19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– During the weekend I was asked by many exservicemen whether there was any truth in a rumour, that is being freely circulated, that income tax. will be levied upon war gratuity payments that will be made next year. Will the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether it is the intention of the Government to treat those war gratuity payments as income upon which income tax will he levied ?
– I have no idea why the rumour to which the honorable senator has referred is in circulation. War gratuity payments are not income within the meaning of the income tax legislation, and income tax will not he levied upon them.
– I desire to inform the’ Senate that delegates from the Union of South Africa and -Southern Rhodesia tranches of the Commonwealth . Parliamentary Association, who are en route to New .Zealand, are present in the gallery of the Senate. The delegates are the Honorable O. M. van Coller Senator the Honorable J. Duthie, Dr. P. J. van Nierop, and Mr. G. J. Sutter, members of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa; Mr. K. O. Stockil, a member of the Southern Rhodesian Parliament’; and Mr. J. P. Knoll, Clerk of the Senate of the Union of South Africa. On behalf of the Senate, I extend to them a very cordial welcome.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear”!
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen a press report of the opinion that has been expressed by the acting Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, Mr. Justice Foster, that the court cannot settle final details of the new basic wage increases until the Commonwealth amends the act, in order to overcome a difficulty that has arisen because of the absence on sick leave of Chief Judge Kelly? As it would appear that the basie wage increases could be delayed indefinitely, because of this factor, to the detriment of many hundreds of thousands of men and women workers in this country, will the Government introduce the necessary amending legislation without delay?
– I am aware of the difficulty that has arisen by reason of the absence of the Chief Judge from the court through illness, and I assure the honorable senator that the matter is at present receiving earnest attention. If any steps have to be taken to rectify the position, appropriate action will be taken as speedily as possible.
asked ‘the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will the Attorney-General agree to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1304-1949 to provide for the creation nf an Australian economic council, to comprise the Commonwealth Statistician and an economist from each of the six States, for the purpose of devising methods for .the collection and compilation of information which will permit of the basic wage being adjusted automatically according to the prosperity of the industries of Australia which are (a) below average prosperity; (f>) of average prosperity; and (o) above average prosperity?
-r-The questions asked by the honorable senator involve matters not only .of law but also of Government policy, with which it is not customary to deal in answering questions. It may be useful, however, to -draw attention .to the fact’ that the power’ of the Parliament is not to -determine or prescribe industrial matters, but to establish authorities for dealing “with them by the two methods of ‘conciliation and arbitration. In part at least the proposals of the honorable senator would appear to he altogether beyond this power. I shall, however, bring his suggestions to the notice’ of the Minister for Labour arid National Service.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether the inadequacy of authority conferred on conciliation commissioners by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been a -cause of the prolonged strike by railway employees in Victoria? If so, will he institute the necessary action to amend that legislation suitably, as soon as possible.? Is the Minister able to say whether the conciliation commissioners exercised all of their, powers when dealing with the dispute .that I have referred- to? If not, will the Minister take action to have them removed from office?
– The difficulties that have arisen in relation to the present unfortunate railway dispute in Victoria are, I think, in a large part, attributable to the division of jurisdiction between, conciliation commissioners and the judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and. Arbitration, under the legislation that, was enacted by the previous Government against the criticism of the then Opposition, parties, which now comprise the Government. I am not prepared, in answer to a question, to indicate what course the Government may take. That is a matter of policy. As the honorable senator knows, it is not customary to deal with matters of policy when answering questions. Whether the conciliation commissioners concerned exhausted the whole of the jurisdiction that they have is a nice question of law, which I am not prepared to answer by way of reply to a question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the present industrial dispute between the railway commissioners of three States and the railway unions has caused much public inconvenience and loss of revenue? Have the conciliation commissioners concerned in this matter refused, to write into the relative award the mutual agreement reached between the railway commissioners and the unions? If so, why? As the dispute has affected five States and is accordingly of such a character as to bring it within federal jurisdiction, will the Government, in the public interest, intervene with a view to having the agreement mutually arrived at between the disputant parties recognized and written into the relevant railway award ?
– As I have already intimated to the Senate, I understand that steps are being taken in Melbourne to-day-
– Is the Government taking steps?
– The conciliation commissioners, who form part of the industrial arbitration organization, are charged with the function of dealing with problems of this kind. They are taking certain steps to-d’ay which may lead to the satisfactory solution of a number of difficulties that are attributable to the form in which the act was cast by the previous Government.. In these circumstances, I ask the honorable senator no* to be impatient. It is possible that the reason for his question may no longer exist by to-morrow - at least we hope so.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether the Government has taken any action to bring about a settlement of the railway dispute in Victoria and in some other States? If so, what has been done, and is there hope of an early settlement?
– I gather from press reports, and from reports that I have received from other sources to-day, that active steps are being taken which might lead to a settlement. We all hope that they will.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer make arrangements for the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to be printed and distributed to honorable senators prior to the presentation of a bill to give effect to the recommendations contained therein, so that honorable senators may have an opportunity to study the implications of the recommendations before being called upon to debate them?
– I shall endeavour to make the arrangement that the honorable senator has requested.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy seen a report in yesterday’s Melbourne Age, from a special Age correspondent in Korea, to the effect that naval ratings aboard the two Australian destroyers operating off Korea are suffering personal hardship because of the inadequate supply of coldweather clothing available? What action is the Government taking to remedy this unpardonable state of affairs?.
– Although I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred, by coincidence I was talking to the Minister foc the Navy about this matter at lunch-time to-day. Without reference to any newspaper report, the Minister told me of special arrangement that he had made to purchase winter equipment for members of the Navy, Army and Air Force. Therefore, if the newspaper report is critical of my colleague, it is quite unjustified, because I know that he is acting very energetically in the best interests of service men.
– On the 12th October, Senator Mattner asked whether Scottish pipe bands in Australia could be permitted, under existing by-laws, to import pipes and kilts duty free. I am now able fro inform the honorable senator that bagpipes which qualify for admission under the British preferential tariff are admissible duty free. Kilts do not qualify under existing by-law tariff items because similar articles are made in Australia.
– Yesterday, a deputation brought to my notice a statement alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister in reference to the appointment of Dr. H. W. Arndt, as Professor of Economics at the Canberra University College. The statement of the Prime Minister is referred to in the following newspaper report which carries a Canberra date line : -
Hie Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said to-night he was “ not concerned about the political beliefs of men appointed to academic posts “.
He said the Government would take no action about the appointment of Dr. H. W. Arndt as Professor of Economics at Canberra University College.
Mr. McMahon (Lib. N.S.W.) had declared in the House of Representatives on October 1] that Dr. Arndt was a member of the Fabian Society, favored bank nationalization, and opposed the Communist Party Dissolution Act.
At his press conference to-night, Mr. Menzies said the appointment had nothing to do with the Government, but, in any case, he would not require a man to state his politics if lie had the qualifications for the job.
Members of the deputation complained that, whilst the Communist Party Dissolution Act was to be directed against certain persons associated with trade unions, members of the professions were, apparently to remain outside its scope.
I ask the Minister for Trade and Customswhether the Prime Minister was correctly reported. If the Minister does not know, will he consult with the Prime Minister in order to find out whether the report is accurate ?
– I did not see the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred. However, it would not be necessary for me to read it to know that the Prime Minister is a man of extremely liberal views. The general public are also well aware of that fact. The Prime Minister is not concerned with witch hunting. If a man had the academic qualifications for the position to which he was appointed, and if in that, position his views were not likely to endanger the welfare or safety of the country, the Prime Minister would not bother about what political or philosophical views the man held. The question of the appointee’s views would arise only, if, in the position to which he was appointed, he was likely, because of those views, to menace national safety. Should that be the position the Prime Minister would take appropriate action, but not otherwise.
– In reply to a question that I asked some time ago, the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that efforts would be made to have adequate supplies of rice made available fro Tasmania. In view of the fact that, in that State, people who previously were able to obtain rice on the order of a medical practitioner are not now able to d-o so, will the Minister take whatever steps are within his power to have sufficient quantities of this commodity made available to the Tasmanian people?
– This matter comes within the province of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who has now returned to this country. I appreciate the urgency of the matter and will bring it to his notice immediately with a view to having the situation remedied promptly.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Falkinder) waa sent to the United Kingdom to arrange contracts for the sale of Australian fruit. As the honorable member has now returned to this country, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he expects to be able to make a statement to the Senate at an early date on the results of the honorable member’s work? I should like to know whether his efforts to secure contracts wore successful, and, if so, what percentage of the Australian apple crop is expected to be exported to the United Kingdom, and at what price?
– I am sure that the visit by the honorable member for Franklin to the United Kingdom on this occasion was just as successful as was his previous visit while a distinguished member of the Royal Australian Air Force. The British Government has indicated that, in future, Australian apples will be purchased on a trader to trader basis. The honorable member for Franklin interviewed various firms and made what I consider to be satisfactory arrangements. I remind Senator Aylett that, last year, the United Kingdom ordered approximately 3,000,000 cases of apples, and that Australia could supply only about half »f that order. This year, growers will be asked to obtain export licences, and 1 am certain that, as a result of the work of the honorable member for Franklin, they will get a better deal than they got last year when the Chifley Government was in office.
– A. press report which was published in Western Australian newspapers on the 29th October, states that there is to be a re-shuffle of the Cabinet, in view of the fact that the Cabinet, as at present constituted, does not contain a representative from Western Australia, will the Minister for Trade and Customs impress on the Prime Minister the necessity for the inclusion of. such a representative should there be a re-shuffle of the Cabinet?
– I am sure ‘ that the Prime Minister will be heartened by the interest which the honorable sena tor has displayed in the constitution of the Cabinet. I assure him that regardless of what States may be represented in the Cabinet, this Government takes an Australia- wide view of all matters that come before it for consideration.
asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth coal subsidy scheme relates only to coal which has been or will be imported from overseas by the States of Victoria and South Australia, either on their own account or on Commonwealth account, during the period from the 1st April. 1950, to the 30th June, 1951. Since the 1st April, 1950, the Commonwealth has paid £370,S36 to the Victorian Government by way of subsidy in respect of coal imported into Victoria from overseas. No payments have yet been made to the South Australian Government. During the period from the 1st April, 1950, to the 30th September, 3:950, 196,442 tons of coal were imported into Victoria from overseas, of which 106,445 tons were on Commonwealth account and 89,997 on State account. The quantity imported into South Australia during the same period was 139,874 tons, of which 50,319 tons were on Commonwealth account and 89,555 tons on State account.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has furnished the following reply: -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended .as would prevent the resumption of the debate upon Government Business, Order oi the Day No. 1 (Commonwealth Bank Bill), being called on forthwith.
I assure the Senate that it gives me no pleasure again to propose that the Senate proceed to discuss business introduced by the Government. The Opposition, for reasons of its own - upon the merits of which I am quite prepared to allow the people of Australia to express their judgment - delayed the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. At the moment, however, there appears no valid reason why the Opposition should frustrate the Government in its endeavours to carry out the mandate given to it by the people last December. I remind honorable senators opposite that the Opposition in this chamber represents a rejected minority, because at the last general election, the Government received in every State a majority in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, and a majority overall in the Senate of 23 to 19.’ “When the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was before the Parliament, the Labour party had every opportunity to send the Government back to the people. Every circumstance favorable to a double dissolution was present, with the exception of the courage of the Labour party to face the people. If the Opposition is not prepared to face the Government before the tribunal of the people, it should not, by using its hangover majority, attempt to lay its decadent and rejected hand upon the helm of State. That helm is in capable and virile hands. In fairness to the people of Australia, the Government should not be delayed in giving effect to its mandate.
.TheOpposition opposes the motion submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs. (Senator O’sullivan). We regard theConstitution Alteration (Prices) Bill as a very important measure. The PrimeMinister (Mr. Menzies), in a broadcast, to the nation during the week-end, said that he was being impeded in carrying out the business of government. He alleged that one of his hands was tied behind his. back. In the opinion of the Opposition, the people of Australia are hobbled, because the Government has taken no steps, to deal with the problem of constantly rising .prices. That is one of the most important problems confronting this country at the present time. We believe that, the Constitution Alteration (Prices’) Bill is. of more importance to the peopleof Australia than is the Commonwealth. Hank Bill, and we shall press for it to be debated again this afternoon.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) £3.84].. - I oppose the motion. Despite the claim made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) that the Opposition in this chamber represents only a minority of the Australian people, honorable senators have a duty to protect the interests of the States that return them to the Parliament. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill is a measure of great importance. It is the only measure introduced into the Parliament during the last ten months which contains any concrete suggestions for preventing or curbing the inflation that is gaining momentum in this country every week. Although the Minister has claimed that the Commonwealth Bank Bill is of far greater importance than that measure, he has not told us of any dispute between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank or stated that the bank is not efficiently giving effect to the wishes of the Government. If it is not doing so, it is the ‘Government’s fault, because the Treasurer reigns supreme over the Governor of the bank and is empowered, under the existing legislation, to issue directions to him. The passage of the Commonwealth Bank Bill would not improve the economic position of this country one iota. ‘ How can it ,be argued logically that it is of far greater importance than a measure designed to secure an alteration of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth authority, which it does not now possess, to deal with prices? Inflation is the most urgent problem that has confronted this country since the end of the war. The prices of all commodities are increasing every day, and they will continue to increase unless the Commonwealth is empowered to exercise control over them. The Minister knows that that is so, but apparently he does not desire to present any proposal for curbing the price increases which are disturbing Australia’s economy so much. He has said that the Government might have been able to prevent price increases if the Labour party had not hindered the Government in its efforts to secure the passage of another measure. The Minister knows, although he does not like to admit it, that that bill was passed months ago. He has accused the Labour party of lacking courage, but it is the Government parties that lack courage. The Government had the Communist Party Dissolution Bill five months ago, but it lacked the courage to put it into operation. It was not game to ban the Communist party. Five months ago, the Government had everything that it wanted in the Commonwealth Bank Bill except authority to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board. If the absence of a board were adversely affecting the economy of this country in any way and causing price increases or stoppages of industry, this motion would receive the wholehearted support of every honorable senator on this side of the chamber, but, as the Minister cannot prove that the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank is adversely affecting the stability of our economy, we should be foolish, irrespective of whether we represent a minority or a majority of the people or whether we represent States or organizations, to agree to a stupid proposition to by-pass a measure of great importance to the economy of this country and give priority to one that is of no importance. I say that it isof no importance because, under the present legislation, the Government is in supreme command of the financial policy of Australia.
– During the last three weeks it has been clearly demonstrated that one thing that the Opposition does not desire to do, at any rate in a hurry, is to take a vote on its own bill. That measure has had precedence over Government business since the 12th October. On numerous occasions, honorable senators on this side of the chamber have moved that the question be put. The motions for the second and third readings of the bill could have been carried in this chamber at least a fortnight ago.
– Will Government senators support the bill?
