20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– -Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that during 1950-51 a total of 100,500 tons of processed milk was produced in Australia, and that, during the same period, 49,764 tons were exported? Can the Minister say to what countries the milk products were sent, and will he prevent the export of such products until Australia’s own requirements are satisfied?
– I am not familiar with the details, but I shall have an answer to the honorable senator’s question prepared and supplied to him. As for exports, the honorable senator must be aware that they come within the control of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The Department of Trade and Customs acts at its request.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Last week, I sought information about a new movement with which church leaders and the members of the judiciary were associated. The Prime Minister intimated that the movement was designed to stimulate public morale, and did not involve a physical organization. Having regard to that statement, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate why it is necessay for the members of the organization to meet behind closed doors? Will he also say how much money it has collected, and the purpose for which the money is to be used? As the chief justices, and some of the heads of churches in each State, are associated in the production of the document which has been issued by the organization, and which states that Australia is in danger at home and abroad, is it to be assumed that the Government has transferred its’ responsibilities to an outside organization? If it be true that Australia is in grave danger, should not a statement to that effect have emanated from the Prime Minister? Has the security service informed the Government “what transpired at secret meetings organized by Mr. Paul MacGuire, and addressed by Sir Edmund Herring in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney as far back as August last? As the Prime Minister has admitted having received the document in which it is stated that Australia is in grave danger at home and abroad, will the Minister say from what direction the danger is coming, why the Government has taken no action to meet it, and why the Parliament has not been informed of the danger ?
– I am not aware of the secrecy emphasized so strongly by the honorable senator. As to his remarks on the necessity for some moral uplift, I think the people of Australia believe very strongly that there is a definite need for moral uplift. The problems that are confronting the nation are not so much economic as spiritual. Our people have lost a sense of true values and any movement that has for its objective an awakening of spiritual and moral feeling in the community is one that should be highly commended.
– Will the Minister be good enough to tell us precisely what he means by raising the moral and spiritual level of the people of Australia?
– I do not wish to waste the time of the Senate at this stage, but if the honorable senator is really interested in the matter to which he has referred I should be delighted to give him a few points if he comes to my room.
– In view of the recent referendum result, which was influenced by Australian Labour party intervention, will the Minister ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he is willing to extend the same tolerance to the leaders of Christian thought in Australia as his party extends to Communists?
– I should be. very happy to discuss that matter with the Leader of the Opposition. Some good might arise from a solution such as that indicated by tho honorable senator.
– In the temporary absence of the Minister concerned I ask the Leader of the Government if the Minister is aware that the recent agreement made by the Government reduces the quantity of industrial metals which can be imported into Australia? Is he aware that this reduced quota of metals is already causing some metal-rolling mills to be put out of production? Will he take immediate steps to secure the production of these metals from Australian ores which are now being worked, such as copper from Moonta and Wallaroo in South Australia?
– I do not think that the matter referred to can be dealt with as simply as the honorable senator suggests. First of all, the Government has entered into an arrangement with other nations under which those metals that are in short supply will be shared as equitably as possible. In respect to some’ metals, we have quotas, but the quota is, in effect, an international arrangement giving Australia the opportunity to obtain its requirements. However, we are experiencing some difficulty in purchasing on the world’s markets the supplies that have been allocated to us, particularly in relation to copper. As the honorable senator suggests, that raises all the more urgently the need to increase Australian production as far as we can. In relation to copper, there is a better immediate opportunity to do so at Mount Lyell than on the South Australian fields to which the honorable senator has referred. The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited has a substantial stockpile of concentrates which could be treated if sufficient coking coal was made available. No doubt we shall soon find a solution to this difficulty, and increased production of ordinary coal in New South Wales will make available better supplies of coke and coal. On the south coast, where coking coal is produced, there is a shortage of ships, and whatever honorable senators on the opposite side of the chamber may think to the contrary, the national objective of transferring coking coal from the south coast to Tasmania is being fought and opposed most strenuously and skilfully by the Communistcontrolled Australian Seamen’s Union. I have no doubt that, in the movement of ships from the south coast to Tasmania and from Whyalla to Newcastle, we are fighting a war with Communists within Australia as definitely as our armed forces are fighting it in Korea. My department is giving careful consideration to the Wallaroo and Moonta fields, and is trying to evolve ways and means of obtaining an aerial survey of the area. By the scientific methods used in those surveys, we hope to determine if there are deposits there that are not known or which have not been revealed by ordinary surveys.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by saying that a German trade deputation arrived in Canberra yesterday. In view of the fact that steel is in short supply in Queensland, and throughout Australia generally, will the Minister ask the members of the delegation what guarantee of shipment of steel and other good? from Germany can be given as one of the great difficulties in securing deliveries of goods from that country is caused by the shortage of shipping? Will tho Minister also inquire into the possibility of increasing shipping facilities between Australia and Germany?
– I hasten to assure the honorable senator that I shall be very pleased to raise with the delegation the matters that he has mentioned.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to a lengthy report that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail. of the 1st November, of an address delivered to the United Services Club, in Brisbane, on Wednesday, the 31st October, by Colonel Charles Finlay, the Director of Military Intelligence, in the course of which he is reported to have said -
Believe me, things are in pretty poor shape in Australia just now unci I think it is hi;>h time the people wore told just what i« happening thm :h the Communists. An open army of 15,000 Communist agents is operating In Australia..
The newspaper report of the address continues -
Patting his bulging brief-case, Colonel Finlay said that Intelligence had facts and figures to back its belief on Communist operations. “This information would really alarm the public if they had access to it”, Colonel Finlay said.
Did the Minister for the Army authorize the Director of Military Intelligence to make such disclosures to a particular organization? If not, does the Minister condone Colonel Finlay’s action in making a disclosure in the circumstances mentioned, which should properly be made to the Minister, and through the Minister to the Parliament? Is not Colonel Finlay’s action in publicly disclosing that he was carrying with him in his brief-case highly confidential information, a gross indiscretion requiring grave official censure?
– I do not know the officer to whom the honorable senator has referred. Assuming that he holds the rank mentioned, and that he gave such an address to the members of the United Services Club, I should probably come to the conclusion, perhaps erroneously, that he thought he was speaking in confidence to a group of professional soldiers and that he was giving them information that would be useful to them in carrying out their tasks. My immediate reaction to the report is that this is one of those instances in which the press obtained information from some source and published it, but which, if it had shown a little more responsibility, it might not have published.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to a report in this morning’s *Canberra Time** that a declaration will be made by Australia of its intention to join a “ united front “ with Britain, France and the United States in the Middle East. Will the Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss the proposed declaration before the Government commits itself to any pact? Will the Government ensure that whatever action it takes shall be within the framework of the United Nations?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable senator, but I can assure him that, in connexion with this matter, as with all such matters, the Government will follow the traditional course set by responsible governments.
– In view of the large and growing number of crimes of violence being committed by immigrants from Europe - New South Wales detectives estimate that one-quarter of the serious crimes are the work of new Australians - it is becoming apparent that the screening of immigrants is not efficient. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider appointing a Senate committee or a joint committee of both Houses, to investigate the incidence of crime amongst immigrants and the efficiency of the screening organization?
– According to official figures published recently, the proportion of crimes committed by immigrants does not reflect adversely on those people. However, I shall be happy to discuss with the Minister for Immigration the honorable senator’s proposal for a parliamentary investigation.
– My question rightly comes within the province of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, but because of its relation to the state of the national economy, I direct it to the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister’s notice been drawn to a picture that appeared in the Sydney Vor nin f) Herald of the 1st November showing ships’ cargoes being dumped on roadways around Sydney wharfs? Is the Minister aware that this congestion of cargoes is having a serious effect right through the national economy? Will the Minister concede that this is one phase of congestion on the waterfront that is not caused by communism, and could be rectified by an efficient administration? What action docs the Minister propose to have cargoes cleared in view of the continued complaints about the slow turn-round of ships?
– The transport of goods by sea is one of Australia’s greatest problems to-day, but to try to attribute the bottleneck to one single factor shows an unreal approach to the situation. An expert on the movement of shipping was brought to Australia by the Government, and he is now conducting an Australia-wide survey. Although a number of factors combine to cause bottlenecks, not the least of which are congestion and the fact that cargoes are not quickly cleared from wharfs, as I have pointed out in answer to an earlier question, we would be completely unreal if we did not recognize that there is a direct Communist conspiracy to prevent, retard, and delay the movement of shipping in Australian waters. When I was at Whyalla last Saturday I saw three ships loaded with iron ore, which is urgently wanted elsewhere in Australia. They were held up because a couple of members of the crew of each of them were laid off ill. In one instance the man concerned had the disability for which he reported sick at Whyalla when he went aboard the ship at Melbourne a few days earlier. There is not the slightest doubt in the minds of all concerned that that man joined the ship at the instance of his union so that when the vessel reached Whyalla it could be laid up. In addition to the cargoes of iron ore that were held up, there were 10,000 tons of pig iron on the wharfs at Whyalla, for which ships could not be obtained.
– The Minister for National Development lias outlined a tremendously serious position in regard to a Communist conspiracy that he alleges is directly and indirectly holding up and sabotaging Australian industry. Is he able to inform the Senate whether any action is contemplated by the Government to counteract that conspiracy ?
– It is an effrontery on the part of the honorable senator to ask this question. This Government was elected upon a programme, and it subsequently brought clown legislation to give effect to that programme. The
Opposition first voted against it, and then for it. “When we submitted our proposals to the people the Opposition opposed them, and the referendum was defeated. As a result, there is no doubt that the Government’s powers and opportunities to deal with communism in this country are limited. I take the view that the Government is fighting a civil war against communism. A contestant does not disclose his plans to the enemy.
– ‘Can the Minister state whether it is a fact that leading members of the Australian Labour party in South Australia have disbanded the industrial labour groups within the unions which were fighting communism? Does he agree that that action, if it has been taken, will aid and comfort the Communists in that State?
– I am not aware that industrial groups have been disbanded in South Australia. If the report is correct, I am sorry to hear of it, because I consider that not only the Government but also the Australian people need the assistance of every ally in the fight against communism.
– There is continued congestion on the railways between the coal-fields and Newcastle. Has the Minister for National Development given any consideration to the suggestion that I made recently that a conveyor belt system should be installed in that area to handle the increasing output of coal?
– The proposal is at present being considered by my department, not only in connexion with the Maitland coal-fields but also in connexion with its possible application to some of the Queensland coal-fields. The information that I have been able to glean indicates that rubber belt conveyors are used in the United States of America over distances exceeding 100 and even 150 miles. As far as I am aware, that technique is not known in Australia, although rubber belt conveyors are in use underground in some of our mines. The position is being examined on the technical or engineering level.
– Has the Minister considered the use of ropeways for the haulage of coal? If not, will he investigate their use? I point out that ropeways are used in many parts of the world in areas where rubber conveyor belts are not satisfactory because of the contour of the land.
– All that I can say in answer to the honorable senator is that I shall have the proposal examined by my department. I had not previously heard it suggested that ropeways could be used for the conveyance of the very large quantities of coal that are involved.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to the fact that in the course of the budget debate in the Senate yesterday, Senator Tate stated that the loan allocation for Victoria for housing purposes had not been reduced by the Australian Loan Council. The honorable senator also stated that the surplus of £114,500,000, for which the Government has budgeted, is a contingent fund which could be used for defence or housing, and that if the Premier of Victoria were to make application to the Treasury for the allocation of an amount for housing purposes, favorable consideration would be given to his request. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the position is as stated by Senator Tate?
– The question asked by Senator Hendrickson is hardly a fair one. It presupposes a survey of the whole of the Commonwealthstate financial arrangements and the budget proposals. As honorable senators know, loan allocations for the public works programmes of the States total £225,000,000. The Australian Government estimates that loan raisings for this financial year will total £150,000,000. Whether ‘that estimate will be exceeded or not remains to be seen. I hold the view that before the present financial year ends Commonwealth loan raisings will prove to be greater than £150,000.000. I am also of the opinion that an investment in a Commonwealth loan is the best investment open to an Australian. I have no doubt that, despite the unpatriotic knocking of Commonwealth loans by the Opposition, the good judgment of the Australian people will prevail and that future loans will be over-subscribed. The question asked by the honorable senator might more fairly be raised later in the year when it will be possible to gauge with greater accuracy the movements of government finance.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to two articles which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, one on Sunday, the 4th November, and the other on Thursday, the 8th November, which referred to the refusal of an import licence by the Department of Trade and Customs to an American business man, Mr. Edward Ball, to import plant and raw materials with which to set up a factory in Australia? Are the statements in the newspaper articles correct?
– I saw both the newspaper articles referred to, and after reading the one published on Sunday, the 4th November, I asked officers of my department for a report. I had intended to make a statement on the subject, as I believed that the Senate was entitled to know the circumstances. The article was headed, “ He Tried to Spend a M’illion Dollars here and Failed “. The Sunday Telegraph supported this with a leading article under the heading “Canberra can’t see the Dollars for Red Tape “. In the interview, Mr. Ball is reported to have said -
All I had to do was to import the machinery and ship the raw board material from my plant in Florida . . . But, what happens? Your Government won’t give mc an Import Licence to bring ni V own stuff over from America.
Using this statement as a basis, the Sunday Telegraph commented editorially -
In to-day’s issue, the Daily Telegraph published a photograph of Mr. Ball holding sight drafts for 1,000,000 dollars, with a statement attributed to him that government controls had made it impossible for him to engage in business here. It went on to say -
He could not start a cardboard container factory in Melbourne because the Government would not grant him permission to import raw material from his own plant at Florida.
The statements in the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph are completely without foundation. An officer of my department interviewed Mr. Ball in Sydney on Tuesday. Mr. Ball stated that he had at no stage requested a licence to import the machinery, had made no inquiries to this end, nor did he intend to.
The Daily Telegraph referred also to the refusal of the Department of Trade and Customs to allow the local sale of a new American car imported on a temporary basis by Mr. Ball. The newspaper’s criticism reveals a complete misunderstanding of the issues involved. Obviously, if Mr. Ball sold his car in Australia and returned to the United States of America with the money from that sale, which would be much more than the duty deposited by him on his arrival, Australia, on Mr. Ball’s own figures, would lose £3,000 worth of dollars. Australia will not use scarce dollar currency to purchase luxury cars as there are many commodities far more essential. The fact that Mr. Ball could not sell his car in Australia could have no bearing on his reported intention to invest, as, had be proposed residing in Australia for some time to organize and supervise his investments, he would have been permitted to keep his car here.
If the statements published in the Daily ‘Telegraph were true it is proper that the Government, or the authority concerned, should be criticized. The press has a heavy responsibility to see that there is a well informed and correctly informed public opinion. By its criticism the press can help to direct and correct government behaviour, but it is most unfortunate that the press should be so irresponsible and so unmindful of its own traditions and obligations as to offer criticism without making any attempt at all to check the accuracy of the statements upon which the criticism is based. The Department of Trade and Customs could have informed any inquirer of the correctness or otherwise of the allegations contained in the newspaper articles. It is deeply to be deplored that criticism of this nature, which does a great deal of harm to the country, and no good whatever, should be indulged in. We do not deny the right of the press to criticize, but there is an obligation on the press to inform itself correctly before offering criticism.
– Why not say that to the press at election time?
– I must ask Senator Grant to desist from his constant interjections during question time, as they are disorderly. Honorable senators ask questions in order to obtain information. All honorable senators desire to hear the answers, which should be listened to in silence.
– In view of the well-deserved rebuff given to the press in the Minister’s reply to Senator Henty’s question, I ask the Minister if the statements that he made in his reply were given to the press before he gave his reply in this chamber? If not, why did he delay from Sunday to Thursday reminding the press that they had done a disservice not only to the Government but to Australia?
– I did so because, unlike the press, I wanted to be quite sure of my facts. I instituted inquiries through my department, and those facts were given to me only this morning. I did not reply on Monday because [ did not know then what the facts were. Having ascertained the facts, I gave my reply.
– As the Minister has made reference to a report in a section of the press in which a visitor from America made some adverse comments and the Minister proposes to issue a statement to the press, will he include in hi3 statement the favorable portion of the remark made by this visitor? I refer to Mr. Ball, who said that he had found a compensation for not being able to invest money here. He said, “ I have met in Australia the nicest people that I have ever met in my life. I am taking a lot of pleasant memories with me “.
– The entire reason for my statement to the press was to correct a false impression. I did not want to emphasize a correct one.
– In Australia many persons suffer from arthritis, which is a very painful complaint, and doctors hesitate to prescribe the drug cortisone because of its high cost. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether the Government intends to include cortisone in the list of life-saving drugs which are supplied free to patients cn the recommendation of their doctors?
– Cortisone is hard to get, not merely because it is dear, but also because it is very scarce in all parts of the world. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health, who will prepare a considered reply.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say when the Government proposes to start solving, or helping the States to solve, the housing problem? While the Government is thinking about doing something on the national scale, will the Minister seek an assurance from his colleague, the Minister for the Army, that the occupants of the emergency housing centre at Watsonia, in Victoria, will not be evicted in order that a military camp may be started on the site in March of next year? If the Army needs the land, will the Minister give an assurance that alternative accommodation will be offered to the 250 families, making up a total of 1,300 people, who are now resident at Watsonia, and will have nowhere to go if the Government puts them out on the road, as it threatens to do?
– The _ first part of the honorable senator’s question is amazing. This Government has done more than any other government ever did to assist the States by making money and facilities available for the building of homes for the people. I understand that some of the honorable senator’s colleagues have been in touch with the Minister for the Army about the housing settlement at
Watsonia, and I think that the honorable senator is aware that the utmost consideration will be extended to the people concerned.
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
After consideration of the position of those maximum-age superannuation pensioners who were re-employed by the Commonwealth during World War II., the Government has decided to refund to them the amount of the Common wealth’s share of the pension, as was deducted from that benefit in pursuance of section 50a of the Superannuation Act. Accordingly, provision for such refunds has been made under clause 27 of the Superannuation Bill which has already been introduced by the Treasurer in Parliament.
asked the Minis ter acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. This problem is a complicated one. It affects Australian relationships with all the wool-producing and consuming countries of the world and is, of course, of very direct interest to Australian wool-growers and to our stud breeders. The Government is making a close study of all the factors involved. It may interest the honorable senator to know that, some little time ago, the Government agreed to the shipment of three merino rami and nine ewes to an approved institution in the United States of America for scientific breeding and research purposes.
Debate resumed from the 7th November (vide page 1644), on motion by Senator Spooner. -
That the following papers be printed : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1952;
The Budget 195 1-52 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden on the occasion of the budget of 1951-52;
National Income and Expenditure 1950-51
– I am in a complete daze in relation to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and his attitude to the control of prices and profits. I am sorry that he is not now in the chamber because I believe that he has a big influence on the Government. I do not wish to reflect on his ability, but I believe that the Attorney-General is ultra-conservative. If the Government were guilty of some democratic action, I believe that it would be rather strange if the Attorney-General allowed it to pass. Prices control is anathema to him. He has given it consideration and he knows quite a lot about pricefixing, because many years ago he was a member of a committee dealing with it. I also was a member. The honorable senator has stated repeatedly in this chamber that price-fixing is of no assistance to the national economy and has no effect on the inflationary conditions that prevail. If the AttorneyGeneral holds that view as strongly as he has indicated in this chamber, I should like him to tell us why this Government continues to spend nearly £750,000 a year on a system which, according to him, is of no advantage to the country?
The Attorney-General stated that advantage is derived from price fixing only when wages are pegged. He said also that price-fixing ended immediately the pegging of wages was lifted. That h quite wrong. The Government continued price-fixing for a long period after wages were unpegged. I am certain that pricefixing by Commonwealth control was an advantage to our economy, and I am sorry that the honorable senator did not deal with that subject at any great length in his speech on the budget.
One of the worst features of the budget is heavier indirect taxation. Sales tax has become a great burden on a large section of the people who are outside the higher income group. This budget will not achieve the purposes which the Treasurer had in mind when he drafted it. It must have the effect of increasing prices, which will inevitably result in further increases in wages and still higher costs generally. For many years it has been .the policy of the Australian Labour party progressively to lighten the incidence of sales tax on the people because it has always believed that that tax throws unfair burdens on a large section of thecommunity which is least able to bear them. In his eagerness to obtain revenue the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is bent on obtaining money from any source. I appreciate the difficulties that confront the Government but I deprecate the methods that it has adopted to extract still greater tribute from the people. The Government’s financial proposals have been characterized by sectional attacks upon the community. It3 decision to impose a sectional tax on the wool-growers was outrageous and undemocratic. The Treasurer endeavoured to justify that tax by saying that the money would do less harm in the hands of the Government than in the hands of the wool-growers. The wool deduction scheme was a dangerous innovation in government finance. The Government now has to return to the wool-growers the amount of money collected from them, hut having already spent the proceeds of the wool deduction, the Treasurer has to obtain the- requisite funds from some other source to enable him to make the refund. If that money had been left in the hands of the woolgrowers it would probably have been wisely expended by them in developmental works in the rural areas.
