20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward mattner) took the chair .at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– The report of the Foreign Affairs Committee having been presented to the Minister for External Affairs, I now, with his permission, . and at the request of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, bring the report before the Senate. The report is- concerned with the so-called peace conference shortly to be held in Peking. It is largely self-explanatory, and it seeks to trace the origins and parentage of this conference, and to show the conditions under which it will be held. I wish to stress that the composition of the delegations to the conference will be chosen, ultimately, by Communists in Peking, that the matters to be discussed at the conference will be decided by Communists in Peking, and any nonCommunist who associates himself with this movement can do no good, but can do great harm, since his photograph will be circulated widely throughout SouthEast Asia in a propaganda attempt to show that this is not a purely Commit nist manoeuvre, as, in fact, it is. I lay on the table the following paper: -
First report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs relating to the Peking Peace Conference. and move- :
Thai the paper bc printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKENNA) adjourned.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Is the Government aware whether it is a Taut, as reported in this morning’s press by the Reverend G. R. van Eerde, that an amount of £8,000 has been publicly subscribed in recent weeks far the purpose of meeting the expenses of the delegation which was to proceed to Peking to participate in the alleged peace conference in that city ‘J As lie Government has now taken action, by refusing to issue passports or by cancellation of passports, to render more difficult the departure of the members of the delegation, is there any further step that the Government oan take to ensure that subscriptions made by well-intended but misguided people will be returned to them and thus render it less likely that the money subscribed will find its way to the coffers of the Communist party?
– If money was raised for the specific purpose of providing funds to enable delegates to attend the conference, and the money is not now capable of being used for that purpose, although I hesitate to express a legal opinion in answer to the question, 1 should think that contributors would have some claim against the persons to whom they paid the money.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. By way of explanation, I point out that the road between Launceston and Bell Bay, in Tasmania, is in a very bad condition and is rapidly becoming worse, because of the cartage of heavy materials for the construction of the aluminium works at Bell Bay. This project is more or less a defence undertaking. The Australian Government subscribed four-firths of the capital, and the Tasmanian Government only one-fifth, and it may be claimed that the road is, in some measure, a military road. Will the Minister consider the possibility of assisting financially tha Tasmanian Government in the repair and reconstruction of this road?
– This matter comes within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Supply, and I shall hepleased to bring it to his notice. I shall endeavour to let the honorable senator have a reply as early as possible-
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by pointing out that local-governing authorities carry out excellent work throughout Australia in the provision of roads. These bodies are always short of money for that purpose. As it is essential that better roads shall be provided if the Government’s drive to increase the production of food is to be successful, will the Government increase its disbursements to- the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax? If the Government is unwilling to provide the States with greater amounts from this source, . will the Minister consider other means to assist the localgoverning authorities financially, in order to enable them to extend and improve the roads of this country?
– I am sure that the honorable senator is aware that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the States for the purpose of keeping the roads of this country in good order has been doubled since this Government has been in office. However, I shall .refer his question to the Treasury to see whether additional financial assistance can be provided to the States for that purpose.
– Is the Minister .representing the Minister for the Army aware that a number of exservicemen of World War I. who signed on for service with the Army until 1954 have now been -advised that they are to be retired on attaining the ‘age of 55 year’s? If that is correct, will the Minister explain the position to the Senate?
– I have no knowledge of -the matter to which the honorable senator refers, and I therefore ask him to place his question on the noticepaper. I remind him, however, that there are certain retiring ages in the .Army and that special pensions or retiring allowances .are payable when personnel attain those ages. I suggest that the : matter to which the honorable senator refers may concern the normal application of retiring arrangements, but as I have no real knowledge of the position I shall have to obtain the necessary information for him.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration. In view of the fact that the Premier of South Australia has reaffirmed his approval of the South Australian Housing Trust constructing kitchenettes for the use of family units at the Gepp’s Gross British immigrant hostel, and in view of the persistent representations of the honorable member for Sturt regarding this proposal, will the Government give immediate and urgent consideration to the question of having this work carried out, as such a move would promote a happier and healthier outlook at the hostel ?
– The honorable -senator was good enough to indicate that he proposed to ask this question, and I nave obtained the following considered reply from the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration : -
Although there have been press reports dealing with alleged statements by the. Premier of South Australia to the effect that the South Australian Housing Trust is willing to erect “kitchenettes at the Gepp’s Cross Immigrant Hostel, no such offer has yet been made by the Premier to- the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration or to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, the two Commonwealth Ministers most directly concerned.
The Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration has already stated that he is personally sympathetic towards the desire of families living in migrant hostels to do their own cooking and appreciates that both socially and economically there ure many advantages in the women of a family being occupied in the preparation of their own family’s meals, thus making use of their available time and being able to provide those variations to menus that make home cooking preferable to bulk cooking.
There are, however, many physical and other problems related to the proposal, not the least of which is the added fire risk involved, that would have to be examined in detail.
The internal arrangements of immigrant workers’ hostels are, of course, primarily n matter for Commonwealth Hostels Limited, but the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration has undertaken to have thu question of the provision of individual cooking facilities for families in hostels re-examined in the light of present conditions.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether there is any truth in the statement by a representative of the Sim newspaper in Korea, that soldiers serving in that theatre of war are issued with inferior summer clothing and, more important still, that Owen guns are not replaced when barrels are badly worn? In . close fighting, soldiers’ lives depend upon the efficiency of these weapons and the report alleges that Owen guns are allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that their condition is a disgrace to our Army administration and supply authorities. If those statements be’ true, will the Minister ensure that an immediate improvement shall be effected? “Will he also investigate the matter so that the blame for the present state of affairs may be placed upon those who are responsible for it?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matters that have been raised by the honorable senator, and I have not read the report to which he has referred. In view of the importance of the allegations contained in it, .1 believe that the Minister for the Army should be given an opportunity to make a considered reply to them. However, I personally believe that the report can be repudiated because I .know the keen interest that the Minister takes in the equipment and conditions of Australians serving in Korea. The Minister is himself a former frontline fighting soldier, and I am sure that he would not leave one stone unturned in his efforts to do what he believed to be right. In these circumstances, whilst I cannot believe that the report has any real substance, I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper so that the Minister may make his own reply to it.
– From time to time we read reports in the press of the shooting down of numbers of enemy aircraft over Korea. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence able to give to the Senate information concerning the number of United Nations aircraft shot down in Korea. If it is not in the public interest or in the interest of the United Nations, to disclose such, information, will the Minister furnish, to members of the Parliament the figures relating to Australian aircraft so lost, as- was done during World War II.?
