20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the announcement that the price of sugar will he jncreased by l1/2d. per lb. and that legislation will be introduced to provide forsuch an increase, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is the policy of the Government to forecast increases of commodity prices before introducing the enabling legislation to the Parliament?
– Senator Fraser, who is a former Minister, should know that it is not usual for Ministers to furnish answers in this chamber to questions relating to matters of Government policy.
– I am quite aware that it is not usual for Ministers to disclose Government policy in answer to questions. However, I think that I stated the facts correctly in the course of my question, and I now ask the Minister specifically to admit or deny that an announcement was made on behalf of the Government, in the course of the news broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at 12.30 p.m. to-day, to the effect that the price of sugar would be increased by l1/2d. per lb. and that legislation would be introduced by the Government to give effect to that increase. I also desire to know whether it is customary for the Government to make such an announcement before the relevant legislation is introduced to the Parliament. I emphasize that the answer to those two questions does not involve any disclosure of Government policy. To illustrate the importance of this matter, I point out to the Minister that when the price of rubber was increased recently the price of motor tyres was increasedby 121/2 per cent. Will the Minister say whether steps were taken by the Government to have a stocktaking of all sugar stocks held by wholesalers and retailers throughout Australia before it decided to increase the price of that commodity?
– Senator Fraser should realize that before legislation can be introduced to implement an agreement made by the Commonwealth Government with the government of another State the agreement must be made. I also remind him that Senator Courtice, who was the Minister for Trade and Customs in the last Labour Administration, introduced a measure in October, 1949, to increase the price of sugar. The present Government is following precisely the same procedure as that which was observed by the Chifley Administration when it introduced that legislation.
– In view of the ref usal of the Leader of the Government on two recent occasions to answer questions about whether the State Premiers had been asked to refer to the Commonwealth Government power to control rising prices, in addition to referring constitutional power to combat communism. I point out to the Minister that rising prices are the greatest stimulus to communism. I now ask him specifically whether he has read the report of a statement attributed to Archbishop Mannix, that appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Argus, to the effect that the continuing increaseof the cost of living was a great burden on those least able to bear it and that it is one of the factors that necessarily promote communism? Does the Minister agree that the rising cost of living does, in fact, promote communism, and, if so, will he indicate whether the Government proposes to seek the necessary power to deal with the menace of the increasing cost of living?
– I did not read the press report referred to by the honorable senator. However, I know that there are many causes of communism, the greatest of which in this country, according to the report of Mr. justice Lowe, of Victoria, who acted as a royal commission to investigate communism in Australia, is that the Communists are paid by a foreign power to disrupt industry here. I subscribe to that view.
– When honorable senators ask a question of a Minister they should remain silent while the Minister is answering the question.
– Why does not the Minister answer my question?
– When a Minister has answered a question I will not permit any further discussion on thematter.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by reminding the Senate that a wholesale slaughter of men, women and children and also of soldiers from other countries is taking place in Korea. In view of that tragic fact, will the Minister request the right honorable gentleman to instruct Australia’s representatives on the appropriate international bodies to call for an immediate cease fire and a. truce in Korea in order that the dispute, if any, existing in that country may be settled in some more humanitarian manner, such as by a round-table conference, or by civil arbitration?
– As honorable senators are aware, Australia is carrying out certain commitments in Korea in fulfilment of its obligations as a member of the United Nations. Of course, Senator Morrow may have some influence in other quarters which, if properly exercised, might result in an early cessation of hostilities in that country.
– Since the Australian forces in Korea, who are fighting in defence of liberty, were necessarily prevented from taking any part in the recent Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations, will the Minister consider making a monetary grant to them to mark the nation’s appreciation of their gallant services?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to the Minister for the Army.
– In connexion with statements that have appeared in the press to the effect that the transfer of the cracking plant, which is part of the refining plant of the shale oil industry at Glen Davis, to private enterprise will result in an increase of production of petrol from 16,500,000 gallons as against 2,750,000 gallons annually, will the Minister for National Development say whether it is not a fact that the production of 16,500,000 gallons of petrol means the refining of that quantity from crude oil and not additional production? Is the Minister aware that it is now five months since a deputation waited on a Cabinet sub-committee to discuss future operations at Glen Davis in view of the Government’s reported intention to close down the works? Is the Minister further aware that there is grave -concern amongst employees because no decision about future activities at Glen Davis has been made public? Is he aware that, owing to this delay, several responsible key employees have accepted other positions, and that the. Glen Davis works are being slowly strangled? In view of the seriousness of the position that is arising, and the threatened cutting off of vital oil supplies during this period of international tension, does the Government not think it necessary to make an effort to re-organize and maintain the Glen Davis shale oil industry in the interests of Australia? Will the Minister agree to meet another deputation from the Glen Davis Citizens Committee and other interested parties to discuss this matter further? Will the Minister agree to the holding of a public inquiry in an endeavour to place the .Glen Davis shale oil industry on an economic basis ? If so, would he be prepared to carry out whatever recommendations were made with that end in view ?
– I shall do my best to answer the honorable senator’s questions. It is correct that it is proposed to transfer portion of the Glen Davis plant elsewhere.
– That was denied by the Government some time ago.
– The honorable senator’s statement that the newspaper had reported that the Government proposed to transfer portion of the plant to private enterprise was not correct. No such statement was made by me, although probably that would be the best thing to do with the plant. It is quite true that, if the production of petrol is to be increased, a greater quantity of crude oil will be required, but that will not make any difference to the final result as expressed in terms of refined petrol. The fact is that after allowing for the crude oil located elsewhere, the output will be probably 16,500,000 gallons of petrol in contrast with the present output of 2,750,000 gallons. The honorable senator asked whether I was aware that the decision had been reached five months ago. The answer is again “ Yes “. The Government has shown, and will continue to show, the greatest concern for the welfare of those whose livelihood depends upon the Glen Davis shale oil industry. There is no suggestion that the contemplated action will be taken overnight. The whole matter will he carefully considered, and I hope that whatever action is ultimately taken will be equitable to all those concerned. The Government is well aware, of course, that people who are depending upon the Glen Davis shale oil industry for their livelihood are gravely perturbed about the future. I emphasize that we are striving to do the right thing by all concerned. I am not so much concerned that responsible personnel have left the plant, because the Government has decided to close it. I think that it is not a bad thing for those who feel so inclined and have the opportunity to do so, to obtain appointments elsewhere. The honorable senator also asked whether I would be prepared to receive a further deputation. I have discussed that aspect of the matter with other Ministers who are interested. We have received requests in this connexion from a number of citizens organizations, trade unions, and trade and labour councils, and we have replied that the expert committee appointed by the Government is inquiring into the procedure that will be followed. We hope that the committee will complete its work within a fortnight. When we have the plan of campaign mapped out we shall ask all interested bodies to meet us so that we can give them due and proper notice of our intentions. Tins will afford them every opportunity to make other arrangements. The honorable senator also asked whether .the Government would agree to a public inquiry. I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by instituting a public inquiry. We have tried our best to maintain this industry, just as Labour did when in office. Both the present Government and its predecessor have tried unsuccessfully to make a success of the Glen Davis undertaking.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Development by stating that T discussed with his predecessor the transfer of the shale oil refining plant at Glen Davis for use in the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, Tasmania. Will the Minister, at the earliest opportunity, examine the economics of the transfer of that refining plant ?
– That proposal is under consideration at the present time, and that is one of the reasons why the arrangements for the transfer of the Glen Davis refining plant have not yet been finalized. The aluminium industry being carried on at Bell Bay requires petroleum coke, and the plant at Glen Davis is one of the few in Australia that are capable of producing that coke.
– Will the Minister furnish the Senate with the names of the members of the committee that is now investigating the possibility of transferring part of the plant to Tasmania in order to enable the residents of Glen Davis to make representations for their protection through their elected representatives in the Parliament?
– The members of the committee concerned are permanent government officials and are officers of various Commonwealth departments, and I think that the honorable senator will agree that it would not be proper for government officials to receive representations from members of committees. Any representations should be made to the Minister concerned.
-Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate what repatriation and rehabilitation benefits have been made available to men who have served with “EL” Force in Korea and have since been discharged, and whether directives have been issued to the various State branches of the Repatriation Department informing them what benefits, if any, are so available?
– In August last year a Cabinet sub-committee submitted to Cabinet a full report in relation to the application of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to servicemen of the Korean campaign. The sub-committee’s recommendation that the pension and reestablishment provisions should be applied to personnel who might become early casualties, and their dependants, was approved. They are entitled to full benefits under the act, including pensions, medical treatment, hospitalization, &c, reinstatement in civil employment, vocational training for those who would be precluded from returning to their preenlistment occupations through war-caused disabilities, and the supplementing of wages of apprentices. Although the whole of the benefits of the Ee-establishment and Employment Act were not granted to them at any time, as a qualifying period for entitlement to rehabilitation benefits was six months’ service, I assure the honorable senator that I am carefully considering the benefits that have been provided for ex-service men and women of World War II. with a view to determining the full range of benefits that should be made available to servicemen of the Korean war. At a later date I shall be glad to make to the Senate a statement concerning the benefits that will be available to members of the forces in Korea. .At the present time branches of the Repatriation Department in the various States have been advised of the benefits that are available. Should already discharged members of the Korean forces desire information on the subject, it will be made available to them at those branch offices.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health state whether there is a unit of industrial hygiene and medicine functioning within the Department of Health? If there i? such a unit, will the Minister advise the. Senate as to the functions of the unit and the place where its reports may be examined ?
– I shall be glad to bring to the notice of the Minister for Health the question asked by the honorable senator and I hope to be able to furnish him with the desired information at an early date.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services state whether, because of the steep rise in the cost of living and the increase of tram and rail fares throughout the country, the Government will consider increasing payments made to exservice personnel who are engaged ia post-war training courses, particularly those undertaking university courses ?
– The whole question of pensions and allowances will be reviewed in relation to budgetary commitments. At a later date I shall be glad to give a definite reply to the question asked by the honorable senator.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply: 1. Is the Government aware that because of the serious shortage of newsprint, provincial newspapers are being forced to cease publication, particularly in South Australia? 2. To overcome these unfortunate circumstances, is it possible for the Government to arrange for a more equitable distribution of available supplies of newsprint ? 3. Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate whether the supply of newsprint will improve in the near future and if more adequate supplies will then :be made available? 4. If not, will: the Government take early steps to instigate a thorough investigation of the problem of newsprint supplies in order that country newspapers may be enabled to carry on?
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply the question asked by the honorable senator and I hope to obtain a reply at an early date.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture confer with his colleague ‘ with a view to ascertaining whether any date has been fixed for the conduct of a poll of wool-growers on the post-Joint Organization wool marketing scheme ?
– I shall be pleased to confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and to obtain the information for which the honorable senator has asked.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport to inform the Senate whether anything was being done hy the Government to get Aorangi back on the New Zealand-Vancouver run. The Minister then said that he would refer the matter to the Minister for Labour and National Service for reply. Is an answer yet to hand, because the solution of this problem becomes more imperative daily?
– I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Labour and National Service. The problem is still under active consideration, but I am hopeful of obtaining a report on it for the information of the honorable senator by to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport state how many ships are owned by the Australian Shipping Board? How many are leased to private shipping companies, and what are the names of the ships and of the companies concerned ? How many ships are employed on the Tasmanian run and on what terms, such as duration of lease and amount payable to the board? Have guarantees been given to the board that thoroughly efficient maintenance will be carried out on those vessels while under lease ?
– The Australian Shipping Board owns 30 ships and up to date only one of them, Nyora, has been leased to a shipping firm to make a special run to the north coast of Queensland. All the other vessels are controlled by the board.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will the Minister ensure that the sailing dates of any ships which he proposes to send to Tasmania to pick up timber are adequately advertised in the mainland newspapers, and so enable Tasmanian importers to secure and fill all available space in those ships with urgently needed goods for Tasmania?
– I have communicated with the Australian Shipping Board and instructions have been issued on the lines that Senator Henty has suggested. The honorable senator and all his Tasmanian colleagues will be pleased to know that a 6,000-ton vessel will proceed to Beauty Point to load some of the accumulated cargo that is so urgently required in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– As no passenger vessel is at present plying between Tasmania and the mainland, and as many Tasmanian students cannot complete their courses at the University of Tasmania and are forced to attend the mainland universities, and as no agricultural college has been established in Tasmania, will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation consider allowing to Tasmanian university students and students of agricultural colleges a reduction in fares on the TransAustralia Airlines service when travelling to and from the mainland during vacations, on the same lines as concessions allowed to school children by some private airlines ?
– The possibility of supplying a substitute ship on the Tasmanian run is still under consideration. H our efforts to do so are not successful, I shall be pleased to convey to the Minister for Civil Aviation the suggestion made by the honorable senator and obtain a report on it as soon as possible.
– With your permission, Mr. President, I propose to read an extract from a letter which I received this morning from a gentleman at Gladstone asking me to advocate the construction by the Australian Government of a direct rail link between Gladstone and the Callide coal-field on the same terms and conditions as it has agreed to construct the Brachina to Leigh Creek line in South Australia. I quote from the letter as follows : -
The suggested line would make almost unlimited amounts of good quality coa] available at trie port of Gladstone at a very low price and thus make a very valuable, contribution to the solution of many of our economic problems.
In order that I may carry out this advocacy with success, will the Minister for Trade and Customs be kind enough to make available to me all relevant information concerning the terms upon which the railway from Leigh Creek to Brachina is to be constructed? Will he also supply information concerning efforts -made by outside sources to have the Gladstone to Callide railway constructed on similar terms? Will he as a good Queenslander - I am not now speaking politically- further this desirable effort to obtain cheap coal?
– The subjectmatter of the honorable senator’s question really concerns the Minister for Shipping and Transport. However, without interfering with what that Minister may say,
I point out that the Commonwealth could not, even if it wished, build a railway in Queensland except at the request, and with the consent of, the Queensland Government. I cannot say whether such a request has been made.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health give a resume of what is happening in the States in connexion with the vaunted scheme for supplying free milk to school children ? Does he regard the scheme as a success, or is it likely that the parsimonious treatment of the States by the Commonwealth in the matter of distribution costs will cause the scheme to fail ?
– The scheme is operating in some of the States - I believe with success. As for the other States, the Commonwealth is awaiting the cu-opera- . tion of the governments concerned before putting the scheme into operation. I shall bring the latter part of the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs read a .newspaper report that the proposed peace treaty with Japan will not impose military or trade restrictions upon that country? Does the Government favour such a proposal?
– I read in today’s newspapers a report to the effect stated by the honorable senator. The attitude of the Government to those matters was very clearly set forth in the statement on external affairs which I read in this chamber last Thursday, and which will be debated in due course.
– In view of the fact that during last session ‘Hansard n ambers were not received by ‘the public in Western Australia until five or six weeks after the date of the proceedings reported, will you, Mr. President, take action to ensure that the numbers are a v.iailable within a week ? .
– The publication of Hansard has received the consideration of the Government, and I have received from Mr. W. J. M. Campbell, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the following report: -
The printing and distribution of Ilansard is greatly delayed, compared with pre-war years, due to staff shortages at the Government Printing Office. I am advised by the Government Printer that the whole printing industry throughout Australia has been dislocated through the unavailability of a sufficient number of competent tradesmen. The position is so serious that printing firms in both Sydney and Melbourne, and also the Government Printer himself, are exploring every avenue, including overseas resources, from which additional tradesmen may he obtained. Until the shortage in competent printing tradesmen can be met, there appears to be little hope ot effecting a substantial improvement in the earlier production of Hansard.
– Can you inform the Senate, Mr. President, whether any provision nas been made at the Government Printing Office, Canberra, for training or apprenticing youths to the printing trade in order to provide skilled tradesmen to fill the vacancies that occur from time to time?
– I do not know, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable senator of the result in due course.
– 1 preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply by pointing out that large numbers of incandescent lamps have been purchased by members of the public in Sydney because of the serious and prolonged black-outs that occur in that city. Large numbers of “‘Aladdin’” brand lamps for lighting and heating purposes have been sold for approximately £5 5s. each, and although each lamp is fitted with one mantel, no replacements of mantels can be obtained. The consequence is that many people who have purchased these expensive lamps are deprived of any benefit from them after the mantles supplied with the lamps have burnt out. Will .the Minister say whether anything can he ‘done to compel the manufacturing firm concerned to provide for .sale a supply of -mantles for replacement, or, alternatively, to prevent the firm from marketing the lamps?
– I shall bring the matter mentioned by the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for Supply, and shall furnish a reply to the honorable senator .as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate of the number of pensioners in Australia in the following categories: (a) aged persons, (&) invalids, (c) widows, (d) war widows, (e) totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen, and (/) other pensioners. Will the Minister also say whether, as a Commonwealth jubilee gesture to all such persons who have assisted in building Australia as a nation, the Government will consider making a monetary payment of at least £5 to each pensioner, so that they may all participate in the Commonwealth jubilee celebrations?