The problem of increasing food production is perhaps the greatest problem that confronts this nation at the moment. Senator Seward made a thoughtful contribution to this debate when he dealt with the importance of increasing food production. What steps has this Government taken to increase the production of basic foods? Immediately after it assumed office it discontinued the subsidy on superphosphate. It is true that at that time the primary producers were in a stronger financial position than they had enjoyed for some years. That action on the part of the Government did nothing to induce them to increase the production of essential foods. The Government has done nothing to improve the marketing of primary products or to stabilize the price of primary commodities, both of which are essential steps in the development of this nation. On the contrary, it has practically thrown overboard the orderly marketing schemes that were instituted by the Labour Government. I am well aware that the powers of the Commonwealth to deal with matters of that kind are limited, but the Government at least should do everything it possibly can do to prevent violent fluctuations of the prices of primary products. 1 have always striven for the institution of orderly marketing schemes as a means of avoiding undesirable fluctuations of the prices of primary products.
I greatly regret the attitude of this Government towards the United Kingdom. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who is at present in the United Kingdom, is trying to squeeze the last penny out of the people of Great Britain for our export products. The Government must be well aware that the United Kingdom is in a very serious, if not dangerous, position. This Government’s attitude towards the former Government of the United Kingdom was characterized by shallow political prejudice. We are hopeful that, as the result of the recent change that has taken place on the political stage in the United Kingdom this Government will adopt a more co-operative and helpful attitude in its dealings with the new Government. I regret that I have heard many primary producers in Australia say recently that if buyers in the United Kingdom were not prepared to pay the price that they demanded for their products, they would sell them elsewhere. They conveniently forget that the security of this country has been preserved only by the might of the British Navy, and that they owe an obligation to the people of Great Britain for the maintenance of their way of life. They forget, too, that Great Britain has always been our best overseas customer and that the people of the Motherland have always honoured their commodity agreements with us to the letter. We should endeavour to bring as many British immigrants to Australia as we possibly can because it will be economically impossible for the British people to maintain a decent living standard unless their surplus population is absorbed by other countries. We should foster the closest co-operation with the United Kingdom and should not demand, as do Argentina and other food-producing countries, the very highest prices for primary products. High prices for Australian primary products in the United Kingdom must inevitably mean high prices for commodities of all kinds in Australia.
Honorable senators opposite have repeatedly stated that all the problems that beset us can be laid at the door of the Communists. When I was Minister
I’m- Trade and Customs, for week after week I arranged for beef to be supplied to Tasmania from, the mainland States because graziers on the mainland had refused to market their cattle unless they obtained the highest prices for it. The Communist bogy is now being revived again. If communism is in fact a menace in this country, the Australian Labour party is in no way responsible.
– The Labour party demonstrated that it was associated with the Communists during the referendum campaign.
– I am sure that the Attorney-General was the most pleased man in Australia when he learned the result of the referendum because he realized that this Government would have become the laughing-stock of the world if it had tried to administer the provisions of the Communist Party Dissolution Act. If communism exists-
– Did the honorable senator say, “ If “ ?
– If the Communist menace is as great as honorable senators opposite would have us believe, why do they not take the necessary action to deal with the Communists under the powers which the Government now possesses? Surely, with the co-operation of the State governments, the Government has ample power to deal with Communists and communism. It has an efficient security service and must be well aware of the activities of the Communists. In answer to a question this morning, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said that the Government will not reveal its plans for dealing with them. It has no need to reveal its plans because the so-called Communist menace is nothing but a political bogy. Australians, by and large, are good people, but unfortunately in this community, as in all other communities, there are a few selfish individuals who do not hesitate to exploit their fellows in times of labour shortage. Government supporters would have us believe that all our economic ills are due to communism. That is ridiculous. The Government’s own inaction can be blamed for many of our worries. The Government can do nothing well. Is is the most inept administration that I have ever known. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is a man of great ability and many attributes, but he has to spend too much time governing his own party and worrying about what is going on in the King’s Hall. He has little time left to govern the country. His Ministers are floundering. The people of Australia are disgusted and disappointed with this Government. They gave it their full support at the last election, but it is now clear that the Administration received the mandate of the people on false pretences. To-day the man in the street has not a good word to say about the Government. Why has there been such a change in public opinion in so short a time? One reason is that the Government has failed completely to improve primary production or to develop industries generally. The people of Queensland were promised that developmental works would be undertaken in that State immediately. They were told that Queensland had been neglected by the Labour Administration. Senator Wood and his colleagues said, “If you return us to office we shall develop this State “. The Queensland electors returned a majority of non-Labour senators in the belief that immediate steps would be taken to develop the Callide and Blair Athol coal-fields and the Burdekin Valley. Now there is a complete silence about all these things. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) visited Blair Athol and Callide and was apparently impressed by what he saw; yet the Government of which he is a member is prepared to subsidize the importation of coal from India and to forget all about Callide and Blair Athol. When Senator Wood and his colleagues go back to Queensland they will find it very difficult to explain these things.
I criticize the Government more in sorrow than in anger. I am not very much concerned who does the job of developing this country so long as it is done. This Government has not attempted to do anything at all. Consequently, Australia is in the doldrums. Industry, both primary and secondary, is languishing. Manufacturers and primary producers alike are looking for a lead from this Government. They are prepared to co-operate to improve production, but they resent the Government’s taxation proposals. The discontinuation of the depreciation allowance for plant initiated by the Chifley Government can hardly be expected to encourage rural production. That move is only sharp politics. The Government may gain an immediate benefit of £27,000,000 or £30,000,000 from the primary industries, but there will be no lasting advantage. This Treasurer from Queensland is bad enough, but the knight is only an amateur compared with his colleague the Minister for National Development, and compared with either of them, Ned Kelly was a benevolent gentleman. The Minister for National Development is reported to have said that, if he had his way, he would take another £150,000,000 from the people.
– Who said that?
– The Minister himself said it unless he was misreported.
– The honorable senator must have read the Daily Telegraph.
– Probably 1 should have ascertained first whether or not the report was correct. I cannot believe that the Minister would say such a thing. He was also reported to have said that the money would be expended only over his dead body, but he is always so animated that I cannot visualize his dead body.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable senator should deal with the budget.
– I am afraid that my limited vocabulary and the Standing Orders prevent me from saying what I really think about the budget. Like most people in this country, and, in fact, most Government supporters, I was shocked by the budget. When honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the House of Representatives learned of its contents, they gathered in the corridors talking of protesting, but the bells for the assembly of the House of Representatives were ringing and they had no opportunity to discuss the matter. They have been forced to speak in support of a policy which they had no say in framing. Throughout this lengthy debate, Government supporters have damned the budget with faint praise. We on this side have tried to damn it, too, and I hope that not only the budget but also the Government will be damned.
, - Most things that can bc said about the budget by people with ordinary vocabularies have been said. Therefore, if I am to say something that nobody else has said, I shall have to develop an extraordinary vocabulary. I should like to have seen the reactions of honorable senators opposite had the Labour Government presented a budget such as this to them in 1949. I am one of those who have said many times in the last couple of years that the economy of this country is becoming chaotic. When the price of wool soared last year, I said that our currency should be revalued. A majority of Government supporters, too, favoured that course, but the Prime Minister, a glorious speaker, allowed himself to be dominated by an organized section of his own followers who said, “ That will not be done “, and it was not done. Revaluation of the Australian £1 would have been a great counter to inflation, but it is too late for such a move now. The value of the British £1 has gone down and down, and our currency has gone down with it. Senator Courtice dealt, in the course of his very fine address, with the condition of the people in Great Britain. We hear a lot of talk from Government supporters about helping the United Kingdom. It comes mostly from those synthetic Scotsmen - third and fourth generation Australians who continuously wear tartan ties and tartan handkerchiefs but do not know whether Scotland is in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere - who are bringing this country to disaster. In spite of the fact that Mr. Attlee, Mr. Chifley and M.r. Peter Fraser had agreed, at the end of 1949, that if petrol rationing were maintained for another three months, Britain’s refinery capacity would be adequate to meet the situation, those ultrapatriotic gentlemen of whom I have spoken abolished petrol rationing in this country. Unilaterally, those ultrapatriots broke away to get a few votes. They made it still harder for the people of Great Britain. A grazier named Abbott, who was formerly the honorable member for New England in the House of Representatives, pointed out that the graziers were getting a very good deal. He also pointed out that it would be advantageous to this country if the £1 were revalued. If that had been clone, the people of Great Britain would have been given a break, not only in connexion with what was coming into that country, but also in connexion with what was going out of it. As the manufacturers of New Zealand, who were still in the embryo stage, were able to stand up to it, surely the Australian manufacturers could have done so. From the proceeds of the sale of our wool overseas we could have purchased raw materials to the value of £200,000,000 or £300,000,000, and thereby to that exent reduced the purchasing power in the hands of the graziers of this country.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has told us that there is a shortage of wheat and that the Government intends to fix the price of wheat for animal consumption at 16s. Id. a bushel. Poultry-farmers who ran hens to produce eggs are to be subsidized, but those who breed poultry for the table will not be subsidized. Some members of the community who have literally received hundreds of millions of pounds from the sale of their produce, have been able to buy luxury holiday homes and motor cars, and still have a lot of money that they do not know what to do with. The resultant inflationary prices have prevented the remainder of the community from enjoying a reasonable standard of living. As I have pointed out before, the greatest mistake that we all made was to not revalue the £1. It is of no use for supporters of the Government to say that Mr. Chifley did not do it.
– The right honorable gentleman did the opposite.
– The situation was entirely different, because wool prices had risen considerably. I do not base my opinion on whether a decision was right or wrong merely because it was made by Mr. Chifley. I consider that it would have been better had the £1 been revalued. Honorable senators will remember a newspaper caricature depicting Generalissimo Stalin and Mr. Chifley puffing at a twostemmed pipe, the implication being that Mr. Chifley was a Communist. But only now has the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) come to the conclusion that was reached by Mr. Chifley three years ago!
When the former Labour Government sought power for the Commonwealth to continue to control prices, its opponents stumped the countryside saying that the States could make a better job of prices control than could the Commonwealth. I remind honorable senators that in 1946, after the -war had terminated, we were better off in terms of purchasing power of currency than was any other country that had participated actively in the war. Although about 100,000 of our men and women had been in uniform, our currency was still solid. The currency of Great Britain had been badly shaken, although not so badly as was the currency of some European countries. We then changed our good currency for bad currency. Honorable senators opposite have the cart before the horse in this matter. Inflation does not result from communism; on the contrary, it encourages people to become Communists. Professor Keynes, the only man who has propounded a theory contrary to that of Karl Marx, has stated that in times of prosperity high rates of taxation should be imposed. He accurately “tipped” that the value of the franc would decline. He contends that it is dangerous for taxation to be increased beyond 25 per cent, of the national income. However, the Government intends to impose taxation to yield more than 30 per cent, of our national income. Lenin declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency.
It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to say that the basic wage should be prevented from rising further, in order to halt inflation. How can that be done without price fixing? Senator Gorton adopted a specious line of reasoning last night when he contended that a maximum rather than a minimum wage should be fixed. He stated that it was sheer hypocrisy to talk about fixing prices until that had been done. Presumably the honorable senator would first establish a maximum wage, and then discard margins.
For the time being I shall address myself to the plight of the hard-working people in the community, rather than to the pensioners, who have been exploited by all governments. People of the old British tradition felt that they were paupers if they received a pension. Many of them lived more or less frugally in order to save sufficient money to tide them over during their old age. However, through no fault of their own they are now able to eke out only a bare existence on their income from savings.
The Government still talks about fighting communism. Communists can be fought only if the Government cooperates with the trade unions. But it has antagonized them by debauching the currency. Lenin wrote -
The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, Governments can confiscate secretly and unobserved an important part of the wealth of the citizens.
I have not the mild nature of my esteemed friend, .Senator Courtice. As I have said before, some people knew that the general election of 1949 was a fraud, but others did not know. Honorable senators opposite now talk about individual effort and the need for courage. Why do they not support revaluation of the £1? I believe that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had had the courage to go to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) before the last election and say to him, “I believe that inflation is the most important problem which faces the country. We are going to revalue the £1 “, the Government parties would have won approval from one end of the country to the other.
– The honorable senator should ask Senator Courtice what the sugar industry would think of that proposal.
– I am not one of those who think something is right merely because other people think so. I try to be honest, and I do not even consider the views of my friends of the Australian Labour party when I support a matter which I know to be right. I espouse the cause of revaluation of the £1 because I believe in it.
– The honorable senator must be very lonely!
– Only people of courage can afford to be lonely. The more I see of honorable senators opposite the more I believe in the benefits of loneliness.
The Government gets itself into one awkward position after another. Nationally and internationally it does not know where it is going. Yesterday evening in the Senate, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) delivered a statement concerning trade with Japan. I must congratulate the honorable senator on his very good batting performance this morning. For once, he has been able to control his Celtic temper and to allow his wit to predominate. Last night he informed the Senate of the measures that are being taken to prevent undue importations of Japanese goods, and .Senator Armstrong, in a very fine spontaneous speech, replied. I suggest that the members of the Government, as fair dinkum Australians, should say openly, “We do not know whether the peace treaty is good or bad, but we are tied to America and we must stand by that country”. That is the position.
– That is not the position.
– When the honorable senator is able to show me evidence to disprove my contention, I shall accept his assurance. I contend that it was totally unnecessary for Mr. Spender to go to the peace treaty conference at San Francisco. Mr. John Foster Dulles, whose brother is one of the heads of the American armaments ring, could have sent the necessary documents to Australia, which could have been signed by a member of the Government. There were no amendments of any of the treaty proposals, because everything had been fixed up beforehand. I am amazed that the Minister for Trade and Customs should say that that is not the position. I have no time for Stalinism and never fail to state my implacable opposition to it. I contend, however, that at the Japanese peace treaty conference the Western powers were lined up against Russia. The treaty is not a peace treaty at all. It is and will remain the result of a bloc vote. This Government thinks so little of the Parliament that honorable senators have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the treaty. When the Minister for Trade and Customs delivered his statement on trade with Japan he seemed to be concerned because Japanese goods are coming to Australia. The honorable senator apparently for- gets that the Japanese are now our allies. Senator Armstrong referred to the fact that certain industrial organizations in the United States of America also are concerned about the importation of Japanese goods into that country. That is perfectly correct. Japanese financiers and big industrial interests are financing Japan to-day. I ask the Minister where he suggests that the Japanese goods should go. The Government has refused to recognize Communist China. Now it is too late to do so. It is always too late. There is an old Scottish saying, “ You’re aye a day a’hin’ the fair “, which means that you bring your goods to the market the day after it is over, or you come along with your eggs or butter after the customers have gone. That saying typifies the actions of this Government.
The Japanese are not now able to obtain coal from Manchuria. China is obviously the most suitable market for Japanese goods. I remind honorable senators that the population of Japan is increasing by 1,500,000 a year. The Government apparently believes that it is possible to make an international treaty without entering into economic alliances, which are the real basis of such a treaty, and that Japan must be armed so that it may be used as a base from which to attack Russia. The difficulty is that the world has never been so confounded by so many problems and that so few people possess the courage to discuss them openly.
It is possible to read one day an account of the war in Korea and to read a completely contradictory account the next day. If any honorable senator is able to tell me the purpose that the United Nations is endeavouring to achieve in Korea I should like to hear from him. I recall a report that on one occasion 25 United Nations planes had gone out and that 27 had come back. That kind of thing has been going on for more than a year.
I have said before, and I repeat, that the people are being misled all along the line. Because the Japanese people are to be rearmed, it is pertinent to ask how such rearmament will be possible if they are not permitted to trade. The position is similar to that which confronted us after the first world war. Now the Japanese are concerned, whereas then it was the Germans. How the people can be made to swallow their well-founded prejudice I do not know. I cannot understand how it is possible for people to shed tears for the Japanese, who were previously regarded as barbarians. Many of them still are barbarians. Twothirds of the nations that signed this socalled peace treaty never fired a shot in the war against Japan. China, whether controlled by Communists or not, has suffered more at the hands of the Japanese than have all the other nations put together. The Government has merely informed us that it has signed the treaty. It has not had the courage to tell the people what effect the treaty will have on their interests. Russia cannot attack Australia for the simple reason that that would be impossible, but if it suits the Russians to make an agreement with the Japanese they will make one. The interests of the Russians, the Chinese, and especially the Indians, are much more in accord with those of the Japanese than are the interests of the Americans. Our present relations with Japan represent a synthetic build-up. No one has had the courage to say, “ Let us look at the matter from the Australian point of view “. The Minister for Trade and Customs has denied that it is an American treaty, but of course it is. 1 contend that it was dictated wholly and solely by the United States of America. Whether Australia should bc a member of the Hoc is another matter.
If this Government is wise it will take action to control prices. Does it intend to allow prices to drift on and on? Recently, Senator Henty made a cowardly attack on Trans-Australia Airlines Yet. a few weeks ago the honorable senator stated that he was not in favour of controls in any form. Also recently, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) spoke in such a way that T understood that he was in complete favour of the total abandonment of prices control. For my own part. I am not sure whether control of prices by the States is any hotter than no control at all. Tt was reported in the press yesterday that the price of bacon in Queensland had increased to 4s. 6d. per lb., whereas
Queensland bacon is being sold in New South Wales at 6s. 6d. and 7s. per lb. Could anything be more stupid? One half of the budget is deflationary and the other half is inflationary. As a remedy for our present economic ills, I suggested the revaluation of the £1, and the cutting down of immigration by 50 per cent., with a stipulation that we should allow in only those who would be helpful in rehabilitating our economy. I also suggested prices control. However, I remind honorable senators opposite that it is not our business to put forward constructive ideas. That is the business of the Government. The present economic drift cannot be allowed to continue. How are we to prevent the continual increases of the basic wage? When I suggested last year that the next increase would be 14s. honorable senators opposite laughed me to scorn. Well, it was 14s., and I now predict that the next increase will be £1.
We hear many complaints about high tram fares in Sydney, but if the £1 had been revalued as I suggested, the State Government would have saved 25 per cent, of the interest charges on the money that was borrowed for tramway purposes. The Government waited until the exchange rate with the United States of America was heavily against us, and then proceeded to raise a dollar loan. I am not going to say straight out that Professor Copland is right or wrong.
– He will be grateful for that.
– I think it is time that the shoemaker stuck to his last. Professor Copland is Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, and he should tell us why Professor Oliphant was not allowed to enter the United States of America. That would be better than to make statements over 2FC every time there is a price increase, which is often enough, telling us what we should and should not do.
The budget is inflationary insofar as it affects the price of what the people have to buy. It is also inflationary insofar as it encourages the present immigration policy. It is deflationary to tax industry out of existence as the budget threatens to do. I believe that deflation will be brought about, but it will come only with an economic depression. lt is too late to bring it about in any other way. Keynes said that it was possible to control economic trends, but it was necessary to take action in time. The Government did not take action in time, and now a depression is inevitable. [ read the other day that softgoods stores in Melbourne are dismissing workers, and that 200 were put off in a week.
– That was from a woollen mill.
– At any rate, the stores in Sydney and Melbourne will have to dispense with staff. The public cannot afford to buy clothing at present prices. Softgoods stores are filled with goods for which there is no sale. The Prime Minister suggests that displaced workers will find employment somewhere else, but where are we to find employment for white-collar workers who lose their jobs? Is it suggested that they will be employed on the rocket range?
Under the capitalist system, there must always be a succession of booms and depressions, unless the situation is very carefully controlled as Keynes suggested. When Mr. Chifley proposed control measures, the anti-Labour parties would not listen to him. Mr. Chifley was a very wise man. Although perhaps a little parsimonious, he was very wise. When it was proposed that pensions should be increased, he said to some of us : “ No one is more solicitous for the welfare of these people than I am. Many of the pensioners in ray electorate are my personal friends, but I know that if we give them this increase to-day they will be worse off in eighteen months than if they had received no increase at all.” That part of the budget which provides for increased social services is inflationary. The Government, of course, says that it had to increase pensions, and so it had, but it is Still putting the cart before the horse. It has allowed the cost of living to go up, and so pensions had to be increased in order to place the pensioners in even approximately the same position as they occupied before. I do not propose to give the Government any credit for having increased pensions. It had no choice once it allowed the cost of living to get out of hand. Had pensions not been increased, the pensioners would starve to death. Honorable senators opposite are now justifying the budget, because it provides for some of the things which Mr. Chifley advocated. The other night, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) when defending certain Government proposals, said that Mr. Chifley had said this and that.
– So he did.
– Yes? and what did honorable senators opposite say at the time? They and the press said that Mr. Chifley was leading the country to disaster. The anti-Labour parties learned nothing from the depression. Like the Bourbons they learn nothing, forget nothing and remember nothing.
– We have learned something now.
– Yes, but it has been learned too late. This budget will lead to severe unemployment. There must be a reaction from severe inflation of the kind that we are now experiencing. Before the 1949 election, leaders of the antiLabour parties said that if they were returned to power they would restore value to the fi. Afterwards, when we asked when the Government was going to begin restoring value to the £1, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) used to retort that if members of the Labour party would deal with their friends, the Communists, everything would be all right.