– Having due regard to security, as much information as possible is being made available on the subject raised by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that the United Nations has marked out 78 Northern Korean cities and towns for bombing and that two of the towns have already been hit? If so, will the Minister request the Australian Government, which is a member of the United Nations, to lodge an emphatic protest against this act?
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answer.1 -
It is a fact that the Commander of the United States Fifth Air Force in Korea, General Barcus, stated on the 5th August that 78 localities in North Korea had been designated its bombing targets, and the civilian population warned to leave. It is not the intention of the Government to protest against this announcement. The war in Korea continues, owing to Communist insistence that prisoner* of war should, whether they wish it or not, lie repatriated, if necessary, by physical force. A truce in Korea would have been arranged some time ago if it were not for this attitude To protect our own United Nations forces, which include many Australians, the bombing nf Communist military installations and supplies must continue until an armistice has been reached. The Communists had, according to the American Secretary for Air, Mr. Tinletter, made a practice of moving materials, supplies and men. into highly populated areas and the warning, which had been accompanied by leaflets, had been made to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether it is a fact that, on Monday the 1st September, on the occasion of the inaugural flight of the Australia-South Africa service, Guildford Airport, in Western Australia, was declared by the Minister for Civil Avia tion to be an international airport? Is the Minister aware that the guests did not include the State Governor, Sir Charles Gairdner, and that no Western Australian senator or member of the House of Representatives was invited to attend the ceremony? Does the Minister know that Air Force officials were omitted from the function although many of them had given yeomen service to make the new venture a possibility? Will the Minister inform the Senate who was responsible for the preparation of the invitation list, and what plan was adopted in compiling that list?
– I shall have inquiries made and provide the honorable senator with a copy of the report that I receive on this matter.
– Before calling upon the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to state that I did not observe that he was endeavouring to secure the call earlier in the proceedings. I always endeavour to give the Leader of the Opposition an early opportunity to ask a question if he wishes to do so.
– I understand what happened and I thank you, Mr. President. Will the Minister for Trade and. Customs inform me whether the Government has given consideration to fixing a day for the forthcoming Senate election? If not, will this matter be considered at an early date and, in fairness to all parties, will an immediate anouncement of the Government’s intention be made. In particular, will the Minister say whether the approaching election is to be held before the end of this calendar year, or whether it is te be postponed until some time next year?
– The Government has not yet considered the fixation of a date upon which the next Senate elections will be held. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is most desirable that honorable senators, particularly those whose term will end on the 30th June next, be notified as early as possible of the date upon which the elections will be held. As to whether elections will be held this year or next year, I ran only hazard a guess because, as I
Iia ve indicated, the matter has not been considered. I should he most astonished if the elections were held this year. I assure the honorable senator that as soon as a decision has been made by the Government it will be announced.
– With a view to improving, our export trade, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture confer with his colleague and urge that he again refer to the Australian Agricultural Council the question of laying down stand.dards for such matters as the machine cleaning of all blue and grey peas for export ?
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague and ask that a reply be furnished.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Government has decided to sell the Commonwealth shipping fleet that is serving the Australian coastal trade? Is it a fact that the existing fleet, and those vessels which are now under construction, are to be sold on the lay-by system? if so, what terms will be arranged for their disposal? Will the arrangements ensure that there shall not be a repetition of a similar transaction by a previous conservative government when the assets of the people were given away? Will the conditions of sale ensure that the private shipping monopolies shall take care of the unprofitable trade and give to the outlying ports of Australia a shipping service equal to that rendered by the Commonwealth shipping line?
– I assure the honorable senator that if and when the Government considers ‘it appropriate to make a statement on this matter, an appropriate statement will be made.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that quantities of galvanized piping and galvanized iron consigned to Western Australia, and urgently required there, are lying at Newcastle awaiting ship ment? Is he aware that ships which call at Newcastle en route to Western Australia give preference to less essential goods, and leave the piping and iron behind? Will the Minister take this matter up with the shipping authorities in an endeavour to have the urgently needed galvanized piping and galvanized iron sent to Western Australia by sea whenever it is available for transport?
– I shall inquire immediately into the matter mentioned by the honorable senator. I assure him that every effort will be made to give a high priority to the articles referred to.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether it is true, as reported, that a tug imported by Howard Smith Limited has been held up at the port of Melbourne since the 1st June this year for want of a crew ? Is the dispute over the matter of accommodation on the vessel, and is that the reason given by Mr. Bird, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, for the holdup? Is the accommodation on the vessel in accordance with the requirements of the Board of Trade in the United Kingdom ? Is Mr. Bird the sole ‘ authority to decide what is suitable accommodation on Australian ships ? Is there no method to curb this turbulent missionary from Moscow ?
– I am sure that honorable senators will regret that the new tug, which has been imported by Howard Smith Limited, has been held up in Melbourne since June. According to reports received in my department, Mr. Bird, who is regarded as an extremist in these matters, has been able to dissuade members of the Seamen’s Union from offering for service on the vessel. The accommodation has been investigated by fair-minded persons, and has been declared to be adequate. This representative of the seamen is acting out of sheer cussedness, and he is making things more difficult for those who are trying to provide an adequate shipping service on the Australian coast. Honorable senators will appreciate that the Menzies Government did its best to alter the Constitution so that it would be able to deal with this type of individual, but it did not receive all the support that it desired. The task of preventing action of the kind to which the honorable senator has referred has therefore been made more difficult. Everything possible is being done to try to persuade the remaining 99 per cent, of trade unionists, who are decent people, to take action themselves to prevent such outrages on decency.
– Oan the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform me of the date of the last survey of the floating dock at Newcastle and the present condition of the dock?
– I shall obtain from my department a report which will include the latest information in connexion with the dock, which I had the opportunity to inspect a few months ago.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that when I was in Norseman recently I learned that the people of that town are eager to obtain shipping to Esperance and to use the port facilities at Esperance for the transhipment of cargo to the goldfields. As the honorable senator is no doubt aware, the recent metal trades’ strike in Western Australia caused some unemployment in that State. Will the Minister advise (he Senate whether it is possible to institute a regular shipping service to Esperance, in view of the fact that such a service had to be discontinued because of that strike?