– Whether we will support the bill or not is beside the point. Honorable senators opposite have commanded 34 votes in this chamber from the beginning of the debate, and they are quitecapable of passing that measure whenever they wish to do so. The Government has demonstrated that it has no desire to obstruct the measure. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have even refrained from speaking on it. As I have already pointed out, supporters of the Government moved on numerous occasions that the question should be put. On every such occasion honorablesenators opposite have voted against that motion. I can only draw the conclusion that the Opposition has no desire to hurry with the bill, although, when it was introduced, honorable senators opposite claimed that it was more urgent than any Government business. The truth is that the debate on that bill provides a convenient means whereby the Opposition can prevent the Government from dealing with Government business. I emphasize that that measure is being used merely as a method of obstruction, in order that the Labour party may avoid getting into the position of failing to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Honorable senators opposite do not want to get into that position, but they want to get onto the record something that appears to be an excuse for not going on with business that should be dealt with. My assertion could be put to the test this afternoon. The Government would not prevent the passage of the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill this afternoon, if the Opposition so desired. When this motion has been disposed of there is no reason why that measure should not be immediately voted on. Then the Opposition would obtain everything that it wants. I suggest that the failure of the Opposition to accept such a proposal is an indication that it desires merely to obstruct the Government and prevent honorable senators on this side of the chamber from dealing with business that should be dealt with. On the 12th October we were told that the bill introduced by Senator McKenna was a most urgent measure. But even now the Opposition is not prepared to seize the opportunity to obtain all that it can obtain from the Senate in respect of that measure. Honorable senators opposite know that the bill could have no practical legal effect until it has been passed by the Senate, and then by the House of Representatives, or, if the House of Representatives declined to pass it, the measure would have to be passed again by this chamber and then submitted to a referendum. Although that procedure could occupy six months the Opposition refuses to take the opportunity to pass the bill through this chamber to-day, in order to enable us to proceed with Government business.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) 3.45] . - The unreality of the motion that has been moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) is most apparent when it is remembered that if every remaining honorable senator on the Oppositon side spoke on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill there would he only five or six more speeches from this side of the chamber. If each of those honorable senators addressed the Senate the debate on that bill so far as the Opposition is concerned, would probably he concluded later to-day. Yet the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) n censes the Opposition of seeking to delay t he passage of a bill that it has introduced.
If the Minister were to refer to the notice-paper he would see a notice of a motion standing in my name which would have the effect of cutting down the time required for dealing with that bill by three weeks. That is a complete answer to the allegation of the Attorney-General that the Opposition is seeking to delay the passage of this measure. In the absence of that motion, in accordance with the Standing Orders, there would be a lapse of 21 days. The truth is, of course, that it is the Government that is playing politics in regard to this matter. It made specific promises to the people to reduce living costs and to put value back into the £1. Although those promises were made without any qualification, they have been repudiated by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). I undertake at a more appropriate time to bring into this chamber a handful of Liberal party advertisements promising those particular things in completely unqualified terms.
The Attorney-General has spoken about tests. Although honorable senators opposite have apparently not yet realized the truth, the fact is that it is they who are being subjected to a test. During .the debate on this issue - the most vital issue affecting the people of Australia to-day - they have sat mutely by, no more than six or seven of a total of 26 voicing their opinions.
The Government claims that it has a mandate in the matter of banking. The Commonwealth Bank Bill goes far beyond the proposals that were put to the people in that matter, even if one were to concede that honorable senators opposite have a mandate, which I do not. This is ail a part of the game of politics that this’ Government has played from the beginning of its term of office to avoid facing up to the real issues that confront Australia to-day. As Senator Aylett has pointed out, the Government was given the opportunity in June last to ban the Communist party and it auxiliaries, and to deal with its members who were in the Public Service or occupying office in trade unions. Procedural matters involving civil rights constituted practically the only differences between the Government and the Opposition. This Government still cannot move in the matter. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) has said, the Government has hobbled the people. There is a responsibility on every member of the Opposition who feels strongly on the subject of prices to express himself. The reason for the silence of the honorable senators opposite is that they cannot justify the attitude of the Government. If anybody wants to judge the urgency of this measure it is only necessary to consider the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The motion for tin: second reading of the bill to amend the Constitution to provide for the control of prices was moved on a. Wednesday, and on the following night the Prime Minister monopolized half an hour of the time of all of the radio stations in this country to broadcast a speech’ about prices. He followed that up on the Friday night by doing a thing unprecedented in Australian politics. The Prime Minister took the budget proposals out ,of the hands of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and broadcast them to the nation before they had been submitted to the Parliament. That shows how urgent, i:i the opinion of the Prime Minister, is this matter of prices. The Government lias been playing politics. As a matter of fact, members of the Government were vastly disappointed when their efforts failed to bring about a double dissolution of the Parliament over the issue of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. The Government wished to go to the country on the false claim that the Labour party was in some way allied with or sympathetic towards Communists or communism. The dismay of the Government when we gave it the bill was evident for all to see. We intend to proceed with the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, and there need be no great delay. However, the Opposition invites at lea.st some Government supporters to stand in their places and state their opposition to a measure which is of such im portance to the community. There is a thief in every home in Australia to-day. He is taking a. little bit of the family’s food, a little bit of the savings of the people, taking away the chance of the worker to own his own home and furniture. He is taking a little bit more every day, and he is in every home at once. He ought to be arrested, but what is the Government doing about it ? The Government has been playing politics on the Communist issue, and on the issue of the Commonwealth Bank Board. It is playing for an election. Well, it may get one, and if it does it may get. a great surprise. I invite the Government, to say what it proposes to do to arrest the thief that is in every home in the country. Do honorable senators opposite propose to stand mutely by, without even the courage to declare themselves? So far, I believe, only two supporters of the Government in this chamber have stated that they are opposed to the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. Senator Henty opposed it on the ground that the bill provided for the permanent transfer of power to the Commonwealth. Senator Annabelle Rankin opposed it for other reasons which she particularized. I should like supporters of the Government to state why they are opposed to the bill.
– It is humbug.
– The Opposition, will not accept the motion.
– I wish to draw attention to the delay that has occurred in implementing the Communist Party Dissolution Act. The Government has been in office for over ten months, and a great deal has been said about the mandate which it was supposed to have been given by the people. The most important mandate the Government received was to guard the economy of the country, and it is not doing that. The Government was certainly not given a mandate to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a board. The anti-Labour parties fought the election on the issue of bank nationalization, but that issue had really been decided by the High Court, and later by the Privy Council. It, was ruled that no Commonwealth government had power to nationalize banking or any other industry without the specific consent of the people, so that all the talk during the election campaign about nationalization was just so much nonsense. Ministers have repeated.lv charged the Opposition with giving the Communist party six months in which to wind up its affairs and go underground. That, of course, is untrue. The Opposition was ready in June last to agree to the banning of the Communist party. However, the Government kept the Parliament in recess from June until October, although the banning- of the Communist party was supposed -to be angent. When the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) was in opposition, he frequently criticized the Labour Government for not calling the Parliament together- more frequently. If the Com.munist menace isi so great, and if the Governmnent believes the Commonwealth Bank. Board- to bc so necessary, it should have called the Senate together long before the 4th October. The Government has. done nothing to- restore value to the £1, and it took over ten months to honour its- promise- to servicemen to- increase pensions.
– And then it gave only a miserable increase.
– That is, so. I. am not afraid of a double dissolution. We have placed the Communist Party Dissolution Act. in the Government’s lap, and have told it to go ahead and implement the measure.. When Senator- Cooke asked the Attorney-General when the bill was to be implemented, the honorable gentleman was unable to answer him. He implied tha-t so.- long as individual’ Communists did not constitute a danger to the country they could remain in’ their positions. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, is of the utmost importance to every family in. Australia. It is not correct to- say that no suggestions regarding prices have emanated, from this side of the chamber.. Long, before- the last conference o£ Commonwealth and State Ministers: I said that the Government should discuss prices control with the- Premiers. Prices administra. tion is costing Australia £600,000- a year, hut. it has proved to be quite ineffective. Now the- Government is anxious to go to the- country on an issue that will appeal to the people. If the Government contests the election: on the prices issue,, there will be m-any- vacancies in the ranks of Governnent supporters after the election. The people expected the Government to stabilize, prices, hut they- have been disappointed. What does the Government do? It: blames the Korean war-. It says, that defence must have priority. Honorable senators opposite criticize the Opposition’s referendum measure because of the time that, would necessarily elapse before a. referendum could be held.. What: is to prevent the- Government from approaching the States, and asking- them to clothe the. Commonwealth with power to administer prices- control for a specific period? If that were done, the Govern ment could at. least, make- some attempt to. do. a. job that was done effectively and efficiently by a Labour administration.
– Prices control of itself, is, at the be3t, merely a means of recording movements in price levels: The important thing is not prices control, but the policy that the Government adopts in relation to price levels. Such a policy must have two purposes: First, it should be directed to the improvement of industrial conditions and to higher production, and secondly, it should be directed towards the maintenance of financial stability. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill has been before this chamber for a long time. It was introduced by the Opposition, not with any genuine desire- to reduce price levels,, but merely to embarrass- the Government and to impede its legislative programme The bill was introduced on the same night as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was received by the Senate from the House of Representatives for the second time. The Opposition succeeded in delaying- the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill for six months.
– The Government could have had it a long time ago.
– It is futile for the Opposition to say that we could have had it a long time ago. The original measure was passed by the Senate in an emasculated form in which the Government’s policy could not possibly have been implemented. The introduction of the Constitution- Alteration (Prices) Bill1 enabled the Opposition to delay consideration of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill until the- Labour party had had an opportunity to have a second thought about it, and I suggest that what the Opposition is now doing- is- keeping the prices- referendum measure, before the1 Senate so that they can have another think about the Common-wealth Bank. Bill, because, just as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill w.as. aimed at improving industrial conditions in this country, so* the Commonwealth Bank Bill is aimed at improving- financial conditions. The last thing that the Opposition wants, to; happen* is- for the Government to succeed, with a legislative; programme’ that will steady- price levels in this country. I was disappointed by Senator Aylett’s contribution to this debate. When he secured the call, my heart rose, because I thought Daniel had come to judgment again, and that the honorable senator was about to announce that the Opposition had now been directed to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
The Government’s position is plain. There is no need for me to explain why honorable senators on this side of the chamber have refrained from participating in the debate on the referendum measure. ‘ We believe that bill to be arrant humbug, brought forward without sincerity, and with the clear knowledge that it will never be placed on the statutebook. Obviously, it is only a piece of window-dressing. The Government is here to do a job> and we shall do it to the best of our ability. We have presented to this chamber legislation which, we believe, will eventually make a valuable contribution to industrial progress in Australia. We have introduced legislation which, when passed, will make a substantial contribution to financial stability. Our job is to govern to the best of our ability, or to go to the people as soon as possible. If the Opposition is to be honest and honorable, it must either give the Government the legislation that it seeks, or facilitate an election. If the Opposition is not prepared to accept either alternative, it has no right to expect to retain the respect of the Australian people.
– Honorable senators opposite have a perfect right to place any interpretation they like on whatever action the Opposition may take. Nobody questions that right. We, on the other hand, have a perfect right to say in this chamber the things that we, in all sincerity, believe should be said in the interests of the people. I should not like to misquote the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), but I think I can say the impression his remarks left on our minds was that, in his opinion, price increases could not be prevented even by an efficient system of prices control. If that is the opinion of the Government, we can well understand why it has shown no enthusiasm for the Opposition’s prices referendum bill, but we on this side of the chamber are not prepared to believe that an efficient prices control system could not make a valuable contribution towards economic stability. The Minister for Social Services said that the Government was prepared to take a vote on the prices bill immediately, and so to dispose of the measure finally. It is clear that the Government does not wish to be reminded continually by the Opposition of the necessity for the re-imposition of prices control in * the interests of the people. The Minister has said that the Senate may vote on the second reading of that measure at any time the Opposition desires, hoping that the bill will be disposed of and that nothing more will be heard of it. That would suit the Government admirably, but we shall have none of it. The leaders of the anti-Labour parties told the electors nearly twelve months ago that they were capable of administering the affairs of this nation much better than the Labour Government was then doing.
– Hear, hear!
– They said, in effect, “ Throw out the Socialist Government and return us to office and we shall keep prices down and restore the Australian economy to a stable position “. I wish to be perfectly fair. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to deny that statements to that effect were made by the leaders of the parties now in office.
– I challenge the honorable senator to point to any such statement in their joint policy speech.
– On almost every hoarding throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales advertisements were displayed stating that if the leaders of the anti-Labour parties were returned to power they would put value back into the £1. They now seek to water down that promise. However, I have no desire to be provocative. I merely say that the people were told that if they returned the Labour Government to office the country would be endangered but that if they returned the anti-Labour parties value would be put back into the £1 and economic stability would be restored. This Government has been in office for more than ten months and tho economic position of Australia has drifted from bad to worse. What effort has it made to honour the promise that it would so reduce prices that age pensioners would be able to obtain full value for their pensions? The Government tries to forget about its promises, but we shall not permit it to do so. We shall continue to remind the people that it has failed to administer the affairs of this country in their interests as the Labour Government did. Ministers have said that if this bill were passed no effective action could be taken under it for many months. They have said, “ Let us have a vote on the measure”, hoping that once it was disposed of it would be promptly forgotten.
I regret that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Spooner) should have implied that we have no regard for the stability of the Australian economy. We have just as high regard for it as he has. We had the privilege of guiding this nation through the most eventful years of the war and our record shows that we have displayed as much love of our country as has any supporter of the Government. We have no desire to see it drift into financial chaos. We have no power to halt the drift other than the power of our voices and because of that we shall continue to direct the attention of the people to the manner in which our economy is drifting from bad to worse while the Government fiddles with the problem. It is the prerogative of the Opposition to direct the attention of the Government to the means by which rising prices may be combated. Commonwealth prices control was operated effectively during the war years and there is no reason why it should not be effectively operated again. In the press of last weekend we read that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) proposes to increase telephone, telegraph and postal charges in order to meet rising costs. In another column we read that air fares were to be increased by 10 per cent.-
– And that fares on ferries were also to be increased.