If I had had my way there would have been a planned economy a long time ago. I do not believe that there is any hope of beating communism so long as people are allowed to work how they like, when they like and where they like and to produce what they like. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) will return shortly to Australia with a fifteen years contract for the supply of food to Great Britain. How are we to fulfil our obligations under that contract unless we plan our production? How are we to ensure that sufficient wheat will be available for export, if all landholders are allowed to go in for woolgrowing just because wool is bringing high prices?
I am convinced that Australia is in for a very bad time. Taxation of the kind proposed in the budget will crucify industry. As I have said, the Government has waited too long. It has been obvious for the last two years that the country is drifting, but no action was taken. The Prime Minister said that he would confer with representatives of the trade unions, but so far as I know he has done nothing of the kind.
I agree with Senator Courtice that probably no one was better pleased than the Prime Minister when the Government’s anti-Communist referendum proposals were defeated. If the Government had been honest it would have told the people that there was no prospect of dealing effectively with communism white inflation continued. Two years ago, T said that inflation was making Communists; it was not the Communists who were causing inflation. A former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Charles Russell, who represented Maranoa, said that inflation, and not communism, was the great issue; that communism would not bring about chaos but that inflation would; and that the £1 should be revalued. I do not know Mr. Russell, but I understand that he is a wealthy grazier, and I admire him because he was prepared to make a heavy personal sacrifice in order to help his country. When the Labour Government proposed to nationalize banking, honorable senators opposite challenged us to consult the people in a referendum. We now challenge the Government to ask the people in a referendum their opinion of the budget. As for the economic plight of Australia, we must all hope for the best, but I, for one, am very pessimistic.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.30 p.m.
– At a somewhat protracted stage in the debate I feel that it is nevertheless a privilege to have the opportunity to express one’s views upon the financial proposals of the Government of this Commonwealth. I realize that the financial power of the Commonwealth is perhaps the strongest power that has been entrusted to the central government. When examining the efficacy of the financial proposals, I think that it must always be borne in mind by responsible sections of the Parliament and the community that there are qualifications in other directions upon the extent of the power of this Parliament, notably in regard to economic and industrial affairs and particularly, as has been recorded in recent months, in defence matters.
If I were to ape the peculiar skill of some of those to whom I have listened this morning and approached this problem in the role of a clown, I daresay that honorable senators could pass the afternoon with more mirth and amusement than i3 exhibited on the faces of honorable senators on the Opposition side at this moment. If I descended to the level of partisan politics, peddling the expediency of political office that honorable senators heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), there is no doubt that there are views and criticism that I could present in the role of a special pleader. So, too, if I adopted the role of people outside this chamber in whose criticism there are personal and pecuniary considerations, I could show that this budget is open to criticism. But my submission to the Senate is that judged from the standpoint of the national interest the budget is completely justified.
Australia is in a situation in which the two major problems are defence and economic stability. Whether there be a private enterprise government such as that in the United States of America or a socialist government such as that which held office in Great Britain until recently, it will be found that the nation’s budget, in attempting to deal with the inflationary problem which is common to both democracies, presents features ‘parallel to those in the budget of this Government. Even some socialist governments are conscious of the needs of the people and despite the Stracheys and other elements such as Aneurin Bevan and Hugh Gaitskell there was a sufficiently predominant spirit of British blood in the recent socialist government of Great Britain to place defence in the forefront of the national requirements.
In that respect I turn aside to say that I listened to Senator O’flaherty last night with the utmost humiliation, equalled only by the disgrace that I felt when reading the official communictions from the Australian Government to Great Britain in 1942, which are now recorded in Mr. Winston Churchill’s Hinge of Fate. Those people who are so blind to the national requirements of this country in 195.1 that they can say, as the Leader of the Opposition did, that the first thing they would chop from this budget would be the defence vote, were led in 194’2 by the late Mr. John Curtin. He bore the disgrace of communicating to Mr. Churchill a message declaring, “ If you abandon Singapore it will be an inexcusable betrayal of this country “. What a noble reminder it was when Mr. Churchill replied to him that the people who had the responsibility at the opportune time for defence were the people who carried the responsibility for the strength of that defence. If Singapore in 1941-42 was vital for the safety of Australia, it is vital for Australia’s safety to-day; and how far removed from Singapore is the Middle East? So I call to the minds of those people who sit in Opposition to-day decrying the need for national defence that from them emanated to Mr. Churchill in his hour of need the complaint that the British forces, by abandoning Malaya, were perpetrating an inexcusable betrayal of Australia. Is there any possible depth of disgrace to which a party with responsibility in the national affairs of this Commonwealth could descend if, after that lesson, it still remains blind to the defence needs of this Commonwealth ?
Prom a national point of view, this budget presents principles which have been adopted by the governments of Great Britain and the United States to deal with the problems of defence and economic stability. If the Senate is indulgent enough to listen to me, I propose to offer a few comments with regard to two constructive matters which I believe could well be given especial attention at this time: but I would like to offer first a few general observations with regard to some criticism which has been levelled against the Government and which I resent intensely as to its political honesty and, secondly, to offer a few comments on the situation with which the budget is designed to deal. Honorable senatoi-3 will remember that hostilities ceased in 1945 and left Australia practically unscarred by enemy action. The nation had at its disposal immediately all the man-power resources that could be released from the services, and five years of unparalleled opportunity were presented. Had we then had a government with any conception of the times, we could have risen to the occasion and emphasized production so that our men would have been matching their wages with assets and would have been not merely wealthy on the basis of the Chifley paper money but prosperous on the basis of the comforts and essential needs of life that go to make material prosperity. But we had five years of craven government, with high taxation, industrial unrest and socialist planning. All those opportunities were misused foi the purpose of theoretical political government and it was not unnatural that when that rotten state of affairs culminated in the Communist strike of 1949^ the people of Australia said that they wanted new leadership. In December, 1949, a change was made in one chamber of this House. In the following fifteen months there ensued the most miserable manoeuvring that has ever taken place in a national parliament until the party having a majority in this chamber and the legislative responsibility of voting, capitulated to twelve outside men and pocketed its principles. Those people who prattle to-day of political honesty simply capitulated and voted as if they were dummies in a dummy show and at the first opportunity, the Menzies Government dragged them to the people. The Menzies Government was returned with a. decisive majority in both Houses, with what result?
– What a calamity!
– “ What a calamity”, says Senator Sandford, yet we have on record the most significant beginnings of powerful production forces in this country. Anybody who is still unready to realize the processes in operation after the Prime Minister’s speech iD the House of Representatives on the 3rd October can well be reminded that one step alone - the negotiation of the dollar loan - has enabled the Government to make available 29,000,000 dollars for agricultural tractors and other agricultural equipment, for heavy industrial crawler tractors and earth-moving equipment, 24,000,000 dollars; for transport equipment, including locomotives, 15,000,000 dollars; for electricity generation and transmission, 26,000,000 dollars and a balance to provide plant and equipment for mining and manufacturing. Honorable senators need not rely alone on the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for a report has been issued by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. H. C. Coombs. He is an authority to whom some of the Opposition senators, I believe, are still inclined to defer without any mental reservations. That report shows that production is one of the foremost planks of the Menzies Government policy. The output of nearly all basic materials and manufactured goods was higher in 1950-51 than in the previous year. The output of coal and power rose also but then the report goes on to say that, of course, supplies are not equal to the demand. Iron and steel output increased but we are still hopelessly short of all requirements because of the tremendous and tragic leeway we had to make up. The production of most building materials was higher also. So on the word of none other than Dr. Coombs, I challenge those who criticize this Government on the score that it has not put its policy into effect to deny that real progress has been made in the essential sinews of industry in Australia despite the strangling vote of the Senate. In our pursuit of one of the worst enemies of increased production - communism - we have made real progress. Indeed, one of the things that honorable senators opposite are afraid of is that production will so increase in the two years that will elapse before the Menzies Government again faces the electors that their doom will bc scaled for the unforseeable future. The recollection of that little piece of political history gives me some satisfaction. The Australian public must be reminded that what Mr. Menzies said was the proper policy to pursue has already been given effect and that if it is permitted to continue it will bring about real and desirable improvement of the prosperity of this nation.
– And greater inflation !
– I have already referred to political humbugs in this place. I need say no more.
– One of them is addressing the Senate now.
– Honorable senators will recall that last year an event occurred that was of the greatest importance to the future of Australia. I refer to the decision of the United Nations which committed Australia to participate in the Korean campaign. The Labour party in this chamber did itself the credit of taking a share in that commitment. If, when we were considering the economic affairs of Australia, we refused to take cognizance of the fact that since the outbreak of war in Korea the demands on the economy of the United States of America and of Great Britain have been tremendously more severe than they were before the commencement of the Korean campaign, we would be shutting our eyes to what is common knowledge to the peoples of the world. It is almost true to say that the American levels of economy have moved to another significant stage since August of last year. The intensification of the demand by those two democracies for all the sinews of war, and the hard materials of industry, has meant that the Government’s effort to grapple with the problem caused by the shortage of those commodities in this country has been strengthened. The mere fact that Opposition senators are so vehement about the subject of inflation to-day only goes to prove how correct Mr. Menzies was when, in December, 1949, he told the electors that the paramount problem which he would have to face if he were elected to office would be the fading value of the Chifley £1.
– What about the fading value of the Menzies £1 ?
– If production increases for which the present Government has been responsible are continued the value of the Menzies fi will improve correspondingly.
– What is its value to-day?
– Let me remind Senator Hendrickson of one or two factors that must be taken into account when considering a matter of this kind. No one will deny that, since December, 1949, there has been an upsurge not only of the prices of goods and commodities but also of wages. What factor has chiefly contributed to that trend? I observed that the Leader of the Opposition left the chamber immediately after I had begun to quote the views of Dr. Coombs on this subject. I crave the indulgence of his followers and ask them to defer to my assessment of Dr. Coombs as an authority on this subject. Dr. Coombs, in the report from which I have already quoted, said -
Moreover, the rise in prices overseas exerted « strong upward pressure upon the domestic structure of prices and costs. As a result of this pressure, and of the higher basic wage awarded at the end of 1950, prices, wages and costs rose in an increasingly rapid sequence.
Dr. Coombs went on to remind the Parliament that, last year, although there accrued from our overseas trading the largest credit account surplus ever produced in Australia, continued reliance upon imports at overseas prices would expose Australian industries to acute competition when the present excessive demand conditions pass. Those who have read this morning’s newspapers will be conscious that that trend is already becoming apparent. If Australia is made too dependent upon imports from abroad at the prices we have been forced to pay for them during the last three or four years, we 3hall obtain less value for our money than we are obtaining for it to-day. That brings me to one particular item by way of illustration. I have scourged the socialist governments that have reigned in the State and Federal spheres during the last few years because immediately after hostilities with Japan bad come to an end we were so starved of steel and cement that they were ready to import those commodities from Japan at prices three times higher than they were prepared to pay to local manufacturers.
Rather than correct that state of affairs by appropriate means the Labour party pursued a policy that made us more and more dependent upon overseas imports, even from such sources as Japan. When we remember that such national undertakings as the southern regional water scheme in Tasmania, the aluminium production industry on the Tamar, near Launceston, and the huge hydro-electric development scheme in central Tasmania, to mention but a few projects in a State that is too little known to most honorable senators, are dependent upon imports of steel from Japan, we must come to the conclusion that Labour must revise its ideas and decide that those commodities that are needed to make this nation strong and prosperous shall, as far as possible, be provided from our own resources.
Labour supporters blink the fact that during the last two years, our export income overseas has greatly increased. For instance, the average price of wool was increased from 63d. per lb. in 1950 to 144d. in the following year. The return which we received from the overseas sale of our agricultural products increased in the same period from £485,000,000 to £S09,000,000. I am not one of those who view these high prices with a depressionist outlook. I believe that high overseas prices, if properly managed, can benefit this country; but they must be properly managed. By garnering the harvest in the years of plenty and preventing it from being used to create social disparity among our classes which will weaken our structure internally, and by building up essential units of national strength, by maintaining our solvency and by pursuing a policy of rural production, the upward trend in the overseas prices of agricultural products may be made to accrue greatly to our benefit.
One significant matter that I have not referred to in this debate is the fact that those who suffer injustice by reason of the falling value of money at present are not the wage earners of this country. If honorable senators will again refer to the report that Dr. Coombs has placed at our disposal they will see that during the year before the report was presented retail prices as measured by the “ C “ series index figure rose by 19 per cent. Dr. Coombs had this to say on the subject : -
The weekly basic rates for males were raised by about £1 and the female rate was increased from 54 ner cunt, to 75 per cent, of the male rate. This award, together with the large quarterly cost of living adjustments, payment of overtime, and the pressure for and willingness to grant further wage increases resulted in a rise of about 21 per cent, in the average weekly earnings of employees during the first tcn mouths nf the year.
So that, with a rise in prices of 19 per cent., the rise in the average weekly earnings of employees was 21 per cent. That leads me to say that the people who are most affected by the inflationary trend are those who are on comparatively fixed incomes and those whose savings are being winnowed into weakness by these inflationary influence.
We have a hugely increased national income. Would this Government be doing justice to all sections of the community if it did not immediately allocate from the share of the national income that is to go to the Treasury, a proper sum for defence and for war and repatriation services? Those two items alone account for £288,000,000 of estimated expenditure in the current financial year. Social services benefits will cost £184,000,000, and payments to the States, £161,000,000. It is true that specious arguments can be offered for a reduction of those commitments, hut a sound consideration of our national requirements shows that they must be met. The total estimated expenditure under the four headings that I have mentioned is £633,000,000, out of a total revenue of £927,000,000. Administrative expenses for the Commonwealth for the current year are estimated at £40,000,000. Admittedly, that is too much, and I shall exert my efforts towards reducing it, but any one who thinks that further economies in administration which is to cost only £40,000,000 out of a total budget estimate of £927,000,000, can result in a real reduction of the commitments of taxpayers is not squarely facing the facts. The Commonwealth has no choice but to raise sufficient revenue to dis.charge its obligations, and, bearing in mind the provisional tax system which was introduced bv the Chifley Government, we should all be fit to be classed with the prodigal son if we did not support the proposal to budget for a surplus. Unless a government budgets for a surplus in a year of high income, it may be unable to meet its commitments in succeeding years of falling income. I cannot dissociate myself too strongly from those people who advocate the taking of income from taxpayers merely to put it in a place where it can do less harm. I do not regard the Treasury as a place for the people’s money unless that money is required in the public interest immediately or within the foreseeable future.
I shall mention one or two features of high taxation which I hope will be given consideration. Under a system of graduated income tax, in times of increasing incomes, although there may he no corresponding increases of wealth, higher taxes on individual taxpayers are inescapable. Almost one-third of the national income is to be contributed to the Treasury under this budget. I should he completely opposed to any proposal that that proportion should be increased. With regard to the Treasurer’s decision to budget for a surplus, all that I have to say is that, apart from the necessity to stem the processes of inflation, unless a government budgets for a surplus during years of plenty, there will be a deficiency in the Treasury in succeeding years of falling income. I believe that the Government is taking completely justifiable measures to meet the present economic and financial situation.
As a consequence of this budget, consideration will have to be given to two very important problems. As I said at the outset of my speech, the power of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial matters is limited; nevertheless, decisions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration can profoundly affect the national economy. I have referred to what Dr. Coombs said about the court’s decision last December to increase the basic wage by £1 a week and to raise the female rate from 54 per cent, to 75 per cent, of the male rate. No one can deny that those abnormal wage increases gave added impetus to inflation which were soon reflected in cost of living adjustments. The direct connexion between quarterly wage adjustments and the price increases that the State authorities have been compelled to permit has made clear to many sections of the community, including even members of the Labour movement, just where this system is taking us. Undoubtedly the arbitration system has been of immense benefit to the industrial section of the community. This country is committed to the continuance of the arbitration system, but the Government has a bounden duty to do everything possible to improve it. There is an urgent need to strengthen the court, and I believe that the industrial outlook would be considerably brighter if, primarily, the emphasis were placed, not on payment for time worked, but on payment for output. I have no doubt that under such a system the production of basic commodities such as cement and steel could be so improved that it would not be necessary to import Japanese goods at three times the price of the local products.
My second proposal relates to the one industry which, more than any other, is strangling the economic life of Australia. I refer of course to the waterfront industry. Honorable senators will recall that the Chifley Government indulged in what it called an industrial experiment by establishing first, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Commission, and then the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. A few months ago, after a long delay, the first report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, covering its operations up to the 30th June, 1950, was made available. Any one who studies that report cannot but feel that the chairman who wrote it had at least a nodding acquaintance with the political principles of the Chifley Government. On page 28 he states -
Against a background of labour shortages in all industries, this country is witnessing the spectacle of many thousands of nian hours being lost in the shipping industry each week, because nien finishing work on ships during the day are not being put to work on other ships which are unable to get labour. The remedy, in our view, is not, as some shipowners claim, to recruit more men for the industry, but to get better aggregate weekly hours from, the mcn already available. At present regular waterside workers average 33 hours per week. If they were to be placed on a daily or weekly hiring basis in return for the unrestricted use of their services right through the shift, the industry and the com munity would benefit and the men would be one step closer to as complete a regularization of their employment as they can expect.
At page 41 the following passage appears -
In all the references which have been made with regard to value of labour, including inefficiency of supervision, preparatory work, rain loss, and interruptions to work, &c, the emphasis has been on the proportion of the productivity of labour which is lost as a result. The fact is that in the weighted average for the six capital ports and Newcastle, Townsville and Cairns (combined), one hour in every four hours of employment was entirely nonproductive in cargo movement in 1949-50. (The basis of the non-productive figures excludes “ smoke-oh “ breaks.) In these nine ports 7,800,000 man hours - 24.7 per cent, of the gross - were non-productive in cargo movement. For all ports it is estimated that there were 9,000,000 non-productive man hours,- for a total labour cost of about £2,750,000 - and this does not cover the wastage of the potential outside of actual time of employment.
As long as we have this experimental body, appointed by the Chifley Government, operating in a vacuum, what else can be expected but inflation? The Government has to its credit an incipient production programme which will soon bear fruit. This budget is an attempt to deal with the financial affairs of the nation with justice to the various sections of the community and with wise forethought of the possibilities of the two or three years that lie before us. Our productive effort could be greatly stimulated by a strengthening of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and by an improvement of the conditions on the waterfront to which I have referred. In all those fields there would be an immense influence to increase production if the individual had more opportunity for reward according to his individual outlook.
– Since the introduction of this bilious budget by “ Artful Artie “ - I refer to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) - much water has flowed under the bridge. All that can be said, has been said. I describe it as the “ tragic Treasurer’s “ bilious budget because there has been an outbreak of budget blues throughout Australia. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer himself were laid ill soon after it was brought down. During this debate so much, has been said in. criticism of this budget by the Opposition that I shall content myself by summarizing the position and refuting some of the statements that have been made by supporters of the Government. It is an outrageous budget; its provisions are unprecedented in the political history of this country. It has been pathetic to sit in this chamber and observe the look of despair on the faces of honorable senators opposite when they have been trying to justify such an unjustifiable .budget. Many of them have apologized for it.
Senator Wright adopted a most dramatic approach. Indeed, I consider that he would be more at home in a dramatic show than he is in this chamber. He said that if he were to approach the consideration of the budget in the role of a clown he would criticize it. I have attended many circus performances, but have never seen a better clown than the honorable senator. He actually admitted that the budget was open to criticism, and he then spoke very feelingly about defence. The only defence about which the honorable senator knows anything is his defence of persons charged with drunkenness in Hobart. He charges extortionate fees for defending them. The honorable senator has had ample opportunity to participate in the defence of Australia.
– What about discussing the budget rather than indulging in personal abuse?
– I am speaking to the butcher, not the block.
– That is very funny !
– I am making this speech. If I am interrupting Senator Kendall he should tell me. As Senator Wright has stated that the Australian Labour party is not sufficiently interested in defence, I am perfectly justified in criticizing him as an individual. All that the honorable senator did to assist in the defence of Australia was negligible. Yet he has the audacity to criticize actions in connexion with our defence that were taken by the Right Honorable John Curtin when he was Prime Minister of this country. It ill becomes a man of the calibre of the honorable senator to criticize a man of such outstanding ability as was John Curtin.
– It ill becomes the honorable senator to criticize.
– I imagine that Senator Kendall would be more at. home in New Guinea amongst the fuzzy-wuzzies. As I intend visiting New Guinea at the end of this month, I shall seek a couple of addresses from him. Senator Wright did not mention anything about John Curtin’s ability and outstanding service to Australia. The honorable senator and a paddock full of his type would not be fit to wipe the boots of the late John Curtin. Senator Pearson was most apologetic for the budget.
– I did not have’ to be apologetic.
