20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan (Housing) Bill 1951.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1951.
Land Tax Assessment Bill 1951.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1951.
Wool Sales Deduction Legislation Repeal Bill 1951.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to continuing the existing tariff bylaw concessions in respect to rayon piecegoods until the question can be submitted to the Tariff Board for consideration?
SenatorO’SULLIVAN. - The tariff by-law concessions in regard to woven rayon piece-goods were brought in first to the 30th June, 1951. Even without pressure from the importing firms, that was extended byme as Minister for Trade and Customs to the 31st December, 1951. The matter has been kept under observation continually since the tariff proposals were introduced. These examinations indicate that although it is a fairly common belief that the total consumption of woven rayon piece-goods in Australia is about 55,000,000 yards, the importations to the 30th June, 1951, totalled 67,000,000 yards. During the three months ended the 30th September, importations reached the rate of 98,000,000 yards per annum, in spite of the fact that local weavers had considerably increased their output. It would appear therefore, that if the concession were to continue, local weavers would have no protection at all although, eighteen months ago the Government made clear its intention - an intention which, I am happy to say, was cordially supported by the Opposition - to protect the local industry. The Government considers, that as long as twice the annual consumption is available, it is not likely that local weavers will have orders placed with them. The matter will be kept under review and, if, as the result of the withdrawal of the concession, the economy of Australia is adversely affected, appropriate action will be taken.
– Is the Minister aware of the inroads that rayon and other synthetic goods are making on the wool trade in the United States of America? Is he aware that in the first quarter of 1950 consumption of those goods represented 49 per cent., compared with 51 per cent, for woollen goods, and that in the first quarter of 1951 the corresponding figures were 61 per cent, and 39 per cent. In view of this alarming position in the use of goods manufactured from wool in the United States of America, and the danger of a similar situation developing in Australia, is the Minister aware of the necessity to introduce textile labelling, not only for the protection of the wool industry, but also in the interests of the purchasing public? If the Minister is aware of this position, will he inform the Senate whether regulations under the Customs Act have been issued to ensure the labelling of textiles? If such regulations have not been issued will the Minister indicate why not? Will he also state whether the Government intends to introduce textile labelling?
– The honorable senator’s question is most comprehensive, but I shall endeavour to deal briefly with all aspects of it. For some time we have had a tariff provision under which very high rates of duty are imposed on synthetic textiles which in any way resemble wool. This is known, in Customs parlance, as a “ substitute notice ‘’. Such materials do not enjoy the lower rates that apply to non-woollen materials generally. Textile labelling cannot be dealt with adequately by the Australian Government alone. The Commonwealth’s jurisdiction applies only to imported commodities released through the Customs. Many synthetic materials resembling wool - some of them of excellent quality - are made in Australia, and the Department of Trade and Customs has no jurisdiction over them at all. Negotiations have been proceeding for some time between the Australian Government, the State governments, the commercial houses and the manufacturers. A proposition has been put forward which I hope will soon be given statutory effect by regulation, whereby articles containing 95 per cent, or more of wool will be marked “ all wool “. If they contain less than 95 per cent, of wool the percentage of thewool content will be marked on the commodity as follows : - “ 60 per cent, wool, 40 per cent, other commodities “ - rayon, cotton, or other component, as the casemay be. If an article contains less than 5 per cent, wool, it is proposed that it shall be marked, “ This article contains less than 5 per cent, wool “. This procedure ,can apply only to imported goods,, unless the States make corresponding regulations in regard to goods made in the Commonwealth and put up for sale in the respective States. There are a few details yet to be ironed out, but the matter is well in hand and I hope soon that complete unanimity will be reached by all parties interested in the matter.
– The question that 1 shall address to the Minister for Repatriation concerns the payment of war pensions to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Is it a fact that those pensioners, including blinded persons, receive their pensions by cheque, while the amounts of pensions are credited to banking accounts of othersevery three months? If so, the payments are twelve weeks in arrears. Asthe next payment is due to be made on the 3rd January, 1951, and thereforethe pensioners will not receive the benefit of their pensions, or increases, until then, will the Minister examine the possibility of the payments being made before Christmas, so that the pensionerswill be better able to enjoy the Christmas period ?
– It is quite true that facilities are available for war pensions to be paid by cheque at threemonthly intervals. As the twelve weeksperiod is a back period, the pension payments are not in advance, but in arrears. I shall be very glad to look into thismatter and see what can be done on the lines that have been suggested by the honorable senator.
– By way of explanation of the question that I shall’ address to the Minister for Trade and
Customs, 1 point out that there is a growing fear in this country that a food shortage or famine will occur in the foreseeable future. A royal commission that was appointed in Queensland to inquire into this matter has presented to the Queensland Government a report which contains some very interesting and important suggestions. One of its recommendations was that the big holdings, in Queensland in particular, should be cut up and encouragement given to individual farmers to settle on the land. In view of the possibility of our income from our exports of primary industries becoming less, the reduction of acreage sewn to wheat, and the scarcity of meat, eggs, potatoes, butter and other commodities, will the Minister say what action the Government proposes to take? If something is not done soon to counter the present trend, it is not improbable that famine will occur in this country within the next four or five years. As this is a national problem, will the Australian Government consider appointing a royal commission to carry out an Australiawide survey along the lines that were adopted by the royal commission in Queensland ?
– I am sure that we all realize the importance of the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator. However, I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the problem. As honorable senators know, land tenure, settlement and control is a matter peculiarly and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the respective States, with the exception of such areas as are in the Commonwealth territories. It is true that the Commonwealth possesses a very efficient Department of Commerce and Agriculture and a most active Director-General of Agriculture. From my own knowledge, I knowthat that officer is intimately in touch with the departments of agriculture in the States. I consider that very little information, if any, which is not already in the possession of the Director-General of Agriculture and of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture could be gleaned from the holding of a royal commission. I cannot presume to speak for my colleague, the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture, but as far as I know the utmost assistance is being constantly given by his department to the departments of agriculture in the various States.
– The question that I shall address to the Minister for Trade and Customs follows on the question that was asked by Senator O’Byrne in relation to primary production. In view of the present serious international situation, it appears likely that in the near future Australia will be called upon to supply large quantities of food in connexion with crises that may develop. That will be a matter for the various States. It appears that the Premiers of the States have fallen down on their job, because certain primary production has decreased to an all-time low, although production in the secondary industries has reached a record high. Will the Minister consider convening a conference between Commonwealth Ministers and the Premiers of the States to consider ways and means of increasing primary production?
– I do not necessarily accept the premise upon which the honorable senator’s question is based; that the governments of the .various States have fallen down on their job. After all, they are sovereign States, elected in a free democracy, by a free franchise, and are answerable not to the Commonwealth but to the electors of the States. I think it would be most improper for the Commonwealth to sit in judgment on the States in respect of a matter that is essentially within the jurisdiction of the States.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In view of the grave fears of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber concerning the shortage of food and the decline of primary production at the present time, will the Minister discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and also, if necessary, with the Prime Minister, the appointment of an all-party committee to inquire into the decline of primary production and ways and means of overcoming it? I suggest that such a committee would be of assistance not only to members of the Government but also to both Houses of the Parliament.
– I am not in favour of setting up all-party committees. Power to increase production rests largely with the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States and with the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If anything is to be done in a direct way, I suggest that the people responsible for such production should be urged not to await the appointment of .committees composed of people who have no special knowledge of the matter, but to get on with the job themselves. From my association with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture during the recent absence overseas of the Minister, I came to the conclusion that a great deal of work is being performed by that department and that much action is being taken by it to increase primary production. I think that the action of the Australian Government in endeavouring to persuade the State governments to agree that farmers should receive a higher price for wheat used for stock feed was a step in the right direction. An all-party committee could not act in that way. I appreciate the importance of the matter, and I assure the honorable senator that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture also appreciates its importance. From discussions which I had with the State Ministers of Agriculture during the absence of the Minister, it appeared to me that State Ministers have also taken steps to improve what is generally regarded as a very serious position.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that two interstate freighters, Loatta and Lanena, are held up at Devonport and Launceston respectively? Is he also aware that the Tasmanian press has reported that acts of sabotage have been carried out in the wireless room of Lanena, which was broken open and the batteries were destroyed? Is it a fact that Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Knight has taken evidence concerning the disputes involved and has reported that no basis exists for them? Will the Minister investigate these reports in the light of their relevance to the Crimes Act?
– My attention has been drawn to that matter. I regret that I must report to the Senate that, despite the lack of shipping, Communists are still practising rolling strike tactics, as a result of which ships are held up in nearly every port of Australia. The Government’s power to deal with Communists has been limited very largely by the attitude of the Opposition.
An Opposition senator interjecting,
– I suggest to my “ Com.” friend who has interjected
– The Minister is the most notorious “ Com.” promoter in Australia.
– It is apparent that the truth hurts. I suggest that because certain action may be possible under the Crimes Act, Senator Henty should plane his question on the noticepaper and I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Attorney-General.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping in relation to the steamer Lanena,, which is tied up in Launceston. I preface my question by stating that a statement was published in the press several days ago that sabotage had taken place in the wireless room of Lanena. That statement casts a reflection on the crew and on the waterside workers. Since then, a statement authorized by the detective branch at Launceston that no sabotage had taken place and that the damage was caused by accident or neglect has been published in the press. Will the Minister ascertain which report was correct and advise the Senate accordingly?
– The answer i? “ Yes “.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is he aware of the congestion that exists at the port of Fremantle, due not to shortcomings by the wharf labourers but to the non-availability of shipping berths? Is the Minister aware that at the port of Bunbury, which can be used at various times of the year, only 50 wharf labourers are employed from time to time? Will the Minister, in conjunction with the Australian Shipping Board, take steps to ensure that the port of Bunbury shall be used to relieve the congestion at Fremantle?
– During a visit to Western Australia recently I took the opportunity to confer with Mr. Tydeman, the harbour master, and also the responsible Minister of the Western Australian Government, and I came to the conclusion that there was a serious shortage of labour in Fremantle. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board desired that the Waterside Workers Federation should increase its membership at that port, but the federation did not appreciate that point of view. Although the waterside workers were granted the day off for the purpose of a stop-work meeting about the matter, they reported that their agenda was so full otherwise that they did not have time to consider this matter. It seems to me that instructions that come from higher up about keeping the ports of this country short of labour are being obeyed in practically every port of this country, and that is having a very serious effect on the turn-round of shipping. I have arranged a conference with the Minister for Labour and- National Service about this matter. His department is the responsible department. I assure the honorable senator that while in Fremantle I saw berths available, yet ships had to carry cargo on because no labour was available to work them.
– That is not what the press reported.
– I have been told by the master of a ship that he had to leave cargo behind at Fremantle because the wharf labourers refused to work at night-time. I shall be very pleased to bring this matter before the committee that is dealing with these matters, to see what can be done to use the ports of Bunbury and Albany to greater advantage.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport the following questions, upon notice -
Tasmania steamer Taroona; also what steps the company is taking to fulfil its obligation to Tasmania by the provision of a replacement vessel during Taroona’s next overhaul?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, concerns the marketing of next season’s Tasmanian apple crop. The industry found last year in marketing its apple crop in Great Britain that a government guarantee was a great stimulant to marketing because it acted as a backstop to some of the expenses involved. It is known that the industry favours the provision of a guarantee for this year. Has the State Fruit Board yet submitted an application for the provision of a Commonwealth guarantee, and before arriving at any adverse decision on such an application will the Minister give Tasmanian senators an opportunity to consult with him on the subject ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and endeavour to obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– In view of the cryptic statement which appeared in die ‘Sydney Sunday Sun and ‘Guardian of last Sunday, which indicated that the Minister for National Development had received full marks for assisting the Mount Isa ‘copper project, will the Minister inform the Senate of the nature and extent of the assistance that was given to that industry’?
– It is not often that I miss newspaper reports which reflect upon me in a complimentary Tray. However, I regret to say that I did not see the report to which the honorable senator has referred. I went to Mount Isa with technical officers of my department. Those officers engaged in & series of discussions and conferences with technical staff of the Mount Isa company who pointed out that the company’s plans to increase its output by June of next year had been jeopardized because of inability to obtain requirements of certain materials. As is customary with officers of the Department of National Development, my departmental officers immediately applied their energies towards resolving the bottle-neck and were successful in obtaining the materials and (goods which the company required. The company appreciates the assistance that it has received.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to say whether agreement has been reached between the Australian Government and the State governments regarding the price of wheat for stock feed purposes? If tentative agreement has been reached, can the Minister supply details of the agreement? Can he also state whether the various State governments have agreed to introduce the necessary legislation in their parliaments?
– At a conference on Monday between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the six State Ministers for Agriculture, a compromise agreement was reached, and the State Ministers undertook to recommend to their respective governments that complementary legislation be passed to give effect to the agreement this year. I speak from memory, but I understand that the agreement provides that the quantity of stock feed shall ‘be limited to 26,000,000 bushels a year, the price to be 12s. a bushel for this year, and not more than 14s. a bushel for the succeeding harvest. It was also agreed that the Australian Wheat Board should pay freight on wheat sent to Tasmania, and, during the present emergency, on wheat sent to Queensland. The Commonwealth Government has undertaken to accept the compromise agreement.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the subject matter also concerns the Minister for National Development. In Western Australia, there was established, with the assistance of the Chifley Government, a factory for the manufacture of tractors by the firm of Chamberlain Industries Limited. I am not sure of all the facts, but I understand that last week 200 men were put off at the factory. I speak subject to correction, but I believe that some of the components of the tractors are made at Lithgow. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs institute inquiries in order to find out whether the laying off of employees is due to a shortage of essential material or to undue competition from overseas? The factory used to employ between 800 and 900 persons, and the industry is of importance to Western Australia and to Australia as a whole.
– As the honorable senator has said, this is a very important industry for Australia, and as he correctly pointed out, it was initiated during the regime of the Chifley Government. The present Government thinks so much of it that the bounty previously paid’ on tractors produced at the factory has been increased.
– So has everything else.
– Yes, all round efficiency has been vastly increased since the Menzies Government has been in power. Senator Ashley may treat this matter with levity, but the Government regards the manufacture of tractors as an industry worth cherishing and, within reason, protecting. The Government is hardly likely to permit undue competition from overseas in respect of an industry which it supports by means of a bounty. If the honorable senator will supply me with more details, I shall have the matter investigated.
– In an editorial, the London Times, in its issue of the 29th August this year, published the following statement : -
Over two- thirds of the globe, along the great arc stretching from Europe to Japan, no treaty can be signed, no alliance can be forged, no decision can bc made without the approval and support of the United States Government.
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether that statement applies to the Australian Government in connexion with matters relating to foreign policy and international trade agreements?
– I should say that the answer would be “ No “.
– There are in Western Australia 240 retired public servants who were transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service from the public service of that State, who have received no increase of the pensions paid to them since 1947, and no increase can be granted to them until legislation has been passed by both the Australian and the Western Australian governments. As I believe that the requisite legislation will be passed by the Western Australian Parliament this week, will the Minister for Trade and Customs do everything possible to ensure that the necessary Commonwealth legislation shall be introduced during the present sessional period? If Commonwealth legislation is not introduced during this sessional period a further burden will fall upon the section of the community to which I have referred.
– I am fully aware of the solicitude of Senator Piesse in regard to this matter. He has discussed this subject with me on other occasions.I am not in a position at present to give him the assurance that he seeks, but, as the result of hia pressure, I shall certainly make inquiries and let him know the position before the end of the week.
– On Wednesday, the 31st October, Senator Tangney asked me the following question : -
Can the Minister for Repatriation say whether there is a provision in the Repatriation Act under which consideration may bc given to the claims of Imperial ex-servicemen in the application of the Government’s policy of retrenchment from the Public Service? If ex-members of the British Army who served in either World War I. or World War II. are not regarded as ex-servicemen under the Repatriation Act, despite their membership of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, is it the practice to explain this fact to them in England, bo that they may evaluate their position before migrating to this country?
At the time I informed the honorable senator that I would inquire into the matter and supply her with an answer later. I now desire to inform the honorable senator as follows : -
The Repatriation Act contains no provision* whatever relating to preference in employment. What persons are “members of the forces “, or “ returned soldiers “, or “ exservicemen “ within the meaning of any act of Parliament or part of any such act, is fixed by the definition in the said acts or partsof acts as decided upon by Parliament. It does not depend in any way whatever on their being members of any particular ex-servicemen’s organization or organizations.
The Commonwealth law which relates to preference in employment to “ Members of the Forces “ is Division 2 of Part II. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945.
Under section 4 (1.) of the Reestablishment and Employment Act, “Member of the Forces” mean3, inter alia -
A member of the Naval, Military or Air Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions other than Australia, who is or was during the war engaged on service in a prescribed area and was born in Australia at was, immediately prior to hie becoming a member of any of thos* forces, domiciled in Australia. .
It will be noted that such member of the forces of dominions other than Australia must have -
during “the war”;
been engaged on service in a prescribed area; and
been born in Australia; or
have been domiciled in Australia immediately prior to becoming a member of any of those forces;
“Member of the Forces” means also a person who was engaged on continuous fulltime service in the Nursing Service or other women’s service of dominions other than Australia and was born in Australia, or domiciled In Australia immediately prior to her becoming a member of that service;
“The War” means the war which commenced on the 3rd September, 1939, and any other war (e.g. with Japan) in which His Majesty became engaged after the 3rd September, 1939, and before the date of commencement of Part I. of the act, namely, 27th August, 1945.
Section 25 of the act extends “ Members of the Forces “ to include persons who were engaged on continuous full-time service in the defence Force or Army Medical Corps Nursing Service in the war which commenced on 4th August, 1914. This would not include British ex-service men or women who served in the 1914 war, they not being members of the “ Defence Force “ or Army Medical Corps Nursing Service.
The latter part of the honorable senator’s question is a matter to be decided by the Minister for Immigration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister* for Commerce and Agriculture state what action the Government proposes to take in connexion with the Federal Potato Advisory Committee’s recommendations for overcoming the shortage of potatoes in Australia? The committee has stated that potatoes form a vital part of the nation’s food supply but that production is diminishing each year. The committee has recommended that the Commonwealth should guarantee payable prices to growers ; that the Australian Government should assist in the provision of adequate manual labour and mechanical equipment; and that full use should be made of the State marketing boards as suitable media for the improvement of marketing conditions. As constitutional limitations have impeded action by the Australian Government, will the Government accept the recommendations of the committee and co-operate with the States to ensure that the shortage of potatoes will not be intensified in the future ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I know that the shortage of potatoes is receiving active consideration by the Department of Commerce and
Agriculture. I shall endeavour to obtain an up-to-date report on the subject for the information of the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply state what tonnage of pyrites was used in the manufacture of superphosphate in each of the States during the years ended the 30th June, 1949, 1950 and 1951? What tonnage of pyrites is it estimated will be similarly used during the year ending the 30th June, 1952? What tonnage of sulphur will be imported into Australia for the year ending the 30th June, 1952 ?
– I shall be pleased to ask the Minister for Supply to have an investigation made of the details that have been put before the Senate by the honorable senator and have a report furnished as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that at least twenty young Melbourne doctors are unemployed and that many more medical graduates will soon qualify and have no prospect of employment in Victoria? Will the Minister have the position examined with a view to employing such doctors in those many areas of Australia where medical services are not available ?
– I am not aware of the number of doctors who are unemployed in Victoria as the honorable senator has suggested but I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for Health the question that she has asked and will supply her with a suitable reply at an early date.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in connexion with the installation of telephone facilities. In doing so, I wish to give first some particulars of one case. It is only one of many thousands. Advice waa received from the Postmaster-General’s Department on the 22nd August of this year that in this case extensive cable alterations were necessary and the installation of a telephone would be effected in about three months time. Only the day before yesterday, official advice waa received from the Postmaster-General’s Department that the work could not be effected until January, 1952. The reason was. the loss of skilled labour from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department under the Commonwealth Government’s retrenchment scheme. This operates throughout Australia.Will the Minister put these facts before the Postmaster-General and ascertain if something can be done to retain skilled labour which is necessary in the Postmaster-General’s Department so that many urgently required telephones can be connected?
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the question asked by the honorable senator.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development if it is a fact that earlier in the year several of the officers of the Minister’s department visited the Kimberley region of “Western Australia with a view to investigating eertain aspects of the development of that region? If so, does the Minister propose to make available to the Senate a report concerning the activity of his department in this area?