– That is so. Announcements are made in the press almost daily of increased charges of one kind or another. The cost of food and clothing and, indeed, of all commodities, is increas ing day by day. We have suggested to the Government the means by which it can halt rising prices. We believe that the measure which we have introduced is of great urgency and because of that we have sought to arouse public interest in it in the hope that the people will demand its immediate acceptance by the Government. Because we have sought to give precedence to this most important measure honorable senators opposite have accused us of having hindered the business of the Government. They have said that even if this bill were passed no immediate action could be taken to hold a referendum of the people, that three months must elapse before the people could be asked to vote ok it and that if the people assented to it a further three months would elapse before a system of prices control could be put into operation. What other legislation is before the Senate which should be given precedence over this bill? The Government contends that precedence should be given to the measure dealing with the Commonwealth Bank. I remind honorable senators opposite that that measure or . a similar measure has been before the Parliament for many months and that even if it were passed very little change would be made in the financial structure of the bank. The principal issue involved in that legislation is whether or not the Commonwealth Bank Board should be re-constituted. When that measure has been disposed of apparently nothing will follow it during this sessional period. The Government has chosen to regard it as most urgent, though for what reason we have not been told. We contend that the vital task which confronts the Government is the control of rising prices. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in refusing the assent to the proposition that the Commonwealth Bank Bill is of greater urgency than the prices bill. If honorable senators opposite were sincere they would indicate to the Parliament and to the people whether or not they are prepared to support the prices bill, and if they are not prepared to support it, their reasons for refusing to do so. If the Government refuses to accept the prices bill, what will it put in it.-; place? .State Ministers for prices have reluctantly admitted that State control of prices has completely broken down. They have now asked the Australian Government to take over prices control on a Commonwealth basis. If the Government is not prepared to accept the prices bill and refuses to disclose what steps it proposes to take to halt rising prices the people will bring pressure to bear to compel it to do so.
– I am amazed by the obstructive tactics adopted by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) in this matter. His attitude provides further evidence of the fact that the Government is in a state of complete hopelessness concerning control of prices. The Minister has stated that prices control cannot work and that, in any case, it is merely . a method of recording prices throughout the country. If that is also the view of the Government, is it any wonder that our economy proceeds rapidly from disaster to disaster? The Minister is very active in other places, where he sways votes and browbeats delegates, but he apparently considers that a few words of wisdom spoken in this chamber will satisfy honorable senators and the people of Australia that the Government is doing all it can to restore the rapidly diminishing value of the £1. It was reported only this morning that the same tactics as the Minister has adopted in this chamber were adopted by him at a conference of Liberal party delegates to-day. When the Minister interjected during the discussions he was told not to be obstructive. Yet obstruction is the very thing with which I charge him. When accused at that conference of attempting to sway votes, he waved the flag and said, in effect, “ Gentlemen, let us not argue here. I hope we shall be out fighting a federal election in the very near future “. The honorable gentleman desires that that election should be held as soon as possible. Although he is young in political years, he 19 wise in the ways of man.
– I fear there is a catch in this.
– He smiles and smiles and is a villain still.
– It is a matter of opinion, but my opinion is that the
Minister, in order to obscure a situation which is apparent to every one in the community, advocates the early holding of an election so that the Government, of which he is a member, may not be finally discredited.
It is undeniable that the most important problem confronting the public to-day is the diminishing value of the £1, which, as far as the building industry is concerned, is worth approximately 6s., and in the clothing trade approximately 6s. 3d., compared with 20s. in 1939. Let us try to forget for a moment where the blame may lie for that loss of value, and let us consider what can be done to correct it. During the ten months that this Government has been in office, many questions have been asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber as to what the Government intends to do to meet this urgent national problem. The answer usually given to such questions is that the Government has a formula, or that it has plans. When the long-awaited budget was presented, it should have been full of formulae to correct this desperate position, but, instead, it was found to be the most inflationary budget ever introduced. I remind honorable senators that within one week of its introduction shares quoted on the Sydney stock exchange jumped 7.43 points, which was a record increase. If that position is allowed to continue it can only result in tragedy for the people of this country.
The formulae and the plans that the Government spoke so much about have not eventuated, but there has been a great deal of talk of prospective legislation. Why was not that legislation introduced at the same time as the budget was presented? Already clothing manufacturers are saying that the prices of clothing are rapidly moving beyond the ability of the people to pay, but does that matter to the Myer Emporium Limited in Melbourne or to David Jones Limited in Sydney, which issued a bonus to shareholders, one on the basis of one share for each share held, and the other on the basis of one share for every two shares held. The Government has stated its intention to impose a profits tax, but because of its delay in doing so any effect .such a tax may have will he largely curtailed.
Before the State governments were given power to control prices, the system in operation in Australia was unequalled by that of any other country in the world, but under the present system the position is becoming worse every day. Even in Great Britain, before the outbreak of the Korean war, prices had commenced to level off, whereas in Australia we are still galloping faster and faster towards a crisis. I am amazed that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has not made a statement to the effect that he is prepared to support the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill, if only as an earnest to the people of Australia that the Government is anxious to do something tangible towards restoring value to the £1.
– From this discussion has emerged the remarkable fact that some honorable senators of the Opposition have unconsciously paid a great tribute to the Menzies Government. Control of prices is vested in the States, where I personally believe it should be vested. It cannot be denied that the State governments have f ull authority to deal with the matter. Let us consider the nature of the governments in the several States: Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania have Labour governments, whilst Victoria has a government that is supported by Labour; so that the four populous States of Australia are controlled by Labour governments. If we are to believe the members of the Opposition in this Parliament, those State governments follow the same policy as that of the Australian Labour party. In South Australia there i» a Liberal and Country party Government in office, whilst Western Australia has the McLarty Liberal Government. Each State government has power to control prices within the State for which it is responsible. I have never heard members of a political party decry other members of their party to the same degree as honorable senators opposite have decried the members of the Labour party in the four State Labour governments. They have said, in effect, that those governments are ineffective and cannot control prices and that authority to control prices should be given to Mr. Menzies, because he has more ability and more brains. No other argument is needed to show the hypocrisy of the Opposition’s claim.
– I oppose the motion. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) in proposing it, but he should have known that the Opposition would oppose a motion of that kind, not because, as has been suggested by honorable senators opposite, it desire9 to burke discussion of the Commonwealth Bank Bill but because it believes in placing first things first. No one with any knowledge of politics in this country would suggest seriously that the passage of the Commonwealth Bank Bill would help to stabilize the Australian economy. The measure is designed to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act. That act is now five years old. During the last five years, I have heard no complaints about the operations of the Commonwealth Bank or suggestions that it has been unwilling to co-operate with the Government. There has been no public outcry about the operations of the bank during the last five years. The Australian press has not said that, during the present crisis, it has interfered with the Government’s programme. Nowhere is there any demand for the measure that the Government desires the Senate to discuss to-day, and I believe that it has been placed upon the noticepaper only for the purpose of creating debate.
Let us examine the Senate noticepaper. Is there any measure listed on it, other than that submitted by Senator McKenna, which is designed to deal with the financial problems that confront us ? There is not. Has the Government, in this chamber, in the House of Representatives or in the press, suggested any means of dealing with those problems? The echo answers, “ No “. But. despite the Government’s inaction, the financial columns of every newspaper reveal the, necessity for the National Parliament to give time and attention to those pressing problems. I have some extracts from the Melbourne Argus of the 1st September of this year. They relate to the financial position of various companies, and I shall direct the attention of the Senate to them. They show how essential it is for the Government to get down to brass tacks and forget about the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which could play no part in stabilizing our economy. The first extract to which I shall refer relates to the profits made by Amalgamated Cash Orders Limited. We all know that cash orders are used by people who have no ready cash and who want to buy things that they need for their homes or to clothe themselves. During the period of prosperity through which Australia is alleged to be . passing, Amalgamated Gash Orders Limited made a record profit. Its profit for the year ended the 30th June last was £120,294, compared with £114,515 for the previous year. . Its turnover for 1949-50 reached the record of approximately £5,000,000 compared with £4,250,000 in 1948-49. Ordinary dividends of 15 per cent, and preference dividends of 10 per cent, absorbed £75,893 of the profit.
– The company made its additional profit on an increased turnover.
– I suggest to Senator Wedgwood that it made its profit from members of her sex - the housewives of this country. They are the greatest users of cash orders. They use them to get the things that they need for their homes and families. I say to Senator Wedgwood, as one who was sent to the Parliament by the Liberal party allegedly to represent her sex, that she should be taking the lead in directing attention to the way in which the women of this country are being exploited. It is not only the housewives who are being exploited. Some honorable senators opposite allegedly represent the interests of Australian primary producers, but have they or their colleagues in the House of Representatives protested against the exploitation of primary producers by companies that deal in commodities that they require? They have not done so. What have the representatives in this Parliament of the Liberal-Country party in South Australia had to say about the increased profits earned by the Adelaide Chemical and Fertiliser Company Limited? Last year, that company earned a profit of £42,672, compared- with £32,980 in the previous year, and its dividend was increased from 10 per cent, to 12$ per cent. Are the representatives of the primary producers of Australia rising in their places in this Parliament and directing attention to the exploitation that is occurring? Do we hear one word of protest from the members of the present Government parties about the enormous profits that are being made by some companies that sell electrical appliances? The Melbourne Argus of the 1st September stated -
Vatric Electrical Appliances Ltd. has had marked success with its consolidation programme. Profit for the year to June 30 was £4,260, compared with a loss of fi, 130 in 1948-49.
Those profits are made by exploiting the people of this country, but honorable senators opposite are silent about them. They subject to ridicule members of the Opposition who make an earnest effort to devise machinery to prevent exploitation, and allege that they are holding up the business of government of the country.
I protest against the statements that have been made from time to time by the Prime Minister and other Ministers that the Opposition in this chamber is responsible for the Government’s failure to proceed with its programme. The Parliament has been in session since early this year. The general election was- held last December. What programme has the Government placed before the Parliament? The Liberal party and the Australian Country party have a majority in the House of Representatives, but what legislation has been introduced into that chamber in an endeavour to solve the problems presented by rising prices? The notice-paper of the House of Representatives reveals the same paucity of constructive suggestions by the Government as does the Senate notice-paper. The Government “ tiddlywinked “ with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, but it could have had that measure almost six months ago. Notwithstanding the torrent of ‘words that was poured forth from platforms throughout Australia about what the present Government parties would do if they were’ returned to power, the Communists were given five months’ notice of the introduction of that bill. Another bill introduced by the Government is designed to prevent deadlocks after a double dissolution. That will not have any effect on the economy of Australia. The Commonwealth Bank Bill falls into the same category. The budget was introduced after a great flourish of trumpets. It is interesting to recall something that occurred in relation to it. Senator McKenna referred to it, and I shall do so again. It is not the duty of the Prime Minister to introduce a budget unless he also holds the office of Treasurer. The present Prime Minister does not hold that office. The budget is a very important document, and its contents should be kept secret until it is presented to the Parliament. However, the titular Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was anxious to take for himself any credit that might flow from the budget. He therefore anticipated decisions that would be made by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who is the leader of the second wing of the Government.
It. is interesting to recall an incident that occurred in the Mother of Parliaments only about a year n.0. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr. Hugh Dalton, had made a chance remark to a representative of the press, expecting at the time that he would have delivered his speech in the Parliament before the next edition of the newspaper came out. However, because the delivery of his speech was delayed, and the chance remark that he had made appeared in the press prematurely, he immediately resigned his position because of the great importance he attached to the tradition that lies behind the presentation of the budget to the Parliament. How different is the position in Australia! One could continue to advance reasons why the Senate should not agree to the motion to suspend the Standing Orders. Although it is of prime importance for the measure that has been introduced by the Opposition to be passed by the Senate as soon as possible, it is” advisable that the people of Australia should be acquainted with the utter futility of this Government’s efforts to grapple with Australia’s problems. Even assuming that the measure were passed by the Senate, and endorsed by the House of Representatives. much work would remain to be done in order to restore financial stability to this country. It was for that reason that the Opposition introduced its measure, and I sincerely hope, that in the interests of this country, honorable senators opposite will cease misleading the people. They should take the earliest opportunity to restore Australia to an even keel. It is high time that honorable senators opposite abandoned the hypocrisy and humbug that has characterized their assertions that the Opposition was afraid of a double dissolution. It is a well-established principle that the “ no election “ party is the strongest political party. It is no secret that about 25 supporters of the Government in the House of Representatives gained their seats by very slender majorities. In some instances they were astonished when they learnt that they had secured a majority over their opponents. Those members realize that their seats will be in jeopardy if the Government is forced to the country on the prices issue. Honorable senators opposite should not assume for a moment, therefore, that the Labour party is afraid of a double dissolution. I assure them that more confidence would repose in the members of the Opposition than in many supporters of the Government in such an event. I remind honorable senators opposite that it is the responsibility of the Government to introduce legislation to deal with the problems that are confronting the people of Australia. It is time that worthwhile legislation was brought down.
– The fact that it became necessary for the Opposition to introduce a bill to provide for a referendum to amend the Constitution to give the Commonwealth power to control prices is evidence that the present Government lias no desire to govern.
– The Opposition has no desire to permit this Government to govern.
– The Government is confronted with a burden much greater than it can bear. Although honorable senators opposite have averred time and again that the Government would welcome a double dissolution, I point out that they are most unfair in their criticism, because inevitably, in an election following a double dissolution, the Senate would be returned on a fifty-fifty basis. All that honorable senators opposite are trying to do is to get out from under. That is apparent from the speeches that honorable senators opposite delivered in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– That was when the Labour party got out from under.
– It appears that the Government would like to pass that legislation hack, because it is ineffective, and because the ramifications of the Communist party are so great that the Government does not know where to start. the words of Herbert Spencer, “A tragedy is a generalization killed by a fact “. For a long time past, honorable senators opposite have been generalizing and endeavouring to assure the people that everything was all right. But how can that attitude be reconciled with continually rising prices? I remind the Senate that immediately following broadcasts by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about inflationary tendencies, prices generally took a tremendous bound. Every body knows that the right honorable gentleman’s action in forecasting provisions of the budget was completely unethical. Honorable senators will recollect that after Mr. J. T. Thomas, who was a prominent member of the Labour party in Great Britain, had told some of li is friends about what was to be in the budget, he was hounded out of public life. The Prime Minister, in effect, advised people in the position to do so, to purchase luxury goods. Of course, whenever he broadcasts to the people, he is either just about to go abroad, or has just returned from the United States of America, and his speeches remind one of the mountain labouring to bring forth a mouse. Prices have risen more steeply relatively in the ten months that this Government has been in office than in the corresponding period of last year. Although I could recite statistics to prove my claim, that would merely bc insulting the intelligence of the people of this country. Every man, woman and child knows that prices are continuing to rise daily.
When listening to the speech of the Minister for Social Services (Senator
Spooner), I was reminded of John Stuart Mill. On the advice of friends, he stood for election to the British House of Commons, and was subsequently a member of the British Parliament for three years. After he had ceased to be a member of Parliament, he was heard to remark that although he had entered the House of Commons with the lowest possible opinion of politicians, he had formed a still lower opinion of them. The Minister for Social Services claimed that prices control only provides a record of prices. If that is so, why does the Government not abolish tariffs? I hope that the press will give prominence to that observation of the Minister. As I have stressed before, the situation in this country is so desperate that something akin to a wartime economy is necessary to restore stability. The Minister implied that i was trying to cause trouble in the community. I point out that, far from causing trouble, I have merely indicated to honorable senators where trouble exists. The budget does not contain one antiinflationary proposition. However, I shall reserve my remarks in that connexion until the appropriate time, when I assure honorable senators that I shall have a lot to say, particularly in relation to the proposed tax on bagpipes.