– He looked like Alice in Wonderland, because he did not know where he was going. He contended that it was imperative to impose additional taxation, and he congratulated the Government. He made a special plea to the Opposition to stop talking about, putting value back into the £1.
– He would not need to.
– That is the honorable senator’s only record.
– It is the only thing that concerns 99 per cent, of the people of this country at present. I agree with the honorable senator’s contention that the Commonwealth should see that the States receive sufficient loan money to enable them to carry out State projects. But then he asked where, in the name of Heaven, the money was to come from unless the Government taxed dolls and other toys. He did not mention anything about an equitable system of taxation on wealthy companies, but instead, declared that spending must be curtailed. I point out that there is no evidence in the budget of the Government’s intention to reduce expenditure, and because it will not curb inflation prices will soar higher than ever before. The honorable senator said first that the budget was received well by the people of
Australia, but he subsequently qualified that statement by saying that at least it was well received in South Australia. He subsequently admitted that it was not a budget of popular appeal, but declared that it was part of a scheme to cure inflation. 1 have waited patiently for a supporter of the Government to indicate how this budget will cure inflation.
Senator Henty’s contribution shows no improvement on the methods of the Henty pioneers. He commenced by congratulating the Government, and then stated that indirect taxation of 33^ per cent, would not be sufficient to deter people from buying the commodities on which that rate of sales tax is to be imposed. That is an extraordinary statement to come from a man who claims to represent a majority of the people. I am quite sure that if the honorable senator makes similar statements from the public platform during the next general election campaign, he will not regain his seat in this chamber.
The honorable senator produced a mass of figures in relation to losses that have been incurred by Trans- A us tralia Airlines. Probably he was one of the senators of whom I read a report in the press not long ago, and about whom 1 asked a question in this chamber, which was not answered. I refer to a press report about a movement on the Government side to hand over Trans-Australia Airlines to private enterprise. The honorable senator devoted practically the whole of his speech to a criticism of Trans- Australia Airlines and, in effect, advocated its transfer to private enterprise. I was astounded at his remarks, because he travels by air frequently, and if he were honest he would admit that Trans-Australia Airlines compares more than favorably with any other airline in the world, from all points of view.
I am sorry that Senator Cormack i3 absent from the chamber. I realize that in a debate of this nature honorable senators enjoy a very wide scope. However, Senator Cormack made a statement to which I take very strong objection. He said that during World War II. the trade union officials of this country would not consent to a call-up of workers. I refute that statement. At the time I was in the Man-power Directorate, which was in very close touch with the trade union officials. There was no one in industry more patriotic, more considerate, and more co-operative than they. Obviously, the honorable senator is not well informed on this subject, otherwise he would not have made such a rash and untrue statement. However, as Senator Hendrickson informed him last night, the only battle with which Senator Cormack has been concerned was for the Victorian electorate of Fawkner, and he has not had the courage to tackle it again.- During his speech Senator Cormack made a statement which indicates the intention of this Government to create a percentage of unemployment. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is reported to have said not very long ago that it is necessary to have a certain percentage of unemployment in order to discipline the workers. Senator Cormack stated that over-full employment is dangerous. I have no doubt that he meant to say “full employment “ and that he believes that full employment is dangerous because the workers cannot then be held in subjection, as they were during the regime of antiLabour governments prior to the advent of the Curtin Government in 1941. The honorable senator stated that by means of this budget the Government is endeavouring to curb inflation and. to reduce expenditure. He contented himself by saying that inflation is being experienced in other countries. I suggest that because similar conditions exist in other countries the Australian Government is not necessarily obliged to introduce a budget of this kind.
I now come to Senator Robertson, who congratulated the Treasurer upon the introduction of what she was pleased to call “ a courageous budget “. During the course of her remarks she stated that she had heard only one complaint concerning the budget. By interjection,. I agreed with her statement but suggested that that’ one complaint had been the unanimous one of all members of the community. I do not think that any honorable senator could truthfully say that he has not heard numerous complaints about the budget from every section of the community. The honorable senator proved that she is consistent only in her inconsistency, because, after congratulating the Treasurer, she then proceeded to slate the right honorable gentleman for seeking to impose additional sales tax on refrigerators, cosmetics and the like, and for not making provision for greater increases of pensions.
Senator Guy rambled through his speech. In the course of it he stated that production has increased and that we are now enjoying an era of prosperity. He also gave it as his opinion that defence is paramount and vital to our existence. I agree that that is so, but if the honorable senator voiced the views of the Government, what excuse has it to offer for reducing, by £20,000,000, expenditure on vital national projects in Victoria which would be of benefit not only to that State, but also to Australia? If the supply of power, electric light and transport facilities are not vital to defence, I should like to know what i3. According to recent reports, this Government proposes to establish in certain factories, some of which will be in Victoria, alternative power plants which will cost several millions of pounds. Yet it cuts down expenditure on State projects, which, in the case of Victorian power projects, are nearing completion.
I am glad to see that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is in the chamber so that he may hear my opinion of his contribution to the debate.
– I did not come here for that purpose.
– I appreciate that the honorable senator does not like to hear my opinions. I was disappointed with his contribution, because usually he says something worth listening to. I have never heard him making heavier weather than when he endeavoured to reply to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He seemed to be as hopeless as a fly trying to force its way through a tin of treacle. The honorable senator did not present one worthwhile argument. In reply to the claim of certain honorable senators on this side of the chamber that the people have lost confidence in this Government, all that he could say was that last April the people evidently had confidence in it.
– And also in September.
– Last April the people did not know that a budget such as this would be presented. Surely the Attorney-General does not pretend that the people had confidence in the Government last September. If he does, I expect him to be whistling in the dark before very long.
The honorable senator stated during his speech that the budget is a step in the halting of inflation. As he is an eminent lawyer, one could be pardoned for expecting a more definite statement than that. 1 should like him to tell me how a budget of £L,041,000,000, the immediate effect of which caused the basic wage to rise by 14s. and prices to soar, will curb inflation. If he considers that it will, I suggest that he is capable of telling us any old bedtime story that comes into his head. Later in his speech he apologized for the budget by using a little legal jargon, as though he were trying to convince a jury. However, after hearing his arguments, I doubt whether he could have ever convinced a jury. The honorable senator endeavoured to “ square off “ by saying, “We have not the constitutional power to do all the things we would like to do “. The Opposition knows that very well. The High Court of Australia confirmed it when it invalidated the anti-Communist legislation. He also stated that the budget is an honest endeavour to cure inflation, and he went on to say that the Australian Labour party will not face up to the difficulties. He did not tell us what the difficulties are or how we might face up to them. The Australian Labour party has always believed in telling the people the truth. Its members did not make rash promises to the people during the 1949 election campaign. They were honest with the people. They appreciate now that their honesty cost them the right to govern, but they also appreciate that the present Government parties came to office because of spurious promises which they knew they could not fulfil and which, indeed, they had no intention to fulfil. The Liberal party has the support of that little corner group of Australian Country party members. The members of the Australian Country party are political hitchhikers who will jump on any political bandwagon. They are political cuckoos who will roost in any nest. tn Canberra they roost in the nest of the Liberal party, whereas in Victoria they roost in the Labour party nest. There is one Australian Country party senator from Victoria who lands in the Labour nest when he crosses the Murray River, going south. “When he re-crosses the river coming north, he lands in the Liberal party nest. The only difference between the two positions is that the Country party in Victoria is doing an extremely good job, ably led by Mr. John Cain and the Australian Labour party. That is undeniable.
The Attorney-General criticized the Australian Labour party for advocating prices control. I suggest that if prices control is not operated by the Commonwealth the economy cannot be stabilized. Repeatedly, when the question of prices control is raised, honorable senators opposite speak of wage-pegging. The AttorneyGeneral should be in a position to know that wages are always controlled by the arbitration courts. This Government will not have anything to do with control of profits. How can it expect to stabilize the economy and to halt inflation unless prices and profits are controlled ? It cannot be done because of the shortages that exist to-day. The old law of supply and demand no longer applies. The Attorney-General, in an attempt to vindicate his attitude, stated that prices control operates in New South Wales and that it is more rigid there than in any other State. That is exactly what the members of the Australian Labour party told the people in 1948 when the referendum on prices control was held. They said then that State control of prices could not possibly be effective. I suggest that this Government does not want the responsibility of prices control. Recently, State Prices. Ministers offered te hand over to the Australian Government power to control prices, but this Government did not wish to have anything to do with the proposal because the interests which support it and keep it in office do not want prices control. The Government parties must do as they are told by those who put them in office.
The Attorney-Gen-ral claimed that the cause of inflation in Australia is the war in Korea. That was an amazing statement, because the war in Korea cannot possibly be considered a major cause of inflation in this country. I suggest that the only career with which the honorable senator is concerned is a political career. He would do well to keep away from Korea, both physically and argumentatively.
The honorable senator also stated that some sane-thinking Labour people have completely vindicated the budget proposals. I do not know how he came to that conclusion, because it is obvious that the supporters of the Australian Labour party, and many people who are not supporters of that party, are critical of, and hostile to, the budget.
There is not much need to discuss the speech that was made by SenatorHannaford.
– The honorable senator has not discussed Senator Annabelle Rankin’s speech.
– Most people think that Senator Hannaford is hopeless, but I am sufficiently generous to believe that if he manacles his monocle to my remarks he may learn something to his benefit. While apologizing for this budget, he claimed that there is no alternative to its introduction.
Senator Tate stated that the surplus of £114,500,000, for which the Government has budgeted, will be a contingency fund which may be used for defence or housing. If that is true, why is it that the States cannot obtain from the Commonwealth more money from that surplus with which to carry out housing projects, the completion of which is so urgent?
I did not hear the whole of Senator Gorton’s speech, thank goodness.
– The honorable senator would not have understood it if he had.
– I know that, because the honorable senator is unintelligible.
– Order .’ The reflections that are being cast by the honorable senator are distinctly out of order.
– Senator Gorton stated that there cannot again be a depression like the last one. The people of Australia are also aware of that fact. They would not countenance such a sta.te of affairs. They have awakened politically. Because the present Government attained office by means of false promises, I do not think that it will remain in office for very long. “While a Labour administration is in office, there can be no fear that there will he a depression in any way comparable to the last one. The honorable senator also stated that in the community to-day there are insufficient goods and too much money. If that is true, then I do not know who has all the money. Certainly, I have very little. The Government has been in power for two years, but it has done nothing to honour its election promises. This budget sets an all-time record, providing as it does for the collection of £1,041,000,000 in revenue, of which it is expected that £114,500,000 will be unexpended at the end of the financial year. Why has the Government budgeted for such a large surplus? Surely, if the Government wished to cure inflation, it would refrain from what amounts to the confiscation of £114,500,000. The Government claims that this is an anti-inflationary budget, but how can it be anti-inflationary when its immediate effect is to force up the cost of living? The Government refuses to restore Commonwealth control of prices. The Labour party wished to consult the people by referendum on this issue, but honorable senators opposite objected. Surely, in a democratic country, there is nothing wrong in asking the people to express their opinion on subjects of this kind.
– The Labour Government was not prepared to consult the people about its proposal to nationalize banking.
– There is no analogy between the two matters. In the case of banking it was merely a matter of testing the extent of a power actually provided in the Constitution. The Government promised the people without any equivocation that it would restore value to the £1.
– It did not.
– Advertisements were published by the anti-Labour parties stating that they would, if returned to power, put value back into the £1, and restore the purchasing power of wages. When we remind honorable senators opposite of that they say, “ Oh yes, but that was in 1949 “. I point out, however, that leaders of the present Government repeated that undertaking in 1951. They asked the people to renew the mandate which had been given in 1949.
– And they got it, too.
– Yes, by fraud and misrepresentation. The Government has repudiated all its promises to the people. It leaves dog powders taxfree whilst it puts a sales tax of 33^ per cent, on baby powders. The Treasurer has told us that the purpose of the increased sales tax is to curb spending. Therefore, the purpose of the increased tax on ice cream must be to prevent children from buying ice cream. The Government has said to housewives, in effect, that they must not have refrigerators, or hot water services or sewing machines. At this time, when we are approaching the Christmas season, the Government has put toys out of the reach of the children. The most statesmanlike action of which the Prime Minister was capable was to order the dismissal of 10,000 public servants, in accordance with his fetish for an unemployment pool. Apparently, the Prime Minister’s opinions have changed since 1949, because this is what he then said on the subject of reemployme n t -
If full employment is to be the means of achieving a progressive but secure life for a man and wile and children in their home, it cannot be left to depend entirely upon public works. Its best foundation is in the prosperity of the business undertaking in which the man works . . . Unless there are powers of direction of labour, how can a manual job at a country water-works, though suited to ninny men, be the answer to the loss of hig job by a clerk or shop assistant at Balmain?
By cutting down the amount of loan money available to the States, this Government, acting through the Loan. Council, has inflicted a severe injury upon Victoria. Work on such public undertakings as the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme, the Eildon Weir and the Yallourn briquetting plant, all of them of great national as well as State importance, will have to be curtailed, if not stopped altogether. It is hard to reconcile the Government’s action with its claim that defence preparations are urgently necessary. We were told by no less a military expert than the right honorable Robert Gordon Menzies himself that we had only three years in which to prepare for a third world war; yet now, through the Loan Council, he has restricted work on State projects which were designed to provide power, light and transport that would have been of immense benefit to the nation in time of war. What the Government is doing now is painfully reminiscent of what was done just before the depression of 1930. Let us hope that the electors will regain their political sanity, and that they will, at the next election, cast this Government into political oblivion, and thus avoid another depression.
No spokesman for the Government has been able to tell me of any positive action which has been taken since December, 1949, to cope with the present unsatisfactory economic position in Australia. The Government has spent its time trying to force through the Parliament repressive legislation such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Defence Preparations Bill, and the amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The purpose of the last-mentioned measure was to gain coercive control over the workers. T suggested when that bill was before the Senate that abuses in connexion with the election of officers of organizations were not confined to trade unions, yet the legislation was directed against industrial organizations only. I suggested that malpractices and abuses were rampant in the Liberal party. I have here a document which I have been trying to read in the Senate for a considerable time, but on every occasion some honorable senator opposite has risen and taken a point of order, because honorable senators -on the other side do not want th contents of the document to become known. I quote as follows from a publication called Things I. hear, dated the 7th November, 1950-
The New South Wales Liberals are in revolt against the executive at last. The State Council of that Party, which for five years has given the best imitation of a mob of sheep seen West of the Blue Mountains is at last demanding some reforms in the Party.
Last week the State Council met ami passed a motion of No Confidence in the executive.
Bernie Dargan, who was in the Chair, was quite at a loss in the face of the revolt. Serine’s never too good actually, when you get him into the open. He does his best work when the executive meets behind closed doors, and he can lay down what the boys putting up the money require to be done. Billy Spooner, whose hold in the Liberal Machine took him straight into the Senate, and then into the Cabinet, got up and smiled his usual smile, and, locking like an elderly cherub, pleaded in silky tones for loyalty to the executive, a plea that he has made more times than the firm of Hungerford Spooner & Co. has acted as liquidator, which of course is plenty.
– -The honorable senator is concerned only with repeating filth. How he ever came into this Parliament is beyond my understanding. I cannot understand how any organization would want to be represented by a man of his type.
– Order ! I have given Senator Sandford every latitude. Now I ask him to come back to the budget. If by any stretch of imagination he can connect what he is quoting with the budget I give him credit for a groat deal more ability than I have. I am in a position to decide what is relevant and I request the honorable senator to use his undoubted ability to discuss the budget.
– I claim that my remarks are related to the budget. My point is that, instead of catering for the needs of the people of Australia, this Government has been more concerned with repressive legislation. If that i3 not relevant, I would like to know what is. The statement I am quoting relates to repressive legislation introduced by this Government against industrial organizations and it proves my claim that abuse and malpractice are not confined to the industrial organizations of this country, but operate in the Liberal party as well. This article goes on to say -
Usually Billy can win the day with the soft soap and then’ go away with Bernie and the boys and work out something to keep control.
– Order ! Honorable senators should know that under Standing Order 41S, reflection on members and people outside the House is disorderly. The honorable senator must not continue in that vein.
– I shall leave that point, but it is half said.
– As long as there is a handful of mud, the honorable senator is satisfied.
– Not at all. 1 am telling the truth. I am not criticizing Senator Spooner. His name happens to be mentioned and if he is mixed up with that sort of thing, I cannot get him out of it. I am only saying that these things do happen in every organization. I cannot help it if the Minister is implicated. I am here to bring out the truth and protect the organizations that are represented by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber have abused industrial organizations and their officials and have branded them as Communists. They have branded honorable senators on this side of the chamber as “ fellow travellers “ and have linked them with the Communists. They do it every day and if they cannot take it, they should not be mixed up in matters which leave them open to the charges that I have quoted. These things happen and I intend to bring them to the light of day.
Senator Guy interjected when one of my colleagues was speaking about the broken promises of the Liberal party and ihe Australian Country party. Senator Guy said that that was a long time ago. in 1949. The Melbourne Herald had big Leadlines three months after the Government was elected in 1949 declaring, “ Government to put value back into pound “, yet by interjection the Attorney-General Void me only a few minutes ago that that promise was never made. I produce this headline in the Melbourne Herald in reply to him, and the Herald is not a *>ro-Labour newspaper. Here is another - “ Trade Curbs Must Go. Fadden Outlines First Move.” It is “By A. W. Fadden, Federal Treasurer “. That was written by Sir Arthur Fadden. He said that the Federal Government was prepared to put real value into the £1.
Honorable senators on the Government side should come to earth and realize where they are going. They should speak the truth and admit that their Government has been an abject failure. The Government led by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have failed as in- gloriously as they did from 1939 to 1941. In those years they failed Australia miserably when the country was faced with its greatest trial. That performance has been repeated since 1949. Honorable senators talk about the referendum. Why do they not take this budget to the people by referendum? They know that they would be decimated if they took to the people a budget such as this which intends to increase direct taxation alone by a flat rate of 10 per cent. That is obviously a bigger burden for the small man than itv is for those on the higher incomes. The Government came into power through itf advocacy of abolition of controls but it isputting further sales tax on goods which it claims to be luxuries although they arc necessities and is putting them out oi reach of the ordinary people of Australia. With its sales tax proposals, the Government is endeavouring to deny to families refrigerators, sewing machines and musical instruments. The charge for a single wireless licence was doubled although a person who is wealthy enough to have more than one wireless set does not now have to pay any extra at all. Such actions indicate that the present Government is not doing its best for the community as a whole. It should realize its political inertia and its failure to govern in the interests of the people. The Government will not take this budget to the people by referendum, because it knows, from the unanimous protests that have emanated from every section of the Australian people, that this budget would he the instrument of its annihilation. It is a savage and vicious budget and has nothing to commend it. Almost every honorable senator on the opposite side has apologized for the budget. It should be withdrawn and recast, or, alternatively, the Government should go to the people for their decision.
– in reply - This is the end of a long debate on the budget papers. I propose to wind up the debate and to direct what I have to say mainly to analysing the suggestions that have come from the Opposition. Honorable senators on the opposite side have confined themselves almost entirely to “what the Government proposes to do in the budget, instead of suggesting -what it should do. If time permits I propose then to state again some of the budget principles. I think I may say fairly and without exaggeration that the constructive proposals that have come from the Opposition side have been very few indeed. The Government is charged with the responsibility of delivering the budget and the Opposition has the responsibility not only of criticizing the Government’s proposals but also of advancing any proposals that Opposition members would have supported if they had been the government. The speeches of honorable senators in the Opposition show that in a constructive approach to the subject they have been entirely bankrupt of ideas. Throughout this budget debate the Opposition has devoted its time and energy not to what should be done to improve the nation’s affairs, but almost exclusively to an attempt to discredit the Government. The Opposition cannot succeed in its task. The simple truth is that never in Australia’s history were living standards in Australia higher than they are now. That is a state of affairs in which the Government takes great satisfaction.
– It would take some proving.
– I have here some figures based on material issued by the Government Statistician, which contrast the basic wage with the movement of retail prices. The basic wage as at September, 1939, is taken as a figure of 100. These figures show the movement from September, 1939, to November, 1951. During that time the basic wage in Australia has increased by 150 per cent. As a comparison I shall quote the movement of the “ C “ series index during the period from June, 1939, to September, 1951. The “ C “ series index is an indicator of the movement of retail prices and it shows that they have increased by 112 per cent. Since September, 1939, the basic wage has increased by 150 per cent, and retail prices have risen by 112 per cent. I shall relate these figures to the period in which this Govern ment has been in power - from November, 1949. The latest figures for the basic wage were produced in November, 1951, and for the retail prices in September, 1951. During that period the basic wage has increased by 55 per cent, and the “ C “ series index by 32 per cent. So that for the long period and for the short period also wages have increased, as expressed in the terms of the basic wage, to a substantially greater extent than the cost of living in Australia.
That is a factor upon which every thinking Australian may well ponder, particularly when it is related to the circumstances that a basic wage earner in Australia at present is an entirely hypothetical person. There is nobody in Australia who does not earn more than the basic wage. Wages in Australia have increased much more than the cost of living and it is as well that that fact should be known. There is far too much pessimism in Australia generally and too much unfair and uninformed criticism from the Opposition ranks which does great harm to Australia.