– An arrangement was made between theCommonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia for technical inquiries to be made into the possibility of developing the Kimberley area. As a result of that arrangement, a committee of inquiry was established. Prom memory I believe that it consisted of officers of the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Department of Commerce, and Agriculture, the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and the Western Australian Mines Department. That inquiry has proceeded for some months and I have now received a report and a series of recommendations on the action that both the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments should take to develop the cattle industry in the Kimberley and other industries that are operating there. I received the report only within the last few days. It is very lengthy. I do not think that 3 should disclose its contents and the recommendations that have been made without first consulting the Premier of Western Australia, to whom a copy of the report has been sent direct.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and by way of explanation I wish to point out that in Victoria, although the hottest weather is approaching, that State is threatened with a shortage of power both in industry and primary production because of the inability of the State Electricity Commission to make power available and also because of the. poor quality of gas coal that is coming from New South Wales. Will the Minister place on the table of the Senate the interim report of the Commonwealth and State Consultative Committee of the 8th August, 1951, on the electric power in Victoria? That committee recommended that adequate supplies of loan money be made available to allow the State Electricity Commission of Victoria to proceed with the programme to provide more power and also for the excavation of brown coal to be extended and so provide more electric power for primary and secondary production.
– I am not familiar with the inquiry referred to by the honorable senator. If the report for which he has asked can be properly tabled in the Senate, it shall be tabled. If the honorable senator is in a hurry I refer him to Mr. Cain, who has some influence on the Government of Victoria, and he might be able to make a copy more readily available.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government on behalf of the large number of people who have been sending food parcels to
Great Britain. Those people are very concerned about the rise in freight charges. Previously the freight on those parcels was at the rate of 5s. lOd. for 11 lb. That was thought to be very severe. When inquiry was made in the Tasmanian Parliament, the reply was that the British Parliament was partly responsible and that the rate could not be altered. The rate is now more than 8s. for a parcel weighing 11 lb. and the blame cannot be placed on the British Government. The increase was imposed by the Australian Parliament. Some time ago the position was relieved by an arrangement under which money could be placed in a bank and so sent to England. A parcel was then packed in England and despatched to the addressee. That concession was discontinued, and as the food situation in Great Britain appeared to be improving, no one has pressed for its re-introduction. However, a new appeal has been made for food parcels for the people of Great Britain. To assist in that appeal, will the Government make every effort to have the old system reintroduced, particularly in view of the high postage rates now ruling?
– A question about postage rates on food parcels for Great Britain was asked recently by Senator Robertson to whom the PostmasterGeneral provided the following reply: -
Adverting to your personal representations on behalf of the State “Women’s Council, Western Australia, concerning the increase in charges for food parcels to the United Kingdom, the necessity to raise these rates is regretted but the decision was unavoidable in view of the greatly increased costs which the Department, in common with every other business undertaking, has now to meet.
Prior to the recent adjustment the charges for parcels to the United Kingdom and other overseas countries had. not been varied since 1941, and since then the costs incurred by the Australian Post Office, including shipping freights, have increased greatly.
The Department retains as revenue only a portion of the postage paid on a parcel to an overseas country, a much greater amount being absorbed in payment of shipping freights and handling charges in the country of destination.
Notwithstanding the increased postage now payable upon parcels to the United Kingdom, the new charge is considerably less than the comparable rate for parcels from the United Kingdom to Australia. For example, a 3-lb. parcel from Australia to the United Kingdom costs 3s. Id., whereas a similar parcel addressed from the United Kingdom to Australia costs 4s. 3d. For an 11-lb. parcel from Australia to the United Kingdom the charge is 8s. lOd., whilst for a similar parcel in the reverse direction the charge is 12s. 7d. The new Australian rates also compare favorably with those charged by the Canadian Post Office for parcels addressed to the United Kingdom.
I have given careful consideration to the suggestion that the former rates should be restored for food parcels intended as Christmas gifts, for people in the United Kingdom but, for the reasons mentioned, it is regretted that the way is not clear to adopt such a course.
The re-introduction of the scheme whereby, upon making a certain payment to a bank in this country, a food parcel would be packed in Great Britain, and forwarded to any person nominated by the sender, is not a matter for the Commonwealth Government. The scheme was introduced originally by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and it proved of great benefit. I understand that the matter is now being taken up again by the Lord Mayor of Hobart who has communicated with the Lord Mayor of Sydney. I have no doubt that the re-introduction of the scheme would be welcomed by the people of the United Kingdom as well as by Australians who wish to send food parcels to relatives or friends in the Homeland.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether it is true that the policy of the Commonwealth Bank is not to make advances for the purchase of used goods? If so, has this policy been introduced as the result of a Government direction, and is a similar restriction applied by the private banks?
– I have not heard of any such directive having been given to the Commonwealth Bank, and I find it difficult to believe that such a policy is in force. I cannot imagine any banker differentiating between new goods and used goods when considering a request for a loan. However, I shall make inquiries and provide the honorable senator with an answer as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that, as the result of the basic wage increase of
Ils. in South Australia, some industrial workers who are earning margins for skill had their weekly tax deductions increased by as much as 10s. 3d., leaving them a net gain of only 9d. ?
– It is difficult to believe that a wage increase of lis. a week to any worker, no matter how great his margin for skill may be, could attract an additional 10s. a week in tax. Possibly in the cases that the honorable senator has in mind, the tax deductions have been increased to overtake arrears. I assure him that nobody in Australia pays income tax at a rate that would attract that proportion of a wage increase.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that, according to reports published in last week’s press, the Government has failed completely to put value back into the £1 ? Is he aware that there are plenty of sellers of shares but few buyers? Has he seen the last monthly publication of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, which condemns this Government for its utter failure to give the holders of Commonwealth bonds a satisfactory return on their investments ? I point out that some £100 Commonwealth bonds are now quoted on the open market at £95, and stockbrokers are experiencing difficulty in selling them.
– Strangely enough, I have not seen that article. I thought that this week’s press gave rather outstanding prominence to the strife and discord that is raging in the ranks of the Australian Labour party.
– I shall address a question to the Leader of the Government in this chamber. I understand that the Senate will be sitting next Friday morning. As we have sat for only two days a week during the current sessional period, is the proposed sitting on Friday necessary in order to deal with important business; is it to enable us to deal with a rush of Government business, or will it be merely to suit the convenience of some honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives who intend to make a tour of the Snowy River areas during next week-end?
-The honorable senator always asks the sweetest questions. The utmost courtesy has been extended to the Opposition in this matter, in that it was indicated to the Opposition Whip last week that there was a possibility that it would be necessary for the Senate to sit next Friday morning. Th, practice is for leader to speak to leader, and for the Government Whip to speak to the Opposition Whip concerning such matters. Much as I like conversing Wit honorable senators opposite, I do not seem to get around to speaking to all of them individually, but I do inform th, Leader of the Opposition from time to time of the probabilities. I trust thai very important business will be dealt with by the Senate on Friday morning. Of course, all Government business in this chamber is very important.
– On the 8th November Senator O’Byrne asked me the following question: -
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 on the recommendation of their doctors?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
During my recent visit to America I mad, inquiries into the cortisone position.
After several discussions with those concerned in the great amount of research which is going on in that country I am convinced that much work and clinical investigation have yet to be done before the medical requirements of the world can be met. At present most of the supplies coming into this country are allocated under arrangements made with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. This arrangement ensures that those persons whose need is great and who are likely to benefit from the administration of this drug are given priority of supplies ou condition that a report on the results achieved is submitted to the college. The clinical information thus gained will determine whether the Commonwealth Government, when adequate supplies are available, will be justified in making these expensive drugs avail able as a benefit.
– Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that since the increase of the price of butter, the Tasmanian output of that commodity has risen by 94 tons compared with a similar period last year ?
– I understand that there has been a substantial increase, but C am not in possession of the details. I shall be pleased to hear them.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me what action is being taken by the Government concerning the alarming rate at which Australian funds in the United Kingdom are diminishing? Authorities have estimated that such funds’ will be fully exhausted in about twelve months’ time. Will the Government take immediate steps to ensure that our overseas funds are maintained in the same favorable position as they were in when the present Government assumed office?
– It is news tome that overseas funds were increased merely because a Labour government was in office. I should have thought that the increase of the price of wool had something to do with the position. The question is really one for the Treasurer to answer, although it is not one which should be placed on the notice-paper. It concerns a national matter that comes within the administration of the Treasury. My personal view is that we should not be unduly concerned about a fall in our overseas balances. I consider that such a fall reflects the increase of imports into Australia, making available here moregoods of the kind that we need to develop the country and to counteract the present world-wide inflationary tendency.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers.: -
Last Wednesday in June -
These reserves are held mainly in the form of sterling balances in London.
The main reason for the decline in reserves since the 30th June, 1951, is the excess of imports over exports in recent months. The latest available monthly trade figures are shown below: -
These are provisional figures and subject to subsequent revision. u.The figures requested are set out in the following table: -
The sources drawn upon by Australia to meet dollar commitments for imports and other items over the period from 1946-47 to 1950-31, inclusive, were.: -
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The followinganswers have been provided by the Minister for Labour and National Service: -
The honorable senator will know how favorable these figures are by comparison with pre-war experience.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Everything possible has been done to draw public attention to the three prize-winning songs. AH three songs are being published by private publishing organizations’, and tha Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australasian Performing Eights Association Limited and Electric and Musical Instruments (Columbia) recently collaborated in arranging for them to be recorded. These recordings will be issued in December as normal commercial records available to the public.
The winning song, Land of Mine, was presented at the jubilee concert in Canberra on the 14th June last and was presented in association with the jubilee school choirs festival at Melbourne on the 21st September and at Canberra on the 24th September. Preliminary copies of the recordings will be available soon and arrangements could be made for senators to hear the songs should they so desire.
– On behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for External Affairs, I lay on the table the following papers : -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyfourth Session, Geneva, June, 1951 - Reports of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
In _the interests of economy, I do not propose to move “ That the reports be printed “. Duplicated copies of the reports will be available from the Clerk of Papers to those honorable senators who require them. At a later date I shall inform the Senate of the action taken, or proposed to be taken, by the Government, in respect of the conventions and recommendations adopted by the conference. This procedure is in accordance with the practice of the United Kingdom Government, and it is felt that it should also be followed here.
– On behalf of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization I lay on the table the following paper : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Third annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for year 1950-51.
Ordered to be printed.
Senator SPICER (Victoria- Attorney-
General) [4.22]. - by leave - I move -
That we, the members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, conscious of our part in the establishment of the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and of our continuing responsibilities for the development of the Territory and the welfare of its people, offer our warm congratulations to the Council upon its first meeting, and express our confidence that it will be the faithful interpreter of the aspirations of the people of the Territory;
That this resolution be conveyed to the President of the Council by the delegates of the Senate attending the first meeting.
Honorable senators will recall that arrangements have been made for the official opening of the council to take place on Monday next and that representatives from this chamber, together with representatives from another place and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will be present on that occasion which I think we all regard as an historic one. 1 am sure that all honorable senators will desire to join with the Government and with honorable senators on this side of the chamber in expressing our regard for the people of the territory and in extending to them our very best wishes upon their embarkation on this new venture of self-government.
– by leave - The Opposition whole-heartedly supports the motion moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). The establishment of a Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea marks an important step in the progress of the territory towards self-government. It is true that this is one of the very early steps, but 1 am sure it is but the first of many that will be taken along the road to the goal of self-government. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea constitutes an area of great strategic importance to Australia. Indeed, its importance increases as each year goes by. One of the problems that confronts the territory - it is a problem that affects many other countries, including Australia itself - is that too little is known about it. The growing importance to Australia of the Territory of New Guinea cannot be overestimated. What makes it of the utmost importance to us is, perhaps, the fact that it is geographically situated close to trouble spots in Indonesia and in other countries to the north of Australia. Thus, it is desirable that Papua and New Guinea should enjoy a measure of selfgovernment. The Opposition believes that there lies ahead of the new legislative council a vast programme of important work and that in the years to come the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will take its rightful place among the great nations of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - I have received from Senator Gordon Brown a letter requesting his discharge from further Attendance on the House Committee.
Motion (by Senator 0”SULLIVAN, - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Brown be discharged from attendance on the House Committee, and that Senator Critchley be appointed in his stead
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator COOPER’ read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Broadcasting Act 1942-1950 for the purpose of increasing the fee for broadcast listeners’ licences and of relieving the licensees from the present obligation to obtain additional licences at half the ordinary fee for broadcast receivers in excess of one in their possession. The reason for the proposed increase is that revenue from listeners’ licences now falls far short of the amount required to meet the cost of the national broadcasting service. In the early years of the service, the revenue derived from licence-fees was sufficient to cover the cost, but with the progressive development of the service, involving the establishment of new stations, the exten sion of hours of transmission and the provision of more comprehensive programmes, a stage was reached some time ago when expenditure commenced to exceed the income from licence-fees. With the rise in price levels in recent years, the deficit has increased and will probably exceed £2,000,000 in the current year.
In order that honorable senators may be aware of the developments which have taken place, it is appropriate to mention that in 1935 there were only twelve national stations, operating for a total of 53,927 hours per annum. To-day, there are 51 stations whose hours of operation aggregate 286,045 per annum. Because of this expansion, the national broadcasting service has become available to a progressively greater proportion of the population, until to-day over 90 per. cent, of the people can satisfactorily receive at least one national broadcasting station, and more than 60 per cent, are assured of reliable reception of alternative national programmes. These developments have necessitated considerable expenditure on the purchase of equipment, the employment of many additional skilled personnel, the erection of a vast network of higher-quality telephone channels suitable for relaying programmes, and a very substantial increase in maintenance and operating charges. No effort has been spared by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to ensure the provision of better programmes from national stations, but this has naturally necessitated increased expenditure on the part of the Commission in its commendable efforts to provide a really first-class national service.
The finances of the national broadcasting service have, of course, been seriously affected by the inevitable impact of the rising level of prices and wages. It is not surprising, therefore, that the time has now arrived when the fee for a broadcasting listener’s licence, which was fixed at its present level in 1940, must be increased to meet present-day costs. Further extensive developments to the national broadcasting service are contemplated to improve reception, particularly in country areas, and these improvements will add considerably to the costs being incurred by the Post Office in the discharge of its obligation to provide the technical facilities for the radiation of the programmes of the national service. It is proposed in the bill to increase the licence-fee from £1 to £2 for listeners in zone 1, namely, those resident within 250 miles of a national broadcasting station, and from 14s. to 28s. for those in zone 2, which is the remainder of the Commonwealth. There will be no increase of licence-fees payable by age and invalid pensioners, widow pensioners, and persons in receipt of a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1950, who live alone or with another person whose income does not exceed that of a pensioner. They will continue to pay a fee of only 10s. Honorable senators will be pleased to note from the bill that this concession is being extended on the same conditions to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Licences will still be granted, free of charge, to schools and to blind persons.
The present requirement that listeners should obtain additional licences at half fees for extra receivers in their possession is being omitted from the act. It is now the intention that a single licence will cover any number of receivers in the one family circle.
These proposals necessitate a number of minor amendments of the existing provisions of the act relating to the grant of listeners’ licenses, and in the circumstances it has been considered desirable to repeal sections 96 to 101 and to insert iri their stead new sections which repeat most of the existing provisions, appropriately amended to provide for the new conditions. I should explain also that although the bill provides for the omission from the act of the existing section 100, under which sales of broadcast receivers must be notified by vendors to the Postmaster-General’s Department, this obligation will continue, because a similar provision will be inserted in the regulations made under the Broadcasting Act, which will require amendment in some respects as a result of the passing of the bill now before the Senate. I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure deals with three matters - the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners to renew awards containing provisions respecting annual leave and sick leave; representation of the parties in proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners, and the filing of membership records with the Industrial Registrar. I shall take first the question of membership records. Honorable senators will recall that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act (No. 2) 1951 provided that registered organizations should file with the Industrial Registrar copies of their registers of members, which, of course, they have always been required to keep, and also quarterly lists of changes. These provisions were not novel; they were, as was made clear at the time, based on various State industrial arbitration acts which have been in operation for some time. Representations have been made to my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and individual unions, and also by employers’ organizations, that literal compliance with the provisions of the act would require considerable increases in clerical staffs, and make other heavy demands on office requirements. Certain practical problems were also indicated which could be overcome only with some difficulty. In all, we were told, the cost to organizations of compliance would be considerable and dues might have to be increased.
The Government’s attitude is quite clear. Provided that the objectives sought to be attained by the present act are satisfied, it is prepared to agree to other means of compliance which will take account of the problems confronting various organizations. The bill, therefore, proposes a more flexible method for ensuring that there will be adequate and accurate records available for use by the Industrial Registrar in the event of an election having to be conducted officially, or a ballot taken under section 72 of the act. It is proposed that the Industrial Registrar shall be authorized to exempt an organization, in whole or as to a branch, from compliance with the present provisions of section 91 concerning the supply of membership records where he is satisfied that the methods and systems of keeping and maintaining the records of membership of the organization are such as would provide in a convenient form accurate particulars of the membership at the time they were needed for an officially conducted ballot or election. The registrar is also given power to withdraw the exemption if not satisfied about the manner in which the records are kept. These proposals have been discussed with the Australian Council of Trades Unions and employers’’ organizations, and appear to satisfy all points of view.
The question of the representation of the parties in proceedings before the court and conciliation commissioners has been considered by the Parliament on a number of occasions. Section 46 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act introduced, by the 1947 amendments prohibits the representation of a party by counsel, solicitor or paid agent in proceedings before the court except by leave of the court and consent of all the parties. But there is a total prohibition of professional representation of parties in proceedings before a conciliation commissioner. The section does not apply to judicial proceedings before the court or to interveners in any proceedings whether before the court or the conciliation commissioners. The provisions of the act about professional representation of parties have been changed a number of times. At one stage, the consent of the parties alone was required. At another stage, either consent of the parties or leave of the tribunal was sufficient. In 1930, a provision requiring both leave and consent was introduced. The same sort of diversity of approach marks the various State arbitration acts.
In one of his reports under section 10S of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, Chief Conciliation Commissioner Mooney said -
A majority of the Commissioners considered that this prohibition-
That is, the prohibition of professional representation in proceedings before conciliation commissioners - deprives them of the aid of skilled and experienced representatives of both employees and employers. Some of us who have occupied the position of Conciliation Commissioner for a number of years realize the value of such help and I am able, of my own experience, to say that the attendance of such representatives at conferences has conduced to the settlement of disputes and, generally speaking, has expedited rather than retarded the hearing when the dispute has come to arbitration. From information conveyed to me I believe that a number of organizations, particularly the smaller ones which cannot afford to employ a person solely on this type of work, or with not enough of it to enable its officers to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience, would welcome a change in the Act to at least provide that such representatives should be permitted to appear with the consent of the Commissioner and all the parties.
Successive chief judges, in their reports under section 108, have also commented adversely on the prohibitions contained in section 46. In these days not only the court is faced with problems of complexity and vast significance to the economy; the conciliation commissioners are no longer subordinate authorities, as they deal with matters which are also of supreme importance to the economy. The metal trades margins case before Conciliation Commissioner Galvin is an example. The constitutional limitations which bear on the exercise of functions of conciliation and arbitration in the federal sphere have always been productive of difficult technical and legal problems. Now the division of responsibility as between the court and the conciliation commissioners brings in its train new and complex problems of jurisdiction and competence.
The Government approaches this question from no doctrinaire point of view. It has considered the views of those principally concerned and taken into account the working of the system for the past four years and it is convinced that the processes of conciliation and arbitration would be facilitated if the present provisions about representation of the parties were amended. The measure now before the Senate proposes that, in future, the court and the conciliation commissioners shall have the authority to decide whether or not the parties should be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent in proceedings before them. The Government considers that this will provide sufficient safeguards, if indeed they are really required, to prevent the unwarranted appearance of paid representatives. The proposed provisions will enable that aid, which the court and the commissioners consider they need, to be available to them. By permitting technicalities to be removed through proper discussion, the scheme should remove some of the risks that are run now. Also, proceedings may be shortened. There is, in the Government’s view, no risk that the processes of conciliation will be frustrated. If a commissioner considers that, for conciliation, he need only confer with the parties, he will not permit the presence of paid representatives. Earlier this year, by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act (No. 2) 1951, the Parliament enacted amending provisions, which gave to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court complete jurisdiction in relation to annual or other periodical leave with pay, sick leave with pay, and long service leave with pay. Employers’ organizations and certain unions, supported by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, have suggested that conciliation commissioners should be permitted, when renewing existing awards, to continue existing provisions in relation to annual leave and sick leave. They claim that the objectives of the Parliament as expressed in that legislation would not be prejudiced, and that the processes of conciliation and arbitration would be facilitated if this were done. This measure will meet these suggestions. Several cases are pending before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court at the moment which bear on the interpretation of sections 13 (c) and 25 (c )of the act. The Government considered it desirable, however, to deal at once with the aspect now provided for, without delaying until it becomes (dear whether any other issues are raised which may require clarification.