– I shall bring this matter to the attention of the Australian Shipping Board, which meets regularly with other owners, to see what can be done to provide a regular service to Esperance and also to Albany. Only today I received a report .that a special ship has been ear-marked for Albany. The Senate will be pleased to know that more ships have called at Esperance this year than in previous years. Because of the quicker turn-round that is now possible, due to the smaller quantity of goods coming from overseas, the shipping position has improved. At a conference with shipowners this week, I was advised that a special effort is being made to provide a regular service, as we knew it before the last war, to all the ports of Australia. I am sorry to say that in the first week of our efforts to provide such a service we find that it is the Seamen’s Union of Australasia which is causing trouble., instead of Mr. Healy and the waterside workers. We have had the sorry spectacle’ of six Commonwealthowned ships being held up. Conciliation’ commissioners have pleaded with the seamen to do the right thing. The dreadful’ tactics that are being adopted are making: it more difficult for us to provide regular shipping services. However, I assure the Senate that my department is alive to thesituation and will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to establish a regular shipping service to every port of Australia.
– If Mr. Bird persists in his opposition to the use of the tug which is believed to be one of the most modern in the world, will the Government take any action, or will it permit him to continue to determine the conditions under which shipping shall operate on our coast?
– The honorable senator will appreciate that if men can be persuaded not to offer for employment on a particular vessel, it is most difficult for any government to compel them to accept work. This dispute has been before conciliation commissioners, who, I am sure, have done their best to get representatives of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia to play the game. The Government is now considering what further action can be taken to deal with this problem.
– According to press reports the cost of maintaining Taroona on the Tasmanian run has increased by 300 per cent. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport furnish to the Senate figures showing the cost of the subsidy paid to the owners of the vessel for that purpose for the financial years 1949-50, 1950-5.1, and 1951-52 respectively?
– Offhand, I cannot cite the figures which the honorable senator desires. The subsidy paid during the year ended the 30th June,. 1952, amounted to £115,000, which was the largest amount paid for that purposein any y.ear. The Government appreciates the fact that a shipping service to connect Tasmania with the mainland must be maintained. It is expected that the cost of maintaining the service next year will be even still higher. I shall obtain the information asked for by the honorable senator and furnish it to him ns soon ai, possible.
– Does the Government receive any service for the subsidy which it pays in respect of Taroona, or is the expenditure a clear loss to the Government ?
– It is a loss as far ;is the taxpayer is concerned, but if the Government refused to pay the subsidy, the owners of the vessel would not be able to maintain the service without loss. They arc not expected nor, indeed, are they prepared to do so.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate to the Senate what steps, if any, Iia ve been taken by the Government to enable tobacco-growers to sell their leaf at adequate prices and so ensure the successful development and expansion of the tobacco-growing industry?
– The honorable senator may have seen the announcement in the press recently that the Government had decided to increase the Australian content of tobacco used in the manufacture of cigarettes from 3 l>er cent, to 6 per cent., and of pipe tobacco from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent. I assure the honorable senator that tobacco-growers will not have the slightest difficulty in disposing of all their usable leaf.
– On the 6th August, Senator Pearson asked the following question: -
In the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board recently presented to the Parliament reference is made to the programme for the provision of certain new regional stations throughout Australia and for the increasing of the power of certain existing stations. In South Australia new stations are to he built at Mount Gambier and Renmark, and the power of existing stations 5CL, SAN and 5CK is to be increased. Can the Minister say how far this programme has been proceeded with and when it is expected to be completed?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
The power of 5CK has been increased to 10 kilowatts. The preparation of plans for the new stations at Mount Gambier, Penola and Renmark is in hand, and it is hoped that those broadcasting stations will be in operation, within two years. The proposals with respect to 5CL and 5AN involve major works projects, and commencement of work thereon is not likely for some time.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me when the national station projected for Queenstown, Tasmania, will be commenced, as it is essential for education reasons that such a station be built as early as possible?
– I shall bring thehonorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– The questions that I shall ask the Minister representing theTreasurer have been prompted by the fact that there is a grave possibility of very undesirable speculation occurring in the bond’ market as the result of the depressed prices of some Commonwealth bonds. Is theTreasury or the Commonwealth Bank in possession of any information in relation to activities on the bond market by investors during the last twelve months, which could he made available to the Senate ? Are stock exchanges required tofurnish to Government authorities figures in relation to purchases and sales of Government securities? If they are not required to do so, will the Government consider taking steps to have such figures supplied at regular intervals?
– I do not know what specific information is in the possession of the Treasury about transactions on the bond market, but the Treasury officials are fully informed upon those transactions, and are in constant touch with developments. I shall convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to the Treasurer but, from my own small knowledge of Treasury operations, I think that the Treasury would already have sufficient information on this subject.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1, 2 and 3. Treasury-bill net issues and redemption on account of the Commonwealth for each of the years ending 30th June (excluding bills issued and redeemed within the year) and treasury-bills outstanding at the close of each year are set out in the following table:-
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is a fact .that although Australia has paid its United Nations assessment for 1952 in full and that the United States of America has paid all but 1,000 dollars of its 1952 assessment of almost 16,000,000 dollars, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics owes nearly all of its 4,250,000 dollars assessment? Does the Minister consider that the failure of the Union of Soviet .Socialist Republics to pay its assessment is a part of its campaign against the United Nations organization ?
– I believe that some money is owing by the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics to the United Nations organization but I do not know precisely how much. I shall obtain details from the Minister for External Affairs and supply the honorable senator with them as soon as possible.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question regarding the works of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay .and Georgetown where the commission is undertaking a large housing scheme as well as the development of its factory. As the commission is conducting a business undertaking will the Minister give approval for the payment of municipal rates on all its properties at Bell Bay and Georgetown in accordance with the precedent that has been set by the Commonwealth Bank which makes an ex-gratia payment in respect of rates levied by municipalities ?
– Naturally, I cannot immediately state what the Government is prepared to do in regard to this suggestion. I assure the honorable senator that I shall bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and furnish him with an answer as early as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General inform the Senate whether the Postal Department has purchased the building of Wilcox Mofflin Limited, which stands in St. John’s-street, Launceston? If it has purchased this building, what price was paid for it?
– I shall ask the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral to supply me with this information and let the honorable senator have it as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs any knowledge of a reported decision by the Western Allies to pay £25,000,000 in compensation to the former German arms magnate, Alfred Krupp? If so, will the Minister make a statement in the Senate giving the full facts regarding this startling and puzzling suggestion?