– I shall ask ray colleague, the Minister for Social Services, to supply the information desired by the honorable senator as quickly a? possible.
– Will the Minister say whether it is a fact that age pensioners in Tasmania receive a free grant of fuel during the winter from the Commonwealth Government? If that is so, will he extend a similar .benefit to age pensioners throughout Australia, wherever the Government believes that course to he necessary?
– It is not correct that the Commonwealth Government makes a special allowance to age pensioners in Tasmania to purchase fuel during the winter. If any allowance is made to pensioners for that purpose it is made by the Tasmanian Government. I point out to the honorable senator that in certain States the State authorities supplement in various ways the pension paid by the Australian Government.
Motion (by ‘Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for three months be granted to Senator O’Flaherty on account of ill health.
– On the 20th June, Senator Paltridge asked the following question concerning the export of crayfish tails: -
Can the Minister inform the Senate of the quantity and value in dollars of crayfish tails exported from Western Australia to the United States of America during the years ended the 30th June, 1948, 1949 and 1950?
I now inform the honorable senator that the answer to his question is as follows : -
Separate details of the export of crayfish tails are not recorded. However, the following statistics showing exports of crustaceans (other than oysters) are furnished: -
Exports to United States of America from Western Australia. - Crustaceans (other than oysters in the shell), fresh or preserved by cold process (Statistical Item 0202) -
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
The Government has adopted the Tariff Board’s recommendation, which does not involve any change in the tariff treatment of the goods concerned. Copies of the report are not yet available for circulation to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
– I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a commission to administer to honorable senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
Debate resumed from the 21st June (vide page 219), on motion by Senator Cormack -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
SenatorO’BYRNE (Tasmania) [3.41]. In my opening remarks in this debate, I stressed the need for better shipping services between the mainland and Tasmania so that the produce of that State could be carried to mainland ports and to other parts of the world. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) say a few minutes ago that a 6,000-ton vessel would shortly call at Beauty Point to load cargo. That will relieve, temporarily at least, the congestion at that port and in the north of Tasmania generally. However, I emphasize the need for more regular shipping services to all Tasmanian ports and for improved port facilities. Air services are a valuable adjunct to shipping, and in that connexion, I shall make particular reference to the work of Trans-Australia Airlines. I recently indicated to the Senate in a question that Trans-Australia Airlines had been given an opportunity to purchase a number of modern aircraft, but that the offer had been refused. I submit that, in view of the inadequacy of shipping services, and the ever-increasing cargoes to be carried between Tasmania and the mainland, an expansion of the air services provided by both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is most desirable. Last year, Trans-Australia Airlines showed a profit for the first time. That profit, amounting to approximately £200,000, was a creditable achievement for a transport organization that had been in existence for only five years. However, according to a statement made by the then Minister for Civil Aviation, the sum of £135,000 was paid in interest on the original capital of
Trans-Australia Airlines. That was a heavy burden to place upon a young company which is not only operating efficient services in a highly competitive field, but also pioneering developmental routes in remote areas such as western Queensland. I remind the Government that TransAustralia Airlines would be of immense value as a military transport organization in time of war. I stress that the hurden of paying this full capital cost is proving too much for Trans-Australia Airlines, in view of the very strong competition that is being offered by its main competitor, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. During the last couple of years a number of honorable senators on this side of the chamber have sought by questions directed to Ministers to ascertain what progress was being made with the appeal to the High Court of Australia concerning the validity of the imposition of aerodrome’ landing charges which are at present being paid by Trans-Australia Airlines but not by its competitors. TransA.ustralia Airlines is only in its infancy and has performed a magnificent joh in order to attain its present status. It is considered to be one of the finest airlines in the world, and it is inequitable that it should be called upon to pay these charges while its competitors are not paying them. In effect, its competitors are gaining an undue advantage. I consider that TransAustralia Airlines should be relieved of these charges until the application before the court has been decided. Because of the great service that is being rendered to all parts of Australia by the Australian National Airlines Commission, serious consideration should be given to increasing its fleet. There is a real necessity for additional intra-state air services in Tasmania, while many areas of the mainland could be developed more quickly if additional aircraft were available to enable the commission to extend its regular mail and food services. I emphasize the pressing need for an extension of TransAustralia Airline’s limited fleet of 35 aircraft. Unfortunately, the Government has not taken advantage of the very fine offer by the Vickers Aircraft Company in England, to supply a number of Vickers Viscount aircraft. I consider that, in view of the fact that Australian conditions are eminently suitable for air travel and air transport, further representations should be made to that company, and that every possible effort should be made by the Government to obtain additional aircraft to supplement TransAustralia Airline’s existing fleet by purchases in dollar and sterling areas. Although the establishment of TransAustralia Airlines has been criticized by the opponents of Labour, I consider that the hatchet should now be buried because that undertaking has progressed and expanded by its sheer efficiency. We are justifiably proud of its standard of service and courtesy, and I consider that Trans-Australia Airlines should be developed to the fullest extent from the point of view of efficiency, passenger service, national development and defence.
I shall now refer to a matter that is at present under discussion by the British Cabinet. I refer to the claim for the payment of subsistence allowance to exprisoners of war. Although I was a prisoner during World War II., I have no axe to grind. My plea is more particularly on behalf of the Australians who were held captive by the Japanese. It has been submitted from time to time that a special subsistence allowance for such prisoners of war should be included in the reparations agreement when the peace treaty with Japan is being concluded. I have had many discussions with exprisoners of war and it is apparent to me that they have taken umbrage at a portion of the report that was submitted to the Government by Mr. J Justice Owen and General Savige. As honorable senators are aware, the report was tabled and has been printed, and to all intents and purposes it has been accepted by the Government. The portion of the report concerning the claim for a special subsistence allowance of 3s. a day, to which exception has been taken, reads -
In our opinion it is impossible to find a just or logical basis for such a claim, and to concede it might set a precedent fraught with possible danger should the nation again become engaged in war. A citizen who becomes a member of the armed forces of his country may find himself serving at a base or in the line. He may be called upon to meet death or serious injury and to undergo great hardships. The fortunes of war may make him a captive in enemy hands. These are hazards which every serviceman must face. It would be unsound in principle and, in any event, impracticable to seek to apply to the services a system of which might, he called “ hardship money so that the remuneration of a serviceman varied from day to day or from place to place according to the nature of his duties and the degree of danger and discomfort involved in their performance. In considering the claims which have been made on behalf of prisoners of war in all theatres, it is impossible to disregard the fact that, owing to the difficulties of supply, there were prolonged periods (particularly during the campaigns in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands) when it was impossible to supply adequate rations to the. troops on active service who were, in addition, subject to all the hazards of battle.
I especially direct the attention of the Senate to the following recommendation : -
We believe that it would be unsound and contrary to the national interest if any proposal were adopted which might, now or in the future and to a later generation, carry with it an implication that a “monetary premium” was being placed upon becoming or remaining a prisoner of war.
Many ex-prisoners of war with whom I have discussed this report and recommendation consider that there is implied a suspicion that this was the reason that they became prisoners of war. In my opinion, the text of the recommendation by those responsible men is tantamount to an open and direct insult to the men who faced the hazards of battle at a time when we were ill-prepared. In many instances Australian servicemen were thrown in as shock troops and were called upon to fight a rearguard defence. They were not responsible for becoming prisoners of war. I believe that those two highly esteemed and responsible men were probably influenced by a desire to try to save the Government money, particularly as funds to meet the claim were not then available. However, I point out that a section of the British Cabinet is insisting that this payment should be made. Furthermore, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), when replying to questions about this matter by members of the Opposition, has stated that consideration would be given to the claim when the amount of reparations due to this country by Japan was being decided. In fact, the Minister has admitted that some consideration should be given to it, but surely he must act on the advice of the investigation committee. It seems that there is a contradiction. Honorable senators oh both sides of the chamber agree on the degree of hardship suffered by prisoners of war in Japanese hands and they feel that there is an obligation on the Japanese people to pay reparations’. “When we hear of the assistance which Japan has received from the United States of America we are amazed. Some Japanese industries have increased tenfold. I recently read an article to the effect that the Japanese, hydro-electric power capacity and equipment has increased out of all recognition. In Australia, the: people who suffered so dreadfully at Japanese hands are enduring frequent blackouts and are not able to carry on their normal habits because of inadequate power supplies. I should like to see driven home in the proposed peace treaty the fact that the Japanese committed an enormous crime against humanity. Surely something extra should be added to their reparations payments to cover the subsistence allowance payable to those men who died or who are now carrying the scars of their captivity. There should be no quibbling about the payment of such an allowance because it would be in the nature of recompense for the hardships that were inflicted upon them.
Before leaving the report I wish to refer to the minority report of Mr. Fisher who stated -
The man who enlists in the service of his country undertakes to face certain hazards - discomfort, danger, disease, maiming, death and also captivity.
All these departmental objections, however, are applicable to “ normal “ captivity. The conditions the Committee has reviewed were abnormal.
The degree of hardship suffered by prisoners of war in Europe was perhaps not as great in all cases as those suffered by prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. The minority report furnished by Mr. Fisher stated that in his opinion each man should be given 3s. a day for each day that he was a prisoner of war; that if a man lost his life in captivity, the amount accrued al the date of his death should be paid to his next of kin; that such amount should be paid to every man without distinction of rank; that the payments should be free of all taxes and duties whatsoever, and not liable to be taken in execution of any judgment, nor should they form part of a bankrupt estate. Mr. Fisher’s recommendation meets with the approval of all ex-servicemen’s associations and individuals with whom I have spoken. Now that the peace treaty is about to be ratified, I consider that Mr. Fisher’s minority report should be given very careful consideration by the Government. Should the Government decide to act on it, the payment will be no more than rough justice for the men concerned. They will not be receiving anything to which they are not justly entitled. Not only should a cash payment :be made to the men concerned, but their welfare should receive the continual consideration of all Australians and particularly of the Government department whose duty it is to protect their interests.
During the course of this debate, reference has been made to the slogans and the “ bally-hoo “ that were introduced during the recent general election campaign. The shouting and the tumult have now died, but there are several matters to which I wish to refer because at the time of the election I felt somewhat strongly about them, and, in fact, my anger has still not quite abated. Although the atmosphere of this chamber is inclined to break down the tension that is experienced when other people are firing shots at us from a distance, there are nevertheless aspects of the last general election which leave much to be desired. I refer particularly to the campaign conducted in the Barton electorate. If ever there was a campaign of hate and near libel, it was that directed against the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). All the forces of advertising were used, and from my experience it seemed like first-class Nazi propaganda. I had confidence in the ability of Dr. Evatt to win the election, and I had also great confidence in the common sense of a majority of the electors of Barton. However, the fact that that type of electioneering should go on in a democratic country and that it should be so blatant, is shameful. It is also shameful that the supporters of the Government should pick out an individual and direct at him the full force of lies, insinuations, smear campaigns and all the undesirable features of totalitarianism. The worst feature of it was the chorus of denunciation, including that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his minions, some of whom were not averse to stooping to that level. The press,, too, ran pretty true to form. In one instance, the managing director of a newspaper made a very substantia] wager that Dr. Evatt would be defeated, and he endeavoured to assist in that defeat. During the campaign, the newspaper of which he was managing director really scraped the bottom of the bucket. I wish to record my abhorrence of and disgust with the tactics of the people who were ‘associated with that newspaper, particularly its managing director. They abused the privilege of freedom of the press for monetary gain.
– The honorable senator has only to look at the relevant issues of the offending newspaper to see what they were. There was, of course, no substance in them. They were a tissue of lies published for a certain purpose. “ Beat Dr. Evatt at all costs “, was the cry, but fortunately the electors of Barton knew better, and I am pleased that they did so. Their rejection of the Liberal party’s insinuations was the sole redeeming feature about this whole unsavoury business. It is easy to understand why such an attack was directed at the right honorable gentleman. He is a man whose outstanding attributes marked him for special treatment. He has served his country well, not only here in Australia, but also overseas and he is a great asset to the Australian Labour party. After the murky fog’ of hostile Liberal propaganda has lifted the people will realize his greatness and the great future that lies before him. A campaign of the kind that was waged against him ill becomes any person in the community, particularly one associated with this Parliament, and it is astonishing that the Liberal party should have lent itself to such an attack. In common with all great men, the right honorable member for Barton has many admirers and many critics. The public activities in which he has engaged throughout his lifetime have brought him into prominence, but because of political differences with him honorable senators opposite and their colleagues indulged in n campaign of vilification against him in an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the electors. Never has a more intense campaign of hatred been levelled against a public man.
– That is not true.
Sena.tor O’BYRNE. - I could substantiate that statement by quoting for thi information of the honorable senator the unworthy insinuations which appeared in .the press and in pamphlets issued by the Liberal party to which I. have referred. Government supporters are so afraid of the Communist bogy that they imagine that every person who is not a Liberal is a Communist. That is the easy way out for them. They allege that we who sit on this side of the Senate are Communists.
– Who has said that?
– You have said it continually.
– Order! The honorable senator must address his remarks to the Chair.
– Government supporters have repeatedly insinuated that members of the Labour party are Communists. In their attempt to prove the truth of that assertion they have relied upon very bad logic. They say that Labour opposes the Liberal view, that Labour believes in improving the standards of living and the conditions of the ordinary people, that socialism aims at the improvement of the living standards and condition of the people, that Communists follow a form of socialism and that therefore, ipso facto, all members of the Labour party are Communists. The first lesson of logic is not to base reasoning upon false premises. The right honorable member for Barton has been the recipient of many great honours. Upon him has been conferred the freedom of many great cities, including the city of Athens, which is the cradle of democracy, in recognition of his great humanitarian work and his championship of the cause of democracy. I regret that in Australia he should have been made the target for such a bitter and unworthy attack by a powerful political organization. When the people realize the sham and the hypocrisy of the attack that was levelled against him by supporters of the Government his true worth will be appreciated.
The Governor-General’s Speech was barren of constructive ideas. Seemingly, the Government derives pleasure from the threat of war. Its membra have made no worthwhile attempt to avert war or to seek to divert our potential resources to the development of Australia. Honorable senators opposite blame the Communists for every difficulty that confronts us. The Government hides its sins of omission and commission behind a facade of preparation for war. Because of its short-sightedness a serious situation now exists in Korea. If it had followed the lead of the British Government and recognized the Chinese Nationalist Government under Mao tseTung, the conflict in Korea might have been settled long ago. Instead, it was too ready to follow the lead of the United States of America on that matter. Our recognition of the Nationalist Government in China would have constituted a most important factor in the solution of the Korean problem. I am sure that the Chinese people have no wish to continue the conflict and that they desire to join the United Nations. Every effort should have been made to enable them to do so. I have read a good deal of the story of Chiang Kai-shek, and I have no doubt that he will eventually join the Quislings and “ no-hopers “ of Europe who brought Europe to its knees in recent times. Undoubtedly he, too, will be relegated to the scrap heap when the extent of his evil influence upon the Chinese people becomes fully known.
The Governor-General’s Speech does nothing to heighten the hopes of the young Australian generation which fought and helped to win World War II. in the belief that by their sacrifice they would make Australia great. They hoped, as the early Americans did many years ago, that they would live to see this continent peopled by happy and prosperous citizens. Unfortunately, the policy of the Government is one of negation, even of stagnation. We are told that developmental projects will have to be dropped or curtailed because of defence needs, but the trouble is that we are getting neither development nor defence. While the Government talks about defence, such important projects as the opening up and development of new coalfields in Queensland are held in abeyance. I trust that by the time the GovernorGeneral makes his next speech to the Parliament international peace will be restored, and that the United Nations, acting in its true capacity as a medium of co-operation between the nations, will have succeeded in restoring sanity throughout the world. Australians would then be able to devote their full energies to developmental undertakings, and there would be an end to the cycle which has been three times completed in my life, and four times in the lives of older men : First, the energies of the people are devoted to preparing for war, and then to the war itself. Then there is an economic boom succeeded by an economic depression. Finally, the whole process begins over again with preparations for still another war. There must be something wrong with those who believe that such experiences must continue indefinitely. I trust that the next speech of the Governor-General to the Parliament will be more constructive, and will foreshadow a legislative programme designed to raise the standard of living in Australia.
Senator WORDSWORTH (Tasmania) [4.23”). - I join with other honorable senators in congratulating you, Mr. President, upon your election to the Presidency. I am certain that you will discharge your duties in an admirable manner. I also congratulate the Chairman of Committees (Senator George Rankin) upon his appointment. I am pleased that His Majesty is to visit us next year, and I join with other honorable senators in saying that I hope his health will not prevent him from making the trip. I am sure that he will receive a loyal welcome from the people of Australia.