I conclude by remarking that the issues involved in this bill have been discussed with those principally concerned. While I do not claim that there is complete concurrence in all the provisions of the bill, I can Bay that at least the provisions dealing with the filing of records and the powers of the conciliation commissioners in relation to leave matters have general support. There is also reason to believe that many union officials, whatever they may say publicly, will welcome the assistance that this bill proposes should be available to the tribunals from skilled professional advocates, whichever side they may represent I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by SenatorCooper) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. This small measure has major objectives of far-reaching importance. This bill restores to State governments which, under the Constitution, have the primary responsibility for health, control of public hospital administration and policy. It aims at providing a means to repair the damage done to State hospital revenues by the hospital benefits agreements made by the former Government in 1945. These agreements imposed conditions inthe matter of charges on State hospital policy which, taking Australia as a whole, have caused a loss in hospital revenue estimated at £6,000,000 a year. This loss is steadily increasing with rising wages and costs. This bill will enable insured patients in public hospitals to enjoy immediately the advantages already secured by regulation to insured patients in private hospitals. These advantages make available towards hospital care a minimum government and insurance contribution of 18s. a day, or £6 6s. a week. This measure, by making most favorable terms for hospital insurance, gives definite encouragement to the provision of prepaid hospital insurance. Solvency and assured revenues are thus given to the whole hospital position. Insurance contribution of pence a week when a person is well will provide pounds a week when he is sick. The taxation measures of the Government set out in the budget permit insurance contributions and donations to community hospitals to be deducted from income before tax is levied. This gives material encouragement to self-help. The relief to government budgets of substantial charges for hospitalization of the people during the whole of their earning lives would bring much closer the attainment of the ideal of elimination of a means test for pensioners during the winter of their age, when they can no longer earn.
Incidentally, the passage of this measure at this time will enable the States to enjoy the advantages of any new agreement without waiting for the meetings of Commonwealth and State parliaments, as some do not meet before July in each year.
T shall deal first with the restoration to the States of control of hospital policy. To understand this matter, let me recall the history of the loss of State control of hospital policy. During 1944-45, the late Mr. Chifley proposed hospital benefits agreements to the States. Those agreements substituted a Commonwealth subsidy of 6s. a day for each patient in hospital in lieu of similar amounts then being collected by State governments from patients in public wards who could pay. As a condition for this substitution, the Chifley Labour Government insisted that no means test should be applied in a public ward. Bich and poor alike were admitted into public wards, without payment or question, despite the acute shortage of hospital beds. Certain classes, however, were discriminated against and still had to pay for treatment in hospitals or homes. Out-patients of public hospitals were still subject to a means test. Accident cases under workers’ compensation had to pay while other insured persons had not. Deductions were made from age and invalid pensions and tuberculosis allowances if recipients entered hospitals or homes. In respect of patients in public ward beds State governments had to pay for pharmaceutical benefits that were free to every one else in Australia.
It is true that there was an escape clause by which the States could avoid the conditions of a means test. State hospital administrations could declare a bed in a public ward not to be a public ward bed, by simply putting a screen around the patient and declaring that bed to be a private or intermediate ward. These discriminations in policy could not have been justified had everything been normal. With shortages of beds, they caused most acute hardship. To get a hospital bed at all was like winning a lottery. The lucky one got free treatment, but the unfortunate sick person who did not get a public hospital bed, paid as an out-patient or went into a private hospital. The State Premiers protested against this revolution of hospital policy. Unfortunately, their better judgment was overpowered, causing them to abandon all principles of State rights and policy and, although protesting, they accepted this federal money instead of keeping hospital charges under their own control.
I quote statements by the various Premiers at the time. For instance, Mr. McKell the then Premier of New South Wales said -
Should this proposed scheme come into operation, many persons who now contribute to hospital benefit funds would discontinue their payments, so that the Commonwealth Government’s payment of 6s. a day would merely be substituted for the 6s. a day now received from’ other sources. The view of New South Wales is that the .proposed scheme would substantially interfere with voluntary contributions towards hospitals. If the sum represented by a payment of 6s. a day in respect of each hospital patient were paid to the State in order to enable it to bring it? hospital system up-to-date by providing additional beds, that would be of more benefit to New South Wales than the proposed scheme would be.
Mr. McKell asked ;
Is it advisable for us to sacrifice the huge amount contributed voluntarily when we are so far behind in capital expenditure on hospital facilities ?
He said further -
I have received very strong protests, from an association which represents 140 hospitals in New South Wales, against the adoption of the scheme. They express the view that it will affect the honorary medical services.
Mc. McKell estimated that New South, Wales would; lose, something like ?1,200,000 a year in voluntary contributions, and asked whether it was desirable to. sacrifice such an amount, when the hospital position, was, so, difficult. Mr. Dunstan, the. then Premier of Victoria,, said -
Will there, not be a tendency, for people to rush the public hospitals under this, scheme to the exclusion of the poorer sections of the community?
It has been suggested to me- that the- abolition of the means test will cause the- withdrawal of honorary medical services from the hospitals.
I am sure that if this scheme is introduced it will have a most adverse effect upon voluntary contributions to hospitals.
So you not think that, when this scheme comes into operation, people will take the view that,, since the Government is meeting the cost of hospital treatment, there is no longer any, need to make voluntary, contributions?
Under this scheme out-patients, would still have to pay, whereas in-patients in. public wards would get free treatment.
This is a matter for the Commonwealth to determine,, because the. scheme, is purely a Commonwealth one, but I believe it is, the, beginning of the end of the. present hospital system, lt will have a far-reaching effect upon hospital finances generally; there will be a big demand for accommodation, and a great deal of money will have to be expended in building additional hospitals. If the Commonwealth provides 6s. a day for each patient the public Wm have to contribute that, and in the end1 the subsidy will not be of any benefit. Still, if. the Commonwealth wants to go on with the scheme, all the States must fall into line.
Mr. Willcock; the then Premier of’ Western Australia, said ;
An adverse effect on voluntary, contributions, has been our expedience in Western. Australia, also. However,. I do not, know whether we can, expect to retain the. honorary service, of doctors, in our hospitals,, if the proposed scheme, is brought into operation.
Under the: present system, the patient- in the public ward, if he has, any resources at alt, pays something for his hospital treatment, and’ so may, have- nothing- over with which, to. pay hia doctor. The. view may be- taken, by the doctors that, now that it is proposed to give, the patient his hospital treatment free,, he should pay something for medical attention.
Mr. Hanlon the. Premier of Queensland, said ;
I maintain that the Commonwealth scheme is fundamentally unsound. It- provides for the payment of so much by- the. Commonwealth for each patient, but, no Commonwealth contribution is to., be: made.- towards: the cost of’ those services which, prevent people from having to go to hospital.” Under the proposed scheme there will, be an influx into the public wards of people who would otherwise be treated at home.
The Commonwealth indicated to ihe States, a year ago that, it would terminate this, agreement, at its due date. For the remainder of its duration tha Commonwealth waived the conditions imposed with regard to charges, so. that the. States could carry out their own policy if they so desired.
The damage that has been done to hospital revenue is exactly in accordance with the predictions, of the: Premiers in 1945. At least ?6,000,000 a. year revenue to hospitals has been lost. Records of Australian public, hospitals shaw- that for twenty years before 1945 the hospital income.- derived outside governmental sources was always greater than 50 per cent, of the total hospital expenditure. Since 1945 this non-governmental income has steadily declined until now it is only 20 per cent. In 1944-45, the total expenditure was, ?10,50,0,000. Income from patients was ?5,5.00,000,, or approximately 53 per cent. By 1949-50 the percentage of outside, income was 20 per cent., and the estimated decline of income from patients was ?6,3.0.0,0.00, equivalent to 30 per cent, of the. total expenditure.
Not merely was- there, loss in. regard to. the actual hospital treatment of patients, but other costs followed in their train. Doctors: had always been willing to treat gratuitously poor people who were sick in public: wards.. When public wards became, open to rich- and poor alike, in several States doctors refused to treat, those, people gratuitously. Two States have paid their- doctors’ sessional fees on a specific scale for this? purpose- Already in Tasmania- these, sessional fees are equal to, an additional 15 per cent, of the total Commonwealth hospital contribution- to that State. If this became, the practice in other States, medical costs, for public wards would run into- millions of pounds extra which, if not, paid, would bring in a general refusal- of doctors: to work under the system., The. Commonwealth believes that this damage to hospital revenues- can be repaired by a system of prepaid hospital insurance,, reinforced by government; aid to increase the. value of the, return,’ from the premium, paid. In New South Wales in 1944, mora than a third of the total receipts of outside income came from such insurance payments even without governmental encouragement.
Eon-profit organizations handling this form of insurance have been operating since 1930. They have been able to provide a hospital benefit of £2 2s. a week for a single person for a contribution of 3d. a week and for married persons with dependants for a contribution of 6d. a week, as well as proportional increases of benefit with proportionate increases of the premiums paid. Any surpluses in their funds have been divided amongst hospitals whose patients had been insured with them during the year. The Government proposes that if anyone insures for a hospital benefit of £2 2s. a week, the Government will pay £4 4s., making £6 6s. a week in all. The patient could insure for greater cover for private and intermediate beds. An insurance of £2 2s. on the part of the patient would barely pay the hospital for his board and lodging what it would cost him at home. The governments, either by Commonwealth subsidy or State funds, pay for the nursing. In the free health scheme in England,, the question has already been raised whether persons going to hospital should at. least pay for board and lodging, and simply get their nursing free. It is suggested that the alternative to this reasonable proposal would be to withdraw other benefits.
Since 1944 the Australian basic wage has doubled. Child endowment is now 5s. a week for the first child and 10s. a week for each subsequent child under the age of sixteen years. Free life-saving drugs are saving an expenditure of 10s. a year on medicine for every man, woman and child. This saving is practically the cost for a year of hospital insurance providing £2 2s. a week for an individual. Various questions arise. For instance, ought a single, man, who is being paid in his basic wage for imaginary dependants, insure himself for 3d. a week against hospital costs when he gets free board and lodging while in hospital, as well as nursing for his sickness? Is a married man with a wife and four children, receiving endowment for each, unable to pay Id. a week for each member of his family in order to secure a bed in a hospital which gives board and lodging as well as nursing when sick, when he is saved the cost of oaring for and feeding the patient at home? If one looks at other items of personal expenditure it seems that people generally should be . able to pay this Id. or 3d. a week. The figures relating to expenditure on beer show an increased per capita consumption of 22 gallons in Australia since 1938-39. At 4s. a gallon, or 6d. a pint, this works out at an increased per capita payment of £4 8s. a year for beer. The consumption of spirits has doubled, and the consumption of cigarettes has trebled. Cigarettes cleared from bond last year amounted to 20,000,000 lb., compared with less than 7,000,000 lb. in 1938-39, representing an increase of 1$ lb. of cigarettes for every man, woman and child in the community. There are 40,000,000 lottery tickets purchased each year in lotteries conducted by State governments,, for the purpose of assisting hospitals. That, works out at an average of five tickets for every person in Australia,, at 5s. 6d. each, or roughly the cost of insuring for £6 6s. a week for hospital benefits under the Government’s plan. The difference is that 80 per cent, of” the money spent by the patient in insurance goes to the hospitals, whereas only 20 per cent, of the money spent on lotteries goes to hospitals.. The rest goes into prizes and administration. The experience of the hospital contributions fund in Australia is that administration costs vary from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent.
The Blue Cross organization in North America, which has insured over 40,000,000 people in the United States of America for hospital expenses, returns over 80 cents to the hospitals for every dollar spent, by the patient. Its expense rate is under 10; per cent., and the remainder is used as a reserve. The position of hospital revenues’ in the United States and Canada is in very striking contrast to the position in Australia. Out of a total of over 2,000,000,000 dollars of hospital income, patient income contributed roughly 1,8.00,000,000 dollars, and of that amount about one-half came from hospital insurance. That was in spite of the fact that in certain States hospital insurance is backward. One big hospital in Detroit obtained 75 per cent, of its income from hospital insurance.
The percentage is also very high in the State of Colorado, which has a population of about 1,000,000 persons, and the set-up is very like that of South Australia. In some backward States only from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of hospital insurance came from insurance. It was found that, excluding federal hospitals for veterans and certain special purposes, the non-profit community hospitals provided 72 per cent, of the total hospital care, government hospitals 21 per cent., and proprietary hospitals 7 per cent. In all government hospitals dealing with general, short-term, and special cases, the patient income was 53 per cent, of the total cost of running. The third point is that the extension of advantages to insured patients in public hospitals, under the powers obtained in the 1946 referendum, is given on the same terms as regulations under this act have been able to give assistance to patients in private hospitals.
The extent of government aid will enable a single man, for 3d. a week, to secure 6s. a day hospital insurance, plus 12s. a day from the Commonwealth subsidy, or 200 per cent, additional cover. For 6d. a week a single man will get 12s. a day insurance cover, plus 12s. a day additional government subsidy cover, giving 100 per cent, additional cover. For ls. a week a single man will receive 24s. a day insurance, plus 12s. a day subsidy, giving 50 per cent, additional cover above his ordinary premium. This enormously increases the value of the premiums that are paid. In discussion with insurance people in America the Government realized that this governmental encouragement would mean an enormous expansion of the number of members covered. The Americans felt confident that if a scheme similar to that proposed in Australia were adopted in America, they would insure 85 per cent., or approximately the same proportion as in Australia, of people financially able to insure. This leaves 15 per cent, of the population who are unable to insure. In Australia, of this 15 per cent, roughly 10 per cent, are covered for medical treatment under the pensioners’ free medical and medicine scheme, which was inaugurated this year. Between 1 per cent, and 2 pr cent, are covered by the repatriation medical benefits, leaving between, 2 per cent, and 3 per cent, who still have to be covered.
In the United States of America, 77,000,000 people were protected by hospital insurance at the end of 1950, some in several organizations. Of these, 39,000,000 were covered by Blue Cross plans and plans sponsored by medical societies, 22,000,000 by group insurance plans, 18,000,000 by individual insurance and nearly 4,000,000 by independent plans, through industrial, community, consumer, private group clinics, and university health plans. Several States have adopted compulsory insurance schemes which are financed by special taxation, but all of those States allow beneficiaries to use voluntary insurance schemes in lieu of the compulsory schemes. In those States rather more than half of the subscribers are in the voluntary schemes, as they give a better cover. Many trade unions have formed insurance schemes but most of them have insured in groups in existing plans. Some unions run their own schemes entirely. Union leaders are insisting, in their collective bargaining with employers, that employers should share the cost of insurance. The United States Federal Government has indicated that it is thinking of insuring its old-age pensioners within the next two or three years against hospital costs, and may do this through voluntary organizations. The Government’s taxation proposals have already indicated that insurance contributions and donations to community hospitals will be deductions from income for assessment of income tax.
I come now to the effect of relief to Government budgets. Comparisons of hospital costs, which were carried out by governments in Australia and the United States of America, show there is an exact reversal of the share taken by the public and the government in hospital costs in the two countries. In Australia, since the enactment of the Hospital Benefits Act, governments are carrying 80 per cent, of general hospital costs. In the United States of America the governments carry only 14 per cent, of general hospital costs. The other 86 per cent, comes from the general public.
If a hospital revenue position similar to that in the United States of America could be established here, by means of a system of insurance, it would become evident that more government funds would be available for extension of medical schools and for dealing with the subject of home nursing. The freeing of this huge sum of money might easily hasten the day when the age pensioner could be freed from the means test.
All advances in modern medicine have tended to lengthen life. Over the last 50 years, while the population of Australia has doubled, the number aged 65 and over has quadrupled. Fifty yeares ago, the older half of the number of people who died had lived 30 yeares or more. To-day, the older half of the number of people who die have lived 60 years or more. One thousand babies born in 1900 were destined to live an aggregate of 49,000 years. One thousand babies born in 1951 are destined to live an aggregate of 68,000 years. This increased longevity and good health in ago raises the question of whether the normal retiring age could not be postponed for two or three years, so that the experience, knowledge and skill gained in long life might still be available to the national economy. This would greatly increase the total production of wealth and, combined with savings from the transfer of governmental charges for hospitalization, would bring nearer to realization elimination of the means test, even if such elimination had to be done gradually.
Insurance for hospital costs is a current matter. Such insurance can be effected at a cheap rate and in such a way that it really recoups itself in home savings while the husband, wife or child is away in hospital. The cost of food, &c, saved for each patient in one week would be greater than his annual premium for hospital insurance. In connexion with insurance of the aged and of retired pensioners, the outlay is not immediately recouped, but the insurance gives a return many years ahead. With any scheme for old-age insurance, the present pensioners must be considered. The money that would be necessary to make the system uniform for those who have never been able to insure themselves could come from existing taxes if the health system were made self-supporting.
Canada has recently provided an oldage pension, without a means test, for Canadians above the age of 70 years. By such provision the nation recognizes that the age of retirement should be advanced owing to the increased longevity of the people and the healthier condition of aged folk, who are still able to work to some degree.
The measure which I now submit to the Senate authorizes agreements with the States in relation to the provision of hospital benefits and provides for hospital benefits in either of two ways. The payment of hospital benefits at such rates and subject to such conditions as are prescribed is authorized directly. In addition, the bill authorizes agreements with the States for and in relation to the provision of hospital benefits in accordance with such agreements. The measure also provides for the payment of the additional hospital benefit in respect of persons who are contributors to the funds of voluntary hospital insurance organizations, and thus provides an immediate and valuable stimulus to the introduction of voluntary insurance in this country.
This bill has been introduced for the specific purpose of covering an interim period and permitting negotiations to be concluded so that agreements between the Commonwealth and State governments, hospitals and benefit organizations, can be made. It is the declared policy of the Government that, as soon as the different sections of its national health programme are in working order, to bring in a national health bill in w’hich the whole range of medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits and services will be incorporated. Existing legislation dealing with those matters will then be repealed Am the result of experience now being gained in the working of various parts of the scheme, that measure will be drafted in much more substantive and definiteterms. The machinery of the measure will be set out to the greatest possible extent in the statute, so that minimum use will be made of the regulation power necessary to implement the scheme. The progress being made by the Government with its negotiations indicates clearly that this comprehensive measure will be introduced within a year. During the temporary and fluid transitional position, it has become necessary for the Government to operate certain matters by regulations to be made under this bill. These matters, under the new conditions, will be dealt with by statute.
Hospital insurance will assure hospital revenues, will give a sense of personal responsibility, will revive voluntary aid auxiliaries, will bring back local control and local interest, and will afford an outlet to benevolent emotions. Mankind is a very poor thing if it is entirely selfish in its outlook and habits. Goodwill and charity furnish the oil that makes its possible for theworld to go round smoothly. Voluntary associations that assist selfhelp provide the best machinery with which to generate indispensable goodwill and community spirit. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief purpose of this bill is to provide increased pensions for retired officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. It also proposes to liberalize the conditions under which retired officers may be re-employed by the Commonwealth and to effect a number of minor amendments of the principal act which will assist in administration of the superannuation scheme. Honorable senators will recall that in December last year legislation was enacted to increase the cash value of the first eight units of pension under the act from £32 10s. to £39 per annum. That represented a maximum increase of pension of £52 per annum. In the light of the continued rise in the cost of living, it is now proposed that the value of the pension in respect of all remaining units shall be increased to £39 per annum and that the value of the pension in respect of each dependent child shall be increased from £13 to £19 10s. per annum. A corresponding increase of lump-sum payments to contributors to the Provident Account is also provided for.
At first sight, it might appear that this increase of pension does not sufficiently recognize the position of those people in receipt of pensions based on eight units, representing £312 per annum, or less. The fact is, however, that the vast majority of those pensioners on the lower rates of superannuation are also qualified to claim social services pension, and any increase of their superannuation pension would merely entail a corresponding reduction of the amount of age or invalid pension. They will, of course, receive increased income from the provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act recently passed by this Parliament.