– My knowledge of this matter does not extend beyond what I have read in the press, and I do not think that any of my Cabinet colleagues is any better informed. I shall make inquiries, and if further information is available it will be supplied to the honorable senator.
– On the 6th August, Senator Willesee asked the following question : -
I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the Minister for Health has instructed all public hospitals in those States which have accepted the Government’s health scheme that accounts must be presented to patients each week of their stay in hospital. Is this practice not detrimental to the recovery of the patients? Will the Minister withdraw the order if he was responsible for it? If he was not responsible for it will he take steps to stop this unkind and unwise practice?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
No instructions or arrangements have been made by the Commonwealth as to the manner in which the State or hospital authorities render accounts to patients, except that when accounts are rendered the patient should be credited with the hospital benefit payable by the Commonwealth.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health ask his colleague whether it is possible to ascertain the cost to the people of ill health in Australia, including medical and hospital attention and all ancillary services ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for. Health and ask that a. reply be furnished.
– On the 6th August Senator Laught asked a question concerning the practicability of running the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge Commonwealth railway on to the wharfs at Port Pirie, South Australia. The question of providing a standard gauge rail connexion to the wharfs at Port Pirie was examined during 1943-44 at the request of the Australian Shipping Board, primarily with a view to speeding up the turn-round of vessels carrying coal. As it was found that heavy initial expenditure would be involved in construction, payment of compensation to property-owners, and the provision of a weighbridge and additional rolling-stock, the proposal was abandoned. Now that diesel electric traction is being employed on the Commonwealth railways, the proposal is even more unfavorable from the point, of view of economy in coal handling, for which adequate facilities exist at Port Augusta. If a standard gauge connexion were provided at Port Pirie, as proposed, the only revenue the Commonwealth railways would derive from it would be from the very limited consignments of wheat which are railed to that port for shipment. The extent of this traffic would not justify the expenditure involved in providing the proposed additional facilities.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport given consideration, in connexion with the expansion of Commonwealth railway services, to the provision of a rail car for the use of various religious bodies that wish to bring divine service to people living along the Trans-Australian Railway? I understand that Anglican and
Roman Catholic authorities, and probably others, are interested in such a project, and would welcome the handing over of one of the .present lounge cars for this purpose when the new trains are put into service later this year. As the body must be .provided for as well as the soul, can the Minister say whether the long-awaited and often promised refrigerator car, which is to replace the antiquated “ tea and sugar “ train, can also be expected when the new trains arrive? If the Minister does not consider such a car to be necesary, will he undertake to travel from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie on the present “ tea and sugar “ train to see for himself the conditions under which people who live along the Trans-Australian Railway obtain their ordinary foodstuffs and other domestic supplies?
– If I had the necessary time I should appreciate an opportunity to take a complete rest by travelling on the “ tea and sugar “ train, and I should be pleased to invite the honorable senator to accompany me. The two modern nine-coach trains, especially designed for the Trans-Australian Railway, are on the water now and we hope to have them in service by the middle of November when all “Western Australian senators will be invited to make a trial trip. When the new trains are in service, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner will be in a better position to deal with the other matters to which the honorable senator has drawn attention. Requests have been made by religious bodies to make a coach available for the purpose indicated by the honorable senator. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is considering that matter favorably, and examining what can be done to provide such a service. I am sure that before this year is out, we shall have a “ tea and sugar “ train that will please even Senator Tangney.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the special appeal by the Catholic bishops of Australia, in a pamphlet on social justice issued last Sunday, that large estates should be subdivided and other steps taken to increase food production? In view of the curtailment in some States of land settlement schemes for ex-servicemen will the Government say whether there is a Commonwealth plan to finance the acquisition at just prices of large estates which are not making a proper contribution to food production?
– I have read the pamphlet, which I regard as a very stimulating and powerful statement of a situation of which the Government is fully aware. The honorable senator will appreciate that the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to land settlement are strictly limited. Only in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, which are under the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, has the Australian Government power to acquire and subdivide land. Throughout the rest of the Commonwealth, land is controlled by the State ( governments, and the Australian government, no matter how eager it may’ be J to stimulate the production of food, has no authority to resume land’ as suggested by the honorable senator.
– In view of the fact that unemployment is stretching right across Australia and that there are no agents in country towns with whom unemployed persons may register, will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service consider the appointment of agents in all towns, so that an accurate register of unemployed persons may be kept? I refer particularly to the appointment of an agent for the registration of unemployed persons at Lockhart.
– I completely repudiate the suggestion that unemployment is stretching from one end of Australia to the other. I was very pleased to read recently that responsible members of the trade union movement, who were attending a trade union congress in Melbourne, had expressed the view that the suggestion that unemployment is widespread is an exaggeration. I shall bring to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service the suggestion of the honorable senator that agents should be appointed at country towns, particularly at Lockhart, and obtain a reply for him.
– Approximately a month ago the Attorney-General informed the Senate that he would obtain the actual figures in relation to unemployment. Speaking from memory, the honorable senator stated stated that there were approximately 40,000 unemployed at that . time. Since then, because of restriction of credit, a considerable number of persons have lost their employment in the various States, and I have no doubt that the total number of unemployed is now much greater. Will the honorable senator inform us of the exact number of unemployed in Australia to-day and also state whether the Government has considered the commencement of additional public works in order to absorb the 40,000 unemployed of whom he spoke recently?
– With respect to the first part of the honorable senator’s question, the position is that the employment situation statement, which is issued regularly by the Department of Labour and National Service, is expected to be available at the end of this week. As the statement will set out the position at the end of August, I suggest that it is appropriate that we should await the latest available figures. As soon as the statement is released, I shall make its contents known to honorable senators. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, this Government has done more than any other Australian Government in history to maintain the level of public works, by its huge contribution, both last year and this year., to State loan expenditure.
– The AttorneyGeneral has stated that the claims that have been made by members of the Opposition that unemployment is rife in this country have been exaggerated. Has the Minister seen a report in last Monday’s Melbourne Herald to the effect that 100 women applied for a job that had been advertised by a Footscray firm, and that the first applicant had arrived at the factory at 6.30 a.m. ?
– I have not seen the press report, but if I had seen it I would not have been convinced that 100,000 persons are unemployed in this country to-day. If the honorable senator deduces from that newspaper report that there are 100,000 persons unemployed in Australia, I am sure that the public will realize how fallacious are the claims of honorable senators opposite in this connexion.