That part of the Speech of the GovernorGeneral which gave me the greatest pleasure is the following: -
The outstanding task of my Government at this time lies in the field of defence preparations in the broadest sense.
Last week, Senator Byrne said that the Government should make a clear statement on the defence situation. I remind him that such a statement was made only a little while ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he said that we had at the most three years in which to prepare for war.
– What justification had he for saying that?
- Senator Nash expressed the opinion last week that there was no real emergency, and said that he did not know who threatened the peace. In fact, he seems to know very little about what is going on. Honorable senators opposite have told us that the anti-Labour parties won the last election” by the use of ballyhoo, clap-trap and propaganda.
– And fraud.
– That is an insult to the electors. Honorable senators opposite are telling the electors that they did not know what they were voting for. It appears to me that the Labour party is itself divided. The Hobart Mercury of the 25th June contains the following report of a statement by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove: - “ We must concern ourselves with the present if we are to have a future” the Premier (Mr. Cosgrove ) said yesterday. “ The only real way to prevent war is to acquire a strength that will make the enemy reluctant to attack.”
It sounds rather like the clap-trap that was spoken during the election campaign ! The statement continues - “ To win a lasting peace, we must fight for it, and be prepared to accept many sacrifices. To-day the Soviet Union is setting the pace and we cannot afford to lag “ the Premier said. “ The storm clouds of war are gathering darkly. Olive branches are no defence against atomic bombs. “ When war comes, as come it will, the world will feel its blast on several fronts.”
And yet honorable senators opposite say that they do not know that Australia is threatened by an enemy. Senator O’Byrne said that we were always ranting about the Communists. Well, let him listen to what Mr. Cosgrove, the Labour Premier of Tasmania, had to say about the Communists -
The ramifications of Communism had not brought civil war to Australia, but undisputedly the Beds were to blame for the sick state of Australia’s economy . . . “-You would be buying more for your money if there were no Communists in this country. Your weekly salary or pay envelope would go farther, and you could afford more of the comforts to which every working man and woman is entitled.”
When we say that the election was fought and won on the issue of the enemy within and without, honorable senators opposite tell us that we are talking balderdash.
– What is the Government going to do about it?
– Our programme is set forth in the Speech of the Governor-General. Let me quote this passage again -
The outstanding task of my Government at this time lies in the field of defence preparations in the broadest sense. This includes not only strengthening our armed forces and expanding defence production but also strengthening the national economy which is the basic foundation of a war effort.
I hope that the necessity for expanding our economy will not result in any substantial reduction of the number of men available for defence. Undoubtedly a strong economy is necessary in order to maintain our armed forces in the field in time of war, but we must be careful not to withdraw the greater proportion of men needed for defence, because if another war occurred and we had the misfortune to lose it, our economy would not matter. Defence is of paramount importance. The policy of the Government for the past eighteen months has been to increase the strength of our armed forces, and it has doubled the number of men in the regular forces and the intake of young men to be enrolled for compulsory military training. Nevertheless, the response to the recruiting campaign for the Citizen Military Forces has been comparatively small, and we shall have to rely mainly upon volunteers for it during the next three years because the lads who are called up for compulsory military training will be .only twenty years of age in 1952, and it is necessary for any efficient force to have a leavening of older men.
The recruiting campaign launched by the Government a short time ago has not produced the number of recruits that is necessary. What are the reasons for the failure of that campaign? I think that the principal reason is that the people of Australia prefer conscription in wartime and compulsory military training in peace on the ground that it is necessary for every man to play his part in defending the country. Another reason for the poor response is that the recruiting campaign was not supported by the Australian Labour party. By refraining from participating in that campaign members of the Opposition and their supporters did Australia considerable damage. I also think that the Government should endeavour to make the campaign more popular. I do not think that men volunteer to serve their country, even in time of peace, because of the pay provided. However, if the Government increased the pay of members of the Citizen Military Forces, that might have the effect of increasing the number of volunteers, because to-day many people are short of money and need every shilling they can earn. However, I think that the best way to encourage young men to join the Citizen Military Forces would be to provide training in more attractive arms of the service than is provided at the present. After all, infantry training is not attractive to most civilians. More training Could be supplied in specialized arms of the service, such as anti-aircraft regiments, anti-tank regiments and the armoured forces with their tanks in country centres. We need only recall the success of the Light Horse Regiments scattered through the country in obtaining volunteers to realize that men are. willing to take part in military training if it is made sufficiently attractive to them. Amphibious tanks could be made available for training purposes, and paratroops and commando corps could also receive and train recruits. One reason for the success of the Royal Australian Air Force in attracting recruits is that the type of training available in that service is much more attractive to young men than that offered by the Army. Similarly, the Navy has been more successful than the Army in obtaining recruits because it uses small ships to take young men to sea, and provides really interesting training for them.
– The military forces are not receiving many recruits now.
– As I have already said, one reason for the lack of recruits is that the Opposition did not assist the Government by supporting the recruiting campaign. If the Opposition associated itself with the Government in this matter, even at this late hour, I have no doubt that it would help the recruiting campaign considerably. I also believe that parades, such as the recent demonstration in Canberra as part of the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations, have a big effect in attracting young men to the forces. I take this opportunity, incidentally, to congratulate the members of the forces who took part in that parade on their magnificient display. I have served in the armed forces for more than 30 years, and, in the light of that experience, I say that that parade did great credit to our armed services. Indeed, many regular troops, including British regiments of the line, could not have provided a finer display. I was astonished to hear some people criticize the Government’s decision to hold the parade because it allegedly entailed the expenditure of a lot of money to provide only a few hours’ pageantry. In my opinion such criticism is absurd and completely overlooks the effect, not only upon the men who took part in the parade, but also upon the civilians who witnessed it, of such a magnificent patriotic display. That display recalled vividly, and did credit to, the glorious fighting tradition of Australia. One unfortunate aspect of the proceedings, which marred an otherwise admirable performance, was that many people did not raise their hats to the colours, and I think that that was a disgrace. I realize, of course, that the reason for such conduct was. that some people did not realize the significance of the trooping of the colours, or their obligation to honour the occasion.
I think that compulsory military training could be extended to include young men between the ages of 20’ and 25, although the actual training would not be along the same lines as that given to young men called up for national service training, but on the lines of the Citizen Military Forces, I was pleased that a similar suggestion was made by the Tasmanian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and I congratulate that body upon its recommendation, which, I understand, is being conveyed to the Minister for the Army. Its implementation would certainly provide the. leavening of experienced men to which
I referred earlier and it would also enable the Government to reduce, if necessary, the number of young men who will be called up for national service training. I recommend the Government to form a war reserve of men up to the age of 30 years who served in World War II. for service in time of war. The existence of such a reserve would be extremely useful, if only to provide instructors and personnel to fill base jobs in the event of another war occurring. Should such a tragedy overtake us, Australia would probably depend largely upon such men to fill the home guard and to provide men for base jobs. Younger men will probably have to be sent overseas, and that will be the case, even if Labour is in office. I also consider that more training centres should be established in country areas, and I regret that no effort has yet been made in that direction. Although I am told that the reason for concentrating at present on metropolitan areas to the complete exclusion of rural districts is that there is a lack of trained instructors, I think that the authorities are insisting on too high a standard in the instructors available. In fact, I. believe that, in this instance, the best has become the enemy of the good. Many Australians who served in the last war would be only to delighted to give their services as instructors free of charge, or for only a nominal remuneration, if the Government invited them to do so. . There are also a large number of retired British and Indian Army officers in this country, many of whom do not follow any occupation and would gladly make their services available. I know that in Launceston 25 or 30 ex-Imperial officers would be prepeared to do so. The remarks that I have made are not to be construed as a criticism of the Government, but are directed to improving the efficiency of our armed forces and increasing the strength of our defences without unnecessarily disturbing the economy of the country, and I hope that they will be given serious consideration. I conclude by saying that 3 am very pleased that the Government regards the preparation of our defence as its paramount duty.
– I associate myself with the congratulations that have been tendered to you, Mr. President, and to the
Chairman of Committees upon your appointment to your respective offices. I also tender my sincere congratulations to those honorable senators who have made their maiden speeches since this Parliament met. Although most of the individuals who are elected to the Parliament have had some experience in public speaking prior to their election, I know from personal experience that the making of their maiden speeches in this chamber is a most trying ordeal. I know that I am much happier addressing a crowd on a street corner than I am in making a speech in the Parliament. Speaking of street corner meetings, I can remember very well the time when unemployed persons used to form a substantial part of the audience, and provide many of the interjections, at political meetings. To-day, political meetings include in the audiences a number of “ bodgies “ and “ widgies “ but no unemployed persons, and it is obvious therefore that in the last fifteen years or so our economic and social structurehas undergone a considerable change. I believe that the new members of the Senate on both sides of this chamber represent the change that has taken place in conditions in Australia and. will make many useful contributions to our discussions.
Unlike the former President (Senator Brown), I dislike debates the scope of which permits one to discuss any subject from Dan to Beersheba. I- prefer to discuss a specific subject, and when a debate takes place upon a measure introduced by the Government, honorable senators are able to confine themselves to the provisions of that measure and to offer to the Government either commendation or criticism. However, since the debate on the Address-in-Reply permits us to discuss almost any subject; I propose to place before honorable senators some suggestions to assist the Government in its administration. Dealing with the shortage of butter which is of vital concern to the people of Australia at present, Senator Scott mentioned a minority report that was submitted to the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Pollard, by the committee that he had appointed to inquire into production costs in the dairying industry. I remind the Senate that the committee was composed of representatives of government departments and of the dairy-farmers in almost equal numbers. Of the five members of the committee who signed the minority recommendation that the price of butter to the dairy-farmer should be 2s. lid. per lb., four were dairy-farmers. It is not unusual, of course, for members of an investigating authority to lean towards the particular interests that they represent. As the representative of trade unions at various inquiries, I have found myself tending to lean towards the interests of trade unionists. Although most people felt that the committee that inquired into production costs in the dairying industry could have been a little more generous in its recommendations, the important point is that for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, an attempt was made to stabilize that industry on the basis of production costs. There is a tendency in this country, perhaps because we aTe a young nation and therefore politically immature, to drag social and economic problems into the realm of party politics. Regardless of the political complexion of the Government which made the first move to stabilize the dairying industry, we should accept that work as an honest attempt to improve the conditions of dairy-farmers. I believe wholeheartedly in the stabilization of primary industries. Although most of those industries are prosperous to-day, it is the duty of whatever government is in office to do its best to ensure that primary producers shall be able to look forward to an adequate return for their labour, not only next year or the year after, but ten years hence. We should not be deterred because high profits are being made at present. With the accent on immigration, there may be a tendency to concentrate too much on the development of secondary industries, but we must never lose sight of the fact that, fundamentally, our primary industries are the basis of our economy, and therefore must be stabilized. It is important that we should know the history of the dairying industry in recent years. We should not be deterred from taking positive action merely because mistakes have been made in the past. We must base our approach to this industry on our experience of it. The present butter shortage was foreseen by the Labour party early this year as the result of information received from various parts of the Commonwealth, and on the 13th March, an adjournment motion to discuss the plight of the dairying industry was moved in the House of Representatives. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who had been the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Labour Government, pointed out that since the dairying costs committee had made its recommendations, the situation in this country had altered rapidly because of raging inflation. He said -
There can be not the slightest doubt that, if the industry is to increase production, or even survive, prompt action must be taken to remedy the effect of events of the last two years.
Referring to what had been said by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who had moved the adjournment motion, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) said -
I was rather alarmed by the dismal picture that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) painted when he was dealing with the dairying industry. Although some difficulties and dissatisfaction exist, the position is not so serious as he would have us believe that it is.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) said -
It is obvious from the speeches of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that this subject has been subtly introduced in an endeavour to make party political propaganda out of the catch-cry of the Labour party about putting value back into the £1.
I leave honorable senators to judge whether the motion was merely a political move, or whether in fact a crisis was approaching in the dairying industry. I mention that matter, not in an endeavour to make political capital, but to show that when representations are made in this Parliament on any subject, they should be treated on their merits and not cast aside as mere party propaganda. We should rid our minds of the suspicions that so frequently cloud our outlook, and endeavour to deal earnestly with problems such as this because they are not merely a passing phase; they will recur with regular monotony.
Senator Scott has rendered a service by bringing the state of the dairying industry to the notice of the people of
Australia, but, as I have said, we on this side of the chamber were aware of the looming crisis as far back as March last. An honest attempt was made to stabilize the dairying industry when the Chifley Government held office. Do not let us throw away what we have gained. All our primary industries must be stabilized because goodness knows what our produce will bring on overseas markets in the next few years. ‘ Let us build on the splendid work that was done by the honorable member for Lalor as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Let us preserve the system of basing prices on production costs, because it has worked to some degree at least. Let us be courageous and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the dairying industry shall not be permitted to go overboard.
I come now to one or two matters which «I believe have an important bearing on the destinies of this country. I shall not. ride my particular hobby horse in this debate. I shall endeavour to make some observations based on what I have learned during my visits to various parts of the Commonwealth in the last eighteen months. If ever there has been a complete revolution in the outlook of the Australian people, it has been in their attitude towards immigration. Ten years ago, most Australians would have rejected outright any proposal for mass migration to this country. Many people held foreigners in contempt and referred to them by short and unattractive . names ; but to-day very few individuals are hostile to the Commonwealth’s immigration scheme. However the activities of the Department of Immigration, more perhaps than those of any other department, require constant and close surveillance. When our immigration scheme was first introduced at the end of the war, we were able to grapple successfully with apparently insurmountable obstacles. There were huge displaced person camps throughout Europe, and with the safeguard of close political and medical screening, we were able to secure the cream of European migrants. The shipping difficulties were enormous, and the antagonism in the minds of the Australian people had to be faced. Both those obstacles were overcome by a very efficient department, headed hy the then
Minister for Immigration, tie honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), whose terrific drive and initiative, I believe, contributed largely to the success that was achieved, Our immigration problems can change rapidly from week to week, from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. As I have said, we were able in the early years of the scheme, to secure the cream of European migrants. In addition, of .course, we had the good fortune to secure large numbers of British migrants, but I am afraid that we have now dug too deeply into some of the displaced person camps in Europe. I shall not point the accusing finger at any person in particular, but I believe that because we were not fully alive to the rapidly changing face of immigration, we have brought to this country many people who would not otherwise have been admitted. I shall quote briefly from a leading article that was published in’ the West Australian on Tuesday, the 19th June. Referring to complaints that had been made about immigrants who had landed at the port of Fremantle during recent months, the article stated -
When complaints were made last month about some of the migrants from the Levant on the Hellenic Prince, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), ordered an inquiry. It seems that, although we were willing to run the risk of taking migrants from the Middle East, we relied to a large extent on British consular officers to issue landing permits instead of having our own immigration officers on the spot to decide there and then which applicants would be unsuitable for Australia.
This serious omission is now to be rectified. In fairness to the Government, it is unlikely that sufficient time was available before the Protea sailed in which to .apply stricter methods of selection.
I quote that passage to bear out my contention that we have dug too deeply into some displaced-person camps. I do not agree that the Government can he excused, because our immigration scheme has now been in operation since 1946. The Department of Immigration should by now have reached such a pitch of efficiency that officers could be sent to any part of the world at an hour’s notice to screen migrants. It is not good enough merely to say to some other country “We are relying upon your officers to issue landing permits”. With all due respect to some of the people who have done this job for us, they do not know Australian conditions as we know them. As the article that I have read points out, there were times when we had to take the risk of bringing people to Australia from the Middle East. Surely there are many officials in this country who know not only Australian conditions, but also have a sound knowledge of the Middle East and who could have been flown overseas to do the screening for us. I warn the Government that the administration of the immigration portfolio is a 24-hour-a- day job. Because of the rapid changes that can take place, it is one of the most exacting jobs in this country.
Honorable senators will recall that originally we were to receive 70,000 immigrants a year. At the time, that seemed to be an enormous number. The figure of 70,000 was decided upon, I believe, because that was the approximate birthrate in this country. We were to have 70,000 new Australians and 70,000 of the home-grown variety each year. It was also hoped, of course, that a substantial proportion of the 70,000 immigrants would be of British stock. To-day, I believe we are receiving immigrants at the rate of 200,000 a year. Whilst most Australians agree that this influx is most desirable, there can be no denial that it is straining the economy of this country to its utmost. The Government owes a duty to the Australian people who are being called upon to suffer many discomforts as the result of the immigration scheme. Many people believe that immigration is straining our economy to breaking point and it is most desirable that Australians should know that only immigrants of the best type are being brought to this country. I sincerely hope that in future there will be greater emphasis on British immigrants. It is also essential that one of the basic requirements of our immigration policy should be fulfilled. If we are merely pushing them into the cities, which are already overcrowded, instead of along the road to decentralization, I contend that the time is ripe for a complete review of our immigration policy. Surely there are in some parts of the world people peculiarly .suitable for Australia’s empty spaces, the populating of which still remains one of our greatest problems.