In order to maintain a reasonable relationship between salary and pension entitlement, it is proposed that the contributionscale shall be altered, so that the pension entitlement will be up to 62½ per cent. of salaries not exceeding £1,240 per annum, the maximum then falling to 50 per cent. of salary at £1,950 per annum. This will be effected by relating the pension unit of £39 to salary ranges of £62 per annum, instead of £52, as at present, up to 19 units, and ranges of £124 per annum, instead of £104, from 20 to 26 units. Were this variation not made, pension entitlements could reach a figure much too high in proportion to salary.
With regard to the re-employment by the Commonwealth of retired officers, the Superannuation Act at present provides that the Commonwealth’s share of the pension shall be suspended after 28 working days in each period of twelve months’ employment. The proposal in this bill is that there shall be no loss to the officer where his pension is at the rate of £429 per annum or less, and that, above this figure, the officer should continue to receive pension at the rate of £429 per annum, or 50 per cent, of the pension, whichever is the greater. The figure of £429 has been selected because this would ensure full pension in normal base rate positions and thus facilitate the- reemployment of the type of officer most needed. The purpose of this amendment is not to encourage extensive reemployment of retired officers but to provide equitable conditions in those few cases in which it is found essential to re-employ such officers, as, for instance, seasonal employment in the Postal Department and the Taxation Branch.
Representations have been made to this Government and the previous Government that the Commonwealth’s share of the pensions of retired officers, which was suspended on re-employment during the war years, should be refunded. After a careful examination of the matter in the light of the modified conditions for reemployment to which I have just referred, the Government has decided that the amounts concerned should be refunded. This proposal represents an appropriate gesture of recognition of the valuable services rendered by many retired officers to the nation during the war, and I believe that it will be favorably received by honorable senators.
Another ‘class of pensioner involved in the proposed amendments is that of the contributor who remained in the permanent service after attaining the maximum age for which he was contributing for pension. In 1947, provision was made for a percentage increase of the officer’s share of the pension provided he remained in the service for at least one additional year. However, this applied only to those who retired after the 12th June, 1947, when the 1947 act came into operation. It has been represented that the Superannuation Fund benefited from the non-payment of pension to those who retired before the 12th June, 1947. Although the Government is advised that the fund itself could not meet the cost of the proposed extension of this benefit, it believes that the adjustment should, in equity, be made, and that the Commonwealth should meet the cost, which is estimated at £100,000 since June, 1947.
The remaining provisions in the bill are largely of a minor or machinery nature, and are generally designed to ensure smooth and efficient administration of tie superannuation scheme. These will be explained in detail in the committee stage of the bill. A general review of - the superannuation scheme is due in 1952. The amendments proposed in the bill are believed to be essential to meet the immediate situation, and may, therefore, be regarded as temporary adjustments pending the 1952 review.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 14th November (vide page 1943), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the hill be now read a first time.
.- This bill has the marks of all the other legislation which the Senate has been called upon to consider during this sessional period. It provides for the appropriation of a great deal of money, the amount being larger than usual because of inflation, but whether the Government and the people will get any more benefit from the larger amount only time can tell. I do not believe they will. The Opposition will not vote against the measure, but we cannot commend it. We shall avail ourselves of the opportunity to discuss various matters relating to the bill, and when the Estimates are before us we shall be able to examine those matters in closer detail. The Government has claimed that its budget is anti-inflationary, but one of the main factors in inflation is the everincreasing basic wage, and nothing in the budget, or in the legislation arising out of it, has any bearing upon the problem of the basic wage. On the contrary, the Government has done several things which must tend to increase inflation and to increase the basic wage. I am curious to know what is the Government’s plan ( for dealing with the present economic situation. Apparently, it proposes to ignore the rapidly rising basic wage, and is turning its attention to other” remedies for inflation. It has saddled industry with colossal taxation. As I pointed out previously, it has increased taxation on small companies making £5,000 a year by 80 per cent. On those companies which make a profit of £20,000 and distribute £10,000 a year it has increased taxation by 43 per cent., whereas on the larger companies, such as Standard Cars Limited, which distribute only a small percentage of their profits, the increase nas been only 9 per cent. Most companies are finding the heavier tax burden extremely difficult to carry.
If it were only increased taxation with which they had to contend they might be able to manage, but they have also to contend with the ever-increasing basic wage. Industrialists are now looking forward with anxiety to the next quarterly adjustment of the basic wage, which is expected to increase the wage by £1 or £1 5s. a week. It would appear that the real purpose of the Government is to bring about displacement of labour, something which, indeed, is already taking place. Increased taxation on the one hand, and rising wages on the other, have so reduced the profit margin for many industries that within the next nine or twelve months many of them will go to the wall. There must be displacement of labour, and whether that displacement will result in the formation of an unemployment pool of 7 per cent., about which we heard so much during the 1949 election campaign, we must wait to see. Up to the present, those persons who have been displaced from their employment have been absorbed in other industries, but for how long that can go on we do not know. The displacement of labour is no longer confined to one industry. It started in the textile industry, on both the wholesale and retail sides, out it has now spread to other industries.
– That was due to the price of wool.
– It has nothing to do with the price of wool. The first charge on industry is wages, and they are rising rapidly. Costs are increasing as also is buyer resistance, because every one is feeling the effects of higher taxation. Therefore, the volume of sales is declining, and labour is being displaced If industrialists could see that the present process would end in six months or in a year’s time, they could make their plantaccordingly, but they can see no end to it
The Government, by increasing taxation, has tended to destroy the incentive to produce, and this in turn, will ultimately lead to unemployment. No doubt,, the Government believes that the threat of unemployment will induce . individual workers to produce more, but it cannot hope to solve completely our economic problems by that method alone. As a matter of fact, incentive payments are being attacked everywhere now. In some industries the management has told employees that the system of incentive payments will have to be reviewed.
– In what industries has that been done?
– It would not be fair for me to name individual firms. I can say, however, that piece rates are being adjusted in the textile industry.
– Are they being reduced ?
– Yes. In the past, incentive payments were agreed upon in the course of bargaining between the management and the employees, and the system operated if the parties were able to induce the trade unions concerned to co-operate. In general, the trade unions have not been co-operative. They know from experience that, at the first cold breath of economic depression, the employees will be asked to work just at hard, although the incentive payment is withdrawn.
– But is it not provided in most awards that piece rates must be 10 per cent, above the general award rate?
– With the advent of an economic depression awards are not always observed.
Sitting suspended from 5.J/S to 8 p.m.
– We have tried to discover what objectives the Government is aiming at in this budget and in the measures that will result from it. It is patently obvious that the Government is trying to establish a pool of unemployed persons, in the hope that by such means it will be able in an indirect way to curb rising prices. The Governments approach to the problems that confront it is completely negative. Instead of examining the factors that have resulted in an everincreasing basic wage, instead of attempting to stem the ever-increasing spiral of inflation that may well result in the basic wage being increased to £15 a week in the next year or so, and instead of endeavouring to hold the prices of the commodities that are included in the basic wage regimen at their existing levels the Government has adopted a purely negative attitude. It is hoping against hope that something will happen which will enable it to extricate itself from its difficulties. Increased taxes, both direct and indirect, imposed by the budget, have cast an almost impossible burden on all sections of the community. Instead of making the wages of workers go further, which should be the first task of every government, this Government has imposed a still greater sales tax on commodities that are commonly used in every home. It is thus robbing- the worker of the benefit of wage increases as soon as they are made. Instead of value being restored to the £1, each month the value of the £1 is being reduced still further. Whether the Government realizes where it is heading, 1 do not know. The confidence of the people in their National Government is rapidly dwindling. The most important quality any government should possess is the ability to hold the confidence of the people. Once the people lose confidence in a government it is difficult to convince them that their fears were unnecessary. History shows that a government that has lost the confidence of the people has the greatest difficulty in again securing their goodwill. This budget has cast tremendous burdens on all branches of industry. The workers are looking at their higher wages’ with doubt and distrust. It used to be the ambition of every worker to obtain an additional few shillings in his pay envelope. To-day, as inflation goes on uncontrolled, and the basic wage is increased each quarter, the worker fears that his livelihood and the economy of this country may be destroyed.
The fact that ‘ taxes have been increased to staggering proportions by the budget has been stressed by Opposi-tion senators. I am certain that the extent of tax increases is not fully understood by many honorable senators who support the Government. Under the budget the tax levied on. a company that makes a profit of £5,000 a year, and distributes the whole of it, has been increased by 80 per cent. I do not believe that even some Cabinet Ministers realized the full effect of the exactions imposed by this budget. The tax levied on a company that makes a profit of £20,000 a year and distributed one-half of it, has been increased under the budget by 40 per cent. I am certain that that fact was not fully realized by Government supporters when the budget was introduced. A government that heaps additional burdens on the community in that way is obviously determined to establish a pool of unemployed people. Such a pool will quickly be established. If the Government honestly indicated that it is its purpose to establish a pool of unemployed persons the debate on this bill and its cognate measures would be considerably shortened. If a Government spokesman were courageous enough to stand in his place and say “ That is our object “, the Opposition would know where it stood. Instead, Government spokesmen spend a great deal of their time defending the Government and saying, “ That is not our intention. We want every man and woman in the community to be fully employed. We do not want to see our menfolk and womenfolk tramping around the country looking in vain for work “. They make public statements of that kind but every action taken by the Government before the budget was drafted, while it was under discussion in another place and since that time has been such as will inevitably lead to the establishment of a pool of unemployed people in the country.
– In the country or in the city?
– Throughout Australia generally. If such a pool of unemployed people is established, the Government will rue the day that it brought it into being.
The debate on the Appropriation Bill gives to honorable senators an opportunity to deal with the Government’s financial proposals in detail. The debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers was confined largely to matters of policy and principle. Let us consider what is happening in some governmental activities that are of great importance to Australia. Recently I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) a question in relation to the number of ships built for the Commonwealth since this Government has been in office. In his reply the Minister admitted that since the present Government assumed office it has placed with an Australian merchant shipbuilding yard only one order for one vessel. What a shocking admission! The fact that the Australian shipbuilding industry is tied in with our economy has been proved too often to need further proof. The single vessel on order is a small ship of 2,100 tons! If the Australian shipbuilding industry is to come under the axe, as so many other industries have come under it, why do not Government spokesmen say so instead of repeatedly reiterating its importance? Their statements about the shipbuilding industry belie their actions. Only one ship has been ordered in two years !
– That is because the ship-builders are snowed under with orders.
– Only ten ships are at present being built in Australian yards and four of them are expected to be delivered before the end of this year. When the Labour Government left the treasury bench in 1949 it was giving effect to its policy to place orders with merchant shipbuilding yards far enough ahead to enable them to plan their shipbuilding programmes in advance. It is most important that the shipbuilders should be able to order steel and auxiliary machinery at least eighteen months before keels of the ships in which the steel and machinery are to be used have been laid. When this Government finally makes up its mind to place orders with Australian shipbuilders for much-needed vessels it will find that the shipbuilders will have to wait for two or three years to obtain the necessary steel to enable them to proceed. This Government proposes to kill the Australian shipbuilding industry. Indeed, it has already gone a long way in that direction, as other non-Labour governments did in the past. I thought that we had reached a stage in our natural and mental development, when we all would regard shipbuilding as of the greatest importance to this country in peace and in war.
– When the Labour Government got its ships it was unable to recruit crews to man them.
– That is not true. The Labour Government developed the shipbuilding industry; this Government is endeavouring to kill it.
When the Estimates and Budget Papers were being debated by Opposition senators one of the most frequent interjections made by Government supporters was, “ Surely you would not interfere with the defence votes ! “ If honorable senators opposite study the votes of the Defence Department and its associated service departments they will discover that many defence votes are padded beyond recognition. I have had an opportunity to analyse only a few of them. The vote for Division No. 170 for storage services, Department of Defence Production, is £735,000. In earlier years that item was spread over a number of departments. In 1949-50 it was controlled by the Department of Supply. In 1950-51 a new accounting system was introduced and costs relating to storage services were apportioned to each department in accordance with the use made by it of stores and only £284,000 was apportioned to the Department of Supply. This year the whole of the vote is under the Department of Defence Production. A close examination of the defence votes will reveal that they include many items which should be included in the votes of other departments.
I should like the Minister representing the Treasurer (Senator Spooner) to explain some curious features of the vote for the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which is now under the Department of National Development. In 1949-50 the vote for the bureau was under the control of the Department of Supply and the apportionment to that department was £63,000. The vote for the bureau for 1951-52 under the Depart ment of National Development if £260,000. To those honorable senators opposite who have said to us, “Surety you would not interfere with the defence votes “, I say, “ Examine the defence votes item by item and see for yourselves how they have been padded “.
Government supporters have established special committees to inquire into various matters. I suggest that they might establish a committee to examine departmental estimates. I am sure that in a few weeks they would learn more about government finance, and the background of government finance, than they would learn in this ‘Senate in twelve months.
If any supporter of the Government, whether he be a Minister or a private senator, knows exactly what the Government is aiming at in this budget, I should be pleased if he would tell me. It is of no use to describe the budget as deflationary because it is absolutely inflationary. No Government supporter car. claim that the Government has taken steps to halt the rise of the basic wage. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the first important speech he delivered in the House of Representatives after the general election of 1949 dealt with the problem of inflation. He said. >» effect, “ Our first job is to hold it. We must hold it where it is, and having held it we will gradually try to get om economy back to its former level.” No positive steps have been taken by the Government to halt inflation or to face the problems that beset it. Who will eventually pay the piper, I do not know. My only regret is that responsibility foi action to cure the evil of inflation unfortunately rests upon Cabinet Ministers who do not seem to know what it is all about.
– Honorable senators have listened to the same dull, dreary repetition we have learnt to expect from the Opposition on this question of the finances of the Commonwealth. Senator Armstrong brings out price-fixing as though it were some infallible way to cure the problems of Australia. The real truth is that Australia is in trouble for various reasons. If I may indulge in a biblical reference, I should say that the Labour Opposition reminds me of Job, sitting in ashes outside the walls of hia citadel, covered with boils and crying, “ Woe, woe ! “ Labour senators have nothing to proffer except the worn-out theory, “ Let us have price-fixing “. The answer to this problem is increased production, but there is no sign of effort on the part of the Labour party or on the trade union level to admit the reality of this situation. It is not a problem of some luxury industry facing the blast of taxation. As a result of the Labour government of this country from 1941 to 1949, a completely unbalanced economy has developed. One of the characteristics of Canberra is the number of representatives of secondary industries who pad round the purlieus of Parliament House and its lobbies always accompanied by a Labour member of the Parliament.
This bill is to provide certain sums of money for the maintenance of government in the ensuing twelve months. I shall give some attention to the schedules provided to all honorable senators as the result of a series of questions that were asked this afternoon. I have been surprised, and slightly alarmed, to discover a new-found interest by the Labour party in the problems of primary production in Australia. Included in the schedules are debtails of the appropriations for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. They do not form a very large appropriation, and, in fact, amount to approximately £1,300,000; but if honorable senators turn to the estimates, they will find that money is being appropriated in enormous sums to subsidize the vast urban population that has been sucked from the country areas and from primary production and put into light industries which are of no real importance to the welfare of the country. Senator O’Byrne indicated that he is. becoming worried because of the lack of primary production. Senator Hendrickson has been patting himself on the appropriate part of his anatomy which is affected by the thought of ^ hunger and has declared that a famine is facing Australia. Senator Ashley left the purlieus of Glen Davis and the shale problem to worry about food. Last of all, honorable senators have heard Senator Aylett, with 30 pieces of silver in his clammy hands, offering us a kiss that will kill agriculture - the kiss of co-operation.
All that the Labour party succeeded in doing during its reign was to destroy agriculture in Australia and bring the country to the point of famine and collapse. It succeeded in creating a great wen into which people have been drawn from the farms. Having been attracted to the urban areas, they make demands on the Government for services. They are not contributing anything to the real wealth of the community. By nine years maladministration, the Labour party has brought this country to the verge of starvation. It is interested in only one thing and that is to draw the people into the vast wen to which [ have referred. The people have become the hewers of wood and drawers of water in the city where they cun form the labour force of Senator Armstrong’s political thinking, which is socialism at all costs. History demonstrates that the Labour party regards the people in the country as neither more nor less than the force to provide the cities with cheap food in abundant quantity. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture denied in the House of Representatives that Australia was facing famine when the position was pointed out to him by honorable gentlemen who now occupy the Government benches.
The prospect of famine is extraordinarily serious and it is the culmination of Labour government and thinking. Honorable senators on the Opposition side who have dealt with the question and are frightened of starving, are among the people who may be responsible for the possible starving of the people of Australia. The Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has .publicly stated that if Australia reaches its estimated population intake by 1960, the following increases in food production will be necessary if that population is to be maintained: - Pig meats, 78 per cent.; mutton, 58 per cent. ; beef, 40 per cent. ; milk, 33 per cent.; sugar, 28 per cent.; lamb, 23 per cent.; wool, 11 per cent.; wheat, 7 per cent.
– What has your Government done about it?
– I will answer the honorable senator by saying that it is impossible to get increased food without an increased labour force. The Government is faced with the responsibility of trying to piece together the debris that has been left after the Labour party’s destructive rule over a period of eight or nine years. It must try to produce foodstuffs for Australia and for overseas countries. Australia has reached ite present condition because, for a whole generation, the Labour party has been indulging in a pernicious and fallacious doctrine which it has propagated and advocated in the highways and byways, through the industries and trades of the cities, and which may be expressed in the words - “ Put down your hand, mug. Don’t work yourself out of a job.” The Labour party has persuaded a substantial majority of the people to favour a miserable economy of scarcity, whereas the world depends on an economy of plenty. By this doctrine the Labour party has brought the country to the brink of famine and has succeeded to ari immeasurable degree in preventing the rest of the world, under-nourished as it is, from obtaining the food which it is the responsibility of the Australian people to produce. That is the problem’ which confronts the Government. It ii not worrying about Senator Armstrong’s friends in secondary industries who have a toy factory or who are engaged in some other unnecesary production.
– Returned soldier* are among them.
– I suggest to the President that at some time I be permitted to move a motion to raise a fund to provide a rattle for Senator Aylett, who has been interjecting. Australians must reorientate their thinking on primary and secondary production and embark on an economy of plenty instead of an economy of scarcity. We might well follow the example of the United States of America in the generosity which it is displaying towards the peoples of the world, but we are lying down on our job. We are not producing food for the hungry world or the basic metals which we could produce because, under Labour’s besotted pursuit of urban socialism and an economy of scarcity, we have reached the parlous conditions that exist to-day. The Government has been compelled to bring down a budget to create conditions under which there will be some means by which the Australian nation can resume its national and international responsibilities. How can we get more food?
– Get a new government.
– What we need is an agricultural revolution, and that term should be pleasing to the ears of Senator Grant. We are facing an agricultural problem and I would like to see more money voted to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Through an agricultural revolution, Australia could abandon the theories of the past and the system of soil exploitation. We must abandon the system of pioneering the soil in terms such . as destroying the tall timber. One of the factors which has made Australia what it is has been the willingness of the people to accept risks, with the rewards and dangers that they involve. The Labour party in Australia has advocated a system of chasing the clock. Under that system, if one does not get what one seeks, the thing to do is to devise a legislative system by which a reward is gained without any effort. Senator Armstrong complained about the rise in the basic wage. Why should it not rise when it has been tied to a clock-chasing system. The Labour party has created a monster which is in the process of engulfing the Australian people. I believe in high wages. The only thing of which I am frightened is that the Australian people will not be willing to earn high wages.
– The honorable senator apparently has no faith in the Australian people.
– I have great faith in the Australian, whether he is in the country or the city, provided he is brought by reasonable means to understand a problem and is not misled by having pernicious progaganda continually pumped into his ear. It is true that the Australian Government has no effective direct power over agriculture, which is the function of the States; but it is equally true that upon this Government rests the responsibility to ensure, by means of its fiscal policy, that every effort shall be made to use our rural lands to the best advantage. Where can primary production be increased? lt must be increased first in the high rainfall areas. That can be done provided we change our system of agriculture. For more than 130 years, primary producers in a wide range of agricultural pursuits have followed ‘ the single-crop farm economy. We must change to an intensive farming economy. Our aim, particularly in the higher rainfall areas, must be to increase production per acre. We mus abandon the system under which, a dairyman is a dairyman only and spends his time only in milking a fixed number of cows on his land. There must be a change from this single-crop farm economy to the multiple-crop farm economy. To enable us to do that, the productivity of our land must be improved.