I shall now quote from an official publication a report by the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics. This report should be of interest to every Australian. According to the relative purchasing power of earnings in the different countries shown by a study of 50 nations, Australia was the only foreign country that was studied where less working time was required than in the United States to buy a given amount of food. Even in countries with such a high level of living as Canada, Great Britain and Scandanavia, the work time required to buy food ranges from 20 per cent. longer in Norway to 60 per cent, greater in Great Britain and Sweden. That situation, however much it may discomfort the Opposition, gives great satisfaction to the Government. Long may it continue ! While we remain in power we shall do everything that we can do to improve the standards of living of the people. It is too often forgotten that the Australian people, in the conscious direction of their efforts, can make a greater contribution to higher living standards than any government can make. That is why the Opposition comment and criticism, in the circumstances that exist at present, are so mischievous. One would think that with no election pending for two years, and with no political fight in contemplation, the members of the Opposition, who represent one of the big political parties of this country, would be honest and straightforward and state the facts fairly and squarely and do what they can do to promote the national interest instead of playing the miserable game of party politics, misstating facts and misrepresenting the circumstances that prevail. In this budget we have given the people a lead. We have asked them to avoid the purchase of certain goods and commodities and to restrict capital investment in certain directions for the time being so that the undesirable demands for labour and materials will be lessened. We have asked them to increase production, as far as it is practicable for them to do so. Not one of these requests can but be honestly supported by the Opposition. Every member of the Opposition believes in those measures just as sincerely as we do ; yet not one member of the Opposition has risen in his place and has said, “ These are the good points in the budget, and we uphold them. These are the things that the nation should do. Let us stand behind the Government and in a united effort do the best we can for ourselves in the circumstances that now exist “. I can perhaps be pardoned for becoming heated on this point because I recall how Senator Sandford attempted to reduce this debate to the very lowest level, and how over and over again allegations of dishonesty and insincerity on the part of the Government were made by Opposition senators generally. Let the cap fit those who wear it. Let those who claim honesty of purpose for themselves at least be honest enough to stand in their places in this chamber and admit that the proposals now before us have been devised for the good of the Australian people. Not one Opposition senator has been honest enough to make such an admission.
I said earlier that I would deal with constructive proposals made by the Opposition during the debate. Briefly, according to the notes I have had pre- pared, the proposals that have emanated from the Opposition have been that prices control should be undertaken by the Commonwealth, that subsidies should be paid on certain consumer goods, that there should be controls over basic materials, that taxation is too high in present circumstances, that defence expenditure should be cut, that an excess profits tax should be imposed and that we should evolve a more selective immigration policy with particular emphasis on the immigration of single men. It is not practicable for me to cover all those points. In the comparatively limited time at my disposal I shall deal only briefly with some of them.
First, I shall deal with the oftrepeated claim of the Opposition that Commonwealth prices control is an important ingredient in the measurers necessary to protect our economy. I shall not traverse all the arguments that have been advanced for and against such a proposal. They have become classic and well defined. I merely reiterate the view that prices control in itself is meaningless unless it is accompanied by a controlled economy. When Commonwealth prices control operated during the war it was accompanied by the direction of labour, wage-pegging, high taxation, the control of capital issues, the payment of subsidies and other economic controls. The conditions that obtain in Australia to-day are materially and psychologically different from those that obtained during the war years. In the opinion of the Government, first, there is no foundation in fact for the statement that the Australian people would accept all the measures that would necessarily go with prices control in order to make it effective, and, secondly, even if those measures were in force, that prices control would be effective under the conditions that obtain to-day. The State Ministers in charge of prices are now busily engaged in endeavouring to unload responsibility for prices control to the Commonwealth. They have first-hand knowledge of its difficulties and they realize that it cannot be worked effectively. Indeed, in New South Wales we have the fantastic position that the Government of that State ordered a prices freeze. That happened in a State where prices control is beloved beyond all other creeds. Yet, despite those measures, the recent quarterly adjustment of the basic wage in New South Wales was higher than in any other State in the Commonwealth. That fact in itself is sufficient condemnation of the alleged virtues of prices control.
Will anybody deny that prices control has driven potatoes off the Australian market? Will anybody deny that one of the principal reasons why coal is in such short supply in Australia is because coal prices were so restricted that the coal-mining industry had become unprofitable? Will any one deny that one of the great reasons for the industrial disturbances that have taken place on the coal-fields is that the coal-mining industry is unprofitable? Will any one deny that prices control drove butter off the Australian market? Will anybody deny that prices control in New South Wales is being used as a first step in the nationalization of the gas industry? I have not the slightest doubt that the price of gas is being so controlled that the socialist government of New South Wales will be able to nationalize that industry, and that when the gas industry has been nationalized it will soon be in as big a mess as is the power industry in that State under a socialist government.
One of the greatest difficulties that face Australia results from the shortage of bricks, a matter to which Senator Armstrong has devoted a great deal of attention. We have endeavoured to interest overseas companies with modern brick-making machinery and processes to establish branches in Australia. Spokesmen of these companies have claimed that they can manufacture bricks at a lower cost than can Australian manufacturers, but they have refused to venture their capital in Australia because they believe that, if they did so, as soon as they were operating successfully they would fall into the clutches of the prices officers and their venture would soon prove unprofitable. Honorable senators must know that one of the limiting factors of prices control is that the honest trader, the decent Australian citizen, the small business man in good standing, who puts all his figures fairly before the prices officers, and is, if I may so express it. price controlled to the nth degree, is put “ through the hoop “, while the smart “Aleck” across the road who doesn’t make his figures easy for the prices officials to understand, is able to by-pass the control, and get away with it. The good honest Australian is discouraged, and the wrong doer, who is able to obtain better margins of profit, reaps the advantage. As a result, too much effort is directed into wrong channels. 1 believe it to be true that prices control has become a sort of a battle cry with the Opposition, and that when members of the Opposition chant it they have no proper realization of the harm that they are doing.
I come now to the proposals of the Opposition that the payment of subsidies should be increased. That again, to me is a counsel of despair. If we continually increase subsidies we might just as well reconcile ourselves to the necessity for steeply increasing taxes, particularly in the changing world in which we live at present. We have to find a way to deal with the causes of the difficulties that confront us. Prices control and the subsidization of commodities deal not with causes but only with effects.
I believe that the most constructive proposals that emanated from the Opposition during the course of the debate was that some control of basic materials should be established. It is not for me to express views on that subject other than to say that a lot may be said for ensuring that materials that are in short supply are made available to those industries that produce commodities that aid the national effort. The craziest suggestion of all that emanated from this debate - I regret to say that it was made by the Leader of the Opposition - was that in present circumstances our defence expenditure should be cut. Whatever the Opposition say about this budget and its unpopularity, I believe it to be true that the people of Australia would recoil with horror from a government that reduced its expenditure on defence. The only chance we have on maintaining peace in this world is by strengthening our defences. I remember the hostility of the Opposition to this Government’s proposal to reintroduce a national service scheme. I do the Opposition the credit of saying that I believe that its members share the satisfaction which the Government feels at the success that has attended that scheme. The national service scheme is one of the most noteworthy contributions, not only to the defence of Australia but also to better citizenship in this country, that have been made by any government in the last decade. It is of great satisfaction to me personally to see the pride that these lads take in playing their part in national defence.
What is the economic problem that we face to-day, and to the solution of which this budget makes a contribution? The economic conditions existing throughout the world to-day are due primarily to the failure by all countries to overtake quickly the shortages that occurred during the war years. Contrary to the views expressed by economists at the closing stages of the war, the immediate post-war period has been a period of great activity and great employment and the demand for goods has greatly exceeded the supply.
– The economists were wrong again.
– Yes. I shall not quibble with that statement. In addition to the factors that I have mentioned, there is a need to develop this country through immigration and by means of public works. Superimposed on those needs, unfortunately, is the need for increased defence expenditure to preserve the peace of the world. That, I believe, is a fair statement of the problem that we have to face. It is reasonable to say that the principles of the fiscal policy to which this budget gives effect are not dissimilar from the principles that guide the ordinary prudent housewife in the conduct of her household affairs. First, the Government has decided that Australia must pay its way; that taxes must be sufficient to cover commitments. In addition, it has decided to put some money aside for the time when it may not be as plentiful as it is now, and incidentally, to reduce the demand upon the goods that are available. Thirdly, it has decided to cut nonessential public works to the greatest degree consistent with the interests of the nation. I do not think that the curtailment of the public works programme that has followed the reduction of the loan programme to £225,000,000 will do very much harm to Australia. I believe that the loan programme might well have been reduced even further., First, the Government will do everything possible to stimulate the production and the supply of goods of the right kind. That will be done through the control of capital issues, sales tax, customs concessions on imported goods, and the development of power and transport facilities so far as it is possible to divert public expenditure to those avenues.
I repeat that it is not sufficient for the Opposition merely to criticize the Government. It has a responsibility also to suggest alternative measures. I have listed the alternatives that Opposition, speakers have proposed, and I do not think it is unreasonable to say that they make a poor showing against the Government’s proposals. If the Opposition believes that more money should be expended, it should be prepared to say also how that money should be raised. If honorable senators opposite believe that taxes should be reduced, they should say where money can be found to meet the budget commitments. Of course, it is much easier to criticize than to be constructive. I am sure that every person who has listened to the criticism offered by the Opposition in the course of this debate has had at the back of his mind the thought “ This criticism sounds all right, but what is the alternative proposed by the Opposition?”
I have made the point- that never beforehave living standards in Australia been higher than they are- to-day. I have made the point that we as a Governmentare doing what every Australian expects us to do, and improving our defences so that the peace of the world may be preserved. I have said, too, that there will be little conflict between our defence effort and our developmental effort, because so many defence requirements such as fuel, power and food, also form a sound foundation for the development of Australia. I am not given to heroics. I believe the best way to express anappreciation of the budget is to say thatit is a sensible and sober approach to our national problems which are being exaggerated by the Opposition to such a degree* that the Labour party is becoming ludicrous in the eyes of the Australian, people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate- resumed from the 1st November (vide page 1420), on motion, by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this measure. I trust that the Minister for. National Development (Senator Spooner) will realize, early in my remarks, that this Opposition, which he so often verbally crucifies, is quite prepared to co-operate with the Government on legislation that is in the interests of the country generally. I hope that my assurance that the Opposition will not oppose this bill will restore the Minister to his customary calmness, and that, in future, he will be a little more tolerant when we on this side of the chamber find, just cause to criticize the Government. This bill seeks parliamentary authority to appropriate an additional £27,000,000 from loan funds for the purpose of advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act of 1945. That act was one of the pieces of social legislation that the Chifley Labour Government placed on the statutebook, and it is convincing evidence of the failure of private enterprise to meet the. demands of the Australian people for houses. It is also one of the basic features of Labour policy which the present Government has adopted. The housing situation has compelled the Government to acknowledge the failure of private capital and private enterprise to meet the needs of the people, and to concede the necessity for direct State aid in the provision of houses. The Government has even been obliged to accept such an extreme proposal as the rent subsidy scheme, provision for which is embodied in the original legislation. The act provides that a tenant shall pay rent accordins to his income and his family responsibilities. His rent is not related in any way to the law of supply and demand. The Government finds itself in a. curious position. On the one hand, it is continuing part of Labour’s socialist policy by granting £27,000,000 to the States for the construction of houses for the people, while, on the other hand, it is- pledged to maintain the system of private enterprise, and therefore indirectly to encourage individual exploitation.
The present economic situation is so chaotic that the private construction of moderate houses, of a moderate size, for mcn of moderate means has almost ceased. The Government therefore is compelled to implement Labour’s legislation and to come to the aid of the people. The Opposition does not oppose this bill because it represents the acceptance by the Governemnt of a good policy that was instituted by the- Chifley Labour Government in 1945. Again I assure the Minister that whenever the Government introduces a measure designed to brighten the outlook of the Australian people it will have the full co-operation of the Opposition.
– Senator Critchley has suggested that this Government finds itself in an, awkward position because, on the one hand, it is committed to the support of private enterprise, and, on the other, it is compelled to continue the Labour Government’s scheme of granting money to the States for the construction of houses. Does the honorable senator consider that we should repudiate a contract that has. been made between the Commonwealth and the States merely because it is not in accordance with the Government’s policy? This is a Government of high morality. This bill merely complies with the terms of an agreement which, as Senator Critchley has quite rightly pointed out, was made between the Commonwealth and the States while Labour w-as in office. The continuance of that agreement was an obligation upon the present Administration when it came to power. The figures cited in the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) show quite clearly that the Commonwealth has played its part in providing funds, but that the States have not done as much as they should have done. It is true that the scarcity of materials and labour has hampered the building of bornes, but the fact remains that, between 1949 and 1951, loans to the States have increased only from £17,000,000 to £21,000,000 a year. Obviously there has not been any great increase of building activity. The State authorities frequently allege that the Commonwealth is not playing its part under the agreement, but this small increase of funds has obviously been hardly sufficient to meet increased charges for materials and labour. There has been little, if any, increase of the rate of building.
Senator Critchley referred to the rental rebate system. I assure him that we on this side of the chamber have just as much concern for people in the lower income brackets as have honorable senators opposite. We believe that those people should not have to pay unduly high rents at any time. However, 1 should like to see the present agreement ended. Instead of the State authorities building houses, private enterprise should be given an opportunity to build them. The rental adjustment system could still operate by paying the necessary subsidy to private enterprise. By the subsidy I mean that if a tenant of private enterprise paid a rental of onefifth of his income, in accordance with the formula, as is the case with housing commission tenants, when that is less than the economic rent, private enterprice should receive the subsidy to the same extent as applies to the Housing Commission. By that moans we would overcome the difficulty that is facing private enterprise because of the pegging of rents, which is the greatest detriment at present to an increase of building activity. The method that I suggest would result in a lowering of costs, and increased speed of erection. Private enterprise is well able to do the job. The number of houses that are being built by the Housing Commission of New South Wales in accordance with the agreement is only a small proportion of the total number of houses that are being erected annually in that State. We certainly need more houses. An intake of 200,000 immigrants a year necessitates an additional 35,000 to 40,000 houses each year. The States could do a lot more. This Government is prepared to assist them to the limit, and it is deplorable that so few houses have been imported under the Commonwealth’s subsidy scheme. This Government has been much more liberal than the previous Labour Government. It provides a subsidy of £300 on each imported house, to cover freight and other costs. Although the Commonwealth undertook to pay that subsidy on up to 30,000 houses, only 2,066 houses have been imported under this scheme. The Commonwealth has played its part to the full, but the States have failed to rise to the occasion.
I do not consider that governments can compete with private enterprise in the matter of housing, which is a type of activity peculiarly suitable to private enterprise. Small builders have always contributed to the housing of our people. Their principal difficulty has been shortage of finance. I am glad that the Commonwealth has endeavoured to encourage the States to import houses, and thereby release labour for defence works. Furthermore, money expended outside Australia is deflationary, and the workers who would come to this country to erect the houses would be welcome. The Government should remove all shackles from private builders. The agreement should be recast. If a man imports a prefabricated house and erects it on a block of land he should receive the £300 Commonwealth subsidy on production of a certificate to that effect.
The large expenditure that is at present incurred by the State authorities in administrative costs should be diverted for the benefit of private enterprise. We are conscious of the necessity to provide additional, housing to encourage family life in our community, and have been at pains to urge greater efforts by the States in this connexion. I hope that the Government will continue to urge the States forward while this agreement exists, and that it will remove all fetters from private enterprise engaged in house building. I commend the Government for introducing this hill.
– I have the greatest sympathy for the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). It is indeed extraordinary that a prominent supporter of the Government should contend that house building should he handed over completely to private enterprise, in the face of the Government’s policy. Mr. Playford, the Liberal Premier of South Australia, is one of the most conservative Liberals in this country. Yet the South Australian Government has led the way in providing houses for the people. In that State the utmost co-operation exists between private enterprise and the South Australian Housing Trust in relation to the construction of houses. The original organization was established by a Labour government. Contracts for house building are let to private enterprise, and the Government provides the finance. A. similar scheme could, with advantage, be adopted by other States. Good substantial houses are being erected, although perhaps the rooms are a little small. Although that work is being supervised by a Liberal government, a Liberal supporter of the Australian Government says that the scheme should be abandoned and handed over to private enterprise !
In the past private enterprise has not been capable of building a sufficient number of houses for our people. One after another the State governments have introduced schemes to build houses to sell or let to the people. In every State there is now some housing authority. Many houses are constructed by the New South Wales Housing Commission, and also under the Rural Bank scheme. Similarly, government instrumentalities in both Victoria and Queensland are doing a good job. South Australian senators will remember the “ Thousand homes scheme “. It was originated so that the State Bank of South Australia should make money available to home-seekers, who, in turn, would make their own arrangements with contractors. However, as sufficient contractors were not forthcoming the State decided to establish its own authority to build homes. The magnificent housing scheme that is now operating in South Australia could be used as a model by any of the States.
This bill will ensure that finance shall be available for housing schemes. I hope that the Government will not accept the advice of Senator Tate that it should abandon schemes that are already in existence, and which are proving of immense benefit to the people of this country.
– The model housing scheme that is functioning in South Australia shows that the Liberal party will always meet a national emergency by appropriate means. The present shortage of housing is due in part to the war. The Government is doing all possible to provide finance to carry on the activities of the agencies that are building houses for the people. It is true to say that the majority of houses are built by private enterprise. In Tasmania about 25 per cent, of the houses are constructed by the Government and the remainder by private enterprise. I remind honorable senators that the Tasmanian Government has withdrawn from the agreement, and that it will not benefit from the provisions of this bill. I do not advocate the discontinuance of Government participation in housing projects. However, I point out that there is a great disparity between rentals that are computed on present-day costs of building and those of privately owned houses that were built in 1939 and 1940. Those who have put their savings into homes and who depend for their income upon fixed rentals are among the people who have been hit hardest by the inflationary trends which are evident at the present time. I urge the Government in due course to see to it that the provision of future funds in this respect is made upon a basis that will ensure justice for private owners with regard to the rents that are permitted to be charged. I agree with the statement of the Minister concerning the complete collapse of prices control in that connexion. By referring to the potato industry and the gas industry, he instanced very effectively the distortion that the system is creating in our economy. I instance its effect upon the provision of homes for the people, which is indeed ruinous. The rentals that landlords are entitled to charge should be brought more closely into line with 1951 costs and prices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st November (vide page 1448), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- When the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) introduced thi. bill he informed the Senate that its chief purpose is to increase the monetary benefits that are payable by way of compensation to Commonwealth employees or their dependants in cases of injury or death arising from their employment. When honorable senators on this side of the chamber heard the Minister use the word “ increase “, they received rather a shock. They thought that it would he impossible for a government, which is pledged to an anti-inflation scheme, to increase the monetary benefits that are payable under this legislation. They also thought that if the Government proposed to amend the rates it would be to decrease them, in order that that action might accord with its anti-inflation programme. The Senate was informed that the increases provided for in the bill have been calculated in the light of recent State legislation relating to workers’ compensation. That, also, was a somewhat astounding statement. Recently the Minister who introduced the bill stated that three of the States of the Commonwealth are inefficiently governed. Is the Opposition to take it that the Australian Government was obliged to survey the legislation of the six States of the Commonwealth in order to ascertain what those States have provided in the way of improved monetary benefits as compensation for employees who are injured in industry? Surely the Minister will not admit that he made a survey of the legislation that operates in the States which he claims are inefficiently governed !
Perhaps the introduction of this legislation should be regarded as an apology by the Government to its supporters. It is obvious that the money that will be needed to pay the increased benefits will be provided, in part, by the supporters of the Government. Another reason for the introduction of the legislation was given by the Minister. He stated that the Government wishes to increase the rates in order to make them accord more with the current cost of living. I ask him what government has been responsible for the present high cost of living. Although the present Government parties declared in 1949 that the cost of living would be reduced and the purchasing power of the £1 restored, nothing has been done to achieve those objectives. Yet at this stage in the life of the Government it proposes to increase certain rates because the high cost of living makes it necessary. I consider that the Government is solely to blame for the necessity to increase the rates on that ground.
– Which government?
– The present Australian Government. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) must be consistent. In 1949, the members of the Government parties promised that if they were returned to office they would reduce the cost of living and restore value to the £1. That promise was made deliberately. Yet in 1951, because of the high cost of living, the Government finds it necessary to increase certain rates of payment.
– Is the honorable senator opposing the passage of the bill ?
– Senator Guy will hear what I have to say about that in due course. At the moment I am endeavouring to show that increased payments are necessary as a direct result of the failure of the Government to honour its pledges to the people.
– Apparently the honorable senator believes that the legislation is not necessary.
– I shall deal with that matter later. I suggest that the Government does not believe in legislation of this kind, but because of certain circumstances, it has been forced to introduce this bill. The clamour for increased rates has been so great that the Government has had no option but to swallow its principles. It was shamed into the proposal to increase the rates by the more effective legislation of the States.