– I did not say that 100,000 persons are unemployed.’ The Minister has said that the statements of Labour senators about unemployment have been exaggerated. I mentioned the fact that 100 women applied for one job.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answers : -
– On the 6th August last, Senator Robertson asked me a question concerning the provision of a reference and fiction library at Alice Springs. The Minister for Territories has informed me that he recently approved a proposal made by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, in conjunction with the Australian National Library at Canberra, to set up a branch of the Library at Alice Springs to function in a manner similar to the one already operating at Darwin. This action had not been practicable earlier because of the lack of accommodation at Alice Springs. Premises have now become available and it will be possible to commence, at an early date, a reference and lending library, which will include fiction and a section for school children, and also provide for a mail lending service to adults and children living in outlying centres.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that, during recent months, 600,000 motor tyres have been imported into Australia, in addition to large quantities of rubber footwear and other rubber goods, with the result that many .thousands of Australians who were employed in local rubber industries have lost their employment? Is it not a fact that representations were made to the Minister some months ago by the federal secretary of the Federated Rubber “Workers’ Union of Australia and that the Minister assured the union representatives that there could be no possibility, under the tariff machinery then operating, of articles being imported if similar articles could be manufactured here? Is it a fact that a large portion of the goods to which I have referred came from Ceylon, Malaya, Hong Kong, and Czechoslovakia, which is an Iron Curtain country, despite the availability of man-power and all the essentials required for ample and efficient manufacture of similar articles in Australia?
– Representations were made to me recently in regard to the slump in the rubber industries, particularly in relation to rubber tyre manufacture in Australia. I think that the honorable senator is mistaken concerning the source from which tyres have been obtained. Apparently the honorable senator is under a misapprehension about The purpose of the import licensing system. Almost since federation, and regardless of what political party has been in office in the Commonwealth Parliament, efficient Australian industries have been given tariff protection. That has been done through the machinery of the Tariff Board. Whilst it is true that the import restrictions have had the effect of affording some protection to Australian industries, that is not their objective. Their purpose is simply to conserve our overseas funds. We were spending more than we were earning or, in other words, we were importing more than we were exporting, and the economic drift had to be checked. When that situation has been remedied, there will be nothing to stop any merchant in this country from buying goods from merchants in other countries, subject of course to the protection of Australian industries by means of the tariff barrier. I am just as much concerned about this matter as is the honorable senator. I understand that the present situation was caused by the heavy inflow of goods prior to the application of import restrictions. The difficulty will be eased, and eventually eliminated with the effluxion of time. It would be most improper to endeavour to protect Australian industries merely by a departmental minute, or a ministerial decision. That is the job of the Tariff Board, which, up to date, has done excellent work.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question about the employment situation on the Melbourne waterfront, which, as honorable senators are aware, is not Communistcontrolled. During the war, waterside workers gave yeoman service to this country under great difficulties. They endeavoured to make the turn-round of ships as rapid as possible, and most of the delays that did occur were due to the huge influx of raw materials and other goods which severely congested the available port facilities and compelled the waterside workers to labour under abnormal conditions. Nevertheless, they were always blamed by the press.
– Order! The honorable senator must now come to his question.
– Because of the falling off in shipping at the port of Melbourne, nearly 2,000 waterside workers who report for work each day have to return to their homes. Most of them have families to support, and the lack of employment is inflicting great hardship on them. I should like to know whether the Minister has given consideration to making full-time work available for waterside workers, whose services will be needed again in the future when shipping becomes normal ?
– This matter has received consideration. I agree with the honorable senator that work on the Melbourne waterfront has been more satisfactory than it has been in other parts of the Commonwealth. Reports that we have received indicate that the present slump in waterfront employment is more or less seasonal. We are going through a period of readjustment, and it is hoped that within a month or so more ships will be arriving and consequently more work will be available. I remind the Senate that the shipowners have already offered to provide full-time employment for waterside workers. Negotiations are now proceeding between representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation and the shipowners on this matter. My own view is that permanent employment would be a great help to the industry. I assure the honorable senator that the matter is at present receiving consideration, not only by the shipowners, but also by departmental officers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service the following questions, upon notice: -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
– In Tasmania at present there is a decided slump in the timber industry. Some mills which have been employing quite a number of men have had to close down. To-morrow, Tasmanian Board Mills Limited will dismiss 200 employees. In view of this growing unemployment, will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service urge upon the Government the necessity to undertake public works such as the Launceston telephone exchange, which has been approved by the Public Works Committee, the Newstead Post Office, improved aerodrome facilities at Western Junction, new Commonwealth offices at Hobart, and improvements to various lineyards throughout Tasmania, and so assist the timber industry, which is so important to the Tasmanian economy?
– As I have already pointed out. the Commonwealth is making a ve v great contribution this year, as it did last year, to the maintenance of public works in Tasmania and the other States by assisting the States to obtain the loan moneys that they require to finance their works programmes. That contribution is in addition to public works, which the Commonwealth is itself financing out of revenue. I have no personal knowledge of the particular undertakings to which the honorable senator has referred, but if I can obtain inforfmation about the progress that might be expected in the direction mentioned by him I shall be glad to pass it on to him.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. As soon, as the Social Services Consolidation Bill, which is under consideration in another place reaches,, and is passed by, the Senate, will the Minister consider the immediate issue of an up-to-date booklet setting out the latest benefits available under’ the social services legislation, in particular, the provisions of the means tost that are still applicable in relation to such benefits?
– I shall be glad to pass the honorable senator’s suggestion to my colleague the Minister for Social Services; Some thought has already been given to the issue of a new booklet, but I am not aware of the present position in relation to the matter.
– I understand that 150 employees of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow have been dismissed during the last couple of weeks. Does this reduction of staff indicate that the prospects of war have diminished, or is it merely an economy measure designed to establish a pool ,of unemployed persons in Australia?
– I am not able to confirm or deny the truth of the honorable senator’s information that employees have been dismissed at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. If employees have in fact been dismissed, I suggest that that fact in no way indicates a lessening of the Government’s desire to maintain an effective defence system to meet the possible needs of the international situation. I shall obtain the information which the honorable senator desires.