The Minister has stated that the Opposition is delaying consideration of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, and that that is interfering with the Government’s programme. In war-time it is usually claimed that all of the atrocities have been committed by one side. Honorable senators opposite have referred to so-called Labour democrats of the past. I remind them that those so-called democrats allowed the Communist Party Dissolution Bill to be passed by this chamber. Then honorable senators opposite claimed that we had been dictated to by people outside of the Parliament. I am sick and tired of honorable senators opposite claiming that they are sincere. If I were to assert, in all sincerity, that two and two were five, my sincerity would not make the result four. Sincerity was never an excuse for stupidity. I consider that honorable senators opposite are completely lacking in an understanding of economics. Surely they do not believe that the people of this country are so stupid that they do not realize that the Government is looking for a way out.
The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has hawked his national health scheme all around the country, and has delivered addresses about it at various universities. He was even goingto the United States of America to explain its provisions to a representative body of medical men in that country. Yet no member of the Senate can understand it. The Prime Minister has referred to the Minister for Health as “Dogsbody”. Although I think the right honorable gentleman was making a Shakespearian allusion, I would not be so unkind as to refer to the Minister in that way. In any event, nothing that I could say would make the national health scheme more stupid than it is at present. Of course it is of no use my making any suggestions in connexion with the matter, because the position is not unlike the occasion when Father Abraham said to a certain rich man -
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
I cannot emphasize too forcibly that this country is in a desperate position, because of rising prices. Great Britain was well along the road to recovery when the Korean war broke out, and that result was attained with prices controls and not without them. We appeal to the Government now, before it is too late, to do something. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill is incomparably more important than the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Let us consider the position of public servants, even of senior public servants. Perhaps a man has a son at the university and, because of the constantly rising costs, he is wondering whether he can afford to keep the lad there. Another may have a daughter learning music, and is wondering whether he can afford the fees to allow her to continue to study. Another may have insured his son, and is wondering whether he can keep on paying the premiums. Another man may be paying off his. house, and is now finding it very difficult to meet the payments. And yet this Government goes on playing politics ! The Opposition has given the Government a “ fair go “. Over five months ago, we signified our willingness to give the Government the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in its essential form. However, the Government was not satisfied with the form in which we passed the bill through the Senate. It would not be hard enough to implement, and so, in order to make certain that the measure could never be implemented, the Government loaded it with such medieval injustices as the onus of proof provision. Now, the Government, having got into a jamb, wants a double dissolution of the Parliament, but what can it hope to achieve by a double dissolution? There is every probability that after the ensuing election, there would be 30 Labour senators, and that the combined strength of the Liberal and Australian Country parties would also be 30.
– Does the honorable senator want a double dissolution?
– -The Government can have one to-morrow. If Senator Scott were to dissolve it would make no difference, because there is nothing in him, anyway. By getting himself elected to this chamber, he has done Western Australia a great injustice. Since he has been in the Senate he has displayed the intelligence of a four-year-old child.
A little nonsense now and then
Is relished by the wisest men.
But Senator Scott plays the fool all the time. Let him take it from me that nature has made such a good job of him as a fool, that there is no need for him to play the part. If the Government has a programme to deal with rising prices, let it say so. Inflation is the most important problem that faces the country to-day. I know that some members of the Government will agree with me when I say that the position is much more serious than 99 people out of every 100 realize, and yet consider the contribution that Senator Mattner made to the debate. Could anything to be more ridiculous ? He said that we are eulogizing the Prime Minister, knowing that the Premiers of the States cannot effectively control prices.
– When the referendum was being held, the Premier of New
South Wales, Mr. McGirr, and the Premier of Queensland. Mr. Hanlon, said that if the people voted “ No “, the States would do their best to control prices, although they realized that they would be unable to do so. All the supporters of’ the present Government advised the people to vote “ No “. The present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Eric Harrison) - I am glad that the Government accepted my advice and took the portfolio of Defence away from him - declared during the referendum that the States would be able to control prices as well as the Commonwealth could do it, if not better. Now, the anti-Labour parties have been hoist with their own petard. If prices go on rising there will be chaos. The higher prices rise the greater will be the fall. The present situation is unprecedented. There is a shortage of commodities, there is more money than we know what to do with, and there are surplus jobs by the tens of thousands, in spite of the constant stream of immigrants entering the country. Because of the vacillation of the Government regarding the revaluation of the fi, “hot” money has been pouring into Australia until there is now between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 in this country for speculative purposes. The Government cannot make up its mind whether the £1 should be pegged at a higher or a lower rate, or left where it is. The Government must act immediately. As Shakespeare made Macbeth say -
If it were done, when’t is done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.
Members of the Government have shown themselves to be incompetent. It is wellknown that twelve members of the Cabinet were in favour of revaluing the £1, while only seven were against it, yet the will of the seven prevailed. And yet honorable senators opposite have the cheek to accuse the Labour party of being dictated to by outside interests! The result of this indecision is that the Australian £1 has for months been hawked around the money markets of the world. The Opposition is well justified in putting forward its proposal to hold a referendum on the subject of prices control. I invite honorable senators opposite to say where they stand on this issue. Senator McCallum is supposed to be an economist. He and his friend, Dr. Lloyd Boss, give lectures at the summer school. Surely honorable senators know that inflation makes inflation. Do they not know what happened in Germany and Austria after the first world war? Not long ago, I was talking to a dear old friend of mine, an Austrian doctor, who had lived in Vienna right np to the time that Hitler invaded Austria. For 3Si years he had ,paid premiums on an insurance policy for quite a large amount. Then, when the policy matured, the amount he was paid in Austrian schillings was not enough to buy a piece of flint for a cigarette lighter. That was what inflation meant in Austria. The whole house is tumbling down around the ears of the Government, yet not one of its supporters has a suggestion to offer. Senator Reid is an experienced politician. Why does lie not get up and tell us what ought to be done? He is a grazier, and is getting 200d. per lb. for his wool, but he has nothing to offer us except, I suppose, to say that the law of supply and demand should operate. Things are bad enough as they are, and we have not yet . felt the effect of. the recent £1 a week increase of the basic wage. We have not yet felt the effect of the increased prices of stocks and shares. Next vear, a suit of clothes will cost from £40 to £50.
– The honorable senator will be disappointed if that does not prove to be true.
– The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) is an accountant, and is supposed to know something about economics. He must know that only a miracle could prevent the price of clothes from rising steeply. Unless something is done, a man will need a wheelbarrow to take the money along to the shop to buy a suit of clothes.
– Has the honorablesenator done anything practical to remedy the situation?
– We are doing something practical now. While the Government does nothing, the situation is becoming worse and worse. The housewife, after she buys food for the family, has nothing left to buy clothes for her children, or linoleum for the floor, or to meet other household expenses such as painting or papering the walls. Every one is saying, “ How long is it going to last?” The Government is evading its responsibilities. The Communist Party Dissolution Bill is finished with, and the Government is now trying to make the Commonwealth Bank Bill an excuse for inactivity. I hope that the manyfine speeches made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber will induce some Government supporter to get up and say, “We realize that the situation is dangerous. We admit that we have done very little, and now we propose to do something”. Never before have I known a democratic government to remain so oblivious to a dangerous situation.
Question put. -
Thatso much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the resumption of the debate upon Government Business, Order of the PayNo. 1 (Commonwealth Bank Bill), being called on forthwith.
The Senate divided. (Thepresident - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Call of the Senate.
Miction (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That Standing Order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (‘Prices) Bill 1950 to be passed without a Call of the Senate.
Debate resumed from the 24th October (vide page . 1226), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In my earlier remarks on this measure, I spoke of the position in which retail butchers in South Australia find themselves to-day as the result of ineffective prices control. Any hope that these people and other traders in the community who are in a similar position may have held for action on the part of this Government to rectify the present anomalous position has been dispelled by the debate that has taken place this afternoon. It is clear that this Government is in no hurry to assist them. At present day live-stock prices, retail butchers in South Australia are finding it utterly impossible to make a “go” of their trading activities. To obtain supplies, they have to buy on the local market. Some of them are being forced out of business. Retailers of other commodities are in a similar plight. There should be a Commonwealth-wide system of prices control and not only the retail price of meat, but also the price of stock on the hoof should be fixed. I do not suggest for one minute that meat producers should not receive an adequate return for their stock. Our economy is sufficiently buoyant to provide a reasonable margin of profit for all concerned, but there does appear to be a need for the establishment of a proper relationship between the wholesale and retail prices of meat.
In this chamber, over the air, and in the press, expression has been given by honorable senators opposite to their belief that a Commonwealth-administered prices control system would be of no avail, and that, in any event, the referendum provided for in this measure could not be held in less than six months. I remind the Senate that, during the prices referendum campaign in 1948, the anti-Labour parties throughout the Commonwealth, whether they were in government or in opposition in the various legislatures, were unanimous in their appeal to the people of A,ustralia to vote “ No “. Labour, on the other hand, pointed to the utter futility of expecting six separate State authorities to administer prices control satisfactorily from the point of view of the Commonwealth generally. Labour’s view ha9 ultimately proved to be correct, but the anti-Labour parties expended huge sums of money in their eventually successful campaign to convince the people otherwise. That referendum should have been treated as non-political.
For a long time now, both during my membership of this legislature and of the South Australian Parliament, I have realized, as have many other public men of all shade9 of political thought, that the time for some reform of our Constitution is long overdue. I say that without wishing to disparage in any way the work of the drafters of the Constitution. As Mr. W. M. Hughes once said, a horse and buggy could be driven through our Constitution. It is true that each State of the Commonwealth had sovereign rights long before federation, but there have been many occasions, both in war and in peace, and in time of depression particularly, when the advantages of an Australian national outlook have been demonstrated clearly to the people of this country. Unfortunately, when proposals to increase the power of the Commonwealth have been placed before the electors at referendums, it has always been a matter of the “ ins “ against the “ outs “. I do not absolve the Labour party of blame in that connexion. I believe, however, that all sections of the community should combine to attempt to solve such an important problem as prices control. All political parties in particular should do their best to make history in this country by combining to try to solve it. They should give their unanimous support to any proposal that is likely to curb inflation. Effective prices control is essential to the solution of this problem. I defy honorable senators opposite to point to one occasion on which they, while sitting in opposition in this Parliament, have supported a proposal by a Labour Government for constitutional reform. A similar charge may justly be levelled at the Labour party. When the people of this country were asked whether they favoured the granting of permanent power to the Commonwealth to control prices, including wages and other charges, they were completely misled by the canting and ranting of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, with the result that the proposal was rejected. This subject should’ not be the plaything of politics. It is a problem that affects the pockets and the welfare of the Australian people, particularly the less fortunate sections of the community.
Prices control was first exercised under the necessity of war. The Commonwealth’s authority to control prices was derived from its defence powers. It is remarkable how in time of national emergency various Commonwealth governments have conveniently found in the Constitution authority to impose all sorts of controls and restrictions upon the community. Unfortunately, the end of such a period of emergency has always been seized upon, particularly by the antiLabour parties, as an opportunity to advocate the abolition of war-time controls and the re-introduction of an “open season “. Will any member of this chamber argue that present-day conditions are not abnormal, or that the Australian people are not in dire need of some protection against exploitation? Prices control was introduced originally because there was general agreement that, if ceiling prices were not fixed, the Australian economy would get completely out of hand, and so reduce our capacity for a total war effort. Effective price control was then the brake on inflation. Nobody on this side of the chamber has ever suggested prices control as a remedy for all our economic ills, but at least it would be an important contribution to a solution of the problem. Only a fool would suggest that prices control is the only means of reducing prices. As Senator McKenna has said, this Government’s task is to endeavour to maintain existing price levels. At all costs prices must be prevented from going any higher than they are to-day. Every honorable senator opposite knows that the likelihood of a successful challenge to the Commonwealth’s power to continue to administer prices control after the war had ended was the reason for the Chifley Government’s decision to seek the approval of the Australian people for permanent power on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament to control prices. Had the wartime powers been challenged successfully, the whole price fixing structure of this country would have vanished and the Australian people would have been at the mercy of unscrupulous traders who were prepared to charge the highest possible prices for goods that were in short supply. That is the position to-day. Many commodities are still scarce. There are shortages of many foodstuffs, clothing of various types, and other essentials. As was pointed out in the course of another debate, we are exporting one commodity and then importing it again to meet our own needs. The consumers are paying the piper to play the tune that is called by the handlers of this commodity. Prior to the 1948 prices referendum Labour’s political opponents and vested interests claimed that the States could administer prices control effectively. That is the cry even to-day although all evidence is to the contrary.
A deliberate attempt to mislead the people unfortunately succeeded when the prices referendum was taken, and is still succeeding. After the cessation of hostilities we all realized that it was dangerous for the Commonwealth to rely on the defence power to continue prices control. Consequently conferences were held between Commonwealth Ministers and the State Premiers, both Labour and Conservative. The Premiers unanimously agreed that the continuance of prices control by the Commonwealth was necessary in order to avoid periods of boom and burst such as those which followed World War I. and resulted in so much unemployment, misery, hardship and degradation in Australia. In 1946, the Premiers unanimously agreed, subject to the concurrence of their Parliaments, to pass legislation which would enable the Commonwealth to continue prices control for as long as shortages of commodities persisted. An honorable senator opposite indicated last week that he will oppose this measure on the ground that it seeks to vest permanent powers in the Commonwealth Parliament to control prices. That is not the purpose of the measure. In this bill the Opposition seeks power to enable the Commonwealth to .control prices only during periods when commodities are in short supply. In 1946, the hostile State legislative councils, which were not democratically elected by the people, blocked the efforts of the Premiers temporarily to transfer the control of prices to the Commonwealth. In each State a different period was prescribed for the expiry of the economic stability legislation. The fact that in no two States was there the slightest indication of uniformity of opinion on the matter proved conclusively that the States could not do the job because of the different political make-up of their parliaments and because of State differences. Had the States been able togive the people an assurance against, rising prices and the grave danger of inflation, there would have been no need for a referendum to be held on the subject.
Subsequent events have proved beyond all doubt the inability of the States successfully to carry out a grave responsibility to protect the interests of the people by guarding the national economy. Every intelligent Australian” must realize that prices control must be applied on a national basis. For State prices’ authorities to fix the price of goods that are manufactured in one State and distributed in all States is ridiculous. That fact has been amply proved since prices control has been exercised by State authorities. No effective control has been possible in respect of the prices of goods which have been imported from other States. Unless the Commonwealth has power to control prices this Government cannot continue fully to operate the system of subsidies which, although considerably reduced in volume and extent, assist to keep down the prices of a wide range of everyday commodities. It is wrong for honorable senators opposite to foist on the Australian people the foolish view that the States can control prices move effectively than can the Commonwealth. Every thinking. Australian realizes that prices control can be effectively exercised only on a national basis. Control by the States with their separate and different systems must inevitably fail.