Every member of the Government believes wholeheartedly in the common law doctrine which previously governed workers’ compensation, and which applied until workers’ compensation legislation was introduced. The doctrine is to the effect that a servant, upon entering employment, sees and contemplates all of the risks that he may run and agrees that his wages shall cover such risks. It also means that he identifies himself with other servants who are engaged in’ the common employment, which means that if an injury occurs to a servant, through his own negligence, he has no remedy against his employer. In practice, the doctrine means that the wages paid to employees cover all the risks which they may be called upon to take in their employment. If, in carrying out their duties, another employee is injured, that employee also must be prepared to accept the fact that he undertook to take that risk on entering the employer’s service. It was not until pressure was applied by labour groups, through the Australian Labour party and other bodies, that proper compensation laws were enacted.
– This bill has nothing to do with common employment.
– I appreciate that. I am merely illustrating what the Government really believes in its own heart. If it wishes to be logical-
– The honorable senator should not speak about logic.
– I appreciate that Senator Henty is an expert on TransAustralia Airlines. It seems to me wholly illogical that the Government should be obliged to fix rates of compensation for its own employees who have been injured. All governments should be above reproach in that connexion. It should not be necessary for a government to introduce legislation for the purpose of binding and compelling itself to pay compensation benefits to its own employees. I admit that there should be a recognized scale of payments, but the Government should not bind itself by the making of laws.
The bill before the Senate certainly does not provide a. great deal of information about the previous operation of the legislation. It has been stated that the increases are necessary because of higher living costs, but I wish to explode the Government’s claim that the increases are sufficient. The rates were last revised in January, 1949, when the basic wage in Queensland was £6 2s. a week. I have taken the wage for Queensland because it happens to be the lowest in Australia, due to the operation of prices control in that State. To-day, the basis wage in Queensland is £9 5s., so that, although compensation rates have been increased by 50 per cent., they still do not restore the position that existed in 1949. I have no doubt that the intentions of the . Government were good, but it has failed to give effect to its intentions. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has admitted that inflation will become worse, so we may be sure that the cost of living will go on increasing for some time. Is it right that compensation rates should remain static while the cost of living continues to increase? There is a way out, and the Government should adopt it. I suggest in all seriousness that compensation rates should be related to the basic wage, and should move up and down in accordance with the variations of the basic wage. That system is already in operation in Queensland.
The bill provides for the payment of compensation to persons who are injured, or who contract occupational diseases, in the course of their employment, but no information has been given to us about the field of risk for which this provision had been made. No report has been issued giving the statistical information upon which the commissioner’s recommendations were based, so that we have no way of learning in which occupations there is the greatest risk of contracting industrial disease, and in which occupations there is the greatest risk of injury. It is estimated that the cost of the scheme will be £125,000, but we should not pass over the matter lightly because the amount of money is comparatively small. It is true that we are accustomed to dealing in millions, and that the attitude of the Government seems to be that any matter which does not involve the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds is hardly worth discussing.
This scheme applies only to Commonwealth employees, so that there should be little difficulty in compiling statistics to show the occupations in which employees run the greatest risk. I know that, during the last seven or eight yean, the field of risk has been considerably widened. For instance, the Commonwealth has embarked upon a building programme of its own, and workmen handling steel girders, angle steel members, concrete mixers, &c, run greater risk of injury than do men working on wooden buildings. The Commonwealth is also directly responsible for construction work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, where men are engaged on blasting operations, and in the use of heavy earth-moving equipment, when there must be an ever-present risk of injury. This scheme will also apply to men employed on defence projects. The greater the number employed, the greater will be the expenditure under the scheme.
In the schedule to the principal act there is mention of arsenic, phosphorous, lead, mercury and other mineral poisons, which may cause occupational disease among workers. The risk of injury or disease could be lessened, I have no doubt, by employing a male nurse for, say, every 500 workers, and a medical officer for every 1,000 workers. It would be their duty to attend to the health of employees. In the field of industrial diseases, medical officers would have to examine employees at frequent intervals. An employee may contract lead poisoning without being aware of it, and it is not necessary to go down into a mine at Broken Hill or Mount Isa. to do so. T have known youths to contract lead poisoning after working for three weeks at breaking up motor-car batteries, which, as honorable members know, consist largely of lead plates. No cure for lead poisoning has yet been discovered. The person who once contracts the complaint is ruined for life. It is even more important to protect workers from injury and disease than it is to compensate them once they have been injured or have become infected. Some Commonwealth employees are engaged in occupations in which they run the risk of contracting lead poisoning. The risk can be reduced by the application of proper safeguards, and by inducing employees to take proper precautions, lt is the duty of those in charge to see that the precautions are observed. Benzol, a cleaning liquid, is one of the most dangerous materials used in industry, and in some States its use is prohibited unless certain precautions are taken. Another occupational disease is “ chrome ulceration “, which may be contracted by persons using buffing instruments, as some Commonwealth employees are required to do. The damage is done by dust settling in the lungs. I remind honorable senators that the lungs of an adult male could, by stretching the cells and tissues, be made to cover an area as large as a tennis court. Probably, the lungs of some parliamentarians could be stretched over an area as large as a dairy-farm. It is easy to understand that the dust contained in free silica could, when embedded in the lungs, cause very great damage in a. short time. An examination was made of industries in one of the States a few years ago and it was found that 122 employees engaged in the foundries were suffering from silicosis. A further examination showed that 3 per cent, of that number were suffering from tuberculosis. The disease had proceeded first from the dust in the moulding shops, the dressing of the castings and other materials where free silica had been used in the form of moulding sand. The free silica had entered the lungs of the employees and silicosis had been contracted. From that a form of tuberculosis had developed. That should attract the attention of the Commonwealth Government towards the need to act to prevent that danger or to eliminate it entirely. The schedule also includes dermatitis produced by dust or caustic or corrosive liquids. A healthy employee may be at his work on one day without any sign of dermatitis on his body. The next day he may have dermatitis and the cause may never be found. I have known it to defeat an examination and experimentation by the medical profession. Men have used leather grinding machines and have contracted a form of determatitis which could not be cured and they have had to withdraw from industry entirely. During the war a spray was used to apply a priming coat to certain machines and wherever the spray landed on the person of the operators they contacted dermatitis. I have known clerks to contract it also so that it does not select any particular industry and does not discriminate between workers.
The schedule also includes compressed air illness, which results from employment as a diver or a caisson worker. The Government undertakes enterprises which involve workers in the risk of contracting that disease. It has to employ divers on occasions. Where workers work under compressed air, it is necessary for the contracting authority, in this case the Commonwealth Government, to have air cylinders into which the employees can be kept for a period under air pressure after their work. The pressure is then released gradually.
The Government is committed to an expenditure of £125,000. I suggest in all seriousness that it should set up in the office of the commissioner an industrial hygiene section, in which medical officers who are experienced in industrial hygiene would be employed. The salary of a doctor employed in that capacity would be from £1,500 to £2,000 a year, and that would be a mere bagatelle against the total cost to the Government of payment of these benefits. If that were done, the medical officers would keep in touch with the employees engaged in the industries and the sections of industries where the dangers existed. They could see that appropriate provision was made for the elimination of all dangers leading to those illnesses.
I have referred to the monetary benefits being out of all proportion to the existing basic wage and to the absence of any provision to relate them to the basic wage. I suggest that the Government should give consideration to that point.
My second suggestion is that an employee who receives a lump sum payment for an injury specified in the third schedule and who because of such injury is subsequently employed in work of a lower status or classification shall be paid in accordance with the current rate of wage applicable to the work in which he was employed at the date of the injury.
In some cases an employee who is an unmarried worker may be killed outright.
The Commissioner is not required under the existing legislation to make any payment to the parent of the person concerned although the parent may be entirely or partially dependent on him. I suggest that power should be given to the Commissioner so that on the death of an employee he may pay to the parent of the employee an amount not exceeding the maximum provided in the schedule as the commissioner shall, in all the circumstances, deem reasonable. Such a payment would be left to the discretion of the .commissioner who could make a full review of the facts and the financial circumstances of the parent. My fourth suggestion is that a new clause be added to provide that where personal injury arising out of or in the course of employment is suffered by an employee, payment shall be made to him for the day the injury is sustained at the rate of pay he would have earned that day had the injury not occurred. I do not expect that suggestion to be resisted to any great extent. I know that one clay’s pay to some persons is a very small amount but to persons employed in industry who are dependent on their wages entirely for their living one day’s pay is a large amount.
I submit these suggestions to the Senate in all seriousness. The Government should be beyond reproach in legislation of this nature. It should not have to introduce certain legislation to do certain things or give employees engaged by it certain rights. The Government should give a lead in trying to eliminate or prevent industrial injuries. In that respect, from what I have noticed, the Government is rather careless in protecting the welfare of the employees and safeguarding their health. If honorable senators go to the eastern side of Parliament House, they will find an untidy array of empty paint tins strewn about, although the wall nearby has been painted for several, weeks. Those tins are not a grave danger, but they do present some danger to people who are walk ing in that area. A wind could blow them about and an honorable senator could trip over one of them and break an arm or a leg. I take that as a symbol of the Government’s carelessness. There are .21 Ministers in this Parliament and at least one of them should have seen how carelessly those tins were thrown about. If honorable senators go further around the building, as I do often because of the fondness of somebody for locking doors, they will find a public footpath there on which gravel and sand is stacked. At night, when there is no moon and no light, it can be very dangerous.
– Get the beer bottles removed, too.
– If the honorable senator has left his beer bottles about it is his affair and not mine. The Government can do a lot in industry which would save it from spending large sums on benefits. I have noticed that rubbish is left at the rear of Parliament House. On the public thoroughfares are to be found lengths of piping strewn about, and there are second-hand taps there, also, which are of some value. Surely it is somebody’s responsibility to have these things removed. The engineroom in Parliament House is another illustration of the carelessness of the Government in respect to the health of its employees. It is the worst laid-out engineroom that I have ever seen. Pour boilers are installed and above the gauges there are four weak lights shining. In the rest of the building fluorescent lighting is installed.
Sitting suspended from 5.^5 to 8 p.m.
– I was very interested and entertained by Senator Benn’s recollections. I shall leave the specific suggestions he made for the consideration of the Minister, because I have not the detailed knowledge necessary to reply to them. We should be recalled to some sense of proportion. I do not agree with the honorable senator that in this matter it is the duty of the Australian Government to be the exemplar of the State governments or of private individuals. This bill was introduced to meet a specific obligation which the Commonwealth owes to those of its employees who happen to be injured while in its service. I cannot understand Senator Benn’s contention that this is not a matter of law. If the Commonwealth were untrammelled in law I do not know how the Treasurer could decide what compensation should be paid to Commonwealth employees who had suffered injury in its service. The bill is necessary merely to amend laws that have been made in the past. I do not wish to traverse the principles upon which those laws were founded. They may or may not be sound. I accept the principle that, in general, they comply with public opinion and the opinion of this Parliament.
The purpose of this bill is simply to bring the compensation granted to injured employees of the Commonwealth into line with that granted under State laws. This is not a matter in which the Commonwealth is called upon to give a lead to the States. Indeed, the States are better judges than is the Commonwealth of what constitutes appropriate compensation. In this measure we have simply fallen into line with them.
On the question of the adequacy of the compensation provided, it is sufficient for me to say in a second-reading speech that it is to be increased by 50 per cent. This bill makes provision to grant to a person who has been injured compensation that will make that injury less galling and trying to him and enable him in some degree to overcome the difficulty caused by it. I cannot accept the principle that compensation must be tied to the basic wage. I do not dismiss that contention entirely - it should be given careful consideration - but if that principle is applied in this bill it should be applied to other payments made by the Commonwealth, such as pensions. I do not think that, either on this side or on the other side of the Senate, there has ever been a general acceptance of the principle that moneys paid by the Government for compensation, or for any other purpose, should be related to the basic wage, particularly at a time when the whole process of the fixation of the basic wage is under criticism. It is sufficient justification of the bill to say that it makes some contribution to enable persons who have suffered injury and require compensation to meet the extra costs imposed upon them as the result of inflation.
We should lay down as a general principle - and this is something that we have to think of when we consider all payments made by a welfare state - that it is not possible for the State to make life completely safe and easy for members of the community, nor, indeed, should the State attempt to do so. Every individual must face the dangers, difficulties and hazards of life as best he may. It is quite a sound principle that the amount of compensation granted should be less than the injured person would have earned had he been capable of earning. It is quite wrong to say that because a man could have earned a certain amount of money, the compensation awarded to him must equal that amount. If the compensation assists him to weather the storms of life, and if it is an amount that the State can afford to pay, that is all we have the right to ask for.
One or two remarks made by Senator Benn need to be answered. One was his extraordinary statement that this Government is responsible for inflation and that therefore it should include in every bill of this kind benefits that will enable the recipient to meet the full hazards that follow from inflation. This Government is not responsible for inflation. I shall not pretend that it has done everything that it could do to meet the problem of inflation. I have my own opinions about various things that it could and should do, and possibly will do in the future to meet that problem. Inflation is a world-wide phenomenon for which no government is responsible. Many of the factors that are causing prices to rise steadily are completely beyond the control of this Government, and would continue to be beyond its control even if it were a dictatorial government. Considering the limited powers of the Commonwealth it is utterly absurd for the honorable senator to charge it with responsibility for inflation. I know that that sort of charge is frequently made on the hustings. We all make statements during election campaigns that will not. bear close analysis, but in this Senate, when we are seriously discussing the principles of a hill of this kind, we should rise above that ,level. In general, Senator Benn did so. I liked the general ;tone of his speech, but
I thought he made a sad lapse when he accused the Government of being completely responsible for inflation. Honorable senators opposite may criticize the Government as much as they like; but they must admit that it can control inflation only in certain ways and by certain means, some of which are beyond its constitutional powers. Therefore it cannot be charged with full responsibily for inflation. In any event that argument is not relevant to the bill.
Senator Benn claimed to have read the mind of the Government and of every honorable senator on this side of the chamber. In that respect he claimed a power that is superhuman. At least it was an attempt to compete with the Piddingtons. I do not pretend to know what is in Senator Benn’s mind. Indeed, there are occasions when I am not quite sure what is in my own mind; but I am quite sure on the point that the benefits granted by the existing compensation legislation should not in any way be curtailed. This bill fully accepts the principles of compensation laid down in the earlier legislation and it merely increases the benefits or payments made to injured persons in order to relate them more closely to the- present purchasing power of the £1.
That, I think, almost completes anything that one need say in a secondreading speech on this bill. Other matters might well be left until we reach the committee stage when the suggestions made by Senator Benn and other honorable senators should be appropriately considered. Before I resume my seat may I say that it is the clear duty of this Government not to increase public expenditure more than is absolutely necessary. The bill takes a reasonable view of what should be granted to injured employees by way of compensation. It does nut attempt to hand out largesse. It simply states that the Commonwealth has certain responsibilities to its employees and that those responsibilities .should be fully discharged, in the light not of the conditions of the past but of the present, and after due consideration has been given to all the burdens that the ordinary person has to bear.
Question : resolv.ed in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the amendment proposed to be inserted in section 9a of the act. I am strongly opposed to the whole of the provisions of that most extraordinary section which was inserted in the legislation by the Chifley Government. The section reads - 9a. - (1.) Where personal injury hy accidentis caused to an employee while he is travelling to or from -
Sub-section (2.) defines the term “travelling “ in this way -
In this section “ travelling” means travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey and does not include travelling during or after any substantial interruption of the journey or any substantial deviation from the route made for a reason unconnected with the employee’s employment, attendance at the school or obtaining the certificate, treatment or compensation, as thecase may be:
The section contains a proviso that the Commissioner for Employees’ compensation may, at his discretion, dispense with that requirement. The bill before us submits the simple proposition - I use the term “ simple “ with some emphasis - that the words “ place of “ in sub-section (1.) be deleted. If this bill be passed that extraordinary provision will enable compensation benefits to be extended not merely to an employee whose injury arises out of and in the course of his employment, which is a fundamental principle of the legislation, but also to an employee who is injured while travelling to and from his employment. An employee of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-
Electric Authority who visited Brisbane to attend a football match and was injured at some place between Brisbane and the place where he is employed will be entitled to compensation under the provisions of this legislation. An employee living in circumstances of some dubiety who encountered the rather irritated spouse of his lady friend on the way to or from his work and was struck down will also be entitled to compensation for any injury sustainedas the result of the encounter. The point about this extraordinary provision is that it does not differentiate between an employee who travels directly to and from his place of employment and an employee who has a purpose to go to or return from his employment but does not do so by the most direct route. The legislation merely provides that compensation shall be payable provided the employee does not make a substantial deviation during the course of his journey to or from his employment or provided no substantial interruption has been made in such journey. I understand that the purpose of the amendment is to exclude the Commonwealth from liability in the case of an employee who visits his place of employment during ordinary working hours and subsequently goes home and returns again to his place of employment to recover his pipe or some other personal article, or for any other purpose, who is injured during the course of that visit. Apparently it is thought that if we limit his right to compensation during travel to or from his employment, as distinct from his “place of employment “, we shall escape from payment of compensation in the circumstances that I have outlined. Even conceding that, for the moment, the employee will still be given the right to compensation for iniury suffered in the course of, say, a trip from the Snowy Mountains to the Melbourne Cup and back. It is not true to say that this extraordinary provision is in all State compensation legislation. The question is one on which the Labour party has been most active for the last five years, and while Labour was in office in this Parliament it succeeded in placing such a provision on the statute-book. It is a vicious provision which will be made more ambiguous and dangerous by the omission of the words “ place of “ because locality is the very substance of the section. The amendment represents an extension of the compensation provisions relating to actual physical travelling, and travelling must mean moving from one place to another. If the existbig provision is to be amended at all, it should be amended by using the words “ travelling to and from his place of employment, for the purposes of his employment”, which, I submit, is the real intention of the proposal that we are now considering. Personally, I should like clause 4 to state “ Section 9a of the Principal Act is repealed “.
– Senator Wright’s remarks are rather extraordinary because the principle that is acknowledged in this legislation has been embodied in measures of this kind for a long time.
– Not in all States.
– It is embodied in the Queensland legislation, and Queensland is one of the States that pioneered workers’ compensation as we know it in the British Commonwealth. I agree that physical travel is the aspect that is contemplated in the whole of section 9a, but Senator Wright seems to be contemplating extraordinary circumstances when he mentions an employee going back to his place of employment for his pipe or for some other purpose not associated with his work. Sub-section (2.) of section 9 a provides -
In this section, “travelling” means travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey and does not include travelling during ot after any substantial interruption of the journey or any substantial deviation from the route made for a reason unconnected with the employee’s employment.
It appears to me that, in that sub-section, the statute excludes in specific terms the possibility contemplated by Senator Wright of a person travelling to Brisbane to see a test match and then returning to his place of employment. I should say that the aspect of physical travel, and the question of location which are specifically dealt with by the inclusion of the words “ place of “, will not he lost sight of by the exclusion of those words. Because the traditionally accepted principle remains substantially undisturbed, the section should not be altered as proposed by Senator Wright.
.- Senator Wright’s objection is worthy of serious consideration. As I said in my second-reading speech, I do not profess to understand all the intricacies of compensation legislation, but if abuse can be prevented by clarifying the wording of such legislation, we should have no hesitation in agreeing to such classification. It is generally accepted now that an employee who is injured while travelling from his residence to his place of employment or returning to his home should be compensated. We are all agreed on that, but if the possibility of abuse can be eliminated by th& use of words such as “ while he is travelling from his home to his place of employment for the purposes of his employ ment “ perhaps Senator Wright and the Parliamentary Draftsman should get together on the problem. I should not like to see a division of opinion on this measure, but I believe that it should be. so framed as to give effect to the purposes of the act. We all know that compensation legislation can be abused by making minor injuries appear to be worse than they really are. I seriously believe that Senator Wright’s objection should be carefully noted by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and an attempt made to so word the provision that the possibility of fraud or imposition will be excluded.
– Senator McCallum expressed words of wisdom when he said that Senator Wright’s suggestion should be referred to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) so that full consideration may be given to it. So far, only portion of section 9a has been dealt with. I should like to deal with the remainder of it. Senator Byrne quoted sub-section (2.). There is a proviso to that sub-section which reads -
Provided that the Commissioner may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, accept liability, if he considers that in the circumstances of any particular case the nature, extent, degree and content of the risk of accident was not materially changed or increased by reason only of any such interruption or deviation.