– How can it be don*without controls?
– The word “ controls “ besots the mind of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposite can not think of any way to achieve anything useful except by compulsion. Surely in a democracy, people should be assisted to develop their own characteristics by encouragement and not by compulsion. An outstanding trait of non-Labour governments in this country, is their belief that the people should be encouraged to develop their individual characteristics and to maintain their rights and not be dragooned into submission by bureaucrats, entangled in masses of paper, rules and regulations. Given, an effective agricultural economy, the Australian people have the inherent capacity to work out their own destiny in their own way, free from hampering restrictions and the bureaucracy of socialism. A rapid increase of food production in this country is essential not only for the sake of the Australian people themselves, but also for the sake of others whom it is our duty to feed. Socialists never seem to realize that when governments attempt to force farmers to produce for the State, the farmers will contract their production.
That is an historical fact. In 1923, for example, the Russian Government sought to increase production by introducing the system of controls which Senator Grant so nobly and eloquently espouses from time to time. The result was that the farmers of the Ukraine contracted their production. They slaughtered their horses and cattle. A similar state of affairs now exists in the far eastern provinces of the Soviet Union. The only solution that the socialists and the Communists - they are alike in these matters - can devise foi problems such as this is the use of force. An omnivorous reader such as Senator Grant is should be well aware of what is happening east of the Urals to-day, and what happened in the Ukraine in 1923. The technique is to send in the secret police and the Army, and to use all the compulsive forces that are at the disposal of the monster regimented State.
Senator Grant interjecting,
– Order ! I ask Senator Grant to control his interjections. He speaks a great deal about control. Let him exercise control over himself.
Senator Grant interjecting,
– Order ! Again I ask Senator Grant to restrain himself. Most honorable senators are eager to hear what Senator Cormack has to say.
– I regret that 1 have already exceeded the time allotted to me for my speech to-night. I apologize to the Senate for that lapse. I conclude by saying that if the Government succeeds in its intention to focus the energies of the Australian people on those avenues of production that are most necessary for the welfare of the Australian people, the budget will have been justified 10,000 times over. I support the bill.
.- We are all aware of Senator Cormack’s sense of humour which, at times, leads him on many different paths. To-night we have heard him in his most humorous vein. He has the happy knack of making things appear as they are not. No one in this chamber is more capable than he is of making black appear white or making day appear as night. One might be pardoned for imagining that the honorable senator was speaking from the Opposi tion benches, and that the Labour party was occupying the Government benches. He made a futile endeavour to defend the Government while he subtly attacked it mercilessly. He said that Opposition senators drearily reiterated their belief in the efficacy of price-fixing. He would have the people of this country believe that members of the Labour party believe that inflation can be beaten solely by prices control. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our knowledge of economics is not so narrow as to cause us to believe that economic stability can be restored by that means only. We do not say to the Australia people, “Inflation can be overcome by re-introducing Commonwealth prices control”. We know that the problem goes much deeper than that But to convince my listeners that such control could play an important part in curbing inflation and in rehabilitating our economy, I point out that while Commonwealth prices control was in force the basic wage of this country, which is determined by the “ C “ series index, did not increase to any appreciable degree. On the 31st March, 1941, the average basic wage was £4 9s. a week. On the 5th August, 1946 - five years later - the basic wage was £4 18s. a week. In other words, there had been an increase of only 9s. in five years. Is there any merit in Commonwealth prices control? Surely facts and figures speak for themselves. Subsequently, Commonwealth prices control was relinquished due to the influence of certain forces in the community, with the result that to-day, unfortunately - I use that word most deliberately - the male basic wage in Queensland, the State that I represent, is £9 5s. a week and the female basic wage is £6 ls. a week. Therefore, the female basic wage to-day is greater than the male basic wage was in 1946. Again I ask, “ Can anything be said in favour of Commonwealth .prices control “I Surely the weight of evidence shows that Commonwealth price-fixing is an antiinflationary measure that would be seized upon by any government that was solicitous of the welfare of the people of Australia.
We have heard considerable criticism in recent weeks of the method by which, since 1919, cost of living adjustments have been made to the basic wage. We have been told that the “ C “ series index systemwas introduced by a Labour government. Nothing could be further from the truth. That system was introduced by William Morris Hughes. Corroboration of that may be found in that right honorable gentleman’s policy speech delivered in 1919. Many people find fault with the system in spite of the fact that it has been accepted by the trade union movement and by all reasonable employers. Even in this chamber there has been some adverse comment. What has prompted that criticism? Has it been prompted by the fact that the basic wage to-day is approximately £10 a week? Did we hear any criticism of the system in December, 1930, when the basic wage went down from £4 a week to £3 17s. a week for adult males and to £1 19s. 6d. for adult females? Did we hear voices raised in protest in 1931 when the basic wage was reduced to £3 14s. a week? Not a word was said about it while wages were decreasing and the workers of this country were suffering successive reductions without demur. But now. when the basic wage has been increased to more than £10 a week, there is a persistent clamour by supporters of the Government for a change of the system of computing the basic wage. The present system is spoken of disparagingly by those who contend that it is governing our lives. I think that I have amply demonstrated the hypocrisy of honorable senators opposite who now condemn a system of wage fixation that they have endorsed for many years, particularly when the basic wage was much lower than it is now.
Senator Cormack stated that the problem that has arisen as a result of higher wages and increased prices generally can be solved only by increased production, and he referred to what he termed dreary repetition by members of the Opposition. In his policy speech in 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement-
– This will be worth listening to!
– I agree with the honorable senator that it will be worth listening to, because it will show how utterly helpless this Government has been in facing up to the problems of this country. When speaking about rising prices and lack of production, the right honorable gentleman stated -
In the long run (and not very long) at that, increased production will mean competition among sellers, and therefore lower prices. Greater turn over will mean reduced costs. A resolute reduction in the burdens of Government and, with it, in the rates of tax, will mean reduced costs of production. In brief, higher production will mean lower costs; . . . We will attack all these problems with vigour and imagination.
– That is right. Senator BENN. - That was as nice a piece of fiction as has ever been presented to the people of Australia. But what action has the Government taken to implement the promises that were made by the Prime Minister? Have honorable senators ever heard anything so ludicrous as the right honorable gentleman’s statement that increased production would mean competition amongst sellers? When be referred to the primary producers Senator Cormack admitted that primary production is on the down-grade. The honorable senator need not have limited his remarks to primary production, because, after all, there is a good deal of justification for primary production tobogganing downwards. Unfortunately, I have not sufficient time at my disposal this evening to deal exhaustively with that subject.
During recent months there has been a wholesale and callous sacking of both married and single public servants. Apparently that is what the Prime Minister had in mind when he stated that there would be a resolute reduction of the burdens of government. The people of this country believed that the Government planned to seek less money by taxation to pay Public Service salaries and carry on the services to which the people had become accustomed. Although the people were led to believe that the right honorable gentleman would reduce taxation if returned to power, taxation of all forms has been increased since this Government has been in office, and Australia is now faced with the probability of even higher taxation in the near future. I am sorry that Senator Cormack has left the chamber, because I should like him to have heard this piece of dreary repetition. Honorable senators who are interested in economics, should reflect on the Prime Minister’s profound statement that higher production would mean lower costs. At present we have a low rate of production, but costs have increased since this Government has been in office. Let us consider, also, the concluding part of the right honorable gentleman’s statement, that the Government would attack all these problems with vigour and imagination.
– Mostly imagination!
– I agree with Senator Nash. During the last two years the Government has attacked the problems with which Australia has been faced only with imagination. It has been stated that the art of living lies in spending money wisely. If, in fact, the Government had been expending wisely the money that it has collected from the people of this country in taxes, the Opposition would not now object to the Government’s proposals. It will continue to object most strenuously while the Government dissipates public funds.
Adverting to my reference to the Government embarking upon a wholesale sacking experiment for the purpose of relieving governmental burdens, I remind honorable senators that many members of the staff of the Department of Labour and National Service were dismissed. I believe that had not some of the officers of that department been required to carry out duties in connexion with the call-up of national service trainees, the whole department would have been abolished. That would have been tragic, because the department renders valuable service to the community. At question time to-day, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question in relation to the labour that was required in North Queensland during the past few months to harvest the sugarcane crop. Year after year labour has to be recruited from other parts of Australia for this purpose, because there is insufficient local labour available. During the last two or three years the sugar-cane growers have been more fortunate than formerly, because many immigrants have been available for this work. This year, however, the Department of Labour ana National Service has not directed an adequate proportion of immigrants to undertake this work. In view of the reduced number of immigrants now coming to this country, and a consequential reduction of the number available for harvesting sugar-cane, there will soon be an acute shortage of labour in North Queensland. Do honorable senators opposite intend to sit idly by and say that they will deal with the problem when it materializes? Will the Government attack that problem also with imagination? We look to Queensland to supply the sugar necessary for the making of confectionery, bread, beer, and other commodities that are important to our way of life. Therefore, the Government should plan now to have always available an adequate labour force to harvest the sugar-cane crops. Successful harvests during the last two or three years are attributable to the fact that the Department of Labour and National Service has had authority to direct labour to the cane-fields. I have advocated repeatedly that secondary industries, from which seasonal requirements of labour could be drawn, should be established in North Queensland, or alternatively, that other crops should be grown to alternate* with the sugar-cane crops, so that men who are now employed only on a seasonal basis there would be assured of continuous employment.
There are some weak features of the Department of Labour and National Service. Provision has been made in the Estimates for salaries for technical officers and demonstrators. I cannot understand why the department should require to employ technical officers. They should be employed by the States. What kind of demonstrators are to be employed? During the war a canteen was established at public works that were commenced near Brisbane, and the Department of Labour and National Service arranged for demonstrators to be sent there from Melbourne. They were transported by air from Melbourne to Brisbane in order to demonstrate to the employees of the canteen the manner in which tea should be poured out. Nothing could have been more absurd at that time. Matters such as that should be investigated by the Parliament. It is well known that governments and government departments occasionally go “ haywire “, and it appears to me that this department is deviating from the purpose for which it was established. It is not rendering the technical service that it should, and is not making available the technical advice which it should disseminate.
I now wish to refer to the letting of contracts for the supply of foodstuffs and other commodities to government departments. There is a board whose duty it is to call for public tenders from persons who are willing and able to supply goods to Commonwealth departments. It happens, however, that some departments escape the discipline that is exercised by the board, because certain Ministers have authority to let contracts. I am not suggesting for a moment that any Minister would belittle his office to such a degree that he would favour one tenderer more than another, but I am aware of an instance in which an ex-criminal supplies food to a Commonwealth department. It is true that he gained the right to do so by means of a successful tender, but he gained that right through departmental channels and not from the stores board. It may be said that the Minister in charge of the department concerned had had a very limited experience of public administration and did not know what was being done, but he has now been informed of what has been going on and has not taken action to correct the position. The man who is supplying the food served a term of imprisonment during the war, following his conviction on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the Australian Government of a huge sum of money. That sum of money has not yet been refunded. I suggest that the fact that he is now in a position to supply food to a department savours of bad government organization.
It is probable that there will not be a double dissolution this year, and it is also probable that there will not be a general election. Nevertheless, the salaries of the electoral officers will continue to be paid, because they are obliged to attend to the rolls and to perform the duties of divisional returning officers.
During the last referendum campaign statements were made concerning the holding of ballots for the filling of official positions in unions and matters of that kind. Statements were also made about screening processes and certain people doing the thinking for other people. We heard at that time that some people were capable of reading the minds of others and of knowing their thoughts. A new technique has now crept, into political affairs in Queensland. Until recently, the people of that State always highly respected the administration of political affairs by the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Now they find that officers who previously performed the duties of presiding officers and assistant returning officers are being screened by government officials. I know of two school teachers, both highly respected and very efficient in electoral work, who were rejected for the positions of presiding officer and assistant returning officer during the recent referendum campaign. It is reasonable to ask: Who did the mind reading on that occasion? What was read in the minds of those men? It has been admitted that no one could be more capable of carrying out the duties involved than the two men to whom 3 have referred. Yet they were reject”^ for the positions. I suggest that in that instance somebody had his ear to the ground. He may have heard that at some time or other those men had the effrontery to vote “ Labour “ or to support a Labour candidate, and considered that they should not be engaged because of their political beliefs.
I notice with great dismay that my time is running out. I had much more to say for the enlightenment of the Government. I had intended to refer to the subtle way in which it proposes to subsidize private airlines which have been in bitter competition with TransAustralia Airlines ever since that organization was established. I appreciate that the profit that Trans-Australia Airlines has made of recent years will be dissipated by means of a handout to privately operated airlines in the future.
– As I clearly understood one reference made by Senator Benn, 7 shall address myself to that matter. The honorable senator stated that the art of government lies in spending money wisely and that he would not object if the money now sought to be voted were wisely spent. I wish to refer to an item in the Appropriation Bill now before the Senate which certainly indicates wise expenditure. I refer to the proposed votes for the Parliamentary Library and the National Library. No instrumentality of this Government performs finer service than that performed by the National Library. The first Commonwealth Parliament appointed a committee to establish J library, and in 1903 a parliamentary library was functioning in Melbourne. Even at that stage, the parliamentary committee saw the great future of this institution. The committee stipulated that it should be not only a parliamentary library, but also the nucleus of a national library. Over the years, the National Library has grown up.
The primary function of the library is to provide a service for the Parliament. I do not think that any honorable senator who has had experience of the administration of the library will deny that the service provided is as effective as that provided by any government undertaking or private institution. I cannot speak too highly of the work of the Parliamentary Librarian and of all of his assistants. I made their acquaintance as soon as I came to Canberra, before I even entered the Parliament, and I began to use the facilities of the library as soon as I had the right to do so. It is a haven of peace to which one may flee when events in this chamber or the House of Representatives become either too stormy or too arid. I am afraid that they are too arid much more frequently than they are too stormy.
Although the service given by the library to members of the Parliament is most valuable, honorable senators probably do not appreciate that it is only a small part of the total service which the National Library renders to the community. The National Library is the basic library of the whole Commonwealth. It provides the basic information on every subject of interest to every class of citizen, not only concerning literature, art, and the matters that we generally refer to as cultural, but also concerning the most solid and material subjects about which any one might seek information. In fact, it may be regarded as the basis of almost every activity in the country. Although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and other organizations have their own libraries, even they, on occasion, call upon the National Library for assistance. I understand that during the last war the military people found that the only place in the Commonwealth from which they could obtain some of the basic information required for the conduct of the war was the National Library.
In addition to the purely parliamentary functions of the library, it provides service to every government department. That service is provided very cheaply. I understand that in the United States of America every government department has built up a huge library of its own, so that there is a great deal of duplication. That, of course, is very good if it can be afforded. Few people, and I least of all, object to having too many books. But we are a comparatively poor community and it is necessary for us to do things as economically as possible. Consequently, instead of building up separate services for every department of state, those departments rely very largely on the National Library. If we take, as an example, the Department of External Affairs, it will be found that not only do its officers in Australia but also the officers who are stationed in London, New York and every centre at which there is an embassy or a ministry rely on the Library for information. That service is provided not only to our officers in other countries but also to the people of those countries. The information available enables our officers overseas to students and even school children. The inform interested inquirers, serious fact that Australia is well and favorably known and is becoming even more favorably known in many countries of the world is due ‘to the excellent service provided by the National Library.
A great deal of source material for our histories is available in the Library.
Perhaps one of the saddest facts which confront any one who wishes to follow the history of this country is the fact that it has never been written, for many years it was my duty to tea: history, and I found that it was much easier to teach British, European, even French or German history than to teach the most elementary Australian history. Ample, well-documented and interesting books are available concerning the histories of other parts of the world, but a great deal of the material that is available about Australia is of very little value because it has been written by people who have made only the shallowest research and have had very slight acquaintance with the documents which it is necessary to examine if one wishes to write the history of a country.
The National Library could perform no more valuable service than to make available the source material for the writing of the history of this country and to encourage that to be done. If such a history were available, I suggest that it would make the debates in this chamber and in the House of Representatives much more accurate, reliable and interesting from the point of view of the listening public. I have heard statements made in this chamber, even concerning events which happened as recently as 1930, which have been totally inaccurate. I do not blame the people who made them because, in most instances, written authority could be found for such statements. In Great Britain and the United States of America, however, no excuse can be found for such inaccuracy, because all kinds of well-documented material, on which the citizens of those countries can rely, is available. If a member of this Parliament wishes to be informed concerning our past politics and goes to the Parliamentary Library he can find all the material that is available without being obliged to go through unsorted documents in some old trunk. But this unsorted material is fundamental.
I now come to a great task that lies before us. Some time ago the Library Committee met and inspected all the archives of this Commonwealth. The members of the committee ( were shocked -and astonished to find that those archives are scattered over five different centres in Canberra. I shall not give any indication of the location of those centres, because the sooner they are removed and the records placed in some other receptacle where they need not fear moth, rat, fire or anything else, the better it will be for their future safety. In addition, the Library provides quite a number of new special services. The microfilm service is one of which many people -have little knowledge. By this method, it is possible to photograph rare documents and’ old manuscripts and any one who likes may read the prints through an instrument. The process is quicker than reproduction by printing in the ordinary way, and it provides the easiest and best way of furnishing a library with reproductions of rare books or manuscripts.
That brings me to one criticism of this item. Only urgent defence requirements justify the smallness of the amount which it is proposed to appropriate for this purpose. I hope that next year the item will be greatly expanded. An urgent task of any government is the building of a great national library. Here in Canberra we have a doll’s house which we call a national library. It is a pathetic thing for a city of such importance, and is unworthy to be described as the national library of a great Commonwealth. Unfortunately, its design is such that it cannot become part of a larger structure. Already it is obsolete, and it will have to be discarded. It will be necessary to plan a new building to house source material and books. At the risk of wearying the Senate, I propose to give some particulars of the kind of building that should be erected. In the first place, it is necessary to have a large building. The interior design should be flexible. It should not consist of a building of so many fixed floors, and so much fixed shelving. It should be a module building, with a large amount of space, in that respect resembling a warehouse. It should be divisible into various floors at will, and shelving and partitions should be movable. There should be storage space for some millions of volumes, and there should be large reading, rooms and small reading rooms; in other words, rooms for reading and rooms for study. There also should be exhibition rooms. In this jubilee year there is arranged on the lower floor of Parliament House a collection of historical material. One of the functions of a national library is to make available s’pecial exhibitions of historical material, and display rooms are necessary for that purpose. In addition, there is need for a great deal of storage space for material needed only on rare occasions. Finally, the National Library should be -housed in a building worthy of the purposes it serves.
I feel very strongly on this point. Some time ago, I asked a question in the Senate about the architecture of Canberra, and received a full answer. I am not going to attempt to impose my amateur artistic tastes on any one. Architectural design is a matter for experts, but experts should be watched and controlled. A person with some general idea of what is needed is the person who has a right to choose the expert. Recently, we had a visit from a notable man, Dr. Burchard, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities in the University of Massachusetts. He refused to offer advice on the aesthetic aspects of a national library, although he has some definite ideas on the subject, but he offered clear advice about the utilitarian aspects of the building. As to the aesthetic side, I think we can agree upon certain principles. The building should be a noble and magnificent structure that will strike the imagination. “We should have in mind something on the lines of such great libraries as that in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Vatican Library. As I have said, it should be spacious, and should provide adequate storage space. It should provide for the ordinary reader, and for every kind of student.
I refer honorable senators to a report of the Public Works Committee, made some years ago on the subject of a national library. Mr. Waterhouse, one of the architects who offers advice on the buildings of Canberra, made this statement before the committee -
The modern trend of architecture is to have very great simplification of detail. In the past we have been accustomed to seeing great columns and entablatures.
The modern trend has produced a design that is almost internationalized and I consider that, in Canberra, it is quite a good thing to accept the architectural idiom of the period.