The relationship between income and prices - between the money which a man earns and what he is able to buy with it - has been the subject of discussion in civilized countries throughout the centuries since responsible government was first operated. In the time of the Romans there were laws relating to prices. In the Middle Ages that great church dignitary, Saint Thomas Aquinas. wrote a treatise The Just Price, to which economists in modern times have devoted much attention because they realize that no economic factor may have such a detrimental effect on the daily lives of the people as the rapid rise of prices. So detrimental has been the effect of that factor that it has caused most of the many bloody revolutions that are chronicled in the pages of history. That fact is not difficult to understand, for an income which sustains a family with a modicum of comfort at a particular price level is totally inadequate when prices are doubled. Indeed it may be so inadequate that a family may be faced with the threat of starvation. Men of courage will always rebel against a constituted authority which fails to protect their dependants from such a threat.
The labour-cost element in the price of any commodity is controlled by constitutionally appointed industrial tribunals. In periods of inflation the rent, interest and profit elements in the prices of all commodities jump upwards, thus lining the pockets of those who receive their incomes from such sources and who are the backers of anti-Labour governments in all countries. To the majority of people the most important factor in their lives is that the incomes which they earn are sufficient to enable them to buy approximately the goods they need, as was the case when prices were controlled by the Commonwealth. That is not the position to-day. The Australian Labour party warned the people at- the referendum on rents and prices that if prices control could no longer be exercised by the Com monwealth the prices of all commodities would rise. That warning was based on the experiences of every other country in which prices control had been > abandoned, particularly of the United .States of America in which food prices rose from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, within a few days after the abolition of the control. The position was such that the government was forced to re-introduce controls. Rising, prices are not tolerated by the Australian working man without applications to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or to other wagefixing authorities for increased wages. Whilst such applications are being considered irritations and industrial unrest are to be expected unless the matter is judicially and promptly handled.
This is a non-party issue which ha 3 arisen because of the simple fact that the State Premiers failed to carry out their undertaking to the Commonwealth and the people to pass the necessary complementary legislation to- enable Commonwealth prices control to continue until normal times had been reached. This is not a political issue. The undertaking: to which I have referred was made by Labour and anti-Labour leaders. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who at that time was the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament, is pledged to the control of prices. In his policy speech during the general election campaign of 1946 the right honorable gentleman said -
Wie shall unhesitatingly maintain price control as a means of preventing inflation during the period in which production is inadequate to meet the demand for goods ‘which arises from the enormously increased purchasing power of the people.
Is that statement consistent with the attitude that is being taken by the right honorable gentleman to-day? It is not. He continued -
Let me, speaking for the Government which introduced price control within a week of the outbreak of war, give the lie to those whisperers who tell you that a Liberal victory will mean, an upward leap in prices. We stand for controlled prices. 1 repeat his words to prove that he and the present Opposition are of one and the same mind on this question. Some honorable senators opposite have contended that prices control would constitute an interference with the liberty of the subject. To those who take such a stand I repeat the quotation so often made by my friend, Senator Grant, who brings to bear a great deal of enlightened thought on the discussions in this chamber. The quotation is -
Oh Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!
As recently as the 30th October last there appeared in the Melbourne Herald an article headed “British People Worried about Prices Rises “, which reads, in part, as follows : -
The old hardies, war, rationing, international disputes and day to day cataloguing of human affairs, give way most days to the soaring costs of living.
– That is what one would expect under a Labour government.
– I expectedindeed I waited - for an honorable senator opposite to bowl in the old yorker, “ That is what we would expect under a Labour government “. However, I shall not permit myself to be led away by side issues relative to the record of this, that, or the other, government. I simply say that, but for the courageous fight that was put up by the British people it is doubtful whether this Parliament or the parliament of any British country would now have an opportunity to discuss what should be the price of any commodity. Every government, whether it be Liberal or Labour, has a duty to attack this problem. We do not contend that prices control of itself will cure inflation, but we maintain that it will help to curb inflation. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to claim that the position that exists to-day in relation to prices has resulted from the ignorance of any State government, whether Labour or Liberal. It exists solely because of conflicting State control. I am sure that Senator Mattner will agree with me that the New South Wales Labour Government is so hobbled that it is incapable of controlling prices in that State. There should be a uniform approach to this problem. It is useless to increase the wage of the worker unless it enables him to purchase the necessaries of life for himself and his family.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned that because of the spiralling of prices of the necessaries of life the position in Great Britain had reached a stage where the question of prices was considered to be more important than any other problem facing the country. My statement was met by an interjection, which was not unexpected, that that was because Great Britain had a Labour Government. I had endeavoured to stress that no government, either Labour or Liberal, could be fairly or honestly blamed for what is happening in the economic sphere in this country to-day. I also pointed out that if it were not for the efforts of Great Britain during the war years it is possible that we should not be in a position to-night to discuss in this National Parliament some objective means of arresting the problem. Because Australians have for years enjoyed a system of government that is the envy of the world, they are somewhat prone to treat their good fortune lightly and to hurl at one another blame for alleged sins of omission or commission. I sincerely hope that the supporters of the Government will not lose sight of the fact that quite recently Gallup polls conducted in the various States of the Commonwealth showed that the people are aware that the problem of prices control is a very important one. Irrespective of any views on the subject that I may hold, it is wrong for any member of this Parliament to doubt the sincerity and honesty of purpose of other honorable members. Honorable senators should be given full credit for suggestions that are designed to benefit the people of this country, and any government which does not consider the welfare of every section of the community as its first and paramount duty is not worthy of the name of government.
Senator Henty stated that he objected to this measure because it would mean the incorporation of permanent powers in the Constitution. Certain powers necessary for the protection of this country and for good government are already contained in the Constitution. I remind the honorable senator and all those who think as he does, that when the last referendum was “held the Australian
Labour party stated that the powers would operate only while they were necessary. Will any honorable senator, irrespective o£ his political views, say that a government will use those permanent power? already in the Constitution when their use is not necessary? This Government, or any future government, elected by the people as the custodian of the public rights, should be allowed to use its discretion as to the necessity or otherwise of the institution of such powers, and I submit with confidence that no Australian Government would continue to impose controls on the people of this country after the necessity for them had gone. It must be remembered that the ordinary Australian likes to be free and unfettered. I suggest to honorable senators that this bill provides a unique opportunity for the Parliament to act for the good of the nation. Until this legislation is enacted, national progress will be hamstrung. I appeal to the members of the Government to discontinue their foolish practice of saying, whenever an appeal is made to the people to alter the Constitution to provide for the incorporation of further powers in the interests of the country, that the powers sought will be permanent. I agree with them when they say that it cannot be done immediately. We all know that, but at least it will be a commencement.
The prices of the necessaries of life are interwoven, so tba.t every one, and particularly the family man, must be considered. The prices of bread, butter, fruit and all other commodities necessary to the life of the community are the same to every one. By itself, of course, prices control is not the solution of the problem. The State governments, in their approach to the situation, have not acted in unison. In no two States of the Commonwealth was there the same commencing or terminating date for the operation of price-fixing legislation, although various State Ministers proclaimed that there would be uniformity in its operation. It is of no use the Government or that section, of the community which is hostile to prices control - and I am hostile to any control that is not necessary - saying that the State governments have made a success of it.
The facts prove otherwise. Before the last referendum was held, the members of the Australian Labour party, on every occasion on which they addressed the electors, asked for power for the Australian Government to control prices, and their attitude has not changed since. Members of non-Labour State governments have, as will be seen from a perusal of Hansard., on more than one occasion stated that unless the operation of controls was uniform the success for which they hoped would not be forthcoming. Now that an opportunity presents itself to end the continuous bickering between the political parties, I trust that we shall be able to unite and act in the best interests of the people of this country.
– I should like to commend Senator Critchley on his contribution to the debate. I do not agree with the arguments that he advanced, but he advanced them in moderate and yet forthright terms. As a result, I believe it correct to say that this is one of the occasions upon which we really can agree to differ one with the other. I was particularly intrigued by the honorable senator’s suggestion that this matter might be dealt with on a higher level than that of party politics. I, too, should like to see that, and I shall have something to say on that score later on. But we must be realistic and face the fact that events are not trending their way. The basic reason for that is that the Opposition was not sincere in introducing this bill into the Senate. I had something to say about that this afternoon, and I do not propose to traverse the arguments I then advanced, hut it is fair to say that the events of this afternoon lend point to that statement. Surely it is absurd that a government, attempting to have its own legislation dealt with in preference to that of the Opposition, is forced into the circumstances that the formal measure giving the Government’s business priority is debated for over two hours. That was the second occasion during the debate on this bill that that occurred. When the bill was introduced as an urgent measure by Senator McKenna, on the 4th October, the Government attempted to have the
Communist Party Dissolution Bill dealt with, and for its sins on that occasion its formal motion was debated from three o’clock in the afternoon until a quarter past nine at night. On two occasions, if my recollection is correct, the Opposition voted against the Government’s attempt to close the debate upon that formal motion. This measure, which the Opposition claims to be most urgent, has been before the Senate since the 4th October. The Government has attempted on several occasions to bring the farce to an end by moving the closure of the debate, but on each of those occasions the Opposition has voted to delay the progress of the measure. That being the position, I shall be excused if I accuse honorable senators opposite of insincerity in relation to this bill. Since the 4th October, it has been at the head of the Senate notice-paper. The Government has been in the position that it could not introduce governmental business without the consent of the Opposition, and the Opposition has refused to respond to the Government’s attempts to close the debate and bring the whole sorry business to an end.
I do not say that the majority of honorable senators opposite do not believe honestly in the efficacy of prices control, but I do say that there can hardly be one of them who believes that the introduction of this bill can be regarded as a practical step towards the administration of prices control by the Commonwealth. All members of the Opposition are aware that the Government is basically opposed to the permanent transfer to the Commonwealth of the price-fixing powers possessed by the States. They have sufficient political knowledge and acumen to realize that any referendum for an alteration of the Constitution has only a remote chance of success if it is opposed by any of the great political parties of this country. I believe that the Opposition introduced the measure with its tongue in its cheek. It was entitled to introduce the measure, but I make the charge that its actions have been harmful to the Australian.community. It is admitted that present economic circumstances are such that prices .ire likely to rise. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Repre- sentatives stated the position correctly when he said that what is occurring in Australia is a part of a world-wide inflationary movement that is beyond the control of governments in this country. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives have appealed to Australians to work together for the common good. It is regrettable that the Opposition in this chamber is not adopting that course but is following an entirely different line of action. It can be said fairly that the speeches upon this measure made by honorable senators opposite contained, with few exceptions, most extravagant statements. I am sorry that Senator McKenna is not present in the chamber now when I say that his second-reading speech on this bill did him no credit. He said that doctors reported that casualty rooms were full of women suffering from nervous breakdowns caused by anxiety and financial worry.
– Does the Minister deny that that is so?
– I believe that that statement was quite untrue. It was said for the purpose of creating a sensation, or causing a stir. In circumstances such as those with which we are now faced, one of the worst courses to adopt is to make speeches calculated to prey upon the anxieties and fears of the timid and weak persons in the community. That will be the effect of the extravagant statements made during the course of this debate. It is even worse for irresponsible people to endeavour to capitalize the misfortunes of others by fomenting industrial trouble. There has already been one instance of that in Australia. I recall the utter absurdity of the action of one of the large trade unions - I think it was the Ironworkers Federation - calling a one-day strike to protest against the high cost of living.
– The Minister does not blame the Opposition for that, does he?
– I do not blame the Opposition for it directly, but honorable senators opposite will not be able to evade their responsibility in the matter if that occurs again.
– How does the Minister connect the Labour party with it indirectly ?
– That strike occurred within a couple of days of the Labour party’s town hall rally, at which it endeavoured to influence public opinion on this issue.
Having made an attack upon the bona fides of the Opposition in introducing this measure, I shall deal very briefly with the practicability of the proposal. I remind the Senate that this very proposal was twice submitted to and rejected by the people. The first occasion was in 1944 and the second in 1947. It is generally agreed that the difficulty of securing an alteration of the Constitution is so great that it is practically impossible to succeed unless the three great political parties unite in supporting the proposal. I have already said that the Government does not support this principle. The Opposition’s proposal was doomed to failure from the very beginning because of the common sense of the Australian people, who have never yet been pushed into a course of action by excitement and flurry on the part of a political party-
– Such as on the 10th December of last year?
– I said that the Australian people have never yet been panicked by a political party. I have the greatest respect- for their political judgment. When the time comes, as it will perhaps a decade hence, when this Government is removed from office, I shall not complain of the verdict of the people. I shall believe it to be a just one.
As 1 have said, the Opposition is endeavouring to support its case by extravagant statements. I should not like it to be thought that the Government does not realize the seriousness of the position, but ‘I make the point that, despite the statements made by honorable senators opposite, the “ C “ series index does not disclose the disturbing conditions that they say are operating now within the Australian economy. The “ C “ series index, with all its faults, is the best indicator that we have of the trend of the cost of living in this country. The. remarks of the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on that point in their judgment in the basic wage case were very interesting. The “ 0 “ series index: shows that the cost of living has increased at a steady rate during each of the last three years. Although that position is uncomfortable, it is not dangerous. The fact that the increase has not been more rapid, despite the inflationary tendencies due to the war, stock-piling and defence expenditure, shows that the situation in Australia is not bad.
It is generally accepted that the conditions that cause high prices cannot be cured by price-fixing alone. Price fixing, to be successful, must be accompanied by a variety of other controls. Without those other controls, it becomes, as I said this afternoon, merely a frustrating and expensive method of recording a risingprice level. It is possible that price fixing accompanied by high taxes, wage pegging, man>power controls, and a number of other war-time controls could make a contribution to solving the problem, and I ask the Opposition to face that situation. I invite Senator McKenna, when he replies to the debate, to state whether it is the wish of the Opposition that those controls should be re-introduced? I invite him to say, specifically, in the event that he does advocate the reintroduction of those controls, what controls he proposes should be re-introduced, and whether he suggests that further referendums should be held with the object of obtaining the power to introduce the controls in cases where it is not already possessed by the Commonwealth.
– That is Opposition policy. We cannot disclose that.
– I should like to hear the Opposition disclose some ideas in the course of this debate. It would be quite a change if it did so. This situation is one upon which every thinking Australian should ponder. For months past, the Government has done more than ponder upon it. It has been attempting to implement its policy. Some parts of that policy have already become effective and others will become effective as time runs in our favour.
– Will the Minister tell us what the Government has done?
– I propose, despite the efforts of the Opposition, to make my speech in my own way and in my own time.
– We are only trying to help the Minister.
– I fear the Greeks when they bring gifts. Rising prices are not a feature only of the Australian economy. It is interesting to note that, in relation to currency, prices in Australia are below the level of prices in both Great Britain and the United States of America. I do not deny that that is a situation in respect of which action is wanted, and I do not suggest that we have not suffered some inconvenience. However, I deprecate, with all the force of which I am capable, an extravagant approach to the proposal, because that is not justified. Furthermore, it would aggravate the difficulties that, now exist and make them worse in the future. Prices have risen steadily during the lastthree years. But have those years been years of disaster? Was the last year an uncomfortable .year in Australia? .1. contend that it was a year of great prosperity, a year of plenty, and a year in which there was an abundance of work and no unemployment. An interesting aspect of the matter is that during the basic wage application the advocates who were appearing before the court were unable to produce a citizen of this country who was earning only the basic wage. In other words, the basic wage in Australia is only a theoretical wage, because our workers command a higher level of remuneration. If we are to believe Honorable senators opposite - and I ask to be forgiven if that is an over-statement - from the tenor of their remarks one would think that they would have preferred that the last twelve months had been characterized by drought, bush fires and unemployment.