The facts that form the foundation of section 9a are clear. Employees do not normally reside at their place of employment and it is necessary for them to travel to and from their jobs. The risk of injury to an employee while so travelling has to be shared by the employer. As I stated this afternoon, we are considering a purely Commonwealth scheme. It is not a contributory scheme. Therefore, it differs entirely from State schemes under which premiums have to be paid by employers. I know of a case in which an employee called at an hotel for a drink on his way home from his work. That was his usual practice. After he had had his drink he mounted his bicycle and proceeded home. Before he reached his home he was injured by a motor vehicle. His claim for compensation was rejected. He appealed to an industrial magistrate who held quite sensibly that the employee’s journey from his place of employment to his home had not been interrupted because the employee had been merely following his usual practice. He had not become drunk nor had he contributed in any way to the accident. I believe that the whole of section 9a is sensible and necessary. Senator Wright’s suggestion rather implies a harshness which I am sure he does not intend. His claim that an employee living in the Snowy Mountains area could go to a test match in Brisbane and still be eligible for workers’ compensation was rather exaggerated. The power of the court enters into the matter.
– Not at all. The honorable senator has misread the section. The power of the court is only to extend the provisions of sub-section (2.).
– That is so. I am largely guided by the experience over a number of years of the working of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and other acts containing provisions similar to those of section 9a.
– Senator Benn has suggested that my approach to this matter is harsh. Nothing could be further from my mind. I am concerned only with a matter of principle. I rise now to point out that the original act provided only for the pavment of compensation to a person injured in an accident arising out of, or in the course of his employment, but not necessarily at the employer’s place of business. Since then the provisions of the legislation have been extended to cover injuries suffered by an employee while travelling to or from his employment when his employer has no opportunity to safeguard him from risks, and has no control over his behaviour. Those matters are germane to the very principles underlying this legislation, and that is why I bring them to the notice of the Senate.
– The clause is a recognition of the social development that has taken place in this country. The view has gone that in towns and cities employees could live reasonably close to their employment, and, in any event, could arrive at their place of employment reasonably quickly after leaving home. In Sydney and Melbourne workers have to travel for perhaps more than an hour, by two or three means of public transport, in order to reach their place of employment, and before they can be of use to their employers. I agree that in that period of travel the employer has no physical opportunity to provide protection and safeguards for the employee. But Senator Wright is only prepared to canvass the possibility that an employee might be the transgressor, might depart from his usual path to partake of a few glasses of beer. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the employee might be knocked down by a motor car driven by the manager of his own firm who, on his part, might have imbibed unduly. There are always alternative possibilities. There is no reason why the whole obligation should he on the employee. An equal obligation should rest on the employer. I concede that to some extent the employer is not given full opportunity to protect an employee, but that is no reason why coverage should not be given.
– I could not permit the vacuous remarks of Senator Byrne to pass without some stricture. The very suggestion that an employee who was run down by his employer who had partaken of liquor to excess would thereby come within the provisions of the bill is just too superficial for words. In such an event, under thu common law of England that existed long before the innovators and amateurs of modern social justice were ever dreamed of, the employee has a right to compensation from the purse of his employer, unrestricted by the means employed in the bill before us. He would be entitled to full compensation if he suffered an acute disability as a result of the personal negligence of his employer. Therefore the red herring that has been drawn across the trail by Senator Byrne has been completely ineffective. I merely “ scotch “ the most uninformed suggestion of Senator Byrne, Obviously an action for civil liability for unlimited compensation would lie if an employer were alleged to be guilty of personal negligence.
The honorable senator’s assumption is made without knowledge. I very much doubt whether in any State legislation that has incorporated travelling extinction, it has not been left to the discretion of the tribunal awarding compensation to decide whether an employee is entitled to compensation irrespective of where he has come from or where he is going whether on his way to or from his place of employment. I do not really think that this is a matter that deserves our consideration.
The bill bristles with anomalies. I shall take the earliest opportunity to submit a full criticism of the measure to the Government. Paragraph (1a.) of section 12 of the principal act reads -
Upon payment of an amount under this section the employee shall not be entitled to any payment in accordance with . . . but the amount payable under this section shall not be subject to any deduction in respect of any amount previously paid to the employee in accordance with either of those subparagraphs.
– Order! The honorable senator is out of order in discussing the principal act except insofar as it is proposed, in the bill, to amend it.
– I could attach my remarks to any clause of the bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.So long as the honorable senator connects his remarks with the bill under discussion, he will be in order.
– Clause 5 seeks to amend section 11 of the principal act by substituting the words “ medical treatment “ for the words “ medical, surgical or hospital treatment “. That is one of the deductions specified to be made by paragraph (1a.) of section 12 of the principal act. I want to direct the attention of the Senate to the meaning of that provision, in order that we may be aware of the full meaning of section 11 of the principal act which is proposed to be amended by clause 5. I shall explain what I mean in more simple language. When the legislation was framed originally it provided for a payment in respect of death, and also for periodical payments in respect of injury, to the workman or his dependants. About 20 or 30 years ago an alternative series of benefits was incorporated. The workman was then given the’ option of accepting periodical payments during his period of incapacity, or a lump sum payment for a particular injury. The Third Schedule to the principal act provides that if an employee should lose his right forearm he would be entitled to only a lump sum payment of £1,000. If nine months elapsed from the date of the injury to the time of amputation, he would receive compensation of £6 a week during that period. On the other hand, if his right forearm were amputated on the day of the accident he would be paid only £1,000. There is no justice in that provision. It should be reconsidered in due course.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th November (vide page 1602), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this bill, and does not desire to delay its passage. However, there are one or two aspects of the matter that I think the Government should keep constantly in mind. All political parties agree that the Commonwealth should provide money for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Since the problems of land settlement have become evident it has appeared that the degree of co-operation between the State governments and the Australian Government has not been all that could be desired. One often reads in the newspapers reports of complaints concerning delays in the settlement of ex-servicemen on land which has been approved for the purpose after mature consideration by the various State governments. I have been concerned for several years at the number of instances in which the Australian Government is blamed for such delays. The South Australian Government, in its wisdom, has set up an advisory or inspection committee which is designed to deal specifically with lands that are considered suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen and which have been offered to the State government for purchase. Throughout the years many differences of opinion have occurred between that committee and the South Australian Government. I am 110 t sure of the position in other States of the Commonwealth, but I understand that difficulties of a similar kind have arisen, especially in New South Wales. The point that I wish to make is that the Commonwealth Parliament is unanimous that there should be no delay in the provision of funds to enable ex-servicemen to procure blocks of land and to develop them as quickly as possible. Although this Government provides the money for that purpose, protracted delays occur in settling ex-servicemen on the land, and it is then accused of being responsible for those delays. I suggest that should it be wrongly accused in future, it should take immediate steps by means of adequate publicity, to point out to the people of Australia that it is not responsible. From my experience of South Australian land settlement of ex-servicemen, it is apparent that 90 per cent, of the delays that occur are due to happenings within that State. I am glad that Senator Pearson has now arrived in the chamber, because I am sure that he will support my statements. Although the Government of South Australia has put forward every effort to speed up the purchase of suitable land, difficulties arise continually because of differences of opinion within the special committee that has been established.
The Opposition has no desire to delay the passage of this bill. I assure the Minister in charge of the measure of the co-operation of the Opposition in the passage of all legislation that is designed for the advancement of the country. I also invite him, with all the sincerity at my command, not to lose hope of cooperation from every member of the Opposition on legislation such as this.
Senator REID (New South Wales) [8.4SJ. - In supporting the bill before the Senate, I wish to make some observations which I think should be made in connexion with land settlement of exservicemen, particularly in New South Wales. There has been a good deal of discussion in reference to such settlement in that State during past years, and much discontent has been displayed concerning the methods adopted by the New South Wales Government for the resumption of estates for that purpose. The Government of New South Wales persists in the practice of resuming properties at 1942 values.
– That is not true.
– The honorable senator should wait until I have finished what I am about to say. If New South Wales land owners do not immediately acquiesce in the acceptance of 1942 values, but agree to compromise, they are informed that if they behave themselves they will be paid an increase of 15 per cent, on 1942 values. Actually, the position in that State is that a pistol is held at the head of a land owner whose property is to be resumed, and he is threatened that the trigger will be pulled if he does not agree forthwith to the proposal of the Government. The New South Wales Minister for Lands has claimed that the Australian Government does not bear its full share of the responsibility for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in that State. The responsibility for the actual acquisition of estates in New South Wales was assumed hy that State at its own request. After the original legislation had been enacted, a conference of representatives of the States was held to disCUSS war service- land settlement. The States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland decided that they would accept full responsibility for the acquisition of and payment for estates. The remaining three States decided to act as agents for the Australian Government in that connexion.
The position in New South Wales amounts, in effect, to confiscation. From time to time the Australian Government has stated that it desires the New South Wales Government to come into line with the governments of other States and to acquire land for settlement of exservicemen on just terms.
– What are the other States doing?
– Victoria and Queensland have agreed to do so. Victoria has been acquiring land on just terms for some time. Until recently the Queensland Government acquired properties on the basis of 1942 values, but when representations were made to it by the Australian Government it agreed to the proposition that estates should be acquired on just terms.
– What does the honorable senator consider to be just terms ?
– Just prices for land that is to be resumed.
– Who is to decide what is a just price?
– The State land and valuation courts, if necessary. The Australian Government is concerned that land settlement should not be discontinued. It refutes the assertion of the New South Wales Minister for Lands that it requires ex-servicemen to shoulder an unjust and unfair price which will saddle them with a financial burden for many years and which will not permit them to make good in the future. That assertion is not correct.
In making representations to the governments of the States that, they should acquire land on just terms, the Australian Government went so far as to say to the governments of New Soil tl Wales. Victoria and Queensland, “ We are prepared to meet you on the question of the difference between 1942 values and just terms, and to pay compensation on a 50-50 basis “. In my opinion, nothing could be fairer than that.
Since the loan allocations were made for the current financial year, the Now South Wales Minister for Lands has stated that because the Australian Government has refused New South Wales sufficient loan moneys for its general purposes, the government of that State will be forced definitely to restrict war service land settlement during the coming year. As I stated during the debate on the budget, the loan money that has been made available for the general purposes of the New South Wales Government is actually more than the Premier of New South Wales expected to receive. However, because the New South Wales Government did not get its own way at the Australian Loan Council meeting, it is now trying to place on the Australian Government the full responsibility for land settlement of ex-servicemen, in addition to responsibility for many other developmental schemes. I contend that the amount of money which has been allocated is reasonable. If the New South Wales Government sincerely wishes to promote land settlement of ex-servicemen it should give that matter number one priority when allocating loan moneys. However, if the distribution of New South Wales loan funds is examined, it will be found that the greater proportion of the money has been allocated to the County of Cumberland and the County of Northumberland.
The Australian Government is prepared to do the fair thing. It refutes the statement that has been made by the New South Wales Minister for Lands to the effect that it has been negligent of its responsibility to New South Wales settlers. This Government was prepared to accept responsibility for land settlement schemes to be carried out by the States, but certain State governments had other ideas.
The system of land resumption that has been adopted in New South Wales is unfair. Some estates have been resumed at 1942 values, while others have been resumed at 1942 values plus 15 per cent. In fact, land has been resumed at £4 18s. an acre when the just price was between £10 and £11 an acre. Other estates have been resumed at £5 an acre, although the legitimate price of similar land has been £12 an acre. Honorable senators may have seen a recent press report concerning an estate in the Deniliquin district. The original owner of that estate had taken it up as a lad many years ago. He carried on the running of the property under the difficult conditions that operated in the Wacool area 70 or 80 years ago, and pioneered the country. He made it freehold. When he died he left it to his family, in trust for his wife during her lifetime. His two sons had worked with him until he died, and they then took over the management of the property. In 1945 the New South Wales Government proclaimed that it was likely to be resumed. In 1949 the owner was informed that the State Government intended to resume the property for the settlement of ex-servicemen. A price was then discussed. The Government offered him £4 10s. an acre, although I understand that a reasonable price for the property would have been at least £10 an acre. Because the two sons who were managing the estate were of the opinion that they were being unfairly dealt with, they decided to negotiate. They were then informed that they would have to vacate the property by January, 1950. By April, 1950, they had not received satisfaction, although they had been informed in 1949 that the price would be £4 10s. an acre. More than two years from the time when they were given notice to vacate, they were turned out and have not yet received a penny. One son, in trying to make a way for himself, paid a deposit on another property., The family estate was resumed at £4 12s. an acre, and the owners were left without any land, which was most unfair. I know that the Government of New South Wales has been playing up to certain sections at the expense of those whom it would describe as the big squatters, but justice should be done to all sections of the community. This has now been recognized, and it is provided that the Commonwealth may advance 50 per cent, of the compensation paid to land-owners in order to remedy injustices.
– The importance of putting ex-servicemen on to the land, and of increasing primary production, cannot be overemphasized. Primary production is declining. Whether the reason is that prices control has destroyed incentive I. do not know, but it should not be overlooked that when farmers are receivingvery high prices for their products there is a tendency for them not to exert themselves so much, with the result that they produce less. Of course, that is only human nature. The acreage under wheat has declined by 40 per cent., and the position for Australia would be very serious should there be a drought. The Labour Government did everything it could to assist production, and the present Government raised a loan of 100,000,000 dollars in the United States of America, of which 29,000,000 dollars was immediately expended on the purchase of tractors and agricultural machinery. Nevertheless, primary production is less now that it was before. It may be that when a man gets a bit old, and has made his money, he does not want to work so hard.
– By one who knows !
– Everybody knows it. The remedy is to put on the land young men with their future before them, men who are prepared to work hard in order to establish themselves. In spite of what has been said, the fact remains that New South Wales has done a better job in the way of settling exservicemen on the land than has been done anywhere else in Australia.
– Nonsense! Victoria has a better record.
– Honorable senators from other States will be at liberty to tell us what has been done in their States. Some injustice may have been done to the owners of land that has been resumed. It is only natural that a man who has improved his property should object to its being taken away from him. When a proclamation is made stating that a certain property is to be resumed, it is not astonishing that the owner should resist, but it is in the national interest that his resistance should be broken down, and the land made available to ex-servicemen. One of our greatest economic misfortune’s is the decline of primary production, and the position isbecoming worse. It is the responsibility of land-holders to cultivate their land, and to sow and reap their crops. We have made available to farmers 29,000,000 dollars’ worth of equipment to help them to produce more.
– How much of that equipment has been delivered?
– I should say that most of it has been delivered. At any rate, the Government has paid for it, and should see that the machinery is delivered. I agree with the Premier of New South Wales that if farmers will not farm their land, it is time that some one was put on the land who would farm it.
– Now we know where the honorable senator stands.
– I have never made any secret of my belief that there is an obligation on farmers to do their best to produce from the land as much as it is capable of producing. Broad acres are Australia’s greatest asset. If the occupiers will not farm the land properly they should allow some one else to do it. Unless primary production is increased, and if our population continues to grow at the present rate, we shall be importing food by 1960 instead of exporting it. What sort of defence effort could we make if we were unable to produce food for our allies in time of war ? As I have said, the Government of New South Wales has put more exservicemen on the land than has any other State. There may be some ground for criticism, but the policy of the New South Wales Government has been justified by results. Increased primary production is necessary now, and will be even more important in the days to come. I support the bill, because I believe that everything possible should be done to put more ex-servicemen on the land. Notwithstanding the development of secondary industry, the future prosperity of Australia depends oil the wealth that can be produced from the land, and on the willingness of our people to produce it.
– Honorable senators must have been astonished at some of the remarks of Senator Armstrong, and I am sure that the farmers of Australia, if they could have heard them, would have violently disagreed with them. Irrespective of our political persuasions, we all regret thedecline of primary production, but I donot agree with Senator Armstrong as to the reasons for that decline. As one who knows something of primary production, I say that no one is doing a better job in Australia to-day than are the primary producers. During and since the war, they have carried on under very serious handicaps. They are short of labour and machinery for the sowing and harvesting of their crops. They are also short of fencing material, -without which land cannot be farmed to the best advantage. The shortage of labour is the greatest difficulty, and one of the reasons for the shortage is that, since the introduction of the 40-hour week, the cities have become more attractive to workers. Senator Armstrong may have been sincere in what he said, but he was mistaken. If all sections of the Australian people faced their responsibilities as well as the farmers are doing, most of our national problems would be solved, and the farmers would have fewer difficulties to contend with.
I rose primarily to express my appreciation of the way in which the War Service Land Settlement Agreement has worked, particularly in what are known as the agent States - South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. At first, when the agreement was being discussed in the South Australian Parliament, I was sceptical of its success, because I thought there would be too much delay and too many disagreements between the Commonwealth and the States on the subject of land values, but I am pleased to admit that I was wrong. There have been few, if any, serious delays or disagreements, and the scheme has worked very successfully.
I do not agree with Senator Armstrong that the best results under the land settlement scheme have been achieved in New South Wales. Although the figures do not show it, I believe that the greatest amount of real works has been done in South Australia. When I say real work I mean work that has been done in developing virgin country which previously ran a few scrub sheep and rabbits. South
Australia set out under this agreement to develop country of that nature and has done so with remarkable success. In the south-east of South Australia, at EightMile Creek, and further up where huge projects are contemplated and on the Eyre Peninsula where I have lived for many years, there are transformations which, I believe, surpass those in any other State of the Commonwealth. South Australia leads the way in real work in the development of new areas for soldier settlers. A statement circulated among senators by the Repatriation Department set out the number of persons settled on the land. It is very illuminating but the figures are not a true guide in every instance. I understand from the Minister for Lands in South Australia that the figures that he shows give the number of men actually settled on the land. They are men who were given their blocks after they were developed and brought to a stage of production with work done at the instance of the Government. Not until the blocks have been brought to that stage of development that a living can be made is the State credited with the settlement of the men. Therefore the figures credited to South Australia reveal a set of circumstances which are not comparable with those put forward to the credit of other States.
– The fact that a man works on the land and develops it does not mean that the Government gets credit for it until development is completed.
– I agree with the honorable senator from my own State (Senator O’Flaherty). He knows that it takes some years to develop this land and not until the land is at the stage of production which will enable the settler to make a living is the State credited with having settled him. When honorable senators look through the figures submitted by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) it is as well to remember that. It is a real pleasure for any one who visits South Australia to see the areas that have been developed there from virgin scrub to good pasture land. New homes have been built on them, fences have been erected and the settlers with their wives and families are living in comfort with every prospect of obtaining a good livelihood in the future. A.« one who has been associated with some of these schemes, I am thrilled to see these men given their chance. I have mentioned several areas but there are others also. Great development is taking place on Kangaroo Island, which was regarded as a place of little consequence in years gone by. Settlement has been attempted there by the hard way but the land did not receive the best treatment until the South Australian Government set to work to develop large areas under the soldier-settlement scheme.
– Government enterprise !
– In this case ii is Government enterprise. We should be proud of it in the circumstances. The files of South Australian Ilansard will reveal that I said years ago that settlement of this class of virgin country should be undertaken by the Government, and that it should be developed on a broad scale. If a private person tried to develop it, he would have to over-capitalize hie holding, especially in these days, to get the plant to clear his land.
– What about thi developmental work undertaken by the Australian Mutual Provident Society?
– In the southeast portion qf the State, land which was regarded as desert area, and was in fact called the Ninety Mile Desert, has been leased to the Australian Mutual Provident Society by the South Australian Lands Department. The society has undertaken the task of developing large tracts of country which were formerly regarded as worthless. I give full marks to the Australian Mutual Provident Society for its enterprise. That organization will give first preference to returned soldiers when the land is developed. It is going about its work in the right way and has obtained the advice of able men who should make a success of it.
Along the Murray River irrigation settlement is also being undertaken. The South Australian Government does not take credit for having settled men on these areas until they reach a certain stage and the men can work the irrigation blocks themselves. I join issue with Senator Armstrong when he suggests that New South Wales has done more than any other State in this direction. I rather think that in New South Wales, as soon as the land is allotted, the settler has to take responsibility and the State takes the credit. It is not so in South Australia.
A wise provision has been incorporated in the war service land settlement agreement. That is the clause which sets out that regard must be had not only to the cost of bringing land to a certain stage of production at the time of letting the block, but also to its productive value at the time of settlement. If there is any difference in the value at the time the land is allotted, writing down shall occur at that stage. That provides that if costs of production have proved to bc excessive or above the productive value of the land at the time of allotment the soldier settler is not to be saddled with that burden. After the first world war, soldier settlers went to the Murray River country and incurred heavy burdens. Many years later the values were written down by many millions of pounds only after the soldier settlers had worn themselves out, broken their hearts and lost their money. I was overjoyed to find that that mistake has been avoided from the beginning under this agreement. There is no chance of the returned soldiers being saddled with that expensive burden under this scheme. I think the agreement was very wise, although I am thankful to say that to my knowledge resort has not had to be made to that provision in South Australia because the cost of developing the land has been kept within reasonable limits. Costs have not got to the stage where they are beyond the productive value of blocks at the time ofsettlement. I wish to record my hearty support of this bill.