I pause to consider that phrase, because I believe it is a dangerous doctrine to take too great heed of the architectural idiom of the period. Those who designed buildings in accordance with that principle have sometimes produced structures at which we laugh to-day. We look at buildings overloaded with ornament, and condemn them as being in poor taste, but poor taste can lie in the opposite extreme, too. The simplest kind of building consists of four bare walls, and I should not like the City of Canberra to consist of buildings looking like warehouses with bare walls pierced by windows. Indeed, from the point of view of utility, there would be no need to put even windows in a library, because I understand that artificial interior lighting is regarded as most suitable for libraries.
Before we construct a national library in Canberra, we should obtain the advice of more than one group of architects, and they should be architects other than those who have advised us on most of the buildings that have so far been erected here. I do not say that we have no worthy buildings in Canberra, but most of them fail to strike the imagination or to uplift the mind as do the great buildings in the great cities of Europe. It would not be a bad thing if the design for some of our future buildings were thrown open for competition all over the world. That was done in connexion with the design for the City of Canberra. In the main, I am satisfied with that design. I am familiar with the criticism that has been directed against it, but whatever its faults, Canberra is a thing of beauty, and in the future it will be even more beautiful. I should like our national library to be one of the finest buildings here, seeing that it will serve one of the greatest purposes. It should be a building that will rival Parliament House, and become an important landmark which travellers approaching the city, whether by air or otherwise, will see from afar off.
– I agree with much of what Senator McCallum said, particularly about Australian history. It has always seemed to me that the convict element occupies a space in Australian history out of all proportion to its importance. I remember being in Tasmania once with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and we went down to the old convict settlement at Port Arthur. I suggested to him that, instead of bringing visitors to see the remains of the settlement, the buildings should be blown up, and such relics as leg irons should be taken away and placed in the museum in Hobart
I think that Senator McCallum might have been generous enough to acknowledge the part played by the Labour party in the cultural development of the nation. In New South Wales, there is an idea among the petit bourgeois that those who belong to the Labour party have no culture, and could have no possible interest in a national library. I had something to do with the formation of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. When I was a member of the Sydney City Council, I moved that £10,000 a year be granted for the upkeep of the orchestra, and that the town hall be made available for concerts. At the suggestion of the Honorable Robert Heffron, Minister for Education in New South Wales, the subsidy was increased to £20,000. Then, with the help of Mr. Moses and others, we got the orchestra going, and it has been a delight to th, people. Incidentally, those who know nothing about symphonic music now crowd to the concerts. I did not receive an invitation to a recent anniversary performance, although some of the enterpreneurs were invited. Unfortunately, Australia is lacking in citizens willing to give generously for the promotion of cultural objects. Even in a small country like New Zealand there is a very fine national library for which, by the way. most of the money was given by Scotsmen. Almost every day we read that here in Australia a grazier dies leaving £200,000 or £300,000, but very seldom do we read that he leaves anything to further the culture of his country. In the United States of America, with all its faults, every town worth mentioning has its orchestra and a wonderful library. In Stockholm, a city about a third of the size of Sydney, there are twelve large theatres in which plays are being produced all the time.
As Senator McCallum pointed out, a well-stocked national library would provide facilities for the study of foreign affairs. Unfortunately, those of us who do study foreign affairs are given no opportunity to use our knowledge for the benefit of our country. For instance, the Japanese Peace Treaty has now been signed, but we have been given no opportunity to discuss it, so what availeth our knowledge of foreign affairs? We could well have saved the money that it took to send Mr. Spender to San Francisco, the peace document could have been sent to Australia, and signed here.
In New South Wales, a Labour government not only started the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but it also built the Mitchell Library and the Conservatorium, through which so many of our talented musicians have passed. After all, it is only natural that members of the Labour party should be interested in cultural matters, because they are more concerned with the real things of life than they are with profit-getters.
Senator Cormack interjecting.
– Despite what Senator Benn said about making black white, I do not think that Senator Cormack, however hard he tries, will ever succeed in making pink red. After listening to Senator Cormack one might be pardoned for thinking that a Labour government was still in office. This Government attained office twice by perpetrating the greatest fraud it is possible to imagine. Its spokesmen have repeatedly said that they would put value back into the £1 and that they would reduce taxes. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) blatantly denied that he had ever made such statements. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who is much more agile-witted than his colleague, said “ We did say that, perhaps, but things are different now”. At least he was honest, though honesty is not necessarily an excuse for stupidity. Senator Cormack has invited us to prove that the statements were made by pointing to them in black and white. All I can say to him is that if they were not made 99f per cent, of the people of Australia are idiots because they are all certain that they were made by Government spokesmen.
Senator Cormack has spoken of the scarcity of commodities that plagued us when the Labour government was in office. I remind him that Labour governments were in office during the war years when more than 1,000,000 of our citizens were in the forces, but in spite of the shortage of man-power the scarcity of commodities could not be compared with the shortage that worries us so much to-day. The only alternative to the Marxist philosophy is the Keynes philosophy. Karl Marx pointed out that under capitalism a period of crisis will be followed by a period of comparative calm, which in turn will be followed by a deeper crisis, another period of calm and then a still deeper crisis. In the words of Marx -
Confronted with the internal and external contradictions capitalism digs its own grave.
T do not contend that Marx was necessarily right, but looking at world conditions to-day I am inclined to believe that what he said may well be true. Keynes has pointed that the only way to avoid these periods of crisis and calm is to impose increased taxes during periods of prosperity. Shares on the stock exchanges of Australia boomed in the period from 1949 to 1951 and if the Government had imposed reasonable taxes then it would have avoided the inflation that exists to-day. If it had then introduced prices control the terrific increases that have been made in the basic wage would have been unnecessary.
– We had some experience of prices control.
– When ?
– Prices control still operates.
– Let us consider the facts. When the referendum was held on the subject of Commonwealth prices control, what happened? Honorable senators opposite went to the people and said “ Do not vote for prices control “. The Leader of the non-Labour parties in the House of Representatives went around the country, and honorable senators opposite, playing the game of follow the leader, followed after him, and said to the people> “ The States can make a better job of prices control than can the Commonwealth “. Senator Cormack has referred to the record of the Labour government. The Rip Van Winkles whosit on the Government benches, who have been asleep for two years, can talk only about what the Labour government did. When the electors believed their story that the States could handle prices control better than the Commonwealth, and rejected the referendum proposal, Mr. McGirr, the Premier of New South Wales, said “We shall do our best, but we know that State control of prices will not be effective”. The Premier of Queensland Mr. Hanlon, made a similar statement. We pointed out the assininity of a system under which goods sent from Victoria to New South Wales could besold in New South Wales at any price demanded by the seller and as a guid pro quo, goods sent from New South Wales to Victoria could be sold in Victoria at any price demanded by the seller. I am exceedingly doubtful whether State prices control is better than no prices control at all. The present system is futile, as we declared it would be.
As Senator Cormack has referred tothe record of the Labour Government I shall tell honorable senators a story that I have told them before because it iswell worth repeating. I realize that because of their limited intelligence it will be difficult for them to understand it. On the vessel on which I returned from a. visit to the United States of America in 1946 was a Roman Catholic divine. He said to rae, “ Before I left Australia 1 was opposed to prices control, but now, after I have seen what has taken place in the United States of America, I think that the Australian prices control is the marvel of the world “. When I returned in 1946 the Australian £1 would purchase a greater quantity of commodities than would a similar amount of money in any other part of the world. To-day the value of the Menzies £1 is sliding on the toboggan of falling prices.
We must be realistic. It is of no use for us to talk in a nostalgic way about the “Old Country”. We may all loveour Motherland but if our natural mother wore sick unto death we should have nothing to gain by making out that everything was all right with her. Great Britain has Lost its overseas investments; its government covered up for those wonderful, patriotic Britishers who repudiated the petrol agreement and placed it in an even worse position, simply to catch a few votes ! Instead of having a surplus of several hundreds of millions of pounds, as was the case before the war, the British Government is now faced with a deficit. The Australian £1 ha.8 been tied to sterling at a discount of 25 per cent, and as the value of sterling has fallen so has the value of the Australian fi fallen. I remind Senator Cormack that ;i Labour government brought this country successfully out of the greatest war that the world has ever known and when it went out of office this country was in a better position than was any other active participant in the war. We are told that we must prepare for war. Although honorable senators opposite have vehemently denied that we have to do what America tells us to do, we know that we must obey that country’s directions. The Japanese peace treaty was not a treaty; it resulted from a conference from which there was no agenda and at which there was no conferring. We were told what had been decided. Senator McCallum has said that honorable senators should read informative matter relating to foreign affairs. Of what use is such reading when those who but a few years ago were responsible for the horrible death march on Bataan, for the murder of New Guinea natives, for the mutilation and execution of Australian prisoners of war, for the extermination in Nazi prison camps of thousands upon thousands of human beings, are now not only our allies but also our friends ? We are trying to absorb 200,000 immigrants ii year. We cannot absorb that number without reducing our standard of living. None of us would object to taking a couple .of friends in occasionally and sharing with them what we have, but after having taken them in, cared for them, and found some other place for them to live in we would object if we were asked to take another couple, and treat them likewise. Senator Cormack-
– I rise to order. I thoroughly understand that Senator Grant had his origin in Inverness. I had mine slightly further north. I remind the honorable senator that my name is pronounced “ Cormac “. I object to being confused with some bog trotters from another island.
– I mispronounced the honorable senator’s name only in fun. Probably honorable senators opposite think that the Scots cannot see a joke. They can, if there is any money in it. I apologize if I have hurt Senator Cormack’s tender susceptibilities. I repeat that we cannot’ absorb a total of 200,000 immigrants a year - certainly not the sort who live in Pitt-street, Sydney. I am not an ti- Jewish; if anything, I am pro-Jewish. I know what the Jews have done in the realm of music and the arts. Schopenhauer, a German pessimistic philosopher has truly expressed my views in the following quatrain: -
How few think justly of the thinking few, How many never think who think they do, Though man a thinking being is denned, Few use the great prerogative of mind.
Having delivered myself of that little effort I shall return to the subject I was discussing before Senator Cormack’s intervention. If we confine our immigration quotas to bricklayers, artisans and other workers, who are prepared to make the same kind of sacrifices as Australians have to make, we shall be on right lines. Let us not beat about the bush in this matter. We all are aware that many immigrants arrive in this country with great financial resources and are able to pay up to £5,000 for a flat and handout phenomenal sums as key-money.
Side by side with defence preparations and an over-ambitious immigration scheme we are engaging in vast housing projects and in national developmental works such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, and at the same time maintaining a vast and expensive system of social services. As I have said on other occasions it will be impossible for us to maintain social services on their existing scale. Social services benefits are entirely inflationary. If the Government had imposed reasonably heavy taxes on industry a few years ago it would not be in the position it is in to-day. The basic wage is being increased every quarter. Soon it will be increased by an additional 25s. a week. What is the Government doing about it? Can honorable senators opposite seriously claim that the Government is endeavouring to stem inflation? They have confronted us with a mass of contradictions on that subject. Large and influential organizations and private persons engaged in large business enterprises are able to obtain financial accommodation to meet their requirements, but the little fellows who really need money to finance their businesses are refused it and are gradually going to the wall.
Senator Armstrong told us that because of the policy of this Government workers in many industries have been put off. An interjector from the Government side asked in what industry men were being dismissed. Apart from the textile industry, which was mentioned by Senator Armstrong, many employees in the furniture trades are being put off. Honorable senators opposite regard communism as the greatest evil that exists in Australia to-day. I hope that my friend, Senator Cormack, is listening to my words. He and his friends are the greatest propagators of communism that this country has ever known. What is more likely to provide a fertile field for the growth of communism than uncontrolled inflation? As usual honorable senators opposite have put the cart before the horse. Although they have been in office for two years they have done nothing to halt inflation. Mr. Menzies talks very nicely but he never does anything. He was in power for two years and he talked and talked and talked. Then he trotted out the Communist bogy and said that the Communists were responsible. Now the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) says it is the war in Korea and the high prices of wool. This has gone on for two years.
Both of the main political parties exploit the pensioners whether they are soldier, invalid or aged pensioners, but hundreds of thousands of people are not pensioners because they have the old British idea that they will not be dependent upon the Government.
I remember when a pensioner was looked upon as some one scarcely less than criminal. Thousands of the people to whom I have referred have provided themselves with an income of £5, £6 or £7 a week for their old age. They have reared families and have said they have all they want. What has happened to those people? I ask the Leader of the Government why does he think Mr. Luchetti got a big vote - bigger than that given to the late Mr. Chifley - at Blackheath, Mount Victoria and other places in the Macquarie electorate? It was because people who had retired and thought they had enough to live on were so terrified of inflation that they voted for the Labour party for the first time in their lives.
Now Senator Cormack talks about the Labour party and the police state. He declares that we want more production. How is he going to get it? The Government will not get more production. It has introduced an a.mendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and I can tell it what is going to happen.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not anticipate discussion of a bill on the notice-paper.
– I abide by your ruling, Mr. President. Months ago I said that it was impossible to enforce a lawrequiring the trade unions to supply details of their membership every three months. Now the Government has admitted that it cannot do so. I am convinced that everything that the Government is doing will strengthen the Communists and will not weaken them. Does the Government think that it can beat Healy by getting control of the ballot of the Waterside Workers Federation or that it can beat Idris Williams by the same methods? It will not do so. I say that quite seriously. I have no time for the Communists, but I do not think that the Government can beat the unions that way.
– What about the ironworkers ?
– The ironworkers will not be beaten either. If they are beaten it will not be because of the Government, but in spite of it. If they are beaten, the reason will be that the Labour party in 1949 passed a law which went as far as the trade unions would permit. Under that law a union member who believes that there has been maladministration in the conduct of a ballot can apply to the Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for another ballot. If he does not succeed in the application, his expenses will be paid provided that the court is satisfied that he is genuine in making the declaration. The Government will not beat the Seamen’s Union, the miners’ federation or the Waterside Workers Federation in that way.
I did more to fight the Communists on the coal-fields than the Government did and I can say the same thing for the Labour party. There has never been any suggestion that the miners’ ballot has been corrupt. A corrupt ballot is impossible. Two men are appointed as representatives and sit at a table. The lodges at places like Abermain are small with 50, 60 or maybe 200 members. Every man is known. He gets his ballot-paper and votes. If a government interferes to ensure that the ballot is valid what will happen? These Geordies and Scotsmen and the rest of them will say, “ Jim, I am not a Communist. You are not a Communist. I have never voted for a Communist, but I do not believe in anybody coming in to control our ballots. It has always been fair dinkum ‘. Why do not they control David Jones Limited or the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ? “ Idris Williams will get the Communist vote and the support of all the “fellow travellers “, and he will also get the votes of the moderate trade unionists who object to the Government implying that the coal-miners’ ballots in the past have been false. I am not a betting man and [ come from Aberdeen, but I will lay honorable senators opposite five to one that Idris Williams, Jack Healy and Elliott will win. The Government must have the trade unions with it. Does it think it can do the job that Jacky Ferguson and others have done? The Government talks about more production. Senator Henty believes in an open go without any controls. Any fool knew that there would be an exodus from the land when the price of wool rose.
Who wants to keep cows when the sheep work all night for nothing? Everybody knew there would be a decline in vegetable growing. All those outside the lunatic asylums and 99 per cent. of those inside knew that. What did the Government do? What can it do? It does not believe in controls or in organizing the democratic world from the point of view of production. How can it achieve anything by saying to every Tom, Dick and Harry, “ You can grow what you like “ ? In England they said, “ Here is your land. Unless there is a reasonable production of goods of a certain quality you will not be allowed to have it. We will take it over and give you compensation “.
– A feudal system!
– Very well. I ask the honorable senator or anybody else to tell me how he can organize food production of the world without controls.
– I shall be glad to do so.
– It cannot be done if all the people are allowed to work as they like.
– You will get production.
– The honorable senator thinks he is living under conditions that existed before the time of Adam Smith. It is just as illogical in time of war-
Honorable, senators interjecting,
– I can understand why honorable senators are so stupid. They are not listening.
– Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that rem ark.
– I withdraw it. I should not have said it. It is just as logical to have an open go in time of war as it is now because the world is worse off now than it was during the war. What would happen if everybody in the Army had an open go as to whether he should advance or retreat? The same position applies. This is a war to defeat the world because if the world is not fed there will be communism. Do honorable senators opposite believe that the Communists in China are bothering about democracy? They do not know what it is. All they want to know is how much rice is in the basin. Honorable senators will admit that the Eastern peoples must be fed. How can that be done without control?
– By private enterprise.
– Private stupidity! Private enterprise has been in charge for 300 years, and the greater its rule, the worse the slums become. Hitler had to bomb them out of existence. As a boy in Great Britain I saw the people lining up for food at midnight when it was snowing and the slush was running into their boots. At two o’clock in the morning they went to their so-called homes, and if they worked all day they were paid half a dollar. There were five or six or seven sleeping in one room; yet the honorable senator talks to me of private enterprise. I invite him to go to Glasgow or Inverness or Argyle and see the old people whose sons have gone overseas leaving their fathers and mothers to die in their old age while one or two men have owned a whole county. The honorable senator talks to me of an open go and private enterprise, but I remember when the children in those places had no right to an education and the whole idea oi social service was that if a person was sick or out of work it was his own fault. Civilization is only just starting.
My time is almost finished. Lord Haldane, in introducing the bill to launch the territorials, spoke for several hours and then remarked, “With those introductory remarks I now come to the bill “. I am not going to try to emulate Lord Haldane, but will finish by saying it is time this country stopped attacking the Labour party and told the people what it has done since 1949. The answer is, “Nothing”. It should tell the country what it is going to do with the basic wage and with taxation. I know what it will achieve - 10 per cent, unemployment and another depression. That is as certain as night follows day. Only one thing will prevent it, and that is another war. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric Harrison) has said that war is inevitable. I do not think so. T believe that as conscious human beings we can rise above our environment. I do not think that the atomic bomb is better than the men who made it. Honorable senators opposite should- tell us how this budget will stop inflation and how it is going to deal with the ever-rising basic wage.
– Senator Grant commenced his speech by claiming that the Australian Labour party was responsible for the building of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. I think I can understand now why the Labour party took such an interest in the Conservatorium. I can also understand why the Conservatorium was built next to the Sydney Domain. Obviously Senator Grant has had considerable musical training. He started off with a piping obligato, but finished with a symphony orchestral crescendo on everything from prices control to the Japanese peace treaty, from communism to pensioners, and from immigration to the lack of production. I gathered, in the course of the honorable senator’s speech, that he was attacking the Government. To follow what Senator Grant is saying is most difficult for everyone, except, of course, those who are accustomed to listening to such speeches in the Sydney Domain. The honorable senator asked what the Government had done since it was elected to office two years ago. For an answer, he need only look around him. Australia is one of the few countries that can boast that it has no unemployment. Australians and Americans, receive the highest wages and enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. Lastly, Australia has a defence policy, of which we, as Australians, can all be proud. It is as well that Senator Grant should consider those things when he complains about this Government’s alleged lack of policy. He should consider, too, the fact that Australia’s taxes are lower than those of any of the English-speaking democracies, and that our price levels are lower, in relation to economic standards, than they are in any of the other democracies. Those things have not happened for tuitously. Some credit must be given to the Government.
I had not intended to participate in this debate and I do so now only because of the announcement in to-day’s press of
Cabinet’s decision in relation to the sale of gold. That decision is of great significance to the people of Western Australia. The announcement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was reported as follows: -
On November 1, discussion took place in Canberra between representatives of the Government and of the Australian gold-mining industry regarding implications of the International Monetary Fund’s recent decision on stiles of gold at premium prices. The industry representatives asked that Australian gold producers should be allowed to sell their current output of newly mined gold for industrial purposes on premium markets overseas providing that such sales were made for United States dollars.
After closely considering developments overseas and the position of the gold-mining industry, Cabinet to-day decided to accede to the industry’s request.
That announcement has been made possible by a recent decision of the International Monetary Fund. As honorable senators are aware, Australia is one of the. 42 nations that are members of that fund and has, at all times, subscribed to the policies of the fund. One of the functions of the fund is to fix the international price of gold. For some years, the price of gold has been pegged at 35 dollars a fine ounce. That restriction has had a most serious effect, on the Australian goldmining industry. Production costs in that industry have risen considerably in recent years and are still rising, and had action not been taken, those costs eventually would have made gold-mining unprofitable. That would have meant disaster for Western Australia, because the economy of that State is based largely on the gold-mining industry. A difficult situation has arisen also in South Africa and in other gold producing countries. South Africa was particularly badly hit last year, although I believe that, in the previous year, with the permission of the International Monetary Fund, that country had commenced selling gold at a premium. In other words South Africa was selling gold for more than the fixed price to those private hoarders of gold who are prepared to pay for it. Until to-day, however, Australian gold producers were forced not only to sell their gold within a specified time, but also to sell it; at the fixed price. Now the position is quite different.