The subject of industrial relationships is one which continues to exercise the minds of our people. As Australia develops from a wholly primary producing country towards a more balanced economy of primary and secondary industries it is only natural that the problem of industrial relationships should become more involved. The old days of “ swinging the whip “ are passing, although the methods of those days remain inherent in the minds of some people, irrespective of their position or status by birth. I consider that the Government could with advantage adopt the practice of other countries of the world to send its representatives abroad to study their “ know how “. From time to time we read in the press of large numbers of representatives of Norway, Sweden, the United States of America and Great Britain going abroad to learn of developments in other countries. In the belief that knowledge is power, I consider that the Australian Government should follow their lead by sending its representatives abroad to learn at firsthand modern methods that have been adopted overseas, and to see them in action, rather than merely absorb doctrines. Successive Treasurers have looked askance at suggestions to send our representatives abroad. However, I point out that the cost involved would be much less than losses suffered by industry and trade unions by strikes.
In my opinion we have not yet mastered the art of industrial management, or indeed of management itself. I believe that the psychology of the workshop offers to young and brilliant people a field of study that in the years to come might be of great service to the Australian people. The activities of arbitration courts and wages tribunals alone cannot ensure the smooth working of industry, the attainment of which necessitates knowledge of human relationships in the secondary industries. From time to time the desirability of incentive payments in industry is debated in this chamber. I cannot understand why it should he debated here. If an industry wishes to introduce incentive payments the first approach is by conciliation and the second by an application to an arbitration court. Down the years many suspicions, some well-founded, have developed in industry. I believe that if employers, groups of employees, and the government of the day consider that incentive payments would be peculiarly suitable to any industry the battle would be almost won if the people concerned in the industry could be induced to accept the principle.
The total membership of both Houses of the Parliament is now 183 members and senators. Apart from Cabinet Ministers, leaders and deputy leaders of the Opposition, and Government and Opposition whips, they merely eat their heads off doing nothing specifically to assist the management of this country. I am not suggesting that private members have not plenty to do in their electorates and in preparing speeches. I do suggest, however, that the Government could avail itself of the knowledge, energy, and initiative yet untapped in both Houses by an extension of the committee system. Honorable senators will recall that that system worked with advantage during the Curtin and Chifley Administrations. Very valuable work was performed in’ the fields of broadcasting and public accounts. Much good can be achieved, by committees which are removed from the sharp clash of party politics. I strongly urge the Government to examine the possibility of a greater utilization of party committees. It appears to me that committees operating in such fields as foreign affairs, external territories, and development, should be composed of honorable senators who do not represent sectional interests. I consider that we should develop along the lines of the Senate of the United States of America, which has constituted various committees to act in an advisory capacity. If that were done I am convinced that not so many unkind remarks would be made about the Senate by the people of this country.
From time to time many complaints are voiced and fears expressed in connexion with the clouds that we see gathering on the international horizon. Ministers have pointed out how the danger spots have extended from Europe to Asia, and honorable senators are well aware of the upsurge of Asiatic nationalism that has been taking place during recent years. We have been content to complain and not do much about it. Even within the British Commonwealth of Nations we have witnessed India and Pakistan striving towards nationhood.
We have only to realize the great movement that has taken place in Sinkiang and other Chinese provinces, and that the Soviet border touches that of Pakistan, in order to understand the enormous advantages possessed by what may be a potential enemy in its relations with members of ‘ our Commonwealth of Nations. I mention this aspect of the matter merely to emphasize the desirability of the Government arranging for an interchange of people on all levels, including parliamentarians, in order to increase our understanding of international developments. In view of the likelihood of trouble arising, in which event we should look to the peoples of those countries to be our allies, we should seek now to learn and understand their problems. I am optimistic enough to believe that trouble is not inevitable. But in any event we should strive to understand and appreciate the problems of our geographical neighbours. There should be an interchange of ideas on all levels of industry, social welfare and national economy. I believe that these subjects’ are positive. Although some honorable senators may consider this to be a radical idea, I point out that changes are occurring so rapidly in these countries that we must move along the line with them. It appears that we are now about to set Japan on its feet, and to permit that country to re-arm. While on the one hand some of us accept that proposal with trepidation, others welcome it with open hands, but with a great deal of ignorance. How many of us have had an opportunity to visit Japan to learn about the problems confronting that country? I suggest in all seriousness that the Government should take advantage of the great field of opportunity that presents itself in this connexion, to send missions to those countries.
There is no gainsaying that our economic position is worsening daily. Whatever may be said about returning value to the £1 we must realize that that is an economic impossibility; anybody who is harbouring hopes of the £1 being restored to its 1939 value is living in a fool’s paradise. However, I shall not deal with this subject at length now because a number of opportunities to do so in the Parliament will occur within the next few months.
It is opportune to examine several factors in relation to production in this country. I shall deal first with the matter of export embargoes. Only yesterday I read a press report to the effect that we are exporting tinned butter. Furthermore, much of our timber, which is amongst the best in the world, is being exported. At the same time the question, “ Where can I buy a stick of timber in the capital cities “ remains “ the 64 dollar question “. I consider that the time has arrived when the Government should prevent the further exporting of commodities that are needed in this country. We hear a lot of poppycock about the necessity to maintain overseas markets. The real reason why the Government permits the continued export of commodities for which very high prices are being received is that it lacks courage to face realities. I contend that the fruits of Australian labour should flow first to the Australian people, particularly in the field of home building.
I shall now refer to imports and to the subject of current tariff- revision. I am well aware of the dangers associated with suggestions for tariff reform and I know of the battles that have taken place in this chamber. I am not for a moment suggesting that we should abolish our tariff wall. We should consider the advantages that accrue to Australian manufacturers to-day. The depreciation of the currency, the saving of freight on goods for sale on the Australian market compared with the cost of goods imported from Great Britain, and the protecting tariff wall are of tremendous value to the manufacturers in this country. However, despite all of these advantages the locallymanufactured goods are in many instances more expensive than similar imported goods. Obviously the Australian people are being exploited, and I consider that a review of our tariff barriers is warranted. While an industry is struggling and at the same time treating its employees and the Australian people fairly, the Government should protect it by all means; but when it is found that local manufacturers who enjoy many advantages are still not able to compete with manufacturers in countries 12,000 miles away - I do not refer to Oriental countries - I consider that it is time the Government told them that it intends to lower the tariff wall to a degree that will force Australian industries to become efficient if they wish to compete with overseas manufacturers. I appreciate that a government needs courage to take such a step, but I also appreciate that the inflationary trend, which is at present so evident, will not disappear unless the Government takes action. I put forward these suggestions with all the sincerity at my command. I say to the Government, “ Grapple with such matters with all the courage that you can muster, and do so without fear or favour “. If the Government, clearly and unequivocally, sets out to govern for the benefit of the common people, it will find that it will not lack co-operation from the Australian Labour party. The assistance of the great Australian ‘ Labour movement can be of real value in whatever cause the Government cares to make use of it.
– I join those honorable senators who, during the course of this debate, have extended to the President and to the Chairman of Committees congratulations upon their appointments. As a great believer in tradition, I am delighted that the President has returned to this chamber some of the dignity which I consider it previously lacked. I refer to the fact that the occupant of the President’s Chair now wears the robes that go with his office, and I think that it is all to the good that they should be worn.
I wish to refer briefly to the pending visit to our Commonwealth of Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. Nothing but good can flow from such a visit. The people of Australia will welcome the opportunity to express to Their Majesties the very -deep and sincere loyalty that abides in the hearts of all Australians. The royal visit has an additional significance for honorable senators because on the occasion of such a visit, it is usual for His Majesty to honour the President of the Senate. I am sure that all honorable senators will be proud should such recognition be paid to Senator Mattner, who is a very gallant and distinguished Australian soldier.
To adopt the phrase of an honorable senator opposite, I now join the ranks of the “ politically innocent “ in urging that machinery should be put into motion for the holding of a constitution convention in Australia. Our Constitution, which has operated for 50 years, proved fairly satisfactory during two world wars, but nevertheless it must have some weaknesses. A jubilee spring cleaning of the Constitution is something to which we should all look forward. That suggestion has been supported by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber and also by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) on various occasions during their careers. However, it would seem that both of those right honorable gentlemen were in opposition on those occasions. Alterations to the Constitution should be examined in the calm atmosphere of a convention, divorced from the heat of party politics.
There should be an extension of the existing powers of the Commonwealth, which is an altogether different matter from giving fresh powers to the Commonwealth. The existing powers are those which the States gave to the Australian Government at the time of federation, and which the States are prepared to leave with the Commonwealth. I would oppose, and I think that all State representatives would oppose, the granting of fresh powers unless they were examined very closely by representatives of the States called to a convention for the purpose of discussing such matters.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General refers to the desire of the Government to develop the Territories, and I congratulate the Government on taking the first step in that direction by appointing a Minister for Territories. True, it is only a step in the right direction ; we must go further than that. We should develop the Northern Territory for defence purposes and also in order to provide more foodstuffs for our growing population. An inquiry on the Northern Territory has been held, and the admirable Payne report was published on the 10th October, 1937. That report dealt with the development of the Northern Territory, but it seems to have found its way into the archives of all Australian governments since 1937. It is high time that it was studied with a view to putting into effect some of the recommendations contained in it. I have never visited the Northern Territory hut I have studied and read a great deal about it. I have come to the conclusion that real development of the territory can come only from the formation of a separate State consisting of northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the northern part of Western Australia. Such a State would, of course, require to be subsidized by the Australian Government for some time, but it is only as a sovereign State that its proper development, which is so necessary for defence and food production, can be achieved.
His Excellency’s Speech also refers to the growing importance of food production. During this debate a great deal has been heard from honorable senators opposite concerning onions, potatoes and butter, and the price of those commodities. Surely that is a State matter. Prices control is continually discussed in this chamber by honorable senators opposite, when they must know that it is a matter with which the States have power to deal. Prices control was the sword that was intended to destroy the Government parties at the last general election, but it turned out to be a blunt dagger. Prices control is an example of what I call socialist political control. I have no quarrel with prices commissioners, but I refer to occasions when State Primes Ministers intervene with an eye to vote catching. It is interesting to roll back the pages of current history and to look at the deputations which have waited on a socialist Minister concerning onions. Senator Sheehan, who referred to onions during this debate, should know the truth of the matter because he represents Victoria, which is the heart of the onion-growing industry in Australia. Men who have worked in that industry all their lives applied for the price to be increased to approximately £30 a ton because they stated that in order to keep labour in the industry it was necessary to pay wages that would compete with those paid in other industries. They also stated that they must receive a price sufficiently high to allow them to provide suitable amenities for that labour. Their final claim was that they should receive a return equal to that of other branches of rural production. I consider that those were three fair and competent reasons why an increase of price should have been granted. They warned the prices Ministers that if the price of onions was not increased the industry would go out of existence. The fixation of a price of £30 a ton would have made the retail price 6d. per lb., which could not be regarded as exorbitant. Their application was refused by men who had never planted or tilled an onion in their lives. Now we are paying £150 a ton for Egyptian onions, and the retail price has risen to approximately 2s. 6d. per lb. This is the result of socialist political prices control.
A similar position exists in regard to potatoes. In this Senate about twelve months ago I warned the socialist Prices Minister for New South Wales that if he did not fix an adequate price for Tasmanian potatoes the industry in Tasmania would be ruined. He refused to do so and, as a result, the potato-growing industry in Tasmania has gradually but surely regressed. Plantings in that State have dropped from approximately 80,000 acres to approximately 28,000 acres. All the growers asked for was a ‘ fair price that would enable them to pay reasonable wages and thus compete for labour on reasonably equal terms with the producers of other primary commodities. The application was refused, and because sufficient Tasmanian potatoes, are not available, New Zealand potatoes are being imported into New South Wales at a considerably higher price than that which was refused to the Australian growers. Actions of that kind are stupid. The advice of practical men in the industry was ignored by the socialist prices Ministers with the result that the people, whose interests are supposed to be -protected by prices control, enjoy no protection whatever. Proof of that fact is to be seen in the prices charged on the retail market to-day.
The dairying industry has been referred to in this Senate on many occasions recently. At intervals during recent months the State prices Ministers, as distinct from the State prices commissioners, have considered representations by the dairying industry for an increase of the price of butter. Dairy-farmers have asked for a price which will enable them to compete for labour with primary producers engaged in other branches of rural industry. They have threatened to engage in other forms of primary production if their demands are not met. Why should they not do so? Many workers in the cities leave one job and turn to another because it offers better pay and working conditions. Why should not dairy-farmers turn to oth er forms of rural production when month after month their reasonable applications are refused? If many of them are induced to leave the industry because of the poor return they receive for their product a black market for butter will develop and the industry generally will regress. Under the present system of political prices control neither producers nor consumers are protected in the slightest way.
The economic law of supply and demand is the only law which should apply in time of peace. Under the operation of that law this country and others have progressed far more than has been possible under economic controls imposed by the socialist adherents of the London School of Economics. Getting down to tintacks and disregarding that ballyhoo of which Senator Brown has complained, it cannot be denied that to-day we are reaping the harvest the seeds of which were sown by the socialists when they indulged in political interference with price levels in this country.
– Only during the war period.
– And after the war. We believe in prices control in war-time, but the continuation of prices control after the war had ended is a major cause of the shortages of commodities which so plague the people of Australia to-day and is one of the reasons why people are paying such exceedingly high prices for commodities the production of which has dwindled to negligible proportions. If we are to return to an era of plentiful supply of commodities we must extend primary production on the lines that operated in the past. Production should be permitted to rise or fall in accordance with the demand.
– The honorable senator is contradicting his own argument.
– Not at all. When the prices of primary products have been adjusted to reasonable levels producers will see that the supply is sufficient to meet the needs of the people. The foodstuffs position in Australia is alarming. Every section of primary production is faced with losses of labour coupled with an increasing demand for its products. Unless this problem is tackled at its roots it will become even graver than it is to-day. The sooner we return to sound economic policy the better it will be for the people of Australia.
– In a debate of this character we have an opportunity to discuss almost anything, from shoes and ships and sealing wax to cabbages and kings. Before I proceed to deal with the main theme of my speech I should like to comment briefly on some aspects of the speech made by Senator Henty. It was one of the most extraordinary speeches that I have ever heard in this’ chamber. One would imagine that the honorable senator was opposed to State prices control, yet, unless I am a complete idiot, he and the other members of the parties that support the Government, took the view that the States could control prices much better than could the Commonwealth. Now, lo and behold, he admits that there is absolute chaos under State prices control. The honorable senator also made the extraordinary statement that he believes in the law of supply and demand. Does he also believe in subsidies? It is obvious that the honorable senator does not know what he believes in. The price of wool has soared so high that many primary producers have abandoned other forms of primary production in favour of woolgrowing. The sheep work for the farmer night and day and wool-growing is now more, profitable than is any other kind of primary industry.
When Senator Wordsworth complained that Senator Brown had said that the elections were fought and won by the Government parties on ballyhoo and slogans I interjected that they had been won by fraud. The people were undoubtedly misled by the Government parties. Before dealing with that subject, however, I should like to compliment you, Mr. President, upon your elevation to. the high office of President of the Senate. You, sir, have been a bonny fighter on the Government side, and during the last week a little of the old pugnacity which you displayed in former days has come to light again. I also congratulate Senator George Rankin upon his election to the position of Chairman of Committees. He, too, is a fighter and like you, Mr. President, he believes that if you have to fight for a cause, however illogical or hopeless your case may be, you may as well make the best of a bad job.
Most of us on this side of the chamber were surprised by the Governor-General’s Speech. Speaking for myself, I was amazed that the Governor-General should grant a double dissolution to the Prime Minister on the issues raised by him.
– Of course the honorable senator was amazed.
– I was, and I say further that if the precedent laid down by the Governor-General in granting a double dissolution on the ground that the Senate, in referring a bill to a select committee, had failed to pass it, is followed in the future, the sooner we all pack up and get out of this chamber the better it will be. A house of review must carry out its function of reviewing all legislation brought before it. I do not know whether in granting the double dissolution the Governor-General acted rightly or wrongly, but I do know that in New South Wales, which operates under no written constitution, a different procedure was followed in such circumstances. In Mr. J. T. Lang’s day, during the period when I was a member of the Upper House, that body was controlled by the tories. Almost every week gentlemen like Sir Norman Kater, who was always talking about democracy, Henry Braddon, Tom Murray, and other tories used the weight of their numbers to refer bills to select committees with the object of delaying the government’s legislative programme. Successive governors of New South Wales certainly did not thereupon grant double dissolutions. This
Senate is as important a branch of the legislature as is the House of Representatives. Whether or not the Labour majority in the Senate in the last Parliament unduly delayed the Government’s, legislation is a matter of opinion. The Opposition disposed of all the legislation brought before it with the exception of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which by the vote of the Senate was referred to a select committee for investigation and report. If the Government continues to control the Senate - and it seems likely that it will do so for some considerable time notwithstanding the terrible mess it is making of the task - and the Governor-General grants a double dissolution whenever the Senate refers a bill to a select committee for investigation and report, honorable senators will, T am sure, agree that this House has failed to justify its existence as a house of review and may as well be shut down.