. -There are two matters to whirh I wish to draw attention in this agreement asit affects the agent States. They are the basis of valuation of land and the tenure of land allotted to the soldier. I think that honorable senators should ponder on this matter, not only in relation to war service land settlement but also in regard to the machinations of this Government’s predecessors, which resulted in. the soldiers’ tenure being placed on a perpetual leasehold basis. I have the report published by the Commonwealth Housing Commission and dated the 25th August, 194.4, which preceded the introduction of this legislation by about eleven months. That commission, consisting of Mr. L. P. O’Connor, Mr. J. S. Gawler, Mr. C. V. Howard, Mrs. M. M. Ryan, and Mr. A. V. Thompson, issued a report dealing with the Commonwealth’s postwar reconstruction proposals for housing, in which it said -
This commission is also of the opinion that the only satisfactory method of dealing with the problem of land use and land values is for the land to be nationalized and held thereafter as leasehold. We feel, however, that the lease should be one in perpetuity with periodic re-appraisement of the capital values. We are not in agreement with the objections to nationalization as stated by the Uthwatt committee. We realize that there are many difficulties to affect the conversion, but we are of the opinion that serious consideration should be given as to whether it is not possible for these to be equitably overcome. Commenting on the objections of the Uthwatt committee in order, we consider that -
Political controversy and delay are not valid objections to a desirable policy;
The size of the financial operations required should not daunt those used to war-timefinance;
The necessity to build up a complicated administrative machinery should not be a deterrent particularly in view of war-time experience.
Note -94 per cent. of the land in Queensland and all the land in the Federal Capital are already held as leasehold tenure.
– Hear, hear !
– That, no doubt, was the “ Hear, hear ! “ of one of Senator Armstrong’s supporters endorsing the iniquitous terms of this war service land settlement agreement that in the agent States repatriated soldiers should be in a state of serfdom to the socialized State as the result of that perpetual’ leasehold system. It is a matter of great satisfaction that this Government, within three months of assumption to office, required an alteration of that provision, andI am pleased that the Tasmanian Government also has seen the wisdom of that change and, through the Tasmanian Parliament, has given the soldiers the right to buy their property.
The question of the basis of valuation of land has not been settled any more satisfactorily in Tasmania than in New South Wales. The original Tasmanian act contained a provision that acquisitions of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen should be on the basis of the government valuation, plus 5 per cent., but it was not generally enforced. It was merely used as a bludgeon to compel unwilling farmers to sell their land for settlement purposes. If a “ cocky “ did not wish his land to be acquired and asked for its real value he was told, “ We can acquire your land at the government valuation, plus 5 per cent.”. By 1947, however, the Government realized that that was not a procedure by which it could retain the agricultural vote, and it adopted the policy of paying a just value for land so acquired. The act was subsequently amended to enable a person whoseland was acquired to demand and obtain a fair market price for it; but in November last, for some unexplained reason, an act was passed in Tasmania in further implementation of the scheme under which the basis of value for the acquisition of land for war service land settlement purposes was related to values ruling in February, 1942. I have been assured, and I am quite satisfied, that the inclusion of that provision in the Tasmanian act was in no way inspired by the Commonwealth. In fact, I believe that it is the unswerving policy of this Government that all land acquired for the purposes of the scheme shall be acquired on just terms. I raise the matter only for the information of the Minister in charge of the bill so that when the money to be provided under it is made available to the State the policy of the Commonwealth will be implemented and those whose land is taken from them for the laudable purpose of the land settlement of ex-servicemen shall be compensated on just terms, and not on the basis of 1942 values, which are as dead as the dodo.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st November (vide page 1449), on motion by Senator O’sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 194S-50 by increasing the benefits paid to retired members of the defence forces and to their wives and children.It is indicative of the trend of inflation in the country that all the bills of this kind that are now being considered by the Parliament provide for increased payments in an endeavour to raise the purchasing value of pensions and benefits to something approaching their former level. This bill accentuates the justice of the claim of the basic war pensioners for increased pension rates. Unfortunately, similar amending legislation has not been introduced by the Government to grant a measure of justice to those deserving members of the community.
An excellent feature of this bill is the proposal that retired members of the forces who subsequently obtain employment may receive a portion of their retirement benefit. All of the amendments contained in the bill are necessary, and as they meet with our approval we are glad to give the bill a speedy passage.
. - in reply - I appreciate the reception given to this measure by members of the Opposition and the fact that they are willing to give it a speedy passage. As Senator O’Byrne has said, it represents an effort on the part of the Government to meet changing circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th Novem ber (vide page 1603), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not think that a great deal need be said about this bill, the purpose of which is to repeal legislation that was introduced in conformity with the budget proposal of last year to demand from wool-growers a prepayment of income tax. As the Labour party pointed out when the original legislation was introduced, that demand was unjust. Great criticism of the proposal subsequently came from the community in general, but principally from the woolgrowers themselves. Many wool-growers were in a position to meet the demand for the prepayment of tax, but many others, particularly those who farmed small areas and had a comparatively small number of sheep, and others who were in the process of establishing or improving their properties, regarded it a most iniquitous imposition. Objection to the proposal throughout the country generally was very vociferous. It came not only from those who were hurt by it but also from those who were hut little affected by it. The end result was that after the legislation had been in operation for twelve months the Government decided to repeal it. In defence of the legislation the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated that it was an anti-inflation measure. Now that the Government proposes to repeal it the obvious conclusion that one must reach is that inflation has passed. We know, of course, that the contrary is the case. As the result of the maladministration of the Government, inflation is just as rife to-day as it was then. The Government seems to have an idea that it can spend money more wisely than can the people themselves. When it decided to take £103,000,000 from the wool-growers, the Treasurer said, “ This proposal will prevent wool-growers from spending their money lavishly and thus forcing up prices “. Apparently the wool-growers do not now need to he prevented from doing what they like with their money. Although the value of wool has fallen substantially in recent months its price is still approximately four times what it was in 1939. Because of strong pressure by the graziers and pastoralists the Government has been forced to repeal this legislation. I recall that when the Treasurer introduced the original legislation he defended it by saying that if it was fair to demand prepayment of income tax under the payas.youearn system from seven of every eight persons in the community, it was equally fair to ask the wool-growers, who were reaping the benefits of excessively high prices for their product, to meet a portion of their tax commitments in advance. Does the Government now contend that it is no longer right for it to demand prepayment of tax from the wool-growers? We all are aware that this legislation was introduced last year to enable the Treasurer to balance his budget. This year he has balanced his budget by other means, principally by increasing income tax and sales tax. Greater minds than mine will have to struggle with this problem. My simple mind is completely unable to follow the contradictions that are contained in it. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to explain those contradictions in simple terms.
– I rise to support the bill which has been introduced in accordance with an undertaking given when the wool sales deduction measures were passed. Apparently, Senator Armstrong has failed to appreciate that fact. No undue pressure has been brought to bear on the Government by the wool-growers. In fact, most wool-growers are now very glad that the 20 per cent, deduction was made from their income last year. As provisional tax deductions have now assumed considerable proportions, the abandonment of the wool sales deduction scheme will not cause any serious gap in government finances. The introduction of this repealing legislation has nothing to do with the objections raised by Senator Armstrong. The .wool sales deduction scheme was administered very well indeed, and in that connexion I pay a sincere tribute to the Government. Section 12 of the act, known as the “hardship “ section, was implemented in such a sympathetic manner that it was clear to me that a directive had been given that cases in which the operation of the wool sales deduction would involve hardship, were to be given the fullest possible consideration. As one who has been closely associated with the settlement of exservicemen on the land. I express the appreciation of many soldier settlers of the manner in which hardship provisions were invoked. Taxation officials, too, administered the legislation in a sympathetic manner. Particularly worthy of note was the speed with which the Taxation Branch worked in apportioning the shares of wool deduction certificates relating to wool sold by partnerships. That work was most commendable, and I hope that equal speed will be shown in making refunds of contributions made since the 1st July. I see a smile on the face of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I am sure that he, like most other honorable senators, derives as much pleasure from the burial of this legislation as he did from its operation. Again I congratulate the Government on its administration of the scheme during the last twelve months. I hope that this measure will have a speedy passage.
– I do not intend to delay the passage of this bill for more than a few minutes. My last words when speaking on the original wool sales deduction legislation was that I hoped that within twelve months it would be repealed. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to me to assist to-night in repealing that legislation. Senator Armstrong has asked why the wool sales deduction scheme is not necessary this year if it were necessary last year. When the original legislation was introduced, the Prime Minister told the people of Australia - including presumably Senator Armstrong - that as soon as provisional tax contributions had increased sufficiently, the wool sales deduction scheme would he abandoned. That is what is happening now. Contributions that have been made since the 1st July will be returned to the wool-growers immediately. It will not be necessary for a wool-grower to apply for a refund of his contributions. They will be returned to them by the Commissioner of Taxation. However, I should like the Minister to assure me that farmers whose contributions under the wool sales deduction scheme exceeded their ultimate tax commitments, will receive refunds of the excess amounts. That was the intention of the legislation. Senator Laught has spoken of the sympa thetic administration of the hardship provision in South Australia. Wester-n Australia had a similar experience. I think that satisfaction was given to every application for relief. The taxation authorities went to work quickly and heard 121 appeals at the first sitting. During the last few months of the wool season, no growls were heard from woolgrowers who had applied for special consideration under the hardship clauses.
We hear a lot to-day, particularly from honorable senators opposite, about the enormous incomes of wool-growers, and the Government is being urged to take land away from fanners who are not working their properties to the best advantage. I have lived in the country all my life and I know farming people. 1 know that it is not possible to pick up people from the streets, put them on farms, and expect them to do a good job. The successful man on the land has farming bred in him. It is true that some newcomers make a good fist of farming, but good settlers cannot be picked haphazardly. The real workers of this country are the farmers, most of whom work far more hours than anybody else in the community. I have never known farmers to enjoy even a 4S-hour week. To-day, the man on the land is working harder than ever because of the scarcity of labour. The farmer will always be a worker and he is entitled to whatever incentives can be given to him to increase production. I have no doubt that Australian primary producers will continue to do their job as well in the future as they have done in the past. I hate to hear people say that primary producers are not making the best of their farms. As I have said, the farmers are the real workers upon whom this country depends. It is true that wool prices are high, but other members of the community are deriving as much benefit from those high prices as are the wool-growers. Consider the money that is being earned by woolshed workers such as shearers, woolpressers and shed hands. They are having a wonderful time. In any case, the person who has clone best out of the high wool prices is the Commissioner of Taxation. Although the high price of wool has caused many growls, it has been of great benefit to the Treasury and to many people besides the wool-growers. I deplore any tendency to complain about high prices for primary products because there were many years when the prices were pitifully low. Wool-growers had to work just as hard when wool was 8d. per lb. as they do to-day. Unfortunately, many people who were in the wool industry in those days left it before prosperous times arrived, but others remained and I say, “ Good luck to them ! “ I am pleased indeed to assist in the burial of the wool sales deduction legislation.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) [9.5SJ. - I have great pleasure in supporting the repeal of what I consider to be the worst piece of class legislation ever passed by this Parliament. There is not a democrat in this chamber who is not pleased at the Government’s decision to abandon the wool tax scheme. I agree with Senator Piesse that the administration of the scheme was most sympathetic, and that everything possible was done to alleviate hardship, but the whole purpose of the scheme was to get the Government out of temporary financial difficulties, lt was shameful indeed that a hard-working section of the community which has rendered such a great service in the development of this nation should have been singled out for this harsh treatment simply because prosperous conditions were being experienced. The treatment of the wool-growers at the hands of this Government was unworthy of any democratic administration. Throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth wool-growers protested against the scheme, but their protests were of no avail. 1 have no wish to make any political capital out of the situation in which the Government finds itself to-day. I merely say that the wool tax legislation was iniquitous and discriminated unfairly against one section of the community. Other members of the community including brewers and race-horse owners who were benefiting from the prosperity that high wool prices had brought to this country, were allowed to go scot free. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) who was a wool-grower, must have resented the Government’s action. 1 have no doubt that this repealing legis lation will be welcomed by wool-growers even although the abandonment of the scheme necessitates the employment of other objectionable means of raising revenue.
.- I, too, am glad that the legislation is being repealed, but not for the reasons that have been stated by Senator Courtice, with which I entirely disagree. lt is not, and was .not, a bad bill but I am pleased that it is being repealed because the conditions that operated when it was brought in no longer operate. It is therefore no longer necessary for the measure to be on the statute-book, and it is good that it should be repealed. I suppose that this is probably the first time that a tax that was imposed by the Commonwealth as a temporary measure has been so swiftly and rapidly repealed.
– Is it or is it not a tax?
– I was for a moment following the words that were used by Senator Armstrong on the first occasion on which he discussed the bill, but I notice to-night that he dropped those words and referred to it as a prepayment of tax. His simple mind is so mixed that I went back to his original words in order that he would know what I was talking about. I am please! that he and his colleagues realize that it was a prepayment nf tax, and, as such, was not an iniquitous measure or class legislation. We have been asked why the bill was necessary. It was necessary simply because the income of woolgrowers had doubled suddenly, and because the provisional tax for which they had paid in respect of that income would not have been nearly enough to pay their taxes on it. Therefore, in order to bring them into line with the remainder of the people of this country who pay their tax as they go, the bill was introduced.
We have been asked why the measure is not now necessary. Wool incomes have dropped suddenly, and the provisional tax that was paid in respect of those incomes will be more than sufficient to cover the tax due on them. Therefore it is right that the bill should be repealed.
– I think that the majority of us can very well remember the eloquence that was employed in 1950 by members of the Government to explain to us that the deductions which wool selling companies were required to make, on behalf of the graziers, from the proceeds of wool sales was not a tax. The members, of the Government spent much time in trying to convince us that the deductions did not in any way represent a tax. We have heard some remarks along that line again to-night. Nevertheless, the amount of one-fifth of the graziers’ incomes was deducted and went into the coffers of the Taxation Branch.
– And was expended!
– That is so, because it was apparent when the 1950-51 budget was brought down that it was founded on the price of wool. As time proceeded, that proved to be quite true, because there was no surplus at the end of June last. The money that had been collected had been expended. Admittedly it was not of any great proportion. However, I have risen, not to speak on that aspect of the matter, but to recall the arguments that were advanced by the Opposition against the tax. Many of us contended that if the high prices that were being obtained for wool constituted a danger to Australia’s financial stability, some other means would have been sought by the Government to deal with the situation. We all knew that the high wool incomes were contributing largely to inflation in Australia. We knew that those prices were due to the preparations that were being made for war by countries outside Australia, including Russia. But our contention in 1950 was that many of the wool-growers in this country could not afford to be deprived of their income.
I pointed out to the Senate at the time that the Queensland wool-growing territory was subject to almost regular and serious droughts. Many of the properties which were grazing from 50,000 to 60,000 sheep were left after drought periods with as few as 4,000 or 5.000 sheep. That frequently happened within a period of twelve months. We pointed out that, if the Government thought fit, it could make deductions from the wool incomes and place the money in a trust, to be administered by a board elected by the graziers themselves in cooperation with the Commonwealth Bank. We pointed out that improvements were required on almost all of the wool-growing properties in Queensland. Many required to be fenced, re-fenced or divided by the use of ordinary wire netting or dog-proof wire netting. We also pointed out that every property required capital equipment such as boring plants with which to provide proper watering facilities on their holdings. Bulldozers and graders were required for the purpose of making fire breaks around the properties. The possession of such equipment would have enabled the graziers so to develop their properties that they would have become constant income taxpayers thereafter. But what is the position now? Heavy deductions have been made from the mountainous incomes of the graziers. In an article that appears in to-day’s Melbourne Age it is stated, inter alia -
Nine months of hush fires and drought ha* cost Queensland at least £12,000,000.
That is an underestimate of the situation which has existed in Queensland during the past nine or ten months. The losses from fire alone have been considerable. Sheep have been destroyed, and what is worse, good grazing country has been destroyed by fire. The newspaper report continues -
In a special survey, the Sural Fires Board announces that nearly 15,000,000 acres have been burnt out.
That is true. Indeed, we all know that it is an underestimate. How are those properties to be rehabilitated? now are they to be restored to their condition of a year ago ? How are the graziers to obtain funds to re-establish themselves? The wool sales deduction legislation was a callous tax. It evidenced bad statesmanship. It is the kind of imposition that would be made by an accountant in the absence of the managing director. We said at the time that it was a most unwise measure. We suggested that the graziers should be allowed to effect permanent improvements to their properties, so that in future they would he able to receive a regular income from them. Furthermore, the Taxation Branch would have benefited on. a regular basis.
Last year, when this legislation was before the Parliament, the words “ skimming off” were frequently used. So high were wool incomes at the time that members of the Government used those words to indicate that it was not just a matter of going in and dredging those incomes from the bottom; they could go in and skim off what they wanted from the top. This year it would appear from the increased taxation that has been imposed that it will be necessary to insert framing into the incomes of the graziers in order to pursue the drawing off process.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th November (vide page 1604), on motion by SenatorSpooner -
That the bill be now read asecond time.
– This is an ancillary measure of a machinery character. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) explained in his second-reading speech, the main purpose of the bill is to alter the minimum value of unimproved land held byan individual in his own right or as a member of a company which will attract land tax. The principle is a small one, and the measure is supported by the Opposition. In addition, the bill proposes to increase the salary of the Commissioner of Land Tax, who is also the Commissioner of Taxation.
Although the principles involved are small, I consider that attention should be drawn to the fact that this bill is another of a long succession of bills which have been presented to the Parliament during the current session. Since the inception of this Parliament, it has done nothing but consider the passage of legislation to give the legislative imprimatur to the inflationary condition which exists in Australia to-day. The Government has done nothing but acknowledge the fact of inflation. This, and other legislation which has been introduced during the session, emphasizes the fact that nothing has yet been done. The series of bills which have been presented to the Parliament during the life of the Government presents a sorry spectacle. There has been a Repatriation Bill to increase repatriation benefits, in a limited way, because of inflation. There have been a Social Services Bill and a Consolidation Bill to increase the price of sugar, both introduced as a direct result of the inflationary condition. In addition there have been a States Grants Bill, a Posts and Telegraphs Bates Bill and a bill dealing with war pensions. The Senate has to-day passed a Commonwealth employees’ compensation bill. Legislation has been enacted for the purpose of altering the salary scales of public servants because of the increased cost of living. That is the recent record of the Government. The only exception has been the Defence Preparations Act, which is of a completely negative and restrictive character. Not one measure of a positive nature has been presented to the Parliament.There has been nothing to indicate that a definite plan to tackle the inflationary condition has been conceived. It would appear that inflation is to be allowed to go on and on. If it is, it will leave an ineradicable scar on the whole community. Should inflation be halted before the economy collapses, I suggest that our economy will then be on a completely different plane.
If I remember correctly, this year the Queensland Parliament passed legislation similar to that now before the Senate. The Government of that State was forced to introduce such legislation because it, in common with the other States, does not control the economic position of Australia. I contend that the Australian Government is forcing on the State governments the introduction of such legislation in an endeavour to correct a situation which the States can do nothing to avoid.
By proposed new sub-section (5.) of section5 the salary of the Commissioner of Land Taxation is to be increased to £4,000 a year. I do not cavil at the statements made by the Minister during his second-reading speech in justification of that increase. However, in the course of his speech, the honorable senator stated that since 1039 revenue from taxation has increased from £28,400,000 a vear to £756,000,000 a year. I suggest that those figures clearly indicate the increasing degree of taxation, to which the people of Australia are being subjected. The rate of taxation will be even more severe when the present budget proposals are put into effect.
As trustee for the States, this Government has a tremendous responsibility. The Opposition wishes to see the introduction of positive legislation which is designed to rectify permanently our present economic) condition. Day after day the Opposition is being asked to give the legislative imprimatur and our nihil obstut to the Government’s cavalier treatment of the tremendous problem of intiation.
– I approach this bill from an entirely ‘ different angle from that of Senator Byrne. As this form of taxation has been in existence since 1910, no harm can come from turning back to that year and considering the reasons for its introduction. In 1909 the question of the imposition of such a tax was one of the subjects of a general election, as the result of which the Fisher Government was elected to office. I coneider that the imposition of the tax at that time was done with the object of subdividing large estates. It has failed completely in that connexion. Instead, it hasbeen responsible, to 1950, for the return of revenue of approximately £3,500,000 a year. The collection of the tax duplicates State functions. Its collection should be relegated to the States. Whilst the Parliament is in the mood to repeal legislation such as the wool sales deduction legislation, it might be ‘profitable to consider the repeal of this legislation also. Local government bodies all over Australia are sadly in need of some means, other than their rating authority, by which they may obtain additional revenue. As the months go by, this Government will he obliged to consider the directions in which the functions of government are being duplicated. I suggest that a great deal of such duplication could be avoided if a proper, sensible and businesslike approach were made to the matter. The functions of many departments at present in existence could be curtailed. The Australian Government could formulate the financial policy governing functions carried out by the States on behalf of the Commonwealth. For instance, State and Federal valuers handle land tax matters which could become exclusively State matters. The three States which are given Commonwealth grants for the purpose could have their grants increased. As soon as the Government gives attention to that matter the better, because in my opinion the handing over of such functions to the States would increase the efficiency of government, which, is long overdue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan ) agreed to-
That the Senate, at ito rising, adjourn t<> Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19511108_senate_20_215/>.