I should like, within the limit of my capacity, to review the causes of the present situation and to outline courses of action that could be taken to remedy or dampen down those causes. It is probably true that prices have risen due to an increased demand for both consumer goods and capital goods, arising from the great havoc, destruction and loss of man-power during the war years. It i3 most unfortunate for humanity that, having got the war behind us, we are now faced with the distinct possibility of further hostilities. That situation has aggravated the existing shortages, resulting in stock-piling by nations for defence purposes, and the necessity throughout the world to finance large projects. Those are self-evident. Within Australia we have the additional circumstances that we are implementing our migration policy as well as our developmental policy. Unfortunately, however, we are unable to win sufficient coal for our basic heavy industries. I think that events have made it generally accepted that an error of judgment was made when the Australian currency was devalued last year. Externally, we are suffering from a pent-up demand for both capital goods and consumer goods, arising from the war, and because of the threat of war in the future, as well as the depreciation of sterling. Our national income has been greatly increased by reason of the prices that are being received overseas for our primary produce.
– What is the Government going to do about it?
– As I said before Senator Grant entered the chamber, I shall make my speech in my own way and at ray own time. The Government has been applying its remedies under four main headings. It is increasing the volume of man-power in the country, and making the most effective use of that man-power. The Government has made financial arrangements which will permit it to obtain more capital equipment from overseas, in particular from dollar areas, with which to produce more goods. The Government is obtaining a degree of success in restoring initiative and incentive, with consequent stimulation of production. We take great credit for the fact that the record of industrial disputes during our period of office has been infinitely better than during the previous year. The Government is also importing into Australia large quantities of consumer goods, in order to remedy the deficiencies with which we have to contend. Those remedies are having their effect. Senator O’Flaherty has cited figures showing the increase of production during the last twelve months. I have before me statistics in relation to the principal items of production, including black coal, iron and steel, bricks, cement, oil paint, and floor coverings, all of which show increases in 1950 compared with the corresponding months of 1949. I shall refrain from citing actual statistics, because the position was succinctly and well stated in the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in the following words : -
Higher levels continue to be reached in production, employment, building and construction, and other investments, as well as in overseas trade and in incomes generally. The full development of the economy, however, is still being impeded by shortages of labour, capital equipment, and some basic materials.
That is a reasonable summary of the position as it exists in Australia to-day. Let us consider the alternatives.What courses are available to us?
– Get out !
– I could forgive Senator Grant if his interjection was witty, but it was merely rude. I shall state the alternatives in general terms in this way: The first has to do with the fixing of prices. I submit that that commencement would, in truth, be the commencement of the usual socialistic pattern of approach to the problem by concentration of federal prices control and other powers at Canberra. We know that the Australian people are heartily tired of the concentration of powers at Canberra, and that is one reason, above all others, why I consider that a referendum on this matter would be rejected. Such concentration of power would make only an insignificant contribution to the problem, unless it were accompanied by wage-pegging, man-power control, subsidies, and high taxation. Such provisions lead inevitably to loss of man-power, thus weakening production possibilities not only by reason of the additional public servants required, but also - and this is more important - by the number of employees added to private businesses and the diversion of the activities of those businesses. In the light of experience, that system would inevitably be accompanied by black marketing and exploitation of the weaker sections of the Australian community, because they are not in the race when the black marketeer commences to operate.
Senator Aylett interjecting,
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Aylett’s remark that the Minister must have been in the black marketing to be able to talk about it, is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (SenatorNicholls). - There is no point of order.
– I did not hear the remark, but if any honorable senator in this chamber has said that I was associated with black marketing I shall be more than offended; I shall pull his nose. If that remark was made, I ask for it to be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - If the remark was made I did not hear it.
– I take it that there is a denial on the part of the Opposition that that remark was made. In other words, if anybody did make that remark he is too big a coward to own up to it.
The system that I have outlined could only result in decreased efficiency, and, because it would make no constructive approach to the problem, it would merely lengthen the period of recovery. The best that can be said of the Labour party’s plan is that it provides for plugging the holes one after the other as they appear. A new control would have to be introduced to meet every new shift of the situation, and in spite of all efforts, the situation would go from bad to worse. That is the socialist’s approach. The other method of approach is to try in an intelligent way to diagnose the basic cause of the trouble, and so to direct the national effort as to eliminate that cause; in other words, to encourage the efforts of the citizens of Australia, who alone can provide the solution of the problem insofar as it can be solved by any action within Australia. Members of the Opposition cannot see, or will not admit, that the problem cannot be solved by acts and regulations. It cannot be solved by centralizing control in Canberra. It is well known that the further control is situated from the problems with which it deals the less efficient is the administration. Basically, the difference between the Government and the Opposition is that the Opposition relies on controls, regulations and rules, whereas the Government relies .on increasing industrial harmony, goodwill and co-operation; in the final analysis, on the common sense and the goodwill of Australian citizens. It is interesting to note that the State Prices Ministers have asked Commonwealth Ministers to confer with them on their problems, and I hope that at the conference a practical method of dealing with the situation will be evolved. It is not so much that State Prices Ministers have failed to control prices, as that they have failed to realize that prices control, whether by the Commonwealth or by the States, can of itself make but little contribution towards the solution of the problem.
Since the general election, the Government has had a proud record of achievement. On a previous occasion, I outlined what the Government had done, and what it proposed to do. We have gone a. long way in developing new open-cut mines, and towards increasing coal production. We shall go a long way farther when the miners federation reverts to sound and sensible control. We should be in a much better position now if the Opposition had shown a sense of responsibility six months ago. We are importing coal and subsidizing the cost of it. We are importing steel. Within the next six months, 10,000 prefabricated houses will be imported from Europe. Other essential goods also are being imported. A great number of migrants have been selected, and directed to productive employment. A dollar loan has been obtained, something which the Opposition could not do. The Government has made a real drive against communism, and the Communists are aware of it. They have already quietened down, and we shall do better when the legislation recently enacted becomes fully effective.
Other proposals that we have in mind were outlined in the budget speech. The Government is withdrawing from circulation part of the proceeds of wool sales. It proposes to impose an excess profits tax, to introduce capital issues control,, and to control the supply of basic materials. It intends to set up a national resources board. It has introduced taxa- tion on luxury items in order to divert production into more effective channels. Every one of those proposals will, when implemented, assist in the solution of the economic problems that confront us. Compare them with the solitary proposal put forward by the Opposition, namely, that a referendum should be held on the subject of prices control. Such a referendum would have no prospect of success. The programme of the Government is being put into effect, and is already showing results. It is holding the price level, and has the confidence of the people.
– To-night, I am following the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). Last week, he followed me, and although he said that he would answer the points that I raised in my speech, he did not, in fact, do me the courtesy of replying to them. I do not intend to imitate his discourtesy. I propose to answer some of the points that the Minister has just made. We now have some idea, as the result of the Minister’s observations, of the Government’s attitude towards prices and inflation. The remarks of the Minister showed how hopelessly out of touch with reality the Government is, and particularly the Minister for Social Services himself. The Government is not prepared to accept any form of prices control. It does not want to control prices. The speech of the Minister was designed to tickle the ears of the groundlings. He set himself out to say the popular things which politicians, not statesmen, say on the eve of a general election. The speech was typical of the man. Whenever he makes a speech in this chamber, he professes to discover, with great reluctance, that this or that is wrong with the policy of the Labour party. The Minister was born a conservative. He has not changed his opinions in any way, and he will probably die a conservative. The Minister avers, that this bill was not introduced for genuine reasons, and that the events of this afternoon prove that he is right in his contention. I was astonished at the intolerance of the Government towards Opposition opinion. It has often been caustically remarked that politicians talk too much, but this
Government would turn the Parliament into a place where politicians cannot talk at all. This afternoon, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) submitted a motion that the Commonwealth Bank Bill should take precedence over other business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator may not refer to what was said in an earlier debate.
– I was merely pointing out that a claim was made this afternoon that events showed that the Opposition was not sincere. The Minister for Trade and Customs tried to have the Commonwealth Bank Bill placed before the measure we are now discussing, which has been before the Senate since the 5th October. For political purposes, the Minister made a speech that had nothing to do with the subject before the Chair. It was made for the benefit of the press. An attempt was made to gag speakers from this side of the chamber. I insist on my right to speak on the bill, which is probably the most important measure that has come before the Senate since the general election. It is the duty of every honorable senator to express his opinion on matters of vital interest to the people, and surely Parliament is the appropriate place in which to express it.
Government supporters have claimed that the proposal of the Opposition regarding prices is not practicable, and that there is no chance of a referendum being carried. Nevertheless, Ministers have risen in their places, and cried out to high heaven that they want to go before the people with a proposal that is, in fact, much more complicated than ours, although they claim that no referendum has a chance of being carried if one of the major political parties is opposed to it. We have been told that it is wrong to discuss inflation because to do so is merely to frighten timid people. If we are not to mention a subject that is worrying at least two out of every three persons in the community, of what use is an Opposition in the Parliament? The Minister for Social Services has said that the question that we are now considering was placed before the people on two previous occasions, in 1944 and again in 1948. However, he did not say that in 1944 thirteen other questions were also submitted to the people, three of them affecting constitutional safeguards. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when discussing the referendum proposals on that occasion, said that he agreed with some of them, and disagreed with others, but he did not say what he agreed with and what he did not. One of the proposals submitted was that the Commonwealth should have power to legislate for the control of aborigines, but that proposal was tossed out with the other thirteen. The Minister then dealt with the “ C “ series index and, in that connexion, he showed how little he knew about what Mr. Justice Foster had said in the judgment in the recent basic wage case. Mr. Justice Foster was dealing with the specific argument that has always been put forward by the trade unions that, as the “ C “ series index contains only 81 items, it is not a true indication of living costs. For instance, the only vegetables that regimen contains are potatoes and brown onions. Only three varieties of jam are included. The prices of items outside the “ 0 “ series regimen can rise indefinitely without being reflected in the basic wage. That perfectly valid argument has been advanced by trade unions at nearly all basic wage inquiries, both State and Commonwealth, and that is the specific argument with which Mr. Justice Foster was dealing. What he said was that there was no more reliable index for adjusting the basic wage. That is undoubtedly true. There is no more reliable index because there is no other index, but there is general agreement that the “ C “ series index is far from comprehensive. It is quite true to say that the “ C “ series index has shown a steady but not inordinate rise in the cost of living. Every effort has been made to hold down the prices of commodities included in the Ct C “ series regimen. On one occasion that I recall, an increase was permitted in the price of every kind of jam with the exception of the three varieties included in the basic wage regimen. It was completely dishonest on the Minister’s part to try to use Mr. Justice Foster’s argument in the way that the honorable senator did to-night. He asked pitifully what was to be done about the matter; what legislation should be brought down to bolster the price-fixing system. He said, “You tell us”. Apparently the Government does not know. The honorable senator then treated us to a delightful piece of political philosophy - if it can be called philosophy. He assured us that prices were lower in Australia than they were in any other country! That is great solace to the people of Australia! If prices in this country are to be compared with those overseas, it is only fair to examine economic conditions in other parts of the world. The United Kingdom, for instance, has to import 60 per cent, of its foodstuffs. In America, where - with all due respects to honorable senators opposite - capitalism is more unbridled than it is in any other country, prices are, indeed, higher than they are in this country, but that is because price-fixing was abandoned immediately the war ended. The result was, as we all know, that the ensuing boom nearly burst the roof of America’s economy. Therefore, if one is to make a comparison of prices in this country and elsewhere in the world, it is only fair that the economy of the countries with which the comparison is to be made should be examined.
The Minister claimed that a reasonable interpretation of Labour’s attitude to Australia’s economic problems was that we desired an era of bushfires, droughts and unemployment. That is so stupid that I shall not even try to reply to it. The honorable senator added that that was a typically socialistic approach. That claim is somewhat reminiscent of the work of the propaganda machine that we heard blaring forth for three years prior to the last elections. The people of Australia were told about this great monster Canberra. By the way members of the present Government parties spoke of our national capital, one would have thought that they were referring to Moscow, Tokyo or Berlin. The electors were warned that Canberra wanted to control this, that and the other thing. The Minister warned us to-night that the re-imposition of controls would mean the return of black markets; but what is a black market? The Minister was referring of course to the breaking of laws in relation to prices. Apparently honorable senators opposite believe that if those laws are removed the problem has been solved. In effect, there is one big black market throughout the Commonwealth to-day. The Minister went on to say that, with the return of black marketing, the strong would prey on the weak. The truth is, of course, that the weak are the very people who are protected under a controlled economy. Under prices control, if the price of a motor car is £300, and some one sells it for £400, he is making £100 on the black market. According to honorable senators opposite, the simple remedy is to remove the prices control laws from the statute-book. The vendor still receives his £400, and everything is apparently OK. I am surprised that any one should be able to salve his conscience so easily. To-day there is a vast black market throughout the Commonwealth. People who produce goods that are in short supply extract all that they can from the hapless purchaser who must have those goods.
The Minister for Social Services must be very loyal indeed to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). The honorable senator said, “ We propose to impose heavier taxes on luxury goods “. Apparently the Government, like the ostrich, is hiding its head in the sand. Some of the so-called luxuries on which the sales tax is to bc increased are brushes and combs and wireless sets. By raising the prices of those commodities, the Government is attacking the very person whom the Labour Government set out to defend - the family man. I remember very clearly the memorable speech of the late John Curtin when he toppled the Fadden Government in 1941. He was prompted to take that drastic action by a budget which, like that introduced by the present Treasurer in the House of Representatives recently, is aimed at the family man. When money is taken from wealthy people, it merely comes out of the bank, but when it is taken from wage-earners, family purchases of the necessaries of life have to be reduced. A large family has to use many more combs and brushes than are required by a single person. The life of a wireless set in a home where there are children is much shorter than it is in the possession of a single person. I say therefore that the imposition of additional sales tax on those items is a direct attack upon the family unit. The humble wireless set is one of the first amenities that people want in a home. It is their medium for receiving education, entertainment, news, sporting results, and so on but the Government we are told, is determined to curl) intiation, and intends to tax so-called luxury goods. .1. hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will revise this stupid budget. It seems rather strange to me that although the sales tax on brushes, combs and wireless sets, is to he increased, there is no mention of an additional imposition on electric razors. Surely an electric razor is far more of a luxury in an Australian household than arc brushes and combs or, the humble wireless set.