Sitting suspended from 5.h5 to 8 p.m.
- Senator Henty defended the so-called law of supply and demand. There is no such thing as supply and demand in the sense that everybody gets a fair deal. There must be either government control or control by private individuals. Senator Henty said that state control had been a failure, and he suggested that onions would be selling at 6d. per lb. but for interference by socialists. There is nothing to support that contention. He spoke of economic chaos, but before the last election we told the people that there would be economic chaos unless measures were taken to avert it. I pointed out that the last election was a fraud, and T could have gone further and added that the last two elections have been frauds. Eighteen months ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that unless the problem of inflation were solved nothing else mattered. At that time he had been in power for a year, but nothing had been done in the direction of solving the problem of inflation. Prices continued to rise and rise. I pointed out more than three months ago that unless something were done quickly it would be too late. I now believe that the situation is out of hand, and that it is already too late. Large quantities of butter are being brought into New South
Wales to-day under private - not government - control and sold on the black market at 6s. and 7s. per lb. If the Commonwealth had power to control such matters something could be done to remedy this position. I was astonished to hear an honorable senator opposite say that he was against controls of any kind, State or Federal. Is that the opinion of his party, I wonder? How would we get on if there were no control of bricks, for instance ?
– We would get some bricks.
– The honorable senator suggests that we should be better off if there were no control of bricks. Does he suggest that rents should not be controlled ? If he is logical that must be his opinion. Honorable senators opposite take the illogical view that by legislation they can overcome social and economic factors. Senator Tate who delivered quite a good speech, said that we should deal with the Communists. Apparently, he believes that once legislation is passed to deal with a particular matter, we can leave it at that and everything in the garden will be lovely. He and the members of his party have the same idea about international affairs. They seem to think that it is only necessary to declare war on the Communists or on agrarian China, and the international problems with which we are faced will he solved. Never during the last three hundred years has a declaration of war solved anything. It has only made matters worse.
– Recent wars have solved the problem of the honorable senator’s security.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the security of Australia was threatened by the Germans? Does he believe that the Russians have designs upon Australia when they have all of northern Europe and Asia in which to expand? I know what security the people of Britain got out of the last war and the one before it. After the first world war a gentleman named Norman Angel, afterwards Sir Norman Angel, wrote a book called The Great Illusion in which he said that the winners of the war would probably be worse off economically than the losers. Hitler said that there would be no victors in a world war, all would be victims. If there were a third world war, and we beat the Russians to a frazzle, and if we were to blast China with atom bombs, it would solve no problems. Norman Angel said that the imposition of an indemnity on Germany after the first world war would only cause unemployment among the victors, and that the vanquished would be better off than their conquerors. That is what happened after the Franco-Prussian war when Bismarck imposed upon the defeated French an indemnity of what was then regarded as an astronomical amount. The result was that German workers had to leave Germany and go to France to find employment. One of the terms imposed upon Germany after the first world war was that the Germans should deliver so many million tons of shipping to Britain, with the result that there was unemployment in the shipbuilding yards on the Clyde, while the German shipyards were never more prosperous.
We have some knowledge of sociology and economics, and some knowledge of the conflicting forces of capitalism. Under the present system one man grows fruit and another vegetables, while another grows wool ; some one else is engaged in manufacture, and the interests of all are in conflict. I am no Communist, but I can see that the capitalist system, is so charged with contradictions that there is no way out for us. If capitalism is to be saved from a catastrophic collapse there will have to be some planning. No one but the economist Keynes has suggested an answer to Karl Marx.
– Capitalism can reconcile it3 contradictions, but socialism cannot.
– How on earth can the honorable senator know that, seeing that socialism has never been tried? If the honorable senator is really in a position to show how capitalism can reconcile its differences he is the man for whom John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford were looking all their lives. They and others like them were always terrified about how to dispose of the surplus goods which the workers who made them were unable to buy. Under the present system those in control of industry are concerned only with getting higher prices. I am prepared to lay a shade of odds that the honorable senator from Western Australia, who is scheduled to speak after me, wants a higher price for gold.
Nothing has been done to curb inflation. The 1949 election was a fraud. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has done nothing to solve the problem of inflation. Indeed, those who control him would not allow him to do anything. Since that election prices have gone on rising, as we who have to spend some of our time in Canberra know too well. Only eighteen months ago we paid 9s. 6d. for bed and breakfast; now the price is 25s. I suppose honorable senators opposite will blame the Communists for that ! Although prices have been rising continuously no attempt has been made to restrict luxury production or to impose federal price control. Nothing was done for a long time to reimpose control of capital issues, and no move was made in the direction of restoring the Australian £1 to parity with sterling, a step which I have consistently advocated. The Prime Minister told the people that he was going to restore value to the £1. He failed to do so, and when the last election came along it was necessary to frighten the people with a new bogy, so the Communist issue was trotted out again. The Labour party had accepted the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Personally, I am against the onus of proof provision in that legislation; but, as for the Communist party, I do not care what is done with it. Anyway, the bill was passed, and any one who told an intelligent person that within three months an election would be held in which communism would be an issue would have been regarded as mad. The Government got its bill, but it was not satisfied, and entered the election campaign with the assertion that the Labour party was sheltering the Communists, a statement which was a fraud and a lie. There is no greater anti-Communist force in Australia, than the Labour party. Currency inflation is rampant, but the Government has no programme to deal with it.
Only an idiot could believe that things can go on as they are going without disaster overtaking us. Presently, the basic wage will jump by 10s. in a quarter, then by £1 and then by £2 in a quarter. Any one who knows what happened in Germany after the first world war can see the symptoms of the same thing here now. Only a few days ago, an old Jewish friend of mine said to me : “ I am afraid that I am going to see inflation twice in my lifetime. I saw it in Germany, and I can recognize the same symptoms here Not only has the Government done nothing to curb inflation, but it now talks of super-imposing a war economy on our present economy of inflation. Only recently, that very learned gentleman, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), returned to Australia and announced that war was inevitable within eighteen months. I have discussed the matter with him, and I am sure he will not deny the statement. I do not believe that it is true. I do not believe that men are just automatons with no say in such matters. However, if the honorable gentleman really believes what he said, surely he should be advocating the organization of the entire population in order to put it on a war footing. The Government’s policy is to curtail the supply of all luxury goods and to place the country on a war economy. Yet although, according to the Government, there will be war in eighteen months, no economic controls have yet been introduced. The philosophy of the Government might be expressed by the scriptural quotation, “ Let us eat, drink ; for to-morrow we die”. I repeat that although the Minister for Defence Production has expressed his view that war is inevitable and the Prime Minister has said that we have at most only three years in which to prepare for war, I do not believe that the Minister for Defence Production believes in the truth of the public statements that he has made. On the contrary, I believe that he has made those statements merely for propagandist purposes, and without any belief in their truth. For one thing, I do not think that he believes that the Russians will declare war upon us within eighteen months, because, if that is their intention, why do they not do so now? The real reason, I believe, for his making such misleading statements is that he is anxious to cover up the Government’s failure to restore stability to the currency. Its failure to arrest the spiral of inflation has imposed tremendous hardship on the workers of this country, and particularly on pensioners and others in receipt of small fixed incomes. Many working people who are now retired managed to save a few thousands pounds during their working life, which they invested in Commonwealth loans during the war as a provision for their old age. Similarly, many retired people also contributed substantially to superannuation schemes for their subsistence when they retired. Those unfortunate people are now undergoing real hardship because of the Government’s failure to redeem its promise to restore stability to our economy. In an effort to cover up its failure, the Government asserted during the recent election campaign that the cause of all the trouble iti this country is the Communist party.
When the Government carries out its announced intention to introduce a bill to make it compulsory for trade unions to conduct secret ballots of their members on certain matters, I think that I will be able to prove that that gesture is also fraudulent. If members of the antiLabour parties do not know that nearly nil the trade ‘unions now have secret ballots-
– What rot !
– Senator Guy has interjected to the effect that my statement is rot. Let me deal. first of all with the miners, about whom I know something.
– What about the Communist influence in the miners’ federation?
– No member of the Parliament is more opposed to Stalin than I am. No one has suggested-
– What about the ironworkers ?
– Let me deal with one matter at a time. However, now that the honorable senator has mentioned the ironworkers, I remind him that they have n case before the court at the moment-
– Consider the damning evidence that’ has been adduced at the hearing before the court.
– Just a moment. Let me remind honorable senators opposite that the reason Mr. Short is able to challenge the Federated Ironworkers
Association before the court is that the Chifley Labour Administration introduced legislation to enable any member of a trade union to approach the court if he considered that an election of officers, or a vote of the members, of a union, had been conducted irregularly. That legislation even provided that if an unsuccessful applicant was able to satisfy the court that his intervention was bona fide, the court could order that the expenses of his intervention should be refunded.
– Get back to the Communists. Do not “ squib “ it !
– I realize that we are not permitted to make wagers in the Parliament. However, if the present Government carries out its intention to take a referendum of the people on the subject of making secret ballots compulsory’ for trade unions, I have no doubt that it will begin to implement the policy by interfering with the miners’ federation. If that occurs, I presume that Mr. Idris Williams will again be a candidate for office in the miners’ federation, and if so, I am prepared to wager my seat in the Senate against that of any honorable senator opposite on the contention that Williams will receive a bigger vote from his members than he has ever received before. Honorable senators opposite imagine that they can deal with such matters as the election of union officials by the mere passage of legislation. Let me explain to them what will happen if the Government passes such legislation and attempts to coerce the members of the miners’ federation in that way. A miner named, say, ‘ John Smith, who is a Communist, will approach another miner named, say, Tom Jones, and will say to him something like this - “ Tom, although I am a Communist I know that you are not. Nevertheless, we have worked in the mines together man and boy, as did our fathers before us. Do you think those so and so’s have a right to control our ballot? Why do they not control the ballots for election of members of the Chamber of Commerce and the directors of the Bank of New South Wales? Do you believe that they have a right to interfere in the conduct of our affairs ? “ J ones will undoubtedly reply, “ No “, and he will vote solidly for Williams. And that will be typical of the reaction of most miners.
– That is mere wishful thinking.
– I can understand why the honorable senator is so stupid. It is because he never listens to reason. I repeat that I am prepared to wager my seat in the Senate against that’ of any honorable senator opposite, including Senator Guy, on the contention that if the proposed legislation for secret ballots is passed, Idris Williams will obtain more votes from the miners than he has ever received before. If Senator Guy-
– Order ! I much prefer the honorable senator to address the Chair.
– I repeat that I should like honorable senators opposite to indicate what the Government proposes to do about inflation. Three months aso I prophesied that the situation would become worse and worse. Although, unhappily, my prophecy has been more than fulfilled, the Government has still not done anything to counter inflation.
Of course, I realize that inflation can be a very good thing for some individuals. Consider what is happening on the stock and share market. We all know that many private concerns are making so much money that they are making special bonus issues to their shareholders of one additional share for every three or five shares held by them. I am a Scotsman, and anything relating to money interests me. Therefore, I know what is happening. Consider the tremendous profits that are being made by some businesses ! Do members of the Government imagine that that can continue without wrecking OU] economy, and that, in addition, a war-time economy can be superimposed upon the present unhealthy state of affairs? It is impossible to prepare our economy for war in the present circumstances.
One honorable senator recently stated that in his opinion the immigration programme should be suspended for twelve months, and I agree entirely with that contention. Consider for a moment the present overstrained state of our economy.
For one thing, there is not sufficient electric power for our factories. Nevertheless, immigrants are being brought to Australia without any concern for their welfare and without any thought of the part that they are to play in the community. Whilst some of the immigrants will undoubtedly make good citizens, many of them will not do so. Indiscriminate immigration must cease. Incidentally, 1 was rather amused when Senator Scott said some time ago that he was in favour of immigration because he thought that he would be able to get some immigrants to work on his wheat farm. I gather from his demeanour since that the Government’s immigration policy has not done him any good. On the subject of the part that the new Australians will play in the community, I point out to honorable senators straightaway that I can meet more new Australians in Pitt-street, Sydney, in a quarter of an hour than I can meet in the rest of New South Wales in twelve months. The congregation of large numbers of immigrants in the capital cities is aggravating the black market scourge. An English couple who arrived in this country very recently told me that they were met on the wharf and offered a key to a flat for £900. That is a typical example of the black-marketing that is occurring in Sydney to-day. In fact, black market operations and rackets are rampant in Sydney. How many new Australians are engaged in rural employment? I know a good deal about the present state of affairs in Sydney because I was a member of the Sydney City Council for fourteen years.
– No wonder that the council is in a mess.
– I know that the council’s affairs have got into a mess since I left it. The present honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) was a member of the Sydney County Council for fifteen years, and he is responsible for a good deal of the difficulty in connexion with power supplies in that city to-day. He instigated the move of the council authorities, who control the distribution of electricity, to embark on an extensive advertising campaign of electrical household equipment. He even employed “ glamour girls “ and introduced airconditioning in the showrooms in order to push the sale of electrical appliances. That campaign is largely responsible for the present inflated demand for electrical power by the householders of Sydney. Now, the council is appealing to the citizens of Sydney to reduce the consumption of electrical power. If the authorities had listened to me when I was a member of the Sydney City Council, they would never have placed the citizens of Sydney in the unfortunate position in which they find themselves to-day. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), myself and three other members of the Labour party were overruled by nine members of the Civic Reform party in the Sydney City Council when I suggested, before the war, that the council should obtain electrical generators from Germany.
During the. war the streets of Sydney were not repaired, and to-day there are great ruts alongside the tram tracks. Admittedly, a few Esthonians, Lithuanians and Latvians are employed on road repairs in the city, but an overwhelming number of new Australians are doing no work at all in the cities. They believe that it is better to give wages than to receive them, and they are engaging in illegitimate trading and blackmarket operations of all kinds. The immigration policy of the present Government has resulted in large numbers of people being brought to this country without the existence of any sound plan to absorb them. Consider for a moment the effect that the influx of such a large number of people is having on the housing position in Sydney. What does the Government’ intend to do about that? Although His Excellency’s Speech was largely taken up with an outline of the Government’s defence preparations, I noticed that it contained scarcely a word about the present inflation. I repeat that the position in that respect is getting worse every minute. The Government cannot fool the people indefinitely by talking about communism. I know of scores of people who voted for the anti-Labour parties at the last general election in the belief that they were going to take effective action against the Communists. Apart from the fact that the Government has not taken such action, I ask honorable senators opposite what communism has to do with the present outrageous price of food and the exorbitant rents of housing premises. Of course, many honorable senators opposite know that all the talk about communism was a’ mere election bogy. The Prime Minister, who, although a very intelligent man, is not, in my opinion, an intellectual in the academic sense, knows as well as I do that communism was a mere bogy and that the real issue was inflation. I remind honorable senators opposite that there will be another election for approximately half the members of the Senate in about two years. Unless I am a bad judge, some of them will be looking for a way out before that election occurs.
– How long has the honorable senator’s term to run before it expires ?
– I do not think that that information would assist Senator Scott because when I vacate this chamber he will be just as stupid as he was when he entered it. Most honorable senators opposite realize that the present inflation cannot continue. Some of them have complained that high wages are the cause of the trouble, but I point out to them that high wages have always chased increases of the cost of living. If the cost of living were pegged ruthlessly, wages would automatically peg themselves. I point out to honorable senators opposite that when the trade unions submit an application for increased wages to th, court they have to prove that the cost of living has increased before they can succeed. How can we possibly reduce the cost of living while the present illegitimate commercial practices continue ? Commercial houses are taking out of stock goods that have been there for ten years and selling them at black market prices. A friend of mine who is a dentist told me that he has to pay 25 per cent, more than the current price of certain dental supplies that were manufactured in the United States of America, although it is well known that those particular goods have been in stock in Australia for ten years. Wholesalers are withholding stocks in the hope that prices will rise even further. In these circumstances, the workers of this country have to fight to hold their own. The present state of economic unbalance cannot continue. Before long employees will be sacked in large numbers. Widespread unemployment will occur, and when that happens we shall have a repetition of the tragic happening of the depression. In spite of apparent prosperity to-day, the fear of depression still lurks in the minds of most Australians. The reason why so many working families are comparatively well off to-day is that the husband has a job, the wife has a job, and the children have jobs. The standard of living of those families would be seriously impaired should unemployment return. Under the capitalist system, economic crises have been recurring at frequent intervals for the last 50 years. In the Victorian era - my friends opposite know something about that because that is where most of them still are - economic crises were few, employment was steady, sons followed father into jobs, and breadwinners were able to look ahead. Economic stability started to crumble with the advent of the Boer war. In the years preceding the outbreak of World War I., unemployment was rife, but the war of course found jobs for everybody as wars always do. World War II. again banished unemployment, but the problem was only removed temporarily. War cannot provide a permanent solution of any problem.