Senator. COOPER__ On the 6th
August, Senator Tangney asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say what proportion of scholars under twelve years of age are at present receiving: free milk as part Of the national health scheme? What is the proportion of schools at which free milk is being distributed? What is the total cost of the scheme? What is the cost per child per annum? What provision is made for children in remote areas where fresh and powdered milk are practically unobtainable Is any alternative proposal Being considered to give a health service of the same value to children who do not receive free milk? Does the Minister consider that, in view cif the cost involved and the proportion of children benefiting under this scheme, proper value is being received by the community ? Does he not’ think that an alternative health service, for example, dental treatment, might be substituted?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
Approximately 70 per cent, of the eligible children under thirteen years of age are participating in the free milk scheme, except in Queensland where the scheme is not operating because of its non-acceptance by the State Government.
Information as to the proportion of schools at which free milk is being distributed is not yet available.
The cost of the scheme to the Commonwealth in 1.951-52 was £816,975.
The cost per child for 1951-52 was £1 7s. 3d.
The question of providing free milk to children in remote areas is under consideration and, wherever practicable, free milk will be supplied provided the benefit to be derived is commensurate with the cost involved.
At present the Government does not propose to supply alternatives to milk. 7., The Minister and the Government consider that in the long term, very good value will accrue to the community from the provision of free milk.
It is not proposed to substitute other services for free milk.
– On the 4th June Senator Wordsworth asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the PosmasterGeneral clarify the position regarding the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in the country districts of Tasmania, with special reference to Antill Fonda and Hadspen ?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied . the following answer: -
The department appreciates the advantages Of the automatic telephone system in country districts and rural automatic exchanges are being installed as rapidly as circumstances will allow. Already 30 rural automatic exchanges have been established in Tasmania and the installation of a further twenty unit? is in sight. Hadspen was originally selected for a rural automatic exchange but it was found; that as the non-official postmistress had nosource of income: other than that received for postal and telephone duties, the. reduced remuneration which would have resulted from the installation of an automatic exchange would have inflicted hardship. The project was, therefore, deferred and available units allotted to other suitable centres. More recently, the management of the Hadspen Post Office was transferred to a returned serviceman and this centre will, therefore, again receive consideration when sites for additional rural automatic exchanges are being chosen. The need’s of Antill Ponds have also been examined,but as there are only five lines connected to that exchange the heavy expenditure involved in installing an automatic exchange at that place is not justified at present.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister,upon, notice -
What amount of the last dollar loan that was granted to the Commonwealth by the World Bank is being set aside for the purchase of heavy earthmoving equipment for the production of opencut coal ?
SenatorO’SULLIVAN.- The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Although heavy earthmoving equipment for the production of opencut coal is eligible for inclusion under the 50,000.000 dollar loan agreement concluded on the 8th July, last with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, no specific amount has been allocated for the purchase of such equipment. The categories of dollar capital goods to be financed under the loan will depend upon consideration of dollar import licence applications submitted by importers. The applicants willbe required to establish the necessity for importing the equipment, and to produce evidence that it is not obtainable from local or other non-dollar sources.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Health the following questions, upon notice : -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Minister for Territories: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What amount was expended on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme up to 30th June last, and of that amount (a) how much was obtained from loan money; and (6) how much was obtained from revenue?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The Commonwealth has provided £18,907,250 to the Snowy Mountains authority up to the 30th June, 1952. All of this amount was provided from revenue.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following answer ‘ to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Australia is not at present represented on the Commission on the Status of Women. Australia served two consecutive terms on the Commission on the Status of Women, from its inception in 1947 until 1951, and thus attended the first five annual sessions. Australia is most interested in the work of the commission and will continue to support fully it objectives and activities.
The Commission on the Status of Women is provided with full information by the Commonwealth Government, after consultation with the State authorities, on such important questions as the rights and legal status of women. Its reports and deliberations are widely distributed among interested Australian organizations. The Government is giving careful consideration to the terms of the Convention on the Political “Eights nf Women, which has recently been under consideration by the commission. The question of ratification by Australia of the Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others is at present being considered by the
Government. It may be some time, however, before a decision can be reached as technical difficulties involving State legislation still remain to be overcome.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following question, upon notice : -
Will the Treasurerconsider the inclusion of cups and trophies purchased by agricultural societies, in item 75 (4) of the first schedule of the Sales Tax Act, which exempts such goods for use and not for sale by a society, institution or organization, for the promotion of competitive sport among students of universities or of schools!
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The request far exemption from sales tax in respect of cups and trophies purchased by agricultural societies has been duly considered by the Government in the course of a comprehensive review of sales tax for the purposes of the budget. It was, however, not found possible to accede to this request. The allowance of such an exemption would clearly give rise to requests for similar treatment by many other organizations which are equally worthy of consideration. Action has, however, been taken to extend the scope of the former exemption of specified kinds of printed matter for the use of agricultural societies so as to cover all printed matter for their use. This amendment, which is designed to remove an anomaly, takes effect on and from the 7th August, 1952. Trophies often take the form of silver-plated ware or cut glass ware. The rate of tax on goods of this kind has been reduced from 662/3 per cent, to 50 per cent.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That Senator Devlin he granted two months’ leave of absence on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator O’ Sullivan) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recall that a bill to amend the Tariff Board Act was presented to them for consideration in June, 1950. That bill contained provision for a grant to members of the Tariff Board of annual leave for a period not exceeding fifteen days in each year, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. It is now considered desirable that a further grant of leave in the event of illness be made to them. As members are not usually young men, and as they are appointed for a period which may vary from one to three years, with the possibility of re-appointment, it is thought appropriate that the provision should be a flexible one authorizing the Minister to approve such sick leave as he deems necessary in the circumstances. The bill which has been prepared accordingly, is commended to the favorable attention of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12:39 to3.5 p.m.
Bill received from the 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 incidence of sales tax has been closely examined by the Government in the light of current economic conditions and with due regard to the representations received from many sources for relief from tax in respect of various classes of goods. It has been decided by the Government that, as current conditions differ from those which obtained twelve months ago, reduction of sales tax on some classes of goods is desirable.
Since September, 1951, tax has been imposed at six rates, ranging from 12½ per cent, to 662/3 per cent. The top rate of 662/3 per cent, and the rate of25 per cent, are being eliminated, so that the maximum rate will now be 50 per cent. Thus there will be four rates only in operation, namely 12½ per cent., 20 per cent., 331/3 per cent, and 50 per cent. This reduction of the number of rates will be appreciated by the merchants concerned, as it will simplify considerably the work of classification of goods and the preparation of sales tax returns.