Let us review what has happened during the past few months. Events have had an international flavour as well as a national significance. In March of this year, because South Africa had been selling considerable quantities of gold at premium prices, the International Monetary Fund became rather concerned about the situation and it made the following decision: -
Since the amount of sales and purchases in the world markets of gold for jewellery, artistic and industrial purposes has recently been increasing at a rate indicating that at least part of it finds its way to private hoards, contrary to the gold policy” of the Fund established in June, 1947, the Board considers the existing arrangements and practices of several countries, including South Africa, are no longer a satisfactory basis to implement the Fund’s gold policy and directs the staff of the Fund urgently to elaborate, after consultation with the countries concerned, more’ effective methods’ than the existing ones.
Since March, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and other gold-producing countries have been in consultation with the members of the fund in an endeavour to devise a method to alleviate the problems of gold-producing countries. The Australian Government was fully aware of what was going on and, at all times, had the interests of the Australian goldmining industry at heart. The Government sent Professor Melville to Washington to represent Australia at the discussion. Professor Melville had with him, as his mining adviser, Mr. W. S. Robinson, who is well known in Australian mining circles. For some months, Professor Melville and Mr. Robinson made every endeavour to persuade the fund that an alteration of its gold policy was essential. That they succeeded iri achieving this objective is now history. Some weeks ago, the fund relaxed its restriction on the sale of gold and that decision enabled the Australian Government to- issue the statement to which I have referred. On behalf of all honorable senators, and of the gold-mining industry, I commend Professor Melville for his efforts.
What will be the effect of the Government’s decision? Australian gold producers from now on will have the right to sell gold at premium rates, provided that it is sold for dollars. Obviously the return that Australian gold producers will receive will rise, and that, of course, will be of great benefit to the industry. To what extent the price will rise I am not prepared to say at the moment. That will depend on many factors. It will depend first on where the gold is sold, and to whom it is sold. It will depend also upon sales by South Africa which is a much larger gold producer than is Australia. Those details have not yet been discussed with the representatives of the industry, but the Prime Minister has announced that matters such as the marketing of gold are now being considered and I look forward to hearing a further statement from the Prime Minister on those subjects. Apart from the rise in the price of gold, the Government’s decision will have important effects. The fixing of the price of. gold was regarded as an obnoxious principle by Australian gold producers who felt that for too long they had been called upon to bolster the United States dollar and the Australian £1. Finally, the effect of the Government’s action will be to give fresh heart to the mine-owners and the men engaged in the gold-mining industry. It will also encourage them to make further efforts in the vital exploratory field of mining. In short, it will greatly encourage the stout men of Western Australia and of the other States who are engaged in gold-mining activities. Many thousands of people depend directly and indirectly on goldmining in Western Australia.’ To them, the Commonwealth’s decision is of great significance. I congratulate the Government for the action that it has taken during the last few months to assist the gold-mining industry.
– Senator Vincent has stated that since the present Government has been in office there has been no unemployment in this country, and that our people have enjoyed the highest standard of living of any country in the world. I do not deny that that is so, but I remind the honorable senator that that desirable state of affairs has been brought about as a result of the efforts of the former LabourGovernment It existed when the present Government came to office in 1949. Senator Cormack ably demonstrated the real Liberal propaganda, which consists essentially of misrepresentation and false promises. His contribution to the debate amounted to an attack on the Australian Labour party and its political philosophy.
The honorable senator based his. attack on the alarming decrease of the production of food, as a result of which we are faced with the possibility of a dangerous situation arising in the near future. He echoed the parrot cry of honorable senators opposite that production must be increased, which is becoming odious because of the frequency with which it is repeated. What has the Government done since coming to office to increase production ?
– I agree with Senator Ashley that it has done nothing at all to increase production. It is imperative, in the interests of the welfare of our people, that the decline of primary production shall be arrested. We have been told that there is a possibility of famine in Australia in the foreseeable future. All that the supporters of the Government appear capable of doing is to blackguard the Australian Labour party for a state of affairs for which it has not been responsible. During the war period many thousands of Allied troops were stationed in various parts of Australia for lengthy periods, and hundreds of thousands of civilians additional to our normal civilian population had to be fed. Although some foodstuffs were rationed, the Labour Government that was then in office did not encounter any appreciable difficulty in arranging contracts for the supply of adequate quantities of food. Every person who came to this country as a result pf the exigencies of war was able to obtain ample food. Yet, Senator Cormack has indulged in cheap gibes. He and other Government senators have stated that the present position in connexion with the production of food is the result of the socialization policy that was pursued by the. former Labour Government. What tommyrot! What utter nonsense! The sooner that the Government parties get down to bedrock and make a definite effort to increase production, particularly in the primary industries, the better it will be for all concerned. By so doing, they will at least do something of value for the people who foolishly voted for their return to office.
Senator Cormack displayed his complete lack of knowledge of the accomplishments of the former Labour Government in the prosecution of the war effort. I remind honorable senators that Labour came to office after the reins of government had been fores aken by a government of the same political colour as the present Government. Labour did much to stimulate primary production. Amongst other things, it placed a blanket “ over the workers in primary industries so that they could continue in their essential employment, instead of being directed into the armed services.
I take particular umbrage at Senator Cormack’s assertion that Australian workers are not giving value for the wages that they receive. He insinuated that, as a result of powerful Labour propaganda, workers in both primary and secondary industries do not now do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. That accusation is totally unwarranted. Indeed, secondary production has never been higher than it is at present. The decline of primary production is attributable to this Government’s lack of. interest in connexion with the marketing of primary products. Last year, the Government legislated for deductions totalling £103,000,000 from the wool-growers’ cheques.
– That money was confiscated.
– Because honorable senators opposite are the friends of the middlemen and the monopolists, the Government has gone out of its way to have international marketing knocked out. Despite all of the crocodile tears of honorable senators opposite, I am convinced that they are not really concerned with the interests of the primary producers and the working class in this country. The sooner that that fact is appreciated fully in this political arena the better.
I tell honorable senators opposite straight, that the workers of this country are to-day pulling their weight as effectively as ever they have done previously. Any slacking in industry is due to poor supervision. Because of the pernicious system of “ cost-plus “ that was introduced by an anti-Labour government, employers in the building industry do not care what a job costs. Labour costs mean nothing to building contractors working under this system, because they know that they will receive a percentage payment in addition to actual costa. The Government should approach this subject honestly, and try to find a way out of its dilemma. We all know that there has been an alarming decline of the production of foodstuffs. The Government should get down to fundamentals and do something to encourage the primary producers to increase production, instead of continually blaming Labour for the present state of affairs. The Government should direct its attention to the holders of large areas of land that are not being used to the full for primary production. This Government is not game to tax those people as it should. When the Government seeks to obtain land for the settlement of ex-servicemen it has to pay very high prices. Unless it has the courage to face up to the problem with which it is confronted, there will develop an even worse position than exists to-day. Although honorable senators opposite continually attack our philosophy, I remind them that the best Australians are in the ranks of the Australian Labour party, because they work in the interests of the ordinary people, not vested monopolies with which Government supporters ave associated.’
We are considering a proposed estimated expenditure during the current financial year of £1,056,104,000, which will be a record for this country. By comparison, it outstrips any previous appropriation. What is more, this Appropriation Bill is an amazing measure to present to the people of this country during a period of peace. If we were at war, such as we were when the Australian Labour party was in office, the presentation of such a measure might be excusable, but it is not excusable at the present time to ask the people to provide such a huge amount. In support of that contention, I point out that for the last financial year the total expenditure was £841,791,688. Compared with that figure, the estimated expenditure for this financial year is £214,312,312 greater. That means that the Government is calling on the people to pay additional taxes to that amount. Having regard to the claim of the Government that it wishes to stem inflation, I submit that the expenditure of such a large sum of money is not legitimate. I do not profess to be an economist, but I notice that the Government proposes to provide £181,703,000 for expenditure on defence measures. Last year, under that head, £148,067,448 was’ spent, so that the estimated expenditure for the present financial year is £33,635,552 greater. I appreciate that the international situation is grave and that it is necessary for the Government to prepare to defend the country. I contend however that the Government will be unable to spend all the money which it is now calling upon the people to provide for defence preparations. The Government has overestimated the requirements of defence.
If we look at the other side of the picture and consider the estimated receipts, it will be found that the Government estimates that it will receive £636,300,000 from direct tax. Last year, £496,393,310 was collected by that means, so that the Government now expects to receive £139,906,690 more. In respect of indirect tax, the estimated receipts amount to £321,000,000, which is £98,823,401 more than the total collections from that source last year. It is estimated that sales tax will increase by £59,826,899 over last year’s figures. When one looks at the total estimated revenue one cannot fail to ask: Where is all this additional money to go ? Can it be legitimately expended for governmental purposes? Is its collection necessary and can the defence appropriation be spent on legitimate defence preparations? When we consider the labour position in this country and appreciate that insufficient workers are available to perform the work required by industry and at the same time engage in defence projects, we naturally wish to know what will become of the large amount of money which the Government has appropriated for defence purposes.
It seems to me that this Government is concerned not so much with stemming inflation as with obtaining every penny that it possibly can from the subscribing public. I recall the suggestions that honorable senators opposite made when they were on this side of the chamber. At that time Labour administrations were carrying out their obligations to the best of their ability. Yet in the darkest, days of the last world war no appropriation comparable to that now requested by the Government was thought of. 1 suggest that some extravagant expenditure is envisaged by the Government to cause it to enlarge so greatly its demands upon the people. We have been told that the purpose of the budget proposals is to prevent inflation. To my mind they will have the opposite effect. Because of the additional taxes which the Government intends to impose, and especially additional sales tax, the purchasing power of the people will be reduced. The immediate effect will be that the basicwage adjustments will become larger, thereby accentuating the inflationary trend.
I consider that the attitude of the Government is wrong and that it should attempt to stabilize the economy by some system of control, no matter how obnoxious that word may be to honorable senators opposite. Control is essential in certain circumstances, and I suggest that the present time is appropriate for the application of determined control of the financial situation in this country. If swift action is not taken to improve the economy, I feel that the time is not far distant when there will be a tremendous economic collapse. What we need is a courageous government with sufficient vision to tackle inflation. It is not too late, even at this stage, for the Government to introduce a’ system of Commonwealth prices control with the object of stabilizing the prices of commodities. I consider that such a control would have the immediate effect of also controlling wages. A great deal has- been said about the necessity to peg wages. The fact is that wages follow costs all the time. If there is to be equity in our economy, the wage-earner must be given a wage which is sufficiently large to enable it to keep pace with the everincreasing costs of commodities. After all, variations of the basic wage repre- seat no more than a chase after costs, which are always nearly three months ahead of basic wage adjustments. If the Government will peg prices, bank rates of interest and profits, it will be a step in the right direction.
Greater profits are being made in this country to-day than ever before. It is useless to deny that that is so, because day after day the newspapers report that, after payment of all taxes and other commitments, companies have made record profits for the period under review. 1 suggest that that is one of the primary causes of inflation to-day. I blame this Government to a great degree, because from the commencement of its term of office its members have stated that certain things will be done to stabilize the economy, but beyond stating that such things will be done, nothing has in fact been done. They have merely allowed the grass to grow under their feet. They now intend to confiscate £114,500,000 from the people, who have been told that, the Government is better able to spend it. Direct and indirect taxes are to be increased vastly, so that the people will have less money with which to purchase (roods. The members of the Government claim that that will bring about stabilization of the economy. To my mind, that line of reasoning is fallacious. Although socialism is anathema to this Government, I believe that it must adopt socialist methods if it wishes to do something worthwhile for the whole of the people and not merely to kow-tow to a certain section, as it is doing at the moment.
Senator Vincent referred to the Government’s decision to allow gold to be sold at a premium on the open market, f suggest that the time has arrived for the Government to give more active help to the gold-mining industry. I have in mind particularly the Kalgoorlie goldfields, where a population of about 60,000 is almost entirely dependent upon the goldmining industry for a livelihood. Because of constantly rising prices and wages, the mines are being worked on an everdecreasing margin of profit, and the mining companies cannot pass on increased costs as do those engaged in other industries. I shall be grateful to the Govern ment for anything it can do to obtain a better price for gold on the world market, but I believe that the time has arrived to consider the re-introduction of the gold bounty.
The Government should also encourage prospecting. Stretching from the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia to the far north-west of the State there is much metalliferous country that -has never yet been prospected. The Government should put into effect a long-term plan to subsidize the price of gold, to maintain lowgrade production, to minimize selective mining, and to encourage development. The gold-mining industry in Western Australia saved the Australian economy during a difficult time in our history, and it is still of the greatest importance to Western Australia.
We have been told over and over again that only by producing more can we overcome our economic difficulties, but the Government’s only contribution so far has been to tax the workers, directly and indirectly. If the Government is sincere in its expressed desire for greater production it should remit taxation on those workers who are increasing production. If a group of workers can materially increase production in their industry over a period, the Government should say to them, “ Well done, good and faithful servants. You have achieved something worthwhile, and we shall remit your taxation for twelve months “. Ministers have talked a great deal about providing incentives for production. I suggest that the Government, instead of urging the other fellow to provide incentives, should do something itself in that direction.
– We have heard a great deal to-night about insufficient production, and of the danger of the collapse of the economic edifice. Senator Cormack said that members of the Opposition merely cried, “ Woe ! Woe ! “ and did nothing more. The cure for our economic ills, he said, was increased production. He said that workers were leaving the land, and coming to the cities. Well, who is to blame for that? If conditions are better in the cities, the workers will come to the cities. Those who want to keep the workers on the land must improve working conditions on the land. At any rate, production is not lagging to the extent suggested by the honorable senator. In the United States of America, there is over-production now. Millions of pounds of butter and millions of dozens of eggs are held in store. Potatoes are being fed to pigs, but has that reduced prices, or stabilized the economy of the country? It has not. There is inflation in the United States of America just as there is in the other capitalist countries. Senator Cormack said that we should produce more. According to the Bulletin of Overseas Trade Statistics for June, 1951, Australia produced in 1950 no less than 161,000 tons of butter, of which 81,000 tons were exported. Thus, we had a surplus of 80,000 tons, but did that bring down the price of butter? In the same year we exported 2,311,936 tons of wheat and 80,000 tons of flour. That represented our surplus production of wheat, but did the price of bread decline? It did not. As a matter of fact, the price of bread has been steadily increasing.
– What was the overseas price of wheat?
– The overseas price of wheat has nothing to do with the point that I am making. Senator Cormack said that, if we produced more, prices would come down. I am showing that, although we are producing big surpluses of some commodities, prices have not come down. Australia produced last year 31,000 tons of rice, most of which was exported. We were told that it was needed in those countries where rice is a staple article of diet. The price of rice in Australia was £45 a ton, but the overseas price was £75 a ton. The rice was exported because those who owned it wanted to get as much for it as possible. I am discussing only basic commodities, because they enter into the cost of living regimen. In 1950, we exported 83,000 tons of meat. That was the surplus over and above what we consumed ourselves, but did the price of meat come down? It did not. In the same year we exported millions of dozens of eggs, but the price of eggs in Australia has been steadily increasing.
– Prices will not come down so long as the basic wage goes on increasing under the system of automatic quarterly adjustments. That is the running sore in our economy.
– I have no doubt that Senator Maher would be content if he could force the workers back on to the coolie standard of £1 10s. a week. As a matter of fact, the workers are worse off now than they were in 1907.
– Absolute nonsense!
– It is true. The purchasing power of the money paid for margins for skill is less now than it was in 1907. The basic wage was then 7s. a day, and the margin for a pattern maker brought the wage up to 11s. a day, representing a margin of more than 50 per cent. The margin to-day is only about 30 per cent. How is inflation to be cured? The workers own nothing, and have only their labour to sell. The proprietors of private enterprise own the goods. They blame the workers for what they call lack of production, although I have cited figures which show that we are over-producing many basic commodities. During 1951, we exported 127,698,000 lb. of wool, but the price of blankets and other woollen goods was never higher than it is to-day. Those who are crying out for increased production on the ground that it will bring down prices are trying to mislead the people. They want increased production, it is true, but only because they want greater profits in which the workers will not share.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate.I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The excuse which is offered by honorable senators opposite for the existence of inflation is that production is at a low level. * Produce more “, they say, “ and prices will steadily fall “. That statement is fallacious. The more the workers produce, the greater will be the profits of those who own the great Australian industries. Inflation is rife in the community, because we are not using our money, our industries, and our facilities to the best advantage. The budget provides for the expenditure of £181,783,000 on defence this year. Last year, there was a carry-over of £48,000,000 in the defence votes. A total of no less than £229,783,000 is available for defence purposes this year. The extraordinary amounts which are being provided for defence purposes have an inflationary effect, because expenditure on defence is un-reproductive.-
– What is the honorble senator’s view of the Government’s defence policy?
– It is stupid. Honorable senators, if they genuinely desired to prepare the defences of the nation, would not waste money by putting young boys into camp for military training. If defence preparations were really necessary - and I do not admit that they are - the Government would expend the bulk of the defence vote on the purchase of aircraft, which constitute the best kind of defence for this country.
– Is there no occasion for defence preparations?
– I do not think that there is; nor is there any justification for the Government trying to scare the people into believing that war is imminent. Similar scares have been fostered in the past by other governments for the purpose of conditioning the minds of the people to accept increased taxes. During the last four years, the Communist bogy has been trotted out as an excuse for defence preparations. Governments in the past have endeavoured to frighten the people by threats of the imminence of war, merely to enable them to extract additional taxes from the public. The additional revenues which this Government will derive as a result of its budget proposals will go into the coffers of the Treasury, and, from there, to the persons who are making great profits out of the manufacture of munitions of war. That technique has been followed by past governments for more than 100 years.
Similar war scares were created in 1848, when the newspapers of Great Britain stated that France was threatening to attack England. The people were told that the French had sufficient gunpowder to blow up England, and that the Government needed more money with which to purchase additional supplies of gunpowder. The manufacturer of gunpowder, who was supplying stocks to France, also wanted to sell his product to Great Britain. Through the agency of the press, he deliberately created a scare in order to achieve his ends. The British Government at that time decided to raise the rate of income tax from 7d. to ls. in the £1, but the people of England revolted against such a proposal, and said, “ There is no truth in these statements. We shall not pay the higher taxes.” Meetings were held at every street corner, and petitions poured into the House of Commons protesting against the Government’s proposal. The strong pressure which was exerted upon the Government forced it to abandon its plan. Another scare occurred in 1861. At that time, the signs of an economic depression were visible, and the government of the day wanted to increase taxes to enable it to withstand the effects of the expected slump. It used the familiar technique of scaring the people, and, on that occasion, was able to get away with the subterfuge. Later, a similar attempt was made to frighten the people into believing that the French fleet was about to challenge the supremacy of the British fleet. While people in England were becoming agitated over the prospect of war with France on the high seas, the French Chamber of Deputies was being told that the British fleet was so powerful that it could annihilate the French fleet in a day. On the fourth occasion when the people of Great Britain were alarmed by the threat of war, William Gladstone resigned from the Prime Ministership. He said, in effect, “You have caught me on three occasions; you will not catch me again”.
Government supporters interjecting,
– This is a serious matter, and I arn sorry that it is not so regarded by honorable senators opposite. Such matters should be examined against the background of history. I shall have to produce my little blue book again. Mr. F. W. Hirst, in The Six Panics, referred to panics that were created in Great Britain for purely political purposes, as follows : -
But in the month of December, .1893, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Chamberlain attacked Mr. Gladstone’s Government with a motion demanding another large increase, lt was a weak Government, and most of its members were inclined to follow Lord Rosebery’s bigger navy policy, forgetting that a particular increase leads to a general one, in which every nation .loses. Mr. Gladstone resigned rather than acquiesce, and the naval expenditure was raised in 1894-5 to over 17 millions, and in 1895-0 by the succeeding Government of Lord Salisbury to over .19-) millions. Mr. Gladstone admitted that (as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister) he had made “limited concessions” to scares in 18(10 and 1884. but in 1S94 he could find no justification.
– Is the book from which the honorable senator has quoted in the Parliamentary Library?