Again I stress the need for something to be done in the near future to curb inflation. In many respects, we in Australia are worse off than are the people of Great Britain, because although their problems are greater than ours in some ways, their controls are more rigid. Prior to the outbreak of war in Korea, unemployment in the United States of America had reached serious proportions. Only preparations for an all-out war have staved off an economic crisis in that country. I have said many times in this chamber, as Aneurin Bevan said in the United Kingdom last year, that the continuation of preparations for an all-out war may well mean the end of many of our social services. Our present economy is entirely false. This Government has twice been elected to office on fraudulent promises. In 1949 it promised to put value back into- the £1. That promise has not been fulfilled. This year, honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the House of Representatives assured the people that if they could deal with the ‘Communists, purchasing power would be restored to the £1. If the Government does not hurry up and do something, there will be no £1 left to put value into. I hope sincerely that something drastic will be done soon to restore our present shaky economy to a firm footing.
– I take this opportunity to offer you my sincere congratulations, Mr. President, upon your election to your high office. I trust that your stay in that office will be both long and pleasurable. I also congratulate Senator George Rankin upon his election as Chairman of Committees. I hope that he, too, will have a long and pleasant term of office. I’ cordially welcome newly elected members of this chamber. Although I myself am only a comparative newcomer, I must say that I have been much impressed by the standard of debate set by the honorable senators who have just taken their seats in the Senate.
I take this opportunity to refer to certain aspects of the gold-mining industry in Australia. As Western Australia produces most- of our gold, my remarks naturally will be of most interest to that State, but I regard the industry as being of national importance, and therefore it is most appropriate that its future should be discussed in this chamber. I shall deal first with the problem of rising mining costs in relation to the fixed price of gold, and I shall outline a certain course of action which I hope will be acceptable to the Government.
There are two popular misconceptions about gold. One is what may be called an economic misconception. I refer to the general belief that, in these modern times, gold is of little value either nationally or internationally. Many people have come to that quite fallacious conclusion. Unfortunately many important government officials are letting it be known that that is their view. It is a most dangerous belief. It has been said that the economist is quite useful as an adviser; that he is impossible as an administrator; and that he is exceedingly dangerous as a master. We in Australia have reached ‘the stage of having too many economists acting as administrators. I sincerely hope that they will never become our masters. The belief that gold has no real value domestically, nationally or internationally is completely unreal, as I shall endeavour to show. In one generation we have seen the paper currencies of many countries including Russia, China, Germany and Austria become valueless, largely because they w ere not backed by sufficient gold. There were, of course, other reasons, but that was the most important one. What are the people in this country thinking about gold? Perhaps I can best illustrate the real value of gold in this country by inviting the attention of the Senate to two interesting and significant stories that appeared recently in the Melbourne press. One told of how some boys found 74 sovereigns in a tin in a deserted cottage somewhere near Melbourne. Interest was aroused because the Government of Victoria wanted to take the sovereigns away from the boys. However, the point that was missed by the press was that the boys were ultimately paid approximately £4 in paper money for each sovereign. The other press report concerned a little bird that is well known in Melbourne, the starling. At about the same time as the sovereigns to which I have referred were minted, a starling picked up a £5 note somewhere and lined its nest with it. Recently the house in which the nest had been built was demolished, and the £5 note was recovered by a worker. When he went to change the note he received only five £1 notes for it. There should be no need for me to point the moral of those two stories.
The place of gold in the economic life of the people of the United States of America is interesting. The currency of that country is based on gold. In fact the Americans call their currency the international gold bullion standard. The policy of the Government of the United States of America on gold is clearly expressed in a letter dated the 4th May, 1949, from the Acting Secretary of the United States Treasury to the Senate Banking and Currency Committee. The letter states -
We believe that the United States should continue to follow the principle that the most important use of gold is for the domestic and international monetary functions of the
Government and that gold should not be held by private individuals as a store of wealth.
The Treasury believes it to be of the highest monetary importance to the United States that it continue to sell gold to foreign governments and central banks at 35 dollars an ounce whenever the balance of international payments turns in their favour and they ask for settlement in gold. To refuse to make such sales at 35 dollars would be equivalent to a devaluation of the dollar and an abandonment of our adherence to a gold standard.
That is the present policy of the United States of America on gold. Let me give one example of how the nations jointly, that is to say internationally, regard gold. The International Monetary Fund was set up expressly to stabilize international exchange. That fund is backed by gold, or by dollars, which, as I have said, are backed by gold. The fund will not accept the paper currency of Australia or any other country. It is clear from those illustrations that gold to-day is probably more valuable than ever before in the international sphere.
I come now to the second widespread misconception about gold. There is a general belief that the gold mines of Western Australia are worked out. That too is quite wrong. The further the Kalgoorlie mines are developed the more ore bodies are discovered. I go so far as to say that never in the history of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia have more ore reserves been known to exist. They may almost be described as limitless. It is completely wrong, therefore, for any one to suggest that the gold-mining industry is finished, or that there is no more gold-bearing ore left. Admittedly there is something wrong with the industry, because the production of gold has fallen. In 1939 it was 1,200,000 fine ounces, but by 1950 it had. fallen to approximately 650,000 fine ounces. Clearly the industry is languishing. The reason for that is mainly rising costs of mining in relation to the fixed price of gold. I shall first examine the matter of rising costs and then deal with the ‘effect of fixed prices. Costs have probably risen to a greater degree in the mining industry than in any other major industry in Australia.
The mining industry in Western Australia is centred in a region from 250 to 1,000 miles from Perth. The fur*1 that an industry is located from the capital city the greater are its costs. Distance does not lend enchantment to the mining industry because wages and freights are higher in more remote areas. I shall cite figures that have been published by an established mine in the Golden Mile which, I think, have general application. The prices of crusher plants, bore mills, and workshop equipment rose 300 per cent, between 1933 and the 1st January this year. Power plants, electrical equipment and compressors rose in price by about 250 per cent., and the cost of explosives rose from £97 a ton to £190 a ton in the same period. The price of another important commodity, fuel oil, rose in the same period from 210s. a ton to 360s. a ton, and the “Western Australian State railways recently increased freight charges by 35 per cent. It is common knowledge that wages also have risen. Mining costs have probably increased more than those of any other important industry in “Western Australia. Another important feature that should be borne in mind is that the gold-mining industry is one of the few industries which cannot pass on its rising costs. Increased costs in the butter industry and other industries will ultimately be passed on to the public. Rising costs have had a very unstabilizing effect on the industry. Modern gold-mining is not a haphazard industry. It is no longer essentially speculative. It has become more permanent and stable because the modern mines in Western Australia have large ore reserves underground. Some of them have ten years ore reserves explored and developed and ready for breaking and treatment. Those reserves are maintained. As soon as ore is hauled and treated the management takes further action to explore and develop other ore bodies and so replenish its reserves. An important feature is that the reserves are assayed and their actual value is known in terms of pennyweights to the ton. Every month the same amount of tonnage is treated by the modern gold mines in Kalgoorlie, which ensures regularity of employment. That is another important factor. The maintenance of adequate ore supplies ensures regularity and continuity of profit. The result of rising costs has been to disorganize this system of maintaining adequate ore reserves, because managements are not now able to predict what will happen in the future. Let us examine a mine that is exploring and developing ore bodies of say 4.5 dwt. to the ton. It may take some months and a large expenditure to develop an ore body with those values. How can the management know that it will pay to treat these reserves in two or three years’ time ? This shows the dilemma in which the industry has been placed. The difficulty is even greater when new mines are opened. Some large mines in the course of being opened up in Western Australia are experiencing similar difficulties. The industry does not know where to turn, or when costs will cease to rise. I do,, not think that even economists in Canberra, could tell the mine managements what the cost of production per ton of ore will be in twelve months’ time or in five years’ time.
– What has the Government done about the dilemma?
– I shall mention that in a minute. I shall now refer to the fixed price of gold. The Australian producer is obliged by law to sell his gold within a specified time of production. He is not allowed to retain the gold, but must sell it at the fixed price of £15 “9s.- lOd. a fine ounce,’ the equivalent of 35 dollars. He cannot sell it anywhere he will, but must sell it to a specified buyer. For example, he cannot sell it in Bombay for 55 dollars a fine ounce, which price he could get in many of the capitals of the world. He must, as I have already pointed out, sell it in Australia for the equivalent of 35 dollars a fine” ounce, the price fixed by the International Monetary Fund, of which Australia is a member. Fixation of the price of gold so as to stabilize its price, is not new in the history of currency. It was done by Great Britain as early as 1814, after the inflationary period following the Napoleonic Wars, to which the present inflationary trend in Australia is somewhat similar. The following is an extract from Sir Charles Morgan- Webb’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Gold Standard: -
What made the currency revolution of 1818 unique was that, for the first time in the history of the world, there was a fixed and stable value of gold and of currency, which operated, not temporarily nor locally, but permanently and throughout the world. Britain had provided the world with a new currency factor, a fixed unit of value.
I draw attention particularly to the words “ there was a fixed and stable value of gold “. Actually Great Britain succeeded not only in fixing the price of gold but also in stabilizing the price of that metal. There is a vast difference between fixing the price of a commodity and stabilizing its price. The International Monetary Fund has attempted to fix and to stabilize the price of gold. Speaking in the South African House of Assembly on the 5th May, 1950, on a report of the International Monetary Fund concerning the sale of gold to private hoarders, Mr. Havenga, the South African Minister of Finance, is reported to have stated -
There ave a few aspects of the question to which it is desirable that I should direct attention now. A few facts will show the position much more clearly than the vague phrases in which the report is couched.
The report says : In considering all economic aspects of the present policy, the Executive Board noted that comparatively large quantities of gold have continued to go into private hoards. j.t would surely have been better to publish the figures. According to the Board’s own data an amount of gold equal to one-half of the gold production of the world outside Soviet Russia failed to reach the central reserves in 1948. I may add that the position in 1049 is very much the same. This means that nearly ten and a half million ounces went either into industry, arts or the professions, or into private hoards during each of these years. Honorable members will get a clearer picture of what this means if 1 remind them that this figure is very close to the whole of the South African gold production.
According to the Board’s figures gold to the value of $300,000,000 (over 8i million ounces; went into private hoards alone (i.e. not taking into account gold converted into gold ware or used professionally).
But the most striking fact of the position is that the bulk of this gold did not reach private hoards from newly-mined sources. No, Sir, the Board estimates that only one-sixth came from newly-mined gold. The remaining five-sixths were released from official holdings. These figures which are the Fund’s figures, not my own, will give the House an idea of the degree of success which has attended the Fund’s endeavours to channel gold into official reserves. The official hoarders have boon the principal suppliers of the premium markets: five-sixths from official reserves, one-sixth from producers.
Mr. Havenga’s contention was that onehalf of the gold being produced in the world to-day is not going into official channels but is being sold to private hoarders, and that this defeats the objective of the International Monetary Fund. Such gold is not being used to stabilize or assist international exchange. What is more important is that it is being sold at a premium instead of at the fixed price of 35 dollars a fine ounce. It is being sold at from between 45 dollars and 55 dollars a fine ounce. Undoubtedly the International Monetary Fund has failed in its primary function. It has not stabilized the price of gold. If it had done so there would not be this tremendous leakage from official sources and official holders.
At this stage it is interesting to recount bow South Africa has fared in connexion with the problem of the fixed price of gold in relation to the International Monetary Fund. South Africa is the biggest producer of gold. It produces almost one-half of the gold of the world. Last year, with the consent of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, it commenced selling gold at a premium in the free market. Officially, permission was given for that gold to be sold for artistic jewellery purposes and for industrial uses. Before South Africa . commenced to sell on the free market, the world requirement of such gold was approximately 1,000,000 oz. a year. After South Africa commenced to sell gold the world requirement for artistic and other purposes rose to 7,500,000 oz. a year. In other words, South Africa had the opportunity to sell approximately 6,000,000 oz. a year, which was almost half of its total production, at a premium of 15 dollars a fine ounce. Naturally, the International Monetary Fund became alarmed that such a large quantity of gold was being diverted into private hoards. The whole purpose of the fund was to ensure that gold was retained by nations in their official hoards. On the 7th March of this year a very interesting decision was made by the International Monetary Fund, which I propose to read to the House. It is as follows : -
Since the amount of sales and purchases in the world markets of gold for jewellery, artistic and industrial purposes has recently been increasing at a rate indicating that at least part of it finds its way to private hoards, contrary to the gold policy of the Fund established in June, 1947, the Board considers the existing arrangements and practices of several countries, including South Africa, are no longer a satisfactory basis to implement the Fund’s gold policy and directs the staff of the Fund urgently to elaborate, after consultation with the countries concerned, more effective methods than the existing ones.
The report on the more effective methods to be taken is expected to be made by the International Monetary Fund within the next two months. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the significance of the last few words of the above decision.
The words “ the countries concerned “ are most important because Australia is one of those countries. “We perhaps might ask ourselves what is required of the Australian Government in this connexion. Certain matters should be considered when establishing a policy and a course of action in accordance with the directive of the board. For example, I consider that we should support South Africa’s policy concerning gold, because both Australia and South Africa are gold-producing countries. “We should not accept the present situation whereby the goldproducing nations, with serious loss to themselves, are, in effect, providing a stabilizing factor in international exchange; at the same time we should endeavour to implement the policy of the International Monetary Fund and accept any proposal which will rectify the present alarming drift of gold to private hoards.
In the light of these factors and because Australia is a member of the International Monetary Fund, I do not think that there can be any solution of the present problem other than an increase of the fixed price of gold. I do not know what that increase should be,’ but I suggest that it should be carefully considered by our own Government and that it must be adequate to ensure that it will stabilize, as well as fix, the price of gold. I remind honorable senators that there is a big distinction between the word “fix” and the word “stabilize”. We should endeavour to achieve that objective at the discussions that are about to take place in Washington. I am aware that in advocating that course of action, the Australian Government will encounter a serious obstacle. I refer to the United States of America. The Americans contend that an increase of the fixed price of gold by the International Monetary Fund would inflate American currency. I do. not admit that that is so, but even if it is true, there can be no equity in a proposition that the Australian gold-mining industry should assist in stabilizing the American dollar, which is what the Americans are asking us to do. I do not think that even the American Constitution provides for such a contingency.
I am aware that the present Government has done and is doing all that it can to assist the industry, but it is not out of order to raise this question because a healthy gold-mining industry is a national necessity. Australia recently borrowed 1,000,000 dollars from the United States of America, which have to be repaid with interest. I understand that the terms are that the loan shall be repaid over a period of 25 years, commencing in a few years time. That loan must be repaid either in gold or in goods. When it comes to repaying the loan, the United States of America may not want our goods, but I suggest that our gold will be acceptable.
We could increase our gold production very simply. There is plenty of gold in the ground, and our present yearly production of 650,000 ounces could be doubled in a short space of time. That cannot be done merely by the receipt of money from the Government, but it ‘can be done by the receipt of assurances by the Government that it will support the industry and that it will advocate an increased international fixed price of gold. Provided that that expectation is ultimately attained, the industry should have no difficulty in doubling its production in a few years, which would mean that the dollar loan to which I have referred could be repaid, within the stipulated time, from the excess gold that we could win. That is why I say that there is an obligation on the part of the Australian Government to ensure that the goldmining industry retains its health. The only answer to the problem is an adequate increase of the price of gold, and I trust that the Government will take some action to bring that about.
Senator COURTICE ( Queensland ) [9.81. - Although the. President is absent from the chamber at the moment I nevertheless offer him my congratulations on his appointment to the high position which he now holds. I am sure that the prestige and the decorum of this chamber will not suffer because of that appointment. He will no doubt derive much satisfaction from the knowledge that he has the confidence and the goodwill of all honorable senators. I ako take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy President, upon your appointment as Chairman of Committees. I had the privilege of occupying that position for three years and I know that it is an important and very interesting one.
I congratulate the new honorable senators on their maiden speeches. It was not my privilege to hear all of them, but I am sure that the entry of the new members to the Senate will be of benefit to this chamber. I particularly congratulate Senator Byrne, the new honorable senator on this side of the chamber. I have no doubt that he will be an acquisition to the Senate, and I know that he will be of great assistance to the Australian Labour party.