The tax on sporting goods and toys, and on wireless receiving sets, is being reduced to 20 per cent., from the present rate of 331/3 per cent. Cosmetics and toilet preparations generally are now to bear tax at 331/3 per cent., instead of 50 per cent. Certain toilet requisites, hitherto taxed at the rate of 662/3 per cent., will now be subject to 331/3 per cent. tax. The tax on musical instruments,at present at the rate of 25 per cent., is to be reduced to 20 per cent.
Provision is also made for the reduction of the rates of tax on certain other goods with the object of removing anomalies. For instance, the present tax on trays is 662/3 per cent. Ithas been demonstrated that, for the mostpart, this classification covers inexpensive articles of everyday use, which, as such, are not suitable for inclusion in the high rate bracket. It is proposed, therefore, to reduce to 12½ per cent, the rate of tax payable in respect of trays, with the exceptionof those which are made of, or plated with, gold, silver or other precious metal, and those made of cut glass. There has been criticism in the past of the fact that shopping bags made of paper or string bear the same high rate of tax as do other bags. As these are inexpensive goods of a purely utilitarian character, the tax thereon is being reduced from 331/3 per cent, to the general rate of 12½ per cent.
It is proposed also to exempt some further categories of goods from sales tax. The most important of these proposals is to allow a complete exemption of goods for the use of universities and schools which are not established or carried on for profit. At present, complete exemption is enjoyed only by government schools. Universities and other non-profit schools have a limited exemption of scientific equipment and goods for use exclusively for the purposes of tuition. Tax has been payable on their purchases of ordinary furnishings and sporting equipment, and the effect of the limitation of the exemption was more burdensome when sporting equipment was subject to the rate of 331/3 per cent. The position has been further complicated by the fact that associations of parents and friends established to assist schools have been able to purchase all kinds of goods free of tax for donation to the schools. It is considered that this inconsistency should be removed, and the complete exemption now granted in respect of goods for the use of these institutions will eliminate confusion and be of material assistance to them. Tax will still be payable in respect of any goods acquired by them for re-sale, except where the goods are of kinds which are exempt in all circumstances, e.g., textbooks.
Strong claims for relief from tax on goods for the use of agricultural societies have been made from time to time. There has hitherto been a limited exemption of certain specified kinds of printed matter for their use. It has not been found possible to allow all the requests made by these bodies, but it is proposed now to remove inconsistency by extending the exemption of printed matter to cover all printed matter for their use, and not for sale. The primary producer is being further assisted by the exemption of home lighting plants for the generation and storage of electricity and gas, and also of plant for use in draining land for agricultural purposes.
Another new proposed exemption applies to earthmoving machinery and equipment for use in the carrying out of contracts with government departments or local government bodies. Most sales of these goods are already free of tax, as they are sold largely to government authorities, and to persons engaged in mining, quarrying or agricultural activities who are entitled to exemption. The new provision will removethe existing anomaly that contractors who buy such plant for use exclusively on government contracts must pay tax, whilst contractors who buy similar plant exclusively for use in mining or agricultural work escape tax. The exemption will not apply to hand tools or to road vehicles of a kind ordinarily used for the transport of goods.
The law at present authorizes exemption of perambulators, strollers, and the like. The exemption is being extended to perambulator seats and covers, and to basinettes, cots, cradles and bedding for those articles. Articles of domestic use which are being brought within the scope of the exemptions are toothbrushes and candles. The bill contains a number of other amendments of relatively minor importance, which are designed, in most instances, to remove anomalies or to restate certain provisions in terms which will give effect more satisfactorily to the original intention.
The amendments to be effected by the bill will involve an estimated annual loss of revenue amounting to £6,000,000, or an amount of £5,200,000 for the current year. Details of the goods affected are set out in an explanatory statement which is being circulated for the information of honorable senators. The amendments will take effect on and from the 7th August, 1952, which is the day following the date of delivery of the budget speech.
I have no doubt that the bill will commend itself to honorable senators generally.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1952.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator O’ Sullivan) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to9) 1952 being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such bills together in committee of the whole.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bills be now read a second time.
The sole purpose of these bills is to declare the rates of tax to operate, on and from the 7th August, 1952, under the Sales Tax Acts Nos. 1 to 9. As explained by me earlier, in connexion with the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1952, it is proposed to reduce the rates of tax payable in respect of a wide range of goods. The goods affected are specified in the second, third and fourth schedules to that bill. It is proposed that goods covered by the second schedule shall be subject to tax at the rate of 20 per cent., and that the goods covered by the third schedule shall be subject to tax at the rate of 33$ per cent., whilst articles within the scope of the fourth schedule will bear tax at the rate of 50 per cent. The general rate of 12$ per cent., which applies to goods not specified in any of the schedules, remains unchanged. The former maximum rate of 66$ per cent., and the rate of 25 per cent., will no longer be in operation.
These are purely machinery measures which are complementary to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Section 53 deals with a number of matters, some of which are not relevant to my arguments, and I propose, therefore, to read only those portions that are relevant. The section provides, amongst other things -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
I invite particular attention to the words “ ordinary annual services of the Government “. The section continues -
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein.
My third quotation from section 53 is the following passage: -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Section 54 is somewhat ancillary to. the first portion of section 53 that I have read. It is a prohibition on “ tacking “ and it roads -
The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.
The issue centres on the interpretation of the words “ ordinary annual services of the Government “, and fortunately we are not without guidance on that matter because we have the advantage of an opinion that was given recently by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General to the Commonwealth Auditor-General. That opinion is annexed to the AuditorGeneral’s report for the year 1950-51. It begins on page 168 of the report. One cannot possibly do full justice to such a comprehensive opinion merely by paraphrasing it; nevertheless I do not propose to read the whole of the lengthy document to the Senate. Recognizing the risks that are involved in paraphrasing such an important opinion, I propose to refer to only some portion? of it. The Auditor-General raised with the SolicitorGeneral the meaning of the words “ ordinary annual services of the Government “, and he asked four specific questions. First he inquired whether expenditure on movable articles such as furniture and office machines could properly bc included in an annual general appropriation. He then asked a similar question about movable equipment of a more substantial kind such as railway engines and aeroplanes. His third question related to naval ships, armaments and other things of that kind, and the fourth question dealt with fixtures, buildings, works, and the acquisition of sites. The Solicitor-General, in the second paragraph of his opinion, expresses a definitely affirmative view. He says -
In my opinion, there is nothing in section 54 of the Constitution which would necessarily forbid Parliament to include, in the proposed law, which appropriates money for “ the ordinary annual services of the Government “, expenditure of each of the types mentioned in the questions for advice, viz., expenditure on stores of a movable nature, movable equipment of a substantial and costly nature, defence equipment of an expandable nature, and works in the nature of fixtures.