– Yes. A slump took place in England in 1893. At that time, the shipbuilding industry was languishing, and Mr. Mulliner convinced the British Parliament and the people that the Germans were laying down eight dreadnoughts.
– Woe, woe, woe !
– Order !
– I expect that kind of interjection from Senator Vincent, especially after having listened to his contribution to the debate on this bill. The Germans said that they were not building additional dreadnoughts, but the members of the British Parliament were so scared that they agreed to authorize the government to lay down four dreadnoughts. Elderly people will recall the cry that arose in those days: “ We want eight and we won’t wait “. The story which was told by Mr. Mulliner was later found to be completely false, and the people of Great Britain learned, to their dismay, that they had been misled, and that no additional dreadnoughts were being built in Germany. In 1911, a further scare w-as created by the story that a zeppelin raid would be made on Great Britain. The purpose of that scare was to enable the government to levy increased taxes. In 1950-51, the Australian Government raises the Communist bogy in order to condition the minds of the people of this country to accept its proposal to spend astronomical sums of money on defence preparations.
– Is there no war in Korea at present?
– The honorable senator is well aware that the Korean war is being carried on illegally, and that it does not conform to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt), is not aware of that.
– The Government has said that it will cure the evil of inflation by budgeting for a surplus, and thus skimming off the surplus spending power of the people. The surplus revenues of the Government will not be used, as they should be used, for the production of commodities that are alleged to be in short supply. The money which will be expended on defence preparations will be used not for the production of goods and commodities but for the purchase of armaments and the training of boys in military camps. The Government will, put additional money into circulation, but will make no provision for increasing the supply of goods and commodities. We have been told that in this matter the Government has taken a courageous step, but I do not agree with that view. Prices are continually rising, and the basic wage is rising in consonance with them. In consequence of the increase of the basic wage, workers are being brought into higher income categories for income tax purposes. Many of them, instead of being subjected to an additional tax impost of 10 per cent, this year, will have to pay 50 per cent, more tax than they paid last year. I do not believe that there is need to expend a vast sum of money on what the Government chooses to call “ defence preparations “. It has not given us any indication that there is likely to be an attack on this country.
I have never heard any authoritative statement to the effect that Russia is likely to attack Australia, or any other country.
– Did Stalin tell the honorable senator to say that?
– I do not listen to clap-trap. I study these things. In 1946, the Genera] Assembly of the United Nations resolved that armaments be reduced by one-third. That resolution was agreed to unanimously, as also was another resolution that i Lie manufacture of atomic bombs should be prohibited. Has any action been taken by the members of the United Nations to give effect to those resolutions? Australia was a party to them. In fact the Australian delegates moved an amendment along those lines. They fought for disarmament and for the abolition and prohibition of the atomic bomb. We are not carrying out those resolutions. Why? Because capitalism cannot live without war. Honorable senators have been deploring <the conditions that lie ahead. What is the cure? It is in the hands of honorable senators and the people themselves. But it would not do for the exploiters because, as Senator Nash has told the chamber, socialism is the cure. I do not mean nationalization, but” true socialism. If we had pure socialism we would not have a few people exploiting the workers of the country and taking away the value of their money.
I have heard a great deal said about Russia looking for war. I wish to read to the Senate a letter that I have received from a very reputable person, Mrs. Jessie Street, so that honorable senators will know what, is going on -
On riing thu last four weeks I have been in Prague. Warsaw and Moscow. I am writing to you from Moscow to give you a first-hand account of what I have found in those C01111tries. I am convinced that what nil of these people desire most is pence and what they dread most is war. T do not believe that the people of the Soviet Union are people who can be threatened. Their successes in the last war have filled them with the belief that the U.S.S.R. is invincible and with a burning sense of patriotism. I do not believe that they will ever attack another country, but they will fight to the death if attacked to keep Russia and Russian resources for the Russians. Furthermore, their whole interest at the pre sent time is concentrated on achieving the tremendous plans they have made for rebuilding cities, making canals, reclaiming the desert, &c. This conclusion of mine is borne out by articles recently published by the Kew York Times, written by their special Moscow correspondent, Harrison Salisbury.
We spent a duy and a half in Prague. 1 arrived in a plane with Indian and Dutch delegates to the 2nd World Peace Congress, the meeting place of which had been changed from Sheffield to Warsaw. Planes full of delegates were arriving every few minutes.
The plane loads of delegates were met at Prague by members of the Czech Peace Committee and representatives from the Department of Information, and also members of the youth organization, who gave us flowers and sang songs of welcome and peace. At the airport we were let off all passport and customs formalities, and were given refreshment and taken to our hotels. The streets and shop windows were decorated with flags and peace emblems. At Warsaw we received a similar reception. Some delegates journeyed from Prague to Warsaw by train. At every station they were welcomed by cheering crowds with peace banners and emblems, and speeches were mode on the need for peace.
Two thousand and sixty-five accredited representatives from 8.1 countries attended the Congress. Except for the speech of Rogge from the U.S.A.. who was not an accredited representative, but came to the Congress as a member of. the outgoing World Committee and was extended the courtesy by the Congress of speaking, every speech stressed the desire of all people everywhere for peace and denounced the policies of preparing for war and holding countries and peoples in subjection for purposes of maintaining and creating opportunities for investment.
At the opening and end of the three sessions which were held daily cheering crowds gathered outward the Congress hall.
Here in Moscow we are being feted. In every speech we are asked to tell Australia that they want peace and friendship with all nations. Peace slogans are hung in shops, factories, children’s and workers’ clubs.
A tremendous building programme is in progress, also large-scale works for the reclamation of desert land, canals, water reticulation, &c.
The people are both vigorous and happy, and are enthusiastically and successfully building- a socialist economy. I believe this to be one of the reasons for the propaganda against Russia.
I am convinced that the greatest desire anil need of the U.S.S.R. and Eastern European countries is peace so that they may restore the terrible destruction they sustained during World War II. “ b
I am writing to tell you the truth as I see it on the spot. I know the extent to which you are subjected to propaganda in home and overseas press. As I see it, this press is controlled by national and international interests whose principal aim is to maintain and enlarge the spheres for foreign investment. The richness of the resources and the ample labour power of the U.S.S.R. and Asiatic countries are a constant lure to their profithungry ambitions.
You members of Parliament are not the agents for the profit-seeking minority, be they foreign or Australian. You are the trustees for the people of Australia. You know full well that the young men who will fight and be killed in wars to make the world safe for investments will not share in the profits from these investments.
I solemnly request you to reject the policy of preparing Australia for war and I respectfully ask you to develop a policy of international co-operation, trade and friendship with all nations on the basis of equality and at the same time to take measures to ensure Australia’s military, economic and financial independence.
Such policies will inevitably strengthen and develop Australia’s resources and wealth and will preserve them for the benefit of her people as a whole. What is also important is that such policies will lead to peace. With the existence of such terrible weapons of maas destruction as exist at the present time, I believe it to be a sacred obligation of all in authority to adopt policies which will enable the people to enjoy peace. 1 declare my earnest conviction the contents of this letter to be true.
P.S. - I am sending copies of this to the press.
– Did she meet the Leader of the Opposition there?
– I am trying to convey to the people the impressions of Mrs. Jessie Street, and I am trying to tell them also that Russia could not carry out the great projects it has undertaken if it was preparing for war.
– Why did Mr. Vishinsky laugh at proposals for peace?
– I am reminded of four people playing a game of euchre. One man says, “ Show me your hand of cards or I won’t play”. That is what it means. “ Show me what you have and then we will decide whether we will have disarmament “. Let us prohibit the atomic bomb and reduce armaments. There is no occasion for them. The manufacturers are looking for profits and they have made the people believe that there is danger of attack from Russia. Since 1947 this country has had sixteen increases in prices under capitalism, which has reduced the standard of living of the people. The whole capitalist structure is falling around the shoulders of honorable senators and they cannot see it. Under a socialist scheme there have been four reductions in prices. That has meant that under that system each individual has had the purchasing power of his money increased by £110 a year. For a family of five that means that the purchasing power has been increased by £550 more than it was in 1947.
– What regime was that?
– I will tell the honorable senator in good time. We are sent to this chamber to do the best for the people. I mean the mass of the people. If we did that we would examine these points calmly. I know that there are certain men with a profit motive and a one-track mind and that there are morons who will not listen, but there are also students of political economy. I ask them to examine this question calmly and coolly. If there is any merit in it let us adopt it. Recently a man in Melbourne had bad eyes. Tht one place to get medical advice to cure his eyes was Moscow, and the Government in two hours was connected with Moscow to get the information. That man has had his sight restored and is cured and he is very appreciative of what this Government did for him. If we can get medical advice, surely we can get advice on political economy. Honorable senators can jeer, but when the whole capitalist edifice falls they will be looking for a way out.
In Australia we cannot even produce the coal we require, and that is not because of the miners. The cause is given in the last report of the Joint Coal Board, which stated that it had had to restrict production. The board said that it would not allow more coal to be produced because it did not have the trucks or the locomotives to carry it. The board stated that in ordinary times it would be all right to stack the coal, but it could not do so now because it would be too expensive and the only alternative was to restrict production. Why was it?
– Have we too much coal now?
– No; it means that we have not the facilities for handling it. Why? Because honorable senators opposite have already said what they arc going to do. They have cut down public works by 25 per cent. If this Government was sincere it would not reduce work by 25 per cent., but would produce hydro-electricity wherever possible as fast as it could. The jackasses opposite are laughing.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to address the Chair. I. need no instructions from him on how 1 should conduct the business of this chamber. I know that the honorable senator has subtly evaded my earlier ruling. Again I ask him to address the Chair.
– I certainly shall. I did not intend to be rude to you, Mr. President. I realize that you have a responsibility to discharge, and I respect that responsibility. All I said was, “ The jackasses opposite are laughing “. Let us review the situation calmly. Let us free ourselves of prejudices. I have pointed out that coal production is being restricted because, according to the Joint Coal Board, the supply of locomotives and trucks is not adequate. Coal is being imported from India and sold at twice the price of the local product. The subsidizing of such imports cost the Australian Government ?1,500,000 last year. We have coal seams from north of Cairns to South Australia; yet supplies are still inadequate. There is something wrong. What is it? The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said that coal production last year was a record. Apparently he takes some credit for that; but he did not produce the coal. The miners produced it. The reason for the coal shortage, in my opinion, is the fact that the system under which we are living will not permit this country to meet its own requirements.
– The honorable senator “ wants the “ commo “ system, I suppose ?
- Senator Wright and others who have a “ commo “ complex do not know anything about the matter.
– Order ! This constant cross-fire of interjections must cease. Senator Morrow must address the Chair and ignore interjections. I appeal to honorable senators to refrain from interjecting.
– It is difficult to refrain from replying to provocative interjections. Recently the Melbourne Age published a most illuminating report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Under the heading, “ World Food and Crop ProspectsGloomy for West; brighter for Reds”, the article states -
Washington, October 29 (A.A.P.). - Food and crop conditions are better in Communist countries than in most other parts of the world, the United Nation b Food and Agricultural Organizations reported yesterday in an annual survey of world food conditions.
Crop prospects presented a gloomy picture for the western world, the report stated, but aid the Soviet Union, the European satellites and Communist China were in good condition. The report said the Soviet Union’s best postwar year for food supplies was 1950.
Senator Cormack told us earlier tonight that production in the Soviet Union was declining. That is not borne out by the report. The article continues -
Crop production in the Danube basin, and probably in other countries of eastern Europe, promise to be even higher in 1951. The Peking Government had reported bumper crops in Communist China. The agency said its report on the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Rumania and Communist China were based on official announcements by Communists Governments of those countries, and on data from an economic survey of Europe made by th? Organization for European Economic Corpora tion in 1950.
The report said the war in Korea and the world rearmament programme, presented “ real dangers “ of slowing world food production.
– Is the honorable senator quoting that report to show that the Communist countries are producing more food?
– I am quoting from a report that appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 30th October and it speaks for itself. The article continues -
It said progress in agriculture - “ the world’s largest industry, occupying most of the world’s people - must be speeded up and intensified.
Dr. Morris Todd, DirectorGeneral of the Agency, said in a foreword to the Annual Report that there was a danger that in the planning of huge defence programmes agricultural requirements might be overlooked.
He added a cautious prediction that harvest prospects for 1951-52 seemed “ fairly favorable “.
Reports said the economic effects of the Korean War seemed likely to continue until 11)53.
Even if the fighting ended and international tension was eased, it predicted that investment retrenchment would take place and could result in a widespread depression, first in the United States’ and then in other industrialized countries.
No one will call the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization a Communist body. To me all this talk of Communist China is a joke. Probably any one who called Chinese people Communists would receive a cold shoulder. T am endeavouring to review the world position. “We are told that the democracies are facing a shortage of vital commodities, but I have shown that Australia is producing more than enough to meet the requirements of its own people. I have also shown that the claim that increased production will reduce prices is completely fallacious, because when world production has overtaken demand, there will be a depression, and when a depression occurs prices will fall but many will not have any money to buy goods. I have also shown that the Russian people are carrying out big developmental projects including hydroelectric works, and the building of canals. They have a machine that weighs 1,312 tons. It walks and it works. It can remove 525,000 cubic feet of earth in a day. A canal 1,100 miles long is being built, and will be finished in seven year3. More than 200,000,000 acres of land will be irrigated, and nearly 100,000,000 additional kilowatts of electricity produced. How could such vast undertakings be carried out if the Russians were, in fact, preparing for war? Not long ago Russia sent 500,000 tons of wheat to Great Britain and also a considerable quantity to India. The Russians are able to do those things because the socialist system under which they live is much better than the capitalist system. Socialism is Labour’s objective. Socialism is in the interests of the people. We on this side of the chamber represent the workers and not merely a few wealthy and privileged individuals. Apparently honorable senators opposite do not realize that they do not represent the workers at all, although admittedly some workers have been foolish enough to vote for them al recent elections. The interests of the workers are directly opposed to those of the capitalists.
– I am glad to know that the honorable senator is speaking for his party.
– I am speaking of the Labour party’s objective to which the honorable senator himself once subscribed.
– That is not true and the honorable senator knows it.
– I have heard that denial before in this chamber. J can prove that the honorable senator dic) at one time subscribe to the policy of the Labour party. I can show it to him in his- own writing.
– Order ! The honorable senator is on rather dangerous ground.
– Senator Guy may get away with his denial for a time, but he will not always get away with it. Surely every sane and reasonable man realizes that the .system under which we are now living is collapsing.
– That is only the honorable senator’s opinion.
– The present system may be all right for the honorable senator and others who live by the sweat of other people’s brows, but for the workers it is different. Their standards of living are falling every day. The Government is robbing people first by reducing the purchasing power of the £1. and secondly by imposing higher taxes. Honorable senators opposite may laugh. They are on top of the world to-day, but. they will not remain there for long. Big business organizations are going bankrupt because they cannot get financial accommodation from the banks. The banks will not advance money because the return on it will not be worth while. The following report appeared recently in the Canberra. Times: -
About £180,000,000 was lopped off London Stock Exchange values in a renewed slump yesterday. Leading British Government securities fell to new low records. British industrial shares were sick. Oils were easier. but gold shares which stand to benefit from any deflation which might reduce costs of gold production, resisted the general depression.
Bank of New South Wales full a further 52s. (Id. to £39 las. - The lowest point for over three years.
Our whole system is collapsing around us. Within twelve months we shall be in the midst of a depression.
– You hope.
– I do not hope that at all. Any one who has suffered in two depressions and wants a third is certainly a glutton for punishment. People do not make depressions; they are made by the system under which people live.
– They tried . socialization in England.
– They tried nationalization in England, which is altogether different. Under socialization, the people own and control the means of production, distribution, and exchange in the interests of the people. In Australia, 92 per cent, of our expenditure is raised by taxation, compared with only 9.4 per cent. in Russia. . In that country the remainder of the revenue comes out of industry. It .does not go into the coffers of the few. Industry looks after its own welfare, and is thus able to progress, [f, in twelve months time, honorable senators who are now amused by what [ am saying, take the trouble to. read Hansard, they will find that there is a great deal of truth in what I have said to-night.
– What do thu people in the slave camps in Russia receive ?
– Senator Robertson has asked that question previously. I repeat that I do not know whether there are any slave camps in Russia. However, there must be some merit in the Russian system, which has permitted four reductions of prices, whilst it increased the income of a family of five to £550 a year. By way of contrast, in the same period we have had sixteen increases of prices, which have reduced our purchasing power considerably and thereby lowered the standard -of living of the Australian people.
– Is that the system that the honorable senator says is his objective ?
– The system that I advocate is one under which the workers own and control the means of production, and does not permit a few other individuals to take a portion of the goods thai they produce.
– Is Russia truly socialist?
– Russia is socialist, not communist. As I have said before, the only Communists in this country are the aborigines in Queensland, who are living in a primitive state and know nothing about private ownership.
– Yet they go to war with one another !
– As soon as one man us hurt, the war is finished. They do not employ atom bombs, poison gases, and germs of disease. I am convinced that some honorable senators who are now smiling will, if they read the report, of my speech in twelve months time, say to themselves, “ We were foolish to laugh at Senator Morrow, because he was earnest and sincere. He tried to tell us something to prevent suffering “.
– To-night th:: honorable senator has incriminated the party that he supports.
– I believe that we should, without prejudice, investigate a system that raises the standard of living,, with the object of helping our own people. As prices continue to rise in this country, and the value of our currency declines further, the Government will increase taxation. Ultimately the purchasing power of our money will become so low that people who are working will be virtually on the dole.
– No country in the world enjoys a better standard of living than does Australia.
– There is something in the honorable senator’s observation. We had, by comparison, a fair standard of living, but it has fallen rapidly since 1949. By March or April of next year honorable senators opposite will see the repercussions of the legislation that the Parliament has recently enacted. It is illogical for them to impose a sales tax of 2s. on an article, and at the same time claim that its price should be reduced. I make no appeal to the profiteers and morons, but I commend my remarks to students of political economy. I thank you, Mr. President, for the protection of the Chair, which I appreciate very much, and I also thank the two or three honorable senators who kept silent for their attentive hearing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now reada second time.
This measure authorizes the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments. It provides for an appropriation of £212,716,000 for the services of the year 1951-52, to which should be added the amounts already granted under Supply Act (No. 1) of 1951 and Supply Act (No. 2) of 1951, of £120,154,000 and £68,060,000 respectively, making the total amount of £400,930,000. This is the estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1951-52, as set out in detail in the second schedule to the bill. The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget debate, and it is not proposed to deal now with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may be desired by honorable senators will be furnished at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullilvan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– During the past fortnight it was the privilege of many honor able senators to travel to Kalgoorlie to attend a very important ceremony to mark the inauguration of a new diesel train service to link the east with the west. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I should like to express great appreciation of the courtesy that was extended to us by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in making that trip ‘possible. We were enabled to get a really good insight into the working of the new railway scheme. I express my own personal thanks, and that of many of my colleagues, to the Minister for the hospitality that he extended to us.
– I appreciate very much the compliment that has been paid to me by Senator Tangney on behalf of herself and her colleagues. I must say that no finer band of senators has ever accompanied me on a trip.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for-
Defence purposes - Albion, Victoria.
Department of National Development purposes - Bulimba, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Frankl in, Tasmania.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1951 -
No. 33 - Bodies Corporate (Joint Tenancy) .
No. 34 - Compensation to Relatives.
No. 35 - Cotton.
No. 36 - Fire Prevention.
No. 37 - Marking of Weight on Heavy Packages.
No. 38 - Seamen (Unemployment Indemnity).
No. 39- Shipping.
No. 40 - Suppression of Leprosy.
Public Service Act - Appointments Department -
Supply - B. Wigley.
Works and Housing - J.S. Cahill, A.E. Drake.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1951 -
No. 96 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 97 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 98- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. B9 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 100 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 101 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 102 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 103- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 104 - Commonwealth Public Service
No. 108 - Postal Overseers’ Union of Australia.
No. 108 - Australian Workers’ Union.
No. 107 - Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia.
No. 108- Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 109- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and Customs Officers’ Association of Australia (Fourth Division).
No. 110 - Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation of Australia.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1950-51.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1951 - No. 6 (Public Health Ordinance).
Social Services Consolidation Act - Tenth Report of the Director-General of Social Services, for year 1950-51.
Senate adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19511121_senate_20_215/>.