At this late stage of the debate I do not feel inclined to indulge in criticism of the Government. I did that to the fullest extent during the general election campaign. However, the people evidently disapproved of such criticism, because the- Government parties have been returned to office with a greater majority. I did not like the verdict, but I respect the decision of the people. I wish to discuss the question of the constitutional position a3 it affects the Commonwealth Parliament. I am greatly disturbed by the existing situation. Some years ago all the political parties of Australia and Federal and State parliaments, governments and oppositions, agreed that it was necessary that additional powers should be granted to the Australian Government. Unfortunately, because of the actions of a few old gentlemen in Tasmania, that reform was not made. I agree with Senator Henty that the time is overdue for a stocktaking because I am convinced that under existing conditions the problems confronting the nation cannot be effectively dealt with by this Parliament. The members of the Government have a full appreciation of the problem, but I have seen no indication whatever of their desire to alter the position. Does the Government intend to sit idly by and allow inflation, which to my mind is one of the most important problems confronting us today, to £° unchecked? Inflation has led and will lead to great hardships for those who least deserve them. It is not sufficient for the Government to say that it is unable to deal with such matters. It demonstrated quite clearly during the last Parliament that it did not desire to deal with them, because I remember that when the question of prices control was being discussed - a matter which many honorable senators considered of great importance to our economy - members on the other side of the chamber were not interested. They stated that prices control was of no concern, and that it would have no influence on the economy of the country. I should be interested’ to know if they still adhere to that view. If the Government still believes that- rising costs do not concern it, I say that it will not be very long before the people compel it to acknowledge the seriousness of the economic situation. I do not intend to say whether the people gave their verdict properly on the evidence that was submitted to them during the general election campaign. Which is more important is the fact that the Government is faced with a position that is more serious than any which ever confronted this country. Honorable senators opposite no doubt will say immediately that in time of war controls are necessary. I ask them when does a war begin and end. If we wish to play cricket we must first prepare the pitch. Similarly, if the country is confronted with a situation as serious as the Prime Minister has led us to believe it is, the duty of the Government is to take action to improve the economic structure. It is of no use for honorable senators’ opposite to say that if prices control had been exercised by the Commonwealth the present situation would not have been avoided. During the war years it was my privilege to ad miinister prices control. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) cares to examine Lis departmental records he will discover that the people saved millions of pounds as the result of the operation of that control. The Chifley Government appealed to the people to vest in the Commonwealth power to continue prices control in the peace-time period because it realized that there was grave constitutional doubt of its authority to exercise such a control under its defence power. The appeal was opposed by the non-Labour parties on the ground that the States could do the job more effectively than could the Commonwealth. The people accepted their advice, but since then the State prices Ministers, both Labour and Liberal, have unanimously agreed that it is impossible for them effectively to carry out that function. This Government is either of the opinion that Commonwealth prices control will confer no benefit on our economy or it is unwilling to assume the responsibility of administering such a control. Rising prices constitute one of the greatest problems that confront the people. Thousands of our best citizens, including young men with families of three, four and five children, artisans and workers who have been in constant employment for very many years, now find that because of the burden of rising prices it is financially impossible for them to educate their children as they should be educated. Surely it is the responsibility of the National Government to tackle this problem. If it is its responsibility to protect our economy in time of war, is it not also its responsibility to do so in time of peace, especially at a time when the people are being robbed of their birthright by the thief, inflation ? . Day after day, the best of our citizens find their 1 financial position worsening. I am concerned most about the plight of the pioneers. I know many men and women who, after having worked hard all their lives and having invested their hard-won savings in government loans, hoping that they would be able to live in some measure of comfort in their declining years, now find that their meagre incomes are insufficient to sustain them. I cannot exaggerate the gravity of their state. It is surely the responsibility of the Government to help them out of their difficulties.
When it was first said that the States could control prices more effectively than could the Commonwealth we realized the falsity of that claim. We knew then that it would be impossible for the States to do so, and for that reason we asked the people to give to this Parliament power to continue that most important economic control. The members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties must accept some responsibility for the chaos that now exists in the community as the result of rising prices. Why they advised the people to vote against the proposal of the Chifley Government I do not know. What valid objection could there have been to the placing in the hands of the highest legislative authority in the nation a power which was so important to the maintenance of our economy? In opposing the referendum proposal honorable senators opposite and their colleagues said that the people were tired of such controls and that in any event controls might be abused by the Labour Government. During the general election campaign of 1949 supporters of the anti-Labour parties spoke very eloquently of the desirability of wiping out controls of all kind’s “but, whether they like it or not, the force of circumstances will compel them to agree to the reimposition of at least, some of the controls which the Menzies Government so lightly discarded immediately after it assumed office. Concurrently with, the proposals which the Government intends to put to the people if the State parliaments refuse to refer a certain power to the Commonwealth, it should seek power to reimpose prices control. Already many of our best citizens are exhibiting a great deal of unrest because their financial position is worsening day by day. I can see no end to their difficulties unless the Government resolutely tackles this problem.
I say unhesitatingly that any person who takes advantage of the people by the imposition of excessive prices or by the making of excessive profits should be gaoled. Does the Government propose to continue to sit idly by while prices continue to rise? It is of no use for it to say, “When we have power to deal with the Communists everything will be all right “. Responsibility for rising prices cannot be laid solely at the door of the Communists. The Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America are already taking action to halt rising prices because they know that only by that means can their economy be preserved. I have no desire to be unduly critical of the Government, because I realize that it has very serious problems to tackle; but I cannot understand how Government members whom we know to have progressive ideas can sit idly by and do nothing in the face of this dreadful calamity. I can well understand inaction on the part of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who has all the characteristics of a modern gentleman but at the same time exhibits all the instincts of the ancient tory; but I cannot understand how other and more progressive members of the Government can remain inactive in the face of this calamity. We have heard of the dead hand of conservatism; from the point of view of the suffering people the very live hand of conservatism is responsible for the state of affairs that now exists. I know, as also do many honorable senators opposite, that every improvement in their lot gained by the primary producers and the workers has been won only after a fight with the conservative elements of this country. Conservative vested interests used to tell the primary producers that their job was confined to production while the vested interests themselves claimed the right to assess the value of their production. For too many years production in this country was controlled by vested interests. A Queensland government was the first to give the farmer economic freedom by allowing him to have some say in fixing the value of his production. The so-called Australian Country party has never championed the cause of the primary producers or of the workers of Australia. I trust that the more progressive members and supporters of the Government will compel it to protect the interests of the people against exploiters and those responsible for rising prices. Think of the plight of young people who seek to buy a house at today’s exorbitant prices! Is it not the duty of the National Parliament to do everything possible to lighten their load? In war or in peace it is the bounden duty of the National Government to concern itself with the welfare of the people, particularly of those who do the real work of this nation. I know thousands of young people who, although they are receiving good wages, have the greatest difficulty in meeting the payments due on their properties. Those in the lower income groups and persons in receipt of static incomes are in the greatest difficulty. The attitude of the Government is that all this is none of its business. How long will the present state of affairs continue? How can we hope to make adequate preparations for the defence of this country unless we do something to improve the conditions of its people? Control of prices by a competent authority could be of great help to our economy. During the war we had tho assistance of many able men in our efforts to control prices, men such as Mr. Stan Kelly, who was an expert on meat. I have no quarrel with decent business people, but I have no sympathy with those who are exploiting present shortages, and are seeking larger profits by moving goods from one State to another in order to get the highest price. The Government should do something without delay to prevent the public from being exploited. Inflation is undermining our economy, and the Government will have to take measures to curb it.
I am disturbed- at the apparent inability of the Government to appreciate the needs of Queensland. Surely Ministers must realize that unless Queensland is properly developed Australia cannot be defended. The southern cities are in danger while Queensland is in danger. The Labour Government, after negotiating with the Queensland Government, reached an understanding, if not a hardandfast agreement, that the Commonwealth would co-operate in the prosecution of certain important projects in Queensland. Since the present Government has been in office I have not heard much about those projects, which are important to Australia and particularly to Queensland. If they were competed many thousands, perhaps millions, more people could be settled in Australia. Those Ministers who have visited Queensland must realize the importance of developing that State. If the Government makes an honest attempt to solve our national problems it can rely upon the support of the Labour party.
.- Like those honorable senators who have preceeded me, I congratulate the President upon his elevation to the important office he occupies. It is an honour to be chosen to sit in the National Parliament, but to be chosen by the elected representatives as their presiding officer is a signal honour, indeed. Some eminent men have held the position of President of the Senate during the years since federation. I am sure that in .our President we have a man who will add lustre to the office. I also take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy President, upon your appointment as Chairman of Committees. . The dignity and prestige of this chamber .will be safe in the hands of yourself and of the President. I hope that all honorable senators will assist you to discharge your duties with dignity and decorum, and with honour to ourselves and the people whom we have the privilege to represent. With the exercise of tolerance and understanding it should not be difficult to achieve those worthy objectives. I . also join with other honorable senators in expressing our loyalty to the throne. .We were all deeply grieved to learn that the health qf His Majesty the King was causing concern. Since he has been on the throne the Empire has passed through periods of danger and anxiety. I have no doubt that the devotion and energy expended by His Majesty on behalf of his people has taken toll of his strength. We trust that his health will be restored, and that he will be able to pay his contemplated visit to Australia next year where a loyal welcome awaits him from the people of this distant part of the Empire.
In his speech to the Parliament, the Governor-General touched’ upon many matters, but I take it that there will be ample opportunities to discuss those matters in detail when the appropriate legislation is before us. Senator Courtice, who has just concluded his speech, unfortunately did not offer any constructive criticism. I believe that we are iri large measure reaping to-day what was sown during eight years of socialist rule. Senator Courtice was himself a Minister foi- eight years, and what did he do during ;i!l that -time to improve the economy of the country ?
The reason for the double dissolution of the Nineteenth Parliament is well known, and need not be discussed at length here. The purpose for which the dissolution was sought and obtained has been achieved. The Government has been returned with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. The mandate given to the Menzies Government in 1949 was re-affirmed in no uncertain manner by the people in the election of April last. A major issue before the people was the menace of communism, and the Government has a mandate to destroy that menace. I congratulate the Government on the prompt and effective action which it took to end the recent strike on the waterfront. Senator O’Byrne claimed that many people accused the Labour party of flirting with the Communists. After all, if certain men in the Labour party act like Communists they cannot blame the people for calling them Communists. I remind honorable senators that when the last war broke out the Menzies Government banned the Communist party. Two men, Ratliff and Thomas, were found guilty, by the appropriate court, of subversive activities prejudicial to the safety of the country, and were later imprisoned. As soon as the Labour Government took office, it lifted the ban on the Communist party, and ordered the release of Ratliff and Thomas. who were thus freed to carry on their subversive activities at a time when the Allies were fighting with their backs to the wall.
During the war, it was very difficult to get permission to purchase building materials, or to obtain authority to expend money on the reconditioning of buildings. However, the Communist party had no difficulty in obtaining authority to buy a large building in Sydney at a cost of many thousands of pounds, and to expend £700 on reconditioning work. The irony of it Was that on the very day that Mr. Dedman, the responsible Minister, signed the authority for the reconditioning of Marx House a returned soldier was brought before the court and prosecuted for adding a room to his house in order to make provision for his increasing family.
Again, during the war, newsprint was scarce and supplies were controlled, but the Communist party had no difficulty in obtaining an additional quota. All other newspaper proprietors were compelled to reduce the size of their publications, but the Communist party was able to bring its paper out more frequently because the Labour Government had -allowed it an increased allocation of newsprint. For some years it has been difficult to get a telephone connexion, but the Communist party was able, when the Labour Government was in office, to install dozens of telephones in its offices in Sydney. I notice that Senator Grant has been most anxious to interject in order to pay lip service to communism, and it is significant that members of the Opposition rush in to champion the cause of the Communists whenever they are attacked. During the last Parliament members of the Opposition surrendered the country’s interests in favour of party political expediency, and yet they complain because some people believe that they are tainted with communism.
Can we overlook the activities of the Communists in other parts of the world, including Malaya and other countries in Asia? In 1939 Stalin controlled 170,000,000 people; but to-day, because the Communists have infiltrated so many other countries and have transformed them into satellites of Russia, he now controls 800,000,000 people, which is a big advance in his programme of world domination.
– Does the honorable senator blame the Australian Labour party for that state of affairs ?
– If Senator Grant feels that the cap fits him, he may wear it. Let me remind honorable senators that to-day Russia has the biggest army in the world, the largest submarine fleet and more aircraft than the United States of America has. Russia already possesses two 36,000 ton battleships mounting 16-aneh guns. In addition, the Russian Navy possesses many heavy cruisers, a considerable number of destroyers and torpedo boats and 370 submarines. Its naval programme provides for the construction of 1,000 submarines, which will be completed this year, and will be of the long-range, bomblaunching type, and which, I understand, will be the fastest in the world. When wo possess so much factual information of Russia’s aggressive intentions, how can any one, who has any regard for the safety of the British Commonwealth, refuse to allow Australia to make preparations for its own defence?
– What did the justices of the High Court say about the Communist Party Dissolution Act ?
– I realize that the facts that- I have mentioned are not very pleasant for members of the Opposition. 1 also remind honorable senators that, although the British Commonwealth drastically reduced its armed forces at the conclusion of World War II., the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics not only retained an enormous fighting machine out of all proportion to that retained by their war-time allies but also refused absolutely to agree to any effective scheme for the international supervision of armaments. The United Kingdom and its allies wanted to introduce international control of armaments, but Russia would have none of that. On the contrary, Russia wanted to increase its armaments, and it proceeded to do so. But, while it was engaging in its gigantic armaments programme, it was continually urging other nations to disarm, just as the Communists throughout the world to-day are urging the democracies to disarm. Russia has called up for military service and placed under arms 15,000.000 men. It has between 10,000,000 and 12,000,000 persons engaged in slave labour in its industries, and it has deployed six or seven armed divisions of troops on its borders. Yet some honorable senators are foolish enough to suggest that we should delay our rearmament. Unless the democracies are willing to make defence preparations while there is still time Russia may yet overrun Europe and annihilate the people of Great Britain. Even in this country there is ample evidence of the existence of a. Communist plot to dislocate Australian industry.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– The honorable senator who has just interjected is supporting those who are working for Russia. He always rushes to the defence of the Communists whenever any action is proposed against them. It is common knowledge that the agents of Stalin in Australia have been directed to wreck Australian production and to dislocate our economy.
– I again ask the honorable senator what the Government he supports is doing about it?
– The Opposition opposed the bill that the Government introduced to deal with the Communists.
– What did the justices of the High Court say about that measure ?
– Members of the Labour party at first opposed that legislation in the Parliament, but later they proved that they were mere marionettes by supporting the bill when they were told to do so by the executive of the Australian Labour party. However, the agents of Stalin never ceased to oppose the bill most strenuously.
I declare that our national safety depends upon our preparedness to defend ourselves, and for that reason I was particularly pleased by the intimation in the Governor-General’s Speech that th, Government is prepared to defend this country properly. I go farther and say that the motto of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia should be graven on the hearts of all Australians. That motto is : “ The price of liberty is eternal vigilance “. Freedom is the most precious boon of man. The right of every man and woman to express himself or herself freely and frankly through the medium of the ballot-box, through the radio or from the public platform can exist only in a free nation. Shall we forfeit our God-given heritage of freedom because we will not make the effort to retain it, or shall we prove to the world that Australia never has and never will lie at the proud foot of a conquerer? Some years ago a famous statesman adjured Australians to “Populate, or perish”. That adjuration might well be paraphrased to-day to read, “Prepare, or perish “.
During the course of his Speech, His Excellency referred to the Australian shipping industry and said that the provision of adequate ships for this country was an urgent and difficult task that confronted the Government. His Excellency also said that the services of a highly competent expert from overseas were to be obtained to advise the Government on shipping and cargo-handling problems in this country. The acute shortage of shipping is menacing the economic life of Australia to-day, and, in particular, the provision of an adequate and regular shipping service for Tasmania is vitally necessary. Tasmania is an integral part of Australia, and should be treated as such. The residents of that State should not be at a disadvantage compared with the residents of other States. Unfortunately, Tasmania is virtually isolated because no passenger vessel now operates between that State and the mainland and the number of cargo” vessels that call at Tasmanian ports is quite inadequate. We have to depend on aircraft for passenger and mail services, and the aerial services are not reliable because they are subject, particularly in winter, to weather conditions. Unlike the mainland States, Tasmania is not linked with its sister States by rail connexion. For that reason Bass Strait should be regarded as a vital line of communication with the mainland. For years Tasmania has depended for passenger transport on a single vessel. Taroona, which has been withdrawn from service for some months now. Cargo shipping services are infrequent and intermittent. Tasmania is deprived of supplies of goods that are available on the mainland, and the mainland States are also deprived of Tasmanian commodities and goods that they need urgently. Thousands of tons of potatoes and millions of superficial feet of seasoned timber are awaiting shipment in Tasmanian ports, and some of those cargoes have been delayed for as long as three or four years. Paper pulp is produced in Tasmania at the rate of 500 tons a week, and 4,000 tons of fine paper valued at ,400,000 has been awaiting shipment for some considerable time. Similarly, many commodities that Tasmania badly needs are stacked on wharfs in mainland ports awaiting shipment. In consequence, Tasmania is experiencing an acute shortage of sugar and other commodities. Last week that State had only fourteen days’ supply of flour. Fortunately, the position has been relieved somewhat by the strenuous efforts of the
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who has obtained the services of a vessel of 6,000 tons to operate for one trip between mainland and Tasmanian ports. However, the operation of that vessel will afford only temporary relief, whereas Tasmania badly needs a permanent and regular shipping service.