Striking his most pugnacious pose, and thrusting his chin across the table, the Minister said, “ 1. want Senator McKenna to tell me whether he is in favour of more controls to stand beside prices control “. lt is unfortunate that the Minister did not pay more attention to the great speech made by Senator McKenna when moving the second reading of this bill and with your permission, Mr. Deputy President, 1 propose to quote portion of it for the Minister’s information. Senator McKenna said -
Thu Opposition lines licit suggest thai thu transfer of prices control from thu States let tin: Commonwealth would have thu effect of res te >ring prices to normal levels. Nor does it suggest that prices control, standing alone will prevent prices from rising further. The Opposition, nevertheless, recognizes prices control as essential and indispensable to other and more basic: measure.., needed to incut the present emergency. Its purpose is to ensure” that no more than ii proper portion of rising costs pusses into the prices structure of the Australian economy. The effect of these other measures can lie largely offset unless they are supplemented by an efficient system of prices control. Unless these other measures, or some of them, arc immediately applied with courage and without discrimination and are firmly held, then the Australian economy will in the near future fall into the utmost chaos, in which, as always, the few will become more powerful and wealthy and the rest of our people will know poverty, distress, degradation, hopelessness and hardship.
I trust that will be a sufficient reply to the Minister’s allegations. We on this side of the chamber have never suggested that prices control alone can restore our economy. The Opposition in this chamber has had to adopt the unorthodox procedure of introducing this bill into the Parliament, because honorable senators opposite have failed completely to fulfil their unequivocal promise to the people of Australia prior to the 10th December last to halt inflation in this country or, to use their own words, to put value back into the £1. Why, in time of prosperity is it necessary that the people of Australia should have to submit to prices control? The answer is to be found in the economic position in which this country finds itself for to-day. Because of the system under which we live, with boom following slump, many people have become inured to dangerous economic fluctuations. They have become used to seeing prices rise in war-time because they know that when men are taken from productive industries and are put into the services or into war production, inflation must result. However, what the people have not, become used to is prices continuing to rise long after a war has ended.
In 1921, three years after the end of World War I., there was an economic slump. To-day, five years after the end of World War II., there is continuing prosperity of a kind that is dangerous to the great bulk of the Australian people. They are beginning to wonder where it is all going to end. In 1921, the unemployment figure was 45,622 or 12.5 per cent.., not. of the population, but of registered trade unionists. In those days there was no industrial register to show how many people were employed and how many were not employed. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that, ou a population basis, unemployment in 1921 was much greater than 12.5 per cent. Because of the Labour Government’s policy of full employment and the smooth manner in. which the armed forces were demobilized and ex-servicemen and muni-, tions workers guided back to productive industries, there was no unemployment after World War II. Realizing the dangers of inflation, the Chifley Government in 1947 took the only course that was open to it. It had so effectively controlled prices under the Commonwealth’s war-time powers that it asked the people for authority to continue the control until normal conditions had been restored. “When the proposal was submitted to the people the greatest political propaganda machine that was ever developed in the history of this country was immediately brought into operation by the anti-Labour parties. Indeed, it might be claimed to be the greatest political propaganda machine developed in any country in modern times with the exception of that developed and operated by Dr. Goebbels in Germany.
Looking through some of my old files I was amazed to read again the dishonest slogans that were coined by the anti-Labour parties during that campaign. One of them read “ The State can do it better because it knows your local needs”. Was it seriously suggested that a State could effectively control prices of goods manufactured in another State because it knew local needs? Another slogan adopted by the anti-Labour parties was, “ The State can do it better because the State has effectively controlled rents “. The control of rents is a comparatively simple matter. Any person who has reason to complain about the rent charged for premises occupied by him may appear before a court to prove that the rent charged is excessive. How could control of rents be compared with the control of goods manufactured in one State and distributed over the Commonwealth? Generally speaking, I feel sorry for the people when they are asked to express their views on complicated constitutional questions. It is understandable that they should be confused by the varying advice given to them by opposing political parties. That was not the case in the referendum on rents and prices. The issue then was clear and simple. The people were asked whether or not they wished the Commonwealth to continue prices control until normal conditions had returned. Instead of stating the issue clearly the anti-Labour parties indulged in blatantly dishonest propaganda, assuring the people that they were not asked to decide whether or not prices control should be continued but whether control should be exercised by the States or the Commonwealth. It is known now, as it was known then, that it would be absolutely impossible for six States each with a different price-fixing system and each animated by State jealousy, effectively to control prices. Economic and geographical differences alone would have prevented the States from reaching a common agreement on a matter such as that. After the Commonwealth had relinquished control and the States took over, Victoria decided to abolish the control of the sale of second-hand motor vehicles. Immediately, every other State had to follow suit or every good secondhand motor vehicle would have found its way into Victoria where the highest prices ruled. One might have advised that stand even though the argument was false, if the anti-Labour parties said, “We do not believe in prices control. If prices control is abandoned there may be a sharp boom period but competition will quickly force prices down to reasonable levels “. They knew that that argument was false because they were well aware that after the United States of America had cast prices control overboard in June, 1946, retail prices in that country almost immediately had risen by 20 per cent., that company profits had risen by 60 per cent., but that the real earnings of the workers had risen by only 12 per cent. The issue put to the people by the Chifley Government was plain and simple and but for the patent dishonesty of the propaganda of the anti-Labour parties the people would not have been misled. The antiLabour parties sacrificed the welfare of the Australian people in order to gain a petty political advantage.
As Senator Critchley has said, questions relating to foreign affairs and constitutional reform should be considered on a non-party basis. We all agree that having just emerged victorious from the war, we had an excellent opportunity to place the economy of this country on a sound footing. Instead of assisting the Chifley Government to place Australia’s economy on a solid basis the anti-Labour parties established a great political propaganda machine and poured out immense sums of money in a campaign to discredit the Labour Government. After the referendum had been held the leaders of the anti-Labour parties said, “If the
Chifley Government had not thrown overboard the price subsidy system prices control would have been all right “. They did not say, “ The States should controlprices so long as price stabilization subsidies are continued “. Had they done so it would have been an admission that it was necessary for the Commonwealth to underwrite every action subsequently taken by the States in relation to prices control. To do so would have been to admit the weakness of their argument. As the result of the blatantly dishonest propaganda in which the antiLabour parties indulged the forces of reaction won the day. I said then and I say now that by their action the last prop to the establishment of a sound economic system in this country was kicked away.
Then followed the general election of 1949. No matter how vehemently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) may deny having given an assurance to the people that if they were returned to office they would put value back into the £1, their promise to do so is plain for all to see. The phrase used by them was “ Let us return to the 1939 Liberal and Australian Country party. £1 “. The Australian Country party at least has something to stand up to- in respect of that promise because it was in existence in 1939 even if the Liberal party was not. Specifically, definitely and without qualification the leaders of the anti-Labour parties promised the pensioners of Australia and all those on fixed incomes that if they were returned to office purchasing power would be increased per medium of the restored value of the £1 and a falling price level, but they well knew that there was no possibility of a return to the fi of 1939. Let us compare the position that existed in 1939 with that which existed in December, 1949, when the leaders of the anti-Labour parties assured the people that if they were returned to office they would put value back into the £1. In 1939 it was possible to go into a shop and buy cheap goods imported from Germany, Japan, Italy, Czechoslovakia and many other countries. The price of wheat was then ls. 6d. a bushel and Australia’s wool cheque amounted to £60,000,000. I may be pardoned for mentioning the fact that at that time no> fewer than 200,000 of our people were out of work and had no money to buy anything. When, ten years later the leaders of the anti-Labour parties assured the people that they would put value back into the £1, the price of wheat was six or eight times higher and the wool cheque had proportionately increased in value.
In the years up to 1949 Australia had made gifts of £30,000,000 to international relief organizations, and of £35,000,000 to Great Britain. We had established overseas credits to the amount of £500,000,000; in other words the value of our exports exceeded the value of our imports by that amount. In 1949 we were not able to import any commodities from Germany; Italy was still out of the market and Czechoslovakia was firmly behind the Iron Curtain. At that time there was no unemployment among our people to force down the prices of commodities, as was the case in 1939 and, to a much greater degree in 1931. After the general election the Prime Minister was reported to have said in Tasmania that it was not the task of the government to restore value to the £1. Some honorable senators opposite have denied that the right honorable gentleman made that statement. Whether he made it or not is of little importance - although I believe that he did make it - compared with his subsequent statement, which was the daddy of them all, that inflation had been caused by the devaluation of the £1 by the Chifley Government. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ If Mr. Chifley had not devalued the Australian £1 there would be no inflation “. In that dishonest way he attempted to avoid responsibility for the definite undertaking that he had given to the people. He well knew that the £1 had been de: valued by the Chifley Government months before he promised that if he were returned to office he would put back value into the £1. As Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament the right honor able gentleman had supported the decision of the Chifley Government to devalue the £1, his only criticism of that decision- being that it had been made overnight without prior reference to the Parliament.
– That is not true. I invite the honorable senator to read the Hansard record of what the right honorable gentleman said.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs knows very well that what I have said is true. However, whether it be true or not, the Minister cannot buck my second point that the Australian £1 had been devalued months before the Prime Minister promised to put value back into the £1.
We are entitled to ask by what means the Government proposes to honour its promise to restore the purchasing power of the £1. Are the people to wait until Father Christmas rights the position? I hi! ve already outlined our import position. We can no longer obtain goods from Germany, Japan, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and many other countries as we could before the war. The import position will probably not improve for some considerable time. Germany has been divided and has now become the cockpit of the world. Japan will not become a major exporter of goods for many years, and in any case I do not think that the present mood of the Australian people would permit them to accept imports from that country. Italy is facing all sorts of political and economic troubles and is in no position to resume its former place as a supplier of our needs. The countries behind the Iron Curtain cannot export cheaply manufactured goods to the Australian market. Because of the economic collapse of Great Britain, Australia is unable to obtain all the dollar goods which it requires. -The present position in relation to imports will not improve in the immediately foreseeable future. The lack of imports which is a contributory cause of inflation will thus continue for some time.
Another factor which contributes to inflation is the prevailing high prices obtained for our exports. They are now five or six times higher than they were in 1939 and they are rising almost daily. As long as the present war scare continues overseas countries will compete against on another in an attempt to build up a stock pile of strategic materials, and high export prices will continue to operate. At home the needs of the national service scheme must be met. Essential as the scheme may be, it, too, has a decidedly inflationary effect. In order to meet the requirements of that scheme, young men will be taken out of factories for military training and others will be taken from their normal work in order to provide uniforms and munitions, of war for the trainees. That process will aggravate the inflationary trend. Recently the Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave a decision which, in spite of (the mysteries that surround it, will undoubtedly result in an increase of the basic wage by up to £1 a week. As a result of that decision and of a recent decision by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, the Government will, be faced with a heavy increase in public service salaries. All these decisions will have an inflationary effect. The public, service is continually increasing. Before the last general election we heard a great deal about the increased number of public servants, but we do not hear anything about it to-day, although statistics show that their numbers are continually mounting.. I make no criticism of that fact. As I said before the elections, if any one knows of a public servant who should not be employed, he should say so, so that the Government might do something about it.
Much discussion has ensued concerning appreciation of the Australian £1, and if rumour is to be believed, the stormiest meetings Canberra has known have occurred on this subject during the last seven months. I pass no comment on it, but I feel that a very close examination of the position should be made, and it is the duty of the Government to advise the people of its policy in that matter. I cast my mind back to the days before the war when tea. was to be rationed. On the Friday night before the Monday morning on which rationing was to commence, the responsible Minister made a statement. Panic buying was immediately caused and every newspaper in Australia took him to task for making known the Government’s intention beforehand. Yet, with regard to appreciation of the £1, wranglings occur every day. Recently Canada floated its dollar on to the free market, and it was done overnight. One columnist was moved to remark that evidently in Canada -Cabinet discussions take place behind closed doors.
There seems to he no other conclusion than that this inflationary trend must inevitably continue. The question that the people of Australia are entitled to ask is : What are the Government and the Opposition of the day prepared to do about it? The first step towards its correction is this bill that is now before the Senate. The measure was not introduced hastily by the Opposition, but in a state of desperation, after many months had passed. After hearing the Minister for Social Services speak to-night, I am more convinced than ever that that legislation had to come from this side of the chamber, because the member^ of the Government, despite their denials, do not exist only on their parliamentary salaries, and are completely out of touch with what the normal person is suffering because of the economic chaos. The first step towards countering the chaos was the introduction of this bill. Senator Henty,- in his maiden speech last week, said, apparently genuinely, that he objected to the measure on the ground that it was handing permanent control to the Australian Parliament. But if he was genuine in that expression why did he not propose an amendment to provide for the power to be handed over for a limited number of years? Why does not the Government come forward with some constructive suggestions? The members of the Government have not had the courage to debate this bill because they have done nothing but make political speeches ever since they have been in office. They are frightened to move because they owe their political allegiance to others, and they are obliged to sit dumb. The Minister for Social Services has demonstrated how completely out of touch with the people the members of the Government are. There are many suggestions that come to mind. One is the imposition of export embargoes on certain commodities that are in short supply on the home markets. One may see on the wharfs on any day of the week commodities being shipped out of Australia whilst the home markets are being starved of those commodities. In Western Australia, where the finest hardwood in the world grows, load after load of timber is shipped overseas, although it is impossible to obtain timber, even in Perth, when it is required.
That is one suggestion I make to the Government. It can ensure, if it wishes, that the Australian markets will be supplied with reasonably cheap goods before some people are allowed to make exorbitant profits on the starved markets of the other parts of the world.
I notice that a prices control conference is to be held, and I also notice that the move has been made by the States. The lead has not been given by the Australian Government.
Dealing with capital issues control, it is not difficult to recall that’ the moment the elections were over the Treasurer said that capital issues control would go, that the public servants who were employed on the Capital Issues Control Board would be released to engage in productive activities, and that that board represented socialist control. Now we find, in the budget recently introduced, that the Government has decided to reinstitute capital issues control.
Pensions and fixed incomes were specifically mentioned during the last general election. I have always considered that even under the Labour Government people on pensions were existing on a mere pittance and that it was slow starvation, even at the best of times. On the 21st October, 1948, the government of the day - which happened to be a Labour government. - increased the age pension from 37s. 6d. to 42s. 6d. a week. At that time it was 36.64 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day it is very much less than 30 per cent, of the basic wage. When the budget proposals are put into effect and 7s. 6d. is added to pensions they will still be only 32 per cent, or 33 per cent, of the basic wage which will then be in operation, and from a slow, genteel starvation, those pensioners will proceed to rapid starvation.
