that the States are not able to control prices as effectively as the Commonwealth can. The honorable senator stated that Senator Katz had claimed that vegetable growers at Mildura were carting peas to the market in Sydney. This was in true Rip Van Winkle style, because I heard Senator Katz say that their crops were carted to the markets by carriers. The sole object of Senator Katz’s discourse was to bring to the notice of the Senate that vegetables grown in Victoria were being sold on the Sydney market, in order to obtain higher prices. So that honorable senators shall have no doubt about this matter, I have obtained from Senator Katz the clipping from the Argus to which he referred. It reads -
£150,000 FOE VEGETABLES.
Growers Make Fortunes.
Mildura, Sunday. - A group of 10 vegetable growers in the Mildura district has received £150,000 in the past two months, carting peas to Sydney. Grape-growers, with peas “us ;t sideline, are sharing in the fortunes now being made from the Melbourne and Sydney vegetable markets. In the greatest freight air-lift Mildura airport has known, thousands of bags of peas have been flown to Sydney. Hundreds of thousands more have gone by road transport. An average of half a million .hags a week has been sent in the last two months tu Sydney, where as much as 2s. a pound wholesale has been paid by retailers.
Some grape-growers have planted peas between rows of vines.
After picking the peas they plough the plants in for manure for the vines.
At Nangiloc, a few miles from Mildura, other vegetable-growers are sending an average of 3,000 dozen hunches of carrots to the Melbourne market. These growers are receiving about £2,100 a week.
A fleet of semi-trailer transport trucks carts the carrots 350 miles from Nangiloc to Melbourne.
I have read the whole of the newspaper report so that no one can accuse me of concealing anything. Senator Katz was trying to show that those who produce or handle primary products will sell them on the highest market, and that they will evade State prices regulations where possible by sending goods over the border. Senator Mattner should stick to the facts, and not attempt to twist statements made by other honorable senators.
– I did not do so.
– The honorable senator did, and I have a vivid recollection of his having done the same sort of thing on a previous occasion. During the last election campaign, candidates representing the parties which support the present Government made all sorts of statements on the subject of prices. In South Australia, they sponsored advertisements in the Adelaide Advertiser, the Adelaide News and in the Mail, a weekly paper, which we call the Sunday Mail, although it is actually printed on Saturday. The absurdity of some of the statements in those advertisements should now be apparent to the Australian people. In order that tho fallacies propounded by our political opponents may be more clearly recognized, I refer to an advertisement that was published in the Adelaide Advertiser just before the last election, bearing a reproduction of the signature of Robert GMenzies, ‘ who is now Prime Minister.
The advertisement contained these words -
A change of Government will mean to the people of Australia a lower cost of living through increased production.
In another advertisement in the Advertiser, which carried a picture of Mr. Menzies, surrounded by a lot of decoration, the following words appeared : -
The Liberal Party, as soon as returned, will take prompt steps, along essentially practical lines, to remedy the present disastrous position, and will, by encouragement of incentives, to increase production, stabilize and progressively -reduce prices.
Both those advertisements placed the emphasis on increased production as a factor making for reduced prices. Now let us examine some statements made by responsible persons, as compared with the statements made by the irresponsible people who inserted the advertisements to which I have referred. Everybody will admit that Sir Frank Beaurepaire is a responsible man. He is chairman of the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company of Australia. According to a report in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 3rd August, 1950, he said that the volume of sales by the company had increased, largely due to the equipment of factories with modern plant. It is evident, therefore, that the use of modern plant was responsible for increased production, but did that increase of production lead to a reduction of price? Of course it .did not. I know that other factors are involved besides the volume of production, but at the moment I am answering the claim that increased production must tend to reduce prices. The price of rubber goods went up in August last by between 10 and 50 per cent., and only a fortnight ago prices were increased by another 10 per cent; yet the volume of production is increasing.
On the 3rd August, there was published a statement by the chairman of the woolselling brokers to the effect that last year’s wool clip was about 357,000 bales, whereas this year the clip would be about 372,000 bales. Some of this year’s clip has already reached the market It is obvious that there has been a considerable increase of wool production. Any woman who goes into a shop to buy a skein of wool will say that the price of wool has increased, in spite of the fact that more wool, is being produced now than before. She also knows that the price of woollen fabrics has increased. Even the price of the raw material has increased, notwithstanding the increased quantity being produced. Thus, increased production of . primary products does not, in fact, lead to a reduction of price.
A’ motor distributing firm made a profit of £250,000 last year as against £73,983 the previous year. Nearly three times as many cars were sold as during the previous year. According to the statements issued by. the Liberal party, increased sales should have led to a redaction of price, but the price of cars rose, in fact, by £15 each; and this, notwithstanding the fact that there had been no alteration of the exchange rate, or’ of primage and customs duties or of sales tax.
In the Adelaide Advertiser of the 27th July there is published a summary of an interim report issued by Hoadley’s Chocolate Company covering the period up to the 30th June, 1950, which points out that there were “ increased sales and a maintenance of profit margins on a satisfactory basis “. Nevertheless, the price of chocolates and cocoa has increased, notwithstanding that production has also increased.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. . Gordon Brown). - Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint- ments - Department -
Repatriation - R. H. Brent, W. h. Forsyth.
Trade and Customs - A. E. A. Weaver.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twentyfifth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1949-50.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19501012_senate_19_209/>.