Grave difficulty is experienced by the residents of King Island and the group of islands known as Flinders Islands, who are completely dependent on intermittent air and shipping services. The shipment of pigmeats and fat stock from King Island has been delayed for periods of as long as three or four months. The deterioration of the condition of the stock that occurs in that time causes serious economic loss. Although there is a joint Coram on weal th- T asmania development scheme for the islands, that scheme cannot accomplish anything worth while unless regular shipping facilities between the island and the mainland are provided. The Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government should subsidize a shipping service, if that is found to be necessary, to enable the produce from King Island to be marketed. Since most of the produce of the island is consumed by people in the mainland States, I consider that the Australian Government should pay the greater part of the subsidy. I repeat that the crying need of Tasmania to-day is the provision of a reliable shipping service, and I again ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to take up the matter with the Australian Shipping Board in the interests of Australian trade and commerce.
I hope that the proposal to secure the services of an overseas expert will be fruitful, but I do not think that it is necessary to bring any one from, overseas to tell us what is the cause of the slow turn-round of ships. The major cause undoubtedly is the “ go-slow “ policy adopted by some people. To demonstrate that, one has _ only to quote statistics. To-day, 5,200 waterside workers in Melbourne are handling cargoes 30 per cent, more slowly than 3,300 waterside workers did in 1938. Although more mechanized equipment than ever is available, interstate vessels which formerly spent two days at sea for every day in port, are now spending two days in port for every day at sea, thus reversing the ratio of earning time to idle time. In Mackay recently, when the waterside workers were on strike, volunteer labour loaded 5,072 tons of sugar into Wellpark at a gross rate of 21.8 tons per gang hour. “When the supposed experts, the waterside workers, returned to work they reduced the loading rate from 21.8 tons to 15.4 tons per gang hour. However, I support the proposal for an expert examination of port delays. Such an inquiry may reveal a solution of the problem because whilst “ go-slow “ tactics are undoubtedly the major cause of the slow turn-round of ships, there may be other contributing factors such as the accumulation of cargoes t>n the wharfs.
Mention has been made in this debate of the need for secret ballots in trade unions. There can be no doubt that the people have given the Government, a definite mandate to legislate for the holding of secret ballots. When that legislation becomes operative, the Communist bosses of to-day will be only a memory. Secret ballots will give the worker the right to vote for his own leaders, safe from intimidation, safe from bashings, and free to follow the dictates of his own conscience. “No country can progress industrially without the support of the trade unions. I freely admit that, and I am confident that we shall obtain that support. We know that the average Australian worker is a loyal, decent citizen, happy in his home life, contented in his work, and proud of the living standard that he enjoys. We know too that the vast majority of workers to-day detest strikes and stoppages and are ready and willing to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Compulsory secret ballots will go a long way to restoring industrial sanity in this country. Indeed, many prominent trade unionists are advocating secret ballots. The president of the Victorian section of the Federated Clerks Union recently said that unless Australians woke up they would find themselves ruled by a small coterie of trade union leaders with head-quarters in Moscow. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), said recently -
Try to clean up union1 ballots. Trade unionists are surely entitled to meet in freedom from intimidation and basher tactics.
Mr. Scully, a Labour member of a State parliament, is reported to have said -
The day we get clean ballots, the day of Communist controlled unions is ended.
Who is right - these prominent Labour men or Senator Grant who persists in saying that there is no need for secret ballots ?
– Some trade unions already have secret ballots. The coal miners and the waterside workers have them.
– I can prove to the honorable senator that there are no secret ballots in certain unions. The vicepresident of »the Waterside Workers Federation has had this to say -
Much of the waterfront trouble is caused by tin? Communist party.
At the meeting at which he made that Statement, a resolution was carried Unanimously demanding State and Federal legislation to stop union ballot irregularities. It is well known that, in the past, ballots have been “ cooked “ in favour of the Communists. Mention has been made already to-night of a prosecution in which evidence has been given of the forging of ballot-papers and of Other irregularities. However, as that matter is now before the courts, it should not be discussed here. The introduction of Secret ballots will go a long way towards restoring industrial peace, and will give to the rank and file of the trade unions, a’n opportunity to reject communistleaders as most of them want to do. It will also give trade unionists an opportunity to express their opinions before being called upon to strike. They will be able to express those opinions free from intimidation. and without having insults hurled at them.
When I last spoke in an Addressin.Reply debate, I emphasized the need to do something about the enormous informal vote at federal elections. I pointed out that there were many defects in Commonwealth electoral law, not the least of which was the method of voting. The number of informal votes is appalling, and I believe that it i« due - largely, but not solely - to the foolish law that compels people to mark preferences foi candidates in whom they have no con fidence whatever. Many people refuse to indicate preferences for such candidates, and consequently their ballotpapers are invalid. As the Parliament has provided, rightly or wrongly, for the proportional representation method of electing the Senate, I believe that the Hare-Clark voting system, now in operation in Tasmania, should be adopted. Under that system electors are required to mark their preferences for at least three candidates. A voter may express a preference for only three candidates or if he so desires he may vote for any additional number of candidates. In practice that would mean that, at Senate elections, the electors would vote for their respective party groups. If, for instance, a party nominated five candidates, then supporters of that party would probably vote for those candidates and then cease to mark preferences. That system functions quite effectively in Tasmania, and I believe that it would greatly reduce the informal vote at Senate elections.
Another electoral reform that is badly needed is the prohibition of canvassing in front of polling booths on election day. For an elector to have nine or ten “ how to vote “ cards thrust upon him is not only an insult to his intelligence, but. it also adds to the general confusion and so swells the informal vote. Electors are more or less intimidated. They are inundated with party literature upon entering a polling booth, and sometimes elderly people are reduced to a state of hysteria. Electors should be saved this embarrassment. The Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that there shall be no political broadcasts within 48 hours of the opening of a poll. Obviously that provision is intended to assist the electors to arrive at a calm and dispassionate decision after considering the merits of the parties and the candidates. The same restriction should apply to canvassing. The Tasmanian law prohibits canvassing at polling booths and the publication of any political propaganda anywhere in the . State on polling day. The Commonwealth would do well to adopt a similar provision. I urge the Government to consider appointing a small committee consisting of members of both Houses, to consider and report upon the advisability of electoral reform.
This is a year of commemoration in Australia’s history. The fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Commonwealth has fittingly been an occasion of great national rejoicing and it is appropriate that we should take stock of some of this country’s great achievements in its 50 years of nationhood. Since that day in 1901 when the Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V., opened the first Commonwealth Parliament this country has made gigantic leaps forward. We have survived two world wars. At one stage in the most recent conflict Australia was perilously close to invasion, but the danger was averted, thanks mainly to our wonderful allies, the people of the United States of America. Australia, once an agricultural, dairying and mining country, has rapidly advanced as a manufacturing nation, and to-day our goods are exported to most parts of the world. In our 50 years of federation, we have emerged as a strong self-reliant nation with a significant voice in the councils of the world. Australia was never richer than it is to-day. We are enjoying a period of unparalleled prosperity, and it is well that we should count our blessings. Unfortunately, there are ominous signs that we may have to fight for our existence. The Prime Minister has warned us that the danger is great and that we could -he did not say that we would - be at war in three years. I am reminded of the words of the poet -
This is my own, my native land.
This is the land of the wattle ; the land of gums; the land where free men walk proudly; the land the pioneers won for us. It is fitting then that we should pay a tribute to those great men who were instrumental in welding the States into this mighty Commonwealth. Practically all of them have gone to rest, but their work lives on, and could they but see the result of their labours they would be indeed proud and gratified. To-day, we enjoy a freedom that is unknown in many older countries. Our primary and secondary industries flourish. All our people are employed. Their living standards are higher than ever before, and we have taken our place in world affairs as a nation honoured and respected by all. This Jubilee therefore has a deep significance for all of us. We have much to be thankful for. We have been spared the scourge of war in our own land. Plague, famine and pestilence are unknown, and the torch of freedom burns brightly throughout the land. Therefore, in giving humble thanks to God for these great blessings that He has bestowed on this land and its people, we should also ask for divine guidance that men will see the light in the darkness, that the clouds of war will be dissipated, and that peace and goodwill will reign in the hearts of men of all nations.
– I support the motion. I regret that Senator Guy should have spoilt his speech at the outset by his completely wrong allegations that the Labour party was in any way allied to, or sympathetic with, the Communist party. I repudiate that implication immediately. If one were to survey the records of the political parties throughout Australia he would be able to paint a very imposing record of Labour endeavour and achievement. One might very easily write the record of the Liberal party, because its record in that respect would be a blank sheet. I point out that it was in November, 1949, that the Liberal party and its allied party, the Australian Country party, announced that if those parties were returned to office the Communist party would be outlawed, its property would be expropriated, and after conviction under proper laws of the country the Communists would be taken from trade union office and from the Commonwealth Public Service. That is exactly twenty months ago. There have been two general elections since that time. The Liberal-Australian Country parties have won both elections, and despite their promise in 1949 they had the chagrin of seeing their own candidates opposed by Communists in Australia in April, 1951. Where, then, is the performance of the Liberal-Australian Country parties against communism? We of the Labour party may well be pardoned for believing that there is no desire on the part of those parties to do anything about communism other than to use it as a political football and as the ingredient of a smear campaign against anybody who is opposed to their conviction on any matter at all. I did not rise to be provocative, but to deal with a few simple matters, not even the major matters that concern this country to-day such as our defence, our development, our immigration, our housing and the frightening drift in our economy that is alarming everybody who thinks in this country to-day. It is terrifying to think where it will end. There will be more appropriate opportunities for these major matters to be discussed.
We are celebrating jubilee year, as Senator Guy has stated, and I give credit to the Government for the very excellent publication that it has prepared for the school children of Australia. It is a very well presented illustrated document in simple terms telling the history of Australia. I understand that one copy of the pamphlet will be given to each child. His name will be suitably inscribed on it. I regret that there is a very distinct error in the publication, and I draw attention to it in the hope that it may be corrected. The paragraph to which I refer reads -
The powers entrusted to the Federal Government are defined in thirty-seven paragraphs of Section 52 of the Constitution.
That, of course, is a most elementary error. The powers are denned in section 51. From the beginning of federation there were 39 powers. With the addition of section 23a, the social services power, the number is now 40. It is unfortunate that that error has crept in, and if anything can be done to retrieve it I hope that the Government will address its mind to the matter. I do not want that comment to detract from what otherwise I regard as a very excellent conception and presentation.
Senator Guy also referred to the matter of informal voting at the recent Senate election, about which I, too, would like to make a comment. Indeed, I commented about this matter during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply during the last Parliament. In 1949 the number of informal votes in the Senate election was 505,000. This time it has dropped to 339,000. The percentage has decreased from. 10.76 to 7.13 per cent.
Unquestionably that is an improvement. I must confess, however, that in the State that I represent the percentage has increased rather than decreased. The following figures of informality in the Senate election throughout Australia will interest honorable senators: Queensland, 4.7 per cent.; South Australia, 5.8 per cent. ; Victoria, 6.8 per cent. ; New South Wales, 7.87 per cent. ; Western Australia, 8.91 per cent.; and Tasmania, 11.50 per cent. J Just what happened in Tasmania I confess I cannot even conjecture because there, as on the mainland, a special effort was made by all parties to induce the electors to record valid votes. It is a matter of consolation that their combined efforts got the figure down to 7.13 per cent, of informal votes, but that is far too high. I agree with Senator Guy that there are many psychological factors. Many Liberal supporters object to voting for Labour candidates or Communist candidates, just as there are Labour supporters who object to voting for Liberal and Communist candidates. These psychological and personal factors must, I suggest, be taken into account. I agree with the honorable senator’s suggestion that some form of optional preferential voting to enable a voter to record a valid vote if he votes for at least the number of candidates to be elected, and maybe a smaller number, or, if he prefers, to carry his preferences through, would, I believe, do a lot to obviate informal votes. I think the mere complexity of having to vote for twenty or more candidates is a frightening prospect to some minds and deters electors from, making the effort that is required to record a valid vote. I think that it would help, too, if the various groups on the ballot-paper were allowed to select a descriptive name, whether “ Liberal “, “ Labour “, “ Communist “ or some other name. I agree that there would have to be safeguards against the filching of a party name. These ideas could be easily written into legislation, and machinery established to enable the electoral officer speedily to determine any objection. I suggest that if against the names of the agreed groups the word “ Liberal “, “ Labour “, or whatever name might be provided could be inscribed, again there would be a diminution of informal votes. This matter of informality in voting at Senate elections should not be left where it is. There was only 1.9 per cent, of informality in the election for the House of Representatives. The figures for the various States we’re : Victoria, 1.7 per cent. ; New South Wales, 1.8 per cent.; Queensland, 1.9 per cent.; South Australia, 2.06 per cent.; “Western Australia, 2.51 per cent.; and Tasmania, I blushingly confess, 3.13 per cent. The average throughout Australia was only 1.9 per cent. Surely some simple and intelligent steps could he taken to bridge the gap between 1.9 per <;ent. of informality in the House of Representatives and 7.13 per cent, in the Senate elections throughout the country.
My prime purpose in speaking this evening is to refer to two matters that were developed ‘in thiS chamber “ during the previous Parliament. They are in the nature of unfinished symphonies. I refer to the activities of the two select committees that were appointed by the Senate. The first dealt with the Government’s Constitution alteration bill for the avoidance of double dissolution deadlocks, and the other, which I know that at least one honorable senator is eager to hear mentioned, investigated the national service proposals of the Government. I think that we should not leave the position in relation to either of those matters just where it : is.’ Dealing with the avoidance of double dissolution deadlocks, I draw the attention of the Senate to the” fact that the Government supported the propostal for a Constitution alteration whereby, following a double dissolution, there would be two elections, each of five senators, one group for a six-year term and the other for a three-year term. The select committee examined that proposal and brought in a special report on the 21st November. It enumerated many objections to the Government’s proposal, supported by evidence that had been tendered to the committee, and it- recommended for the reasons Bet out quite clearly that the Government should not proceed with its bill. The Government apparently deemed that to be good advice because it proceeded no further. The Opposition, which commanded a majority in the Senate in those days, did not move a motion either for the adoption of the report or the adoption of all or any of its recommendations. That select com mittee considered that as the matter affected the future relationship of the Senate to the House of Representatives, there should he- a period for calm thought. “We did not want party disputation on the matter. Although the Parliament functioned until the 16th March, four or five months later, no debate was initiated by the Opposition on that report, and the matter was not put in issue. We were quite content at that stage that the Government had apparently decided to accept the committee’s advice and not proceed to deal with what it had in mind. On the central issue of the bill the opinion of the select committee, as laid before the Senate, was proved to be correct .by the recent. double- dissolution. The committee pointed out that had there been a system of proportional representation in Senate elections and if ten senators were to be elected only once in eight years would there have been a deadlock after a dissolution. As is apparent from what we see in the chamber this evening, there was not a deadlock following the double dissolution that took place on the 28th April. From the outset there is something in the committee’s favour, and 1 think that. I can say on behalf of the committee that its report made a real contribution to- thought upon the subject that was touched upon by the bill, and the relationship of the Senate with the House of Representatives. His Excellency contemplated the possibility that the Government would embark upon a referendum before very long. I think it opportune that regard might be had to other recommendations of the select committee dealing with the Constitution Alteration (Avoidance of Double Dissolution Deadlocks) Rill, so that another referendum might be held at the same time. The first recommendation of the committee was, of course, the one that I have already indicated to the effect that the bill be not further proceeded with by the Government. The second was that it should be sufficient at Senate elections to vote only for the number of candidates to be elected. I think that an examination of the recent Senate distribution would show that not very many preferences were distributed by the electoral officers.
– 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 so resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - A. H. McNaughtan.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Immigration purposes at Cessnock,New South Wales.
Public Service Act- Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - M. Georgouras.
Health - L. M. Carr, B. A. Collins, A. Davison, L. J. Rhodes, G. D. Rimes, J.H. Taylor.
Supply- W. Craick, G. E. Mawer, C. G. Quigg, C. G. B. Stokes.
Works and Housing- - C. A. Baker, J. G. Baring.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19510626_senate_20_213/>.