The Minister for Social Services tonight detailed all the things that this Government had done. Amongst other things, he said that its immigration programme is a very comprehensive one. Honorable senators may remember how the members of the Government, when they were in Opposition, threw up their hands when the then Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, did such a magnificent job after the war in obtaining ships for the transport of migrants to this country. Now those gentlemen are on the bandwagon saying their immigration policy will take care of this and take care of that. The Minister for Social Services then went on to deal with a proposed tax on luxury items. Again, it is well to remember that the moment the elections were over the Prime Minister made a very weak effort to disclaim all responsibility for the necessity of restoring value to the £1. Then he denied that statement. The next step was a complete refusal to consider or even to criticize this measure introduced by the Opposition. The members of the Government accused the Opposition of employing delaying tactics, but at least the Government could have had some of its more capable members present its views. I am still waiting for one member of the Government to deal with the business now before this chamber. Every time one of them speaks we hear a tirade of abuse about socialism. It seems that they have never recovered from the election fever, and that they have been caught up in their own great propaganda machine.
When the basic wage hearing was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, representatives of three State Liberal governments went before the court and advocated that all social services should be taken into consideration in fixing the basic wage. The most dangerous trend of their intervention is the hidden desire to cut down wages. They are afraid to come out into the open and say that that is their intention, because they know it will be politically unpopular. Those governments will not do anything that will be politically unpopular, but they will try to tickle the ears of the groundlings in season and out of season. It is said that wages are not fixed, but my reply is that they have been fixed for many years in this country by an examination of the facts and a determination of what the wage should be. The action of those three Liberal governments in sending their representatives into the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could have had no other object than the cutting down of wages.
I wish to refer to a statement made by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Canberra, on the 28th February. At the end of the statement, it said, in effect, “ There should be restoration of peace in industry by firm government and enforcement of Arbitration Court decisions ; that the disastrous results of the 40-hour week must be acknowledged, and that the trade unions must consent to a longer working day or to more overtime being worked at less prohibitive rates “. If ever there was a contradictory statement in a few short lines, that is one, because it says there should be enforcement of Arbitration Court decisions, which include the fixation of penalty rates. It seems that the idea is to enforce decisions favorable to the employers, hut that when an arbitration court, after making all inquiries, says that a certain rate of overtime .should be paid, when a man is kept back at his bench after his ordinary eight hours, that rate should not be paid. It is also said that the 40-hour week should not be enf orced presumably because it does not suit the purpose of the employers.
The Institute of Public Affairs in Victoria, which I understand is not a very radical organization, has admitted that the prospects of an early alleviation of inflation are anything but bright, and it suggests that as a part of the solution, consideration should be given to temporarily cutting the link between prices and wages. That means that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should sit every three months, as it is bound to do by law, examine the “ C “ series index, and if it comes to the conclusion that prices have gone up and that the workers should receive an additional os. a week, say that it will cut the link and will allow prices to rise but refuse workers an additional 5s. a week. That is the consistent line that this Government and its supporters have taken ever since the last general election. They have not made one suggestion “towards restoring value to the £1 other than holding down wages, but a firm stand must be made on this problem at some time or other. If the Government does not do it this year it must do it before its term of office ends, because of the economic facts I have mentioned. When employees approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and that court decides that a certain wage should be paid, it is the duty of the Government to see that that wage will purchase a certain amount of goods. It would he wrong to say, “ We shall peg wages and deny Australian workers the right to sell their labour - which is all they have to sell - to the highest bidder, but we shall permit other persons in the community to sell their goods, whether they be socks, studs or motor cars, for whatever they can get for them “. We must have a pegged economy on both sides. There must be equality of sacrifice. The workers have always done their share. Because of the system under which we live, it is inevitable that they will be caught in the cogs when the machine begins to grind. Every person in the community must be called upon to make a contribution to a solution of this problem. It would be very pleasant if we could believe that the problem will solve itself, but there is no easy way out of our difficulties. The Government must face up to its responsibilities sooner or later.
I shall refer in passing to the 40-hour week. The press has insinuated that it was introduced into Australia by a Labour Government, but in fact it was introduced by a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– It was introduced first in New South Wales by an act of the New South Wales Parliament.
– That is so. There are thousands of persons who have never worked a 40-hour week. The Public Service, for instance, has a 36fhour week. Before I entered the Parliament, I worked for 36f hours a week. I work longer hours now, and sometimes I wish that I had stayed where I was. The 40-hour week has had an equalizing effect. The point I want to make is that its introduction throughout the Commonwealth was the result of a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Labour party officially supported a 40- hour week, and we believe that it has been worth the effort. It has been said that the 40-hour week was introduced at the wrong time, but I invite honorable senators opposite to ask business men whether they would prefer it to be imposed upon them when there are plenty of people eager to buy their goods and business is buoyant, or in times like the depression years when they were scratching to make a living, their staffs were reduced to a minimum and few people had the money to purchase their goods. The time to introduce a 40-hour week is at the peak of a boom, when the country is prosperous and employers can afford the extra expense.
The 40-hour week has not caused a reduction of productive capacity “by four hours a week. In most States, employers immediately approached the Arbitration Court and asked that tea breaks of ten minutes in the morning and afternoon be abolished. The Arbitration Court in Western Australia, to mention only one State, agreed that that should be done. Therefore, the employers immediately got back ten minutes every morning and afternoon. I know from experience that, immediately the 40-hour week was introduced, some employers abolished amenities such as social afternoons, and I do not blame them for having done so. All surveys conducted after the introduction of the 40-hour week show that since its introduction productive capacity in Australia has improved. Whether the improvement is due to the 40-hour week itself or to something that happened at the time of its introduction, I do not know. Professor Copland has stated that productive capacity has increased 12-J per cent.
– The honorable senator is talking of production, but he should talk about the man-hour output.
– That is the’ most illogical interjection that I have heard for a long time. Professor Copland, after an independent inquiry, said that productive capacity had increased by 12^ per cent, since the introduction of the 40-hour week. Dr. Stevens made a survey of, I think, 91 factories in Melbourne. He said that productive capacity had improved greatly. I am not in a position to say why it improved, but I could suggest that managers, realizing that their employees would henceforth work for four hours fewer than previously a week, faced up to the position and improved the efficiency of their organization. The much maligned 40-hour week has been made a political plaything, but I say, speaking as one who had to work for all hours of the night and on Saturdays and Sundays and suddenly was able to enjoy long week-ends with his family, that it was worth the effort that it took to get it. It made a great difference to my family. Some people say that most workers spend their additional leisure hours in starting price betting shops and public houses but, speaking for myself, in summer I spent them on the beach with my children. The 40-hour week has been a great boon to the workers, who can now enjoy Saturdays and Sundays away from their work. It was worth the effort that the trade unions made to secure it.
The Government has complained that it has not been able to secure the passage of certain measures that it has introduced into this Parliament. I accuse it of introducing some measures only for political purposes. I believe that it did not want them to be passed. It has introduced highly controversial bills and debated them only from the political point of view. As I said earlier, I should be very interested if a Minister dealt specifically with the measure before the chamber and did not attempt to gain political capital from it. The Government will be judged upon its handling of the problem of inflation. It is true that other countries are suffering from inflation, but that fact provides no comfort for the Australian housewife.
The Government’s supreme test will be its success or failure in implementing its promise to put value back into the Australian fi. Owing to its political complexion, it will be subjected to pressure by people who give financial assistance to the Government parties and urged not to impose controls upon the industries that they represent. That pressure should be resisted. Doubtless, many people will take advantage of their personal friendships with members of the Government and try to force them into invidious positions, but the Government should stand up to them and be courageous enough to swallow some of the things that it has said. I believe that it will be unable to avoid introducing a bill similar to this measure and eventually establishing some form of pegged economy in this country. l.f it docs that, it will be able to look this Parliament and the people of Australia in the face, but if it yields to the pressure that will be brought to bear upon it. we shall, very much sooner than some people believe, suffer from conditions similar to those from which, unfortunately, we suffered in the depression years. We shall have, not rising prices but falling prices, not an excess of demand for goods but a lack of demand for them, not a labour shortage but a job shortage. I appeal to the Government to apply itself diligently and fearlessly to this problem, which affects the everyday lives of the Australian people.
– I support the motion for the second reading of this bill. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have produced evidence which proves conclusively that, in the interests of the stability of our economy, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise control of prices in this country. The amazing thing is that the Government has left it to the Opposition to introduce this most important and essential measure. The Australian press and all sections of the community have called upon the Government to take practical steps to arrest the upward movement of prices. There is abundant evidence that fabulous profits are being made by business undertakings, and high prices appear to be the order of the day. They are continually increasing. That all sections of the community are agreed th.it something practical should be done to check the increases and place the Australian economy upon a stable basis is shown by the result of the Gallup poll that was published in the press a few weeks ago. Illuminating references to the inflationary tendencies operating throughout Australia at the present time were made by the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in their judgment in the basic wage case. But, despite the overwhelming evidence that inflation is adversely affecting our economy, the Government has not given a lead to the people by making practical suggestions to counter it. In relation to this matter, it has been passive, in contradistinction to the attitude that it adopted when other matters were before this chamber recently. Honorable senators opposite were very caustic of the attitude of the Opposition to certain legislation that had been introduced. Although many members of the Opposition have voiced their views on the prices problem, only two or three supporters of the Government have done so. The indifference of honorable senators opposite to this most vital matter must be apparent to the people of Australia. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) has stated why the Government had decided to remain passive towards the subject of prices control. Honorable senators will recall vividly the propaganda that was disseminated before the last general election by the political parties now in office. Amongst other things they undertook to restore value to the £1. I have before me a cutting from the Adelaide Advertiser of the 19th November last, the heading of which reads -
This is What aliberal-Country Government willdo. . . .
The subjects that were enumerated in that article were similar to the subjects about which people are asking questions to-day. They want to know, particularly, what the Government intends to do in order to put value back into the £1, a subject about which honorable senators opposite prated extensively prior to the last general election. It will be recalled that Labour candidates did not make fictitious promises. Labour decided to stand four-square on its record of achievements, but not so the opponents of Labour. Under the heading that I have mentioned the following appeared : -
PRICES: Get prices down by restoring value of the £1 (now only worth 10s.). Encourage production, and pay price subsidies when necessary, e.g. on items affecting cost of living of basic wage-earners.
I venture to suggest that the purchasing value of the Australian £1 is now only about 7s. This Government has failed to honour its election promise to restore value to the £1 and has in fact reduced subsidies. Serious repercussions must flow from the reduction of subsidieson superphosphate, the true effects of which will not be felt until next year, when, I am convinced, bread prices will rise. Propaganda on behalf of the anti-Labour parties appeared in most newspapers and journals in Australia. In the Australian Women’s Weekly of the 3rd December, 1949, the following advertisement appeared : -
Will you be able to reduce the cost of living?
We regard that as one of our first responsibilities - to increase the purchasing value of the Australian £1 ; to increase production and thus bring prices down.
The Government had hardly got into the saddle when it realized the enormity of its responsibilities. It had to placate the inquiring public in connexion with prices control, as well as soft-pedal its attitude towards the interests that it represented. If the Government had been honest and sincere in connexion with its obligation to restore value to the £1 it would have taken drastic economic action. In his opening speech to the Parliament on the 22nd February last His Excellency the Governor-General said -
My Government views with grave concern the increase which has been taking place in recent years in the cost of living.
The Government realized that the general increase of the cost of living was an automatic action which had more than political associations. His Excellency continued -
It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy and calls for the closest co-operation not only as between the Commonwealth and State Governments but also between all sections of the community. An intensive review is at present being made by my Government of the causes of present price trends with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
Canberra, Sunday. - The Minister for Trade and Customs,. Senator N. O’sullivan, said to-night that loafing employees going slow on the job not only robbed employers but piled, unbearable burdens of costs and prices on the backs of their mates.
– Production figures are high, and the Australian national economy is better than ever before in the history of this country. The report continues -
He said that for every wage earner to enjoy the benefit of the recent basic wage increase greater production must have No. 1 priority.
It is remarkable how members of the Government, in their endeavour to check the inflationary trend, constantly assert that greater production will have the effect of reducing prices. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have condemned the workers for not producing enough. They want the workers to go on producing more and more. Inflation is the most important problem that confronts the nation to-day. We have to consider what is the real value of a person’s income, whether he be an industrial worker, a professional worker or a business worker. We know that the purchasing value of the £1 has declined, and we expect the Government to’ do something practical to meet the situation. The people would support the Government in any genuine effort to solve the problem.
The Opposition has brought forward the present proposal because it realizes that the Government has failed to do its duty. People in all sections of the community are asking the Government to act. We say that the people should now be allowed to decide the issue, and I have no doubt what their decision would be if they were given the chance to express an opinion. When the issue was last before them they were led astray by false propaganda. I, in my humble capacity, tried to persuade the people to take the right path,, but the forces arrayed against us were too strong. We derive no satisfaction from saying, “ We told you so “. We would, much rather have a stable economy. We want the £1 to buy £1 worth of goods instead of only 7s. worth, as now. Previous speakers have pointed out, that although the pensioners have been given an increase, it is really an “ Irishman’s rise “, because the new pension will he worth less than the old one.
I propose to discuss economic trends and national production, and to cite certain figures that bear upon those matters. They are particularly interesting in view of the condemnation by the Minister for Trade and Customs of the Australian worker for not working hard enough, and for loafing on his mates. I take umbrage at that accusation. I ‘ have been associated with the industrial movement for many years, and I have yet to see the worker who would wilfully loaf on his mates.
– Come up to Brisbane, and we will show you some of them.
– That is merely the opinion of the honorable senator. I have never seen the worker who would wilfully loaf or scab on his mates.
– Has the honorable senator ever seen one of them asleep on the job?
– Perhaps some of the men on the land have been sleeping on the job.
– The men who used to give their workers 5s. a week and keep.
– Yes, and the keep often consisted of a couple of bags to sleep on beside a wire fence. In his broadcast, the Minister called on the workers not to go slow. As a matter of fact the workers are going “ flat out “ to-day. Production is increasing all the time. Could that be so if the workers were going slow? On the other hand,, primary production has declined. Evidently some one has been going slow in the rural areas. I invite the Minister’ for Trade and Customs to tell the members of the Australian Country party to see that primary production is increased. Let him, in his broadcast next Sunday, deliver a treatise on the subject of greater rural production. According to the Quarterly Summary of Australian
Statistics for March, 1950, the total area under crop in Australia in 1947-48 was 22,271,532 acres, which was, I believe, about the average. In 1948-49, the area declined to 20,635,065. acres. In 1947-48, the production of various crops was, wheat 220,116,317 bushels; oats 40,696,992 bushels; maize 6,168,342 bushels; hay 3,007,758 tons. For the following year, production of the various crops showed a general decline. They were, wheat 190,702,613 bushels; oats 23,602,000 bushels; maize 5,199,000 bushels; hay 2,291,000 tons.
-Who was responsible for the decline?
– If any one is to be blamed for a decline of production, let the blame lie where it belongs.
– 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 pre sented: -
Aluminium Industry Act - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - Fifth Annual Report, for year 1949-50.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - M. M. Bourke.
Communist Party Dissolution Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 67.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Postal purposes-
Campbell Town, Tasmania,
Dungowan, New South Wales.
Repatriation Commissioner purposes -
Perth, Western Australia.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19501031_senate_19_210/>.