Therefore, at that early point in his opinion, the Solicitor-General commits himself to the view that provision for all the matters indicated by the AuditorGeneral may, with complete propriety, be included in what I may term general appropriations by this Parliament. In paragraph 3, the Solicitor-General states the law in accordance with the terms of the. Constitution. In paragraphs 4 and 5, he reviews certain historical associations in South Australia, Victoria, and in the convention debates that took place prior to the adoption of the Commonwealth Constitution. In the seventh paragraph, he points out very clearly that a determination of what constitutes “ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth “ is purely a matter for this Parliament. He refers to a High Court case and cites the judgment of Griffiths C.J. to that effect. I select from paragraph 7 only two sentences. The first is -
Accordingly, in the final analysis it is a matter for Parliament itself to say what meaning is to be given to the expression.
My other quotation is as follows: -
Parliament may not always take the same view as to the meaning of the expression, and it is not inconceivable for each House to have divergent views on the subject from time to time. But whatever view is taken by Parliament or either House of Parliament, no Court of law has jurisdiction to decide whether that view is correct or not.
Of course, with great respect to the Solicitor-General, I agree entirely with that proposition. Accordingly, I suggest that it is for this chamber alone to determine that matter for itself, and, with that determination no court in this land can interfere. The Solicitor-General then proceeds to consider the exact meaning of the seemingly ordinary words “ ordinary annual services of the Government “, and I think I am justified in quoting him at some length. In paragraph 9 he says -
Thus, “ the ordinary annual services of the Government” may be described as those services provided or maintained within any year which the Government may, in the light of its powers and authority, reasonably be expected to provide or maintain as the occasion requires through the Departments of the Public Service and other Commonwealth agencies or instrumentalities.
In short, he submits that any expenditure by the Commonwealth pursuant to its Constitutional powers is deemed to be part of the ordinary annual services of the Government. He then proceeds to a more explicit consideration of the words “ ordinary “ and “ annual “. In paragraph 11 he states -
There is perhaps more difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of the words “ ordinary “ and “ annual “, as these are both words capable of bearing several meanings, dependent very largely on the context in which they are used. I incline to the view that “ ordinary “ is used to describe various things of a more or less usual class or type to distinguish them from others of a special kind. Thus, in relation to the services of the Government, the word is wide enough to cover almost any service that the Government could be expected to provide on particular occasions or in various circumstances. In attributing such a meaning to the word the view both agrees with the dictionary meaning and is consistent with the context in which the word is found. On this view, of course, most activities carried on by the Commonwealth Government pursuant to its constitutional powers could npt bc regarded as being other than ordinary.
In paragraph 12 he deals with the words “ annual “ and he says -
So far as the word “ annual “ is concerned, the only conflict in meaning here which is of any account appears to be whether the word is used to describe those ordinary services which recur each year, and only those services, or whether it describes services which although they may occur within a particular year may not recur each year. In preferring the latter meaning I take a view which is consistent with that expressed by the Senate in 1901, but I am influenced more particularly by the fact that the other view would lead to numerous practical difficulties. In the preparation of the annual estimates of receipts and expenditure, there would frequently be no certainty that a service undertaking in the current year would be undertaken in subsequent year.s. Moreover, a highly artificial distinction would have to be drawn between items of expenditure of like nature ‘and for a like purpose, depending solely ion the frequency with -which the items are incurred. Similar observations may also be made with regard ,to the word “ ordinary “ if the view were to ‘be taken that it meant “occurring time after time’”.
If I may take the liberty of paraphrasing that opinion, the learned Solicitor-General holds that the word “, ‘annual” used in the context of the Constitution does not mean those services expenditure on which recurs year by year. He prefers the interpretation that “ annual “ means expenditure within any particular year. The element of recurrence and repetition is entirely eliminated. In the final paragraph to which I shall refer - paragraph 13 - he really puts his finger on his views. He says -
If, as I think, .an ordinary service is virtually any service which the Government is competent to provide pursuant to its powers and authority, there do not remain many examples of services of the Government which cannot be so regarded.
In the next passage, which is the one upon which I base my argument, he says -
For instance, most appropriations mow made by separate Acts dealing with works and services might, in my opinion, be properly regarded as expenditure on the ordinary annual services of the Government, because the works and services are those which the Government could have ordinarily been expected to provide within the framework of its powers. Nevertheless, I do not see how any valid distinction based on the words ‘” ordinary annual “ can be drawn between the various types of services which the Government is capable of providing pursuant to its powers.
That statement by our learned SolicitorGeneral is the clearest indication that matters of the kind that are included in this Appropriation Bill are part of the ordinary annual services of the Government. In the earlier portion of his opinion he held that if those particular items had been included in a general appropriation bill that would be in order because they form part of the ordinary annual services of the Government. If these items, instead of being incorporated in a general appropriation bill, are in- eluded in a separate bill, as has .been done in this instance., the mere fact that they have found a new and temporary cover does nothing to deprive them of their character as ordinary annual services of the Government. In accordance with the Solicitor-General’s view I strongly submit that this is a bill which seeks to appropriate money for the ordinary annual services of the Government and as such the -Senate may not .amend it. .Accordingly, I claim the right for myself and for members of .the Opposition to address you, Mr. President, on the motion mow before the Chair, “ That the hill be now read a first time “.
I am aware that it has not been the practice in the past to do so in respect ‘of bills of this kind and that a contrary practice has .been followed since federation. I am one who has no respect for antiquity as such unless I find either duty or virtue in it. In the circumstances I say frankly that I would not be impressed by any argument that a practice contrary to that for which I contend has been in operation in this Parliament for a considerable period. Again, if it is suggested that if my proposition is accepted its result will tend to cut down the power of this Senate, I shall not be in the least influenced or impressed. The Senate’ has .two very great powers in relation to bills which it may not amend. One of them, which I read from section 53 of the Constitution at the beginning of my remarks, provides that the Senate may .at any stage of a bill of this kind make requests for amendments or omissions to the House of Representatives. I am sure that you, Mr. President, are fully aware that the right to ‘Continue to repeat such requests ad infinitum has been contended for by this Senate >and has been upheld down the years. I am not in the least concerned about the fact that the Senate may not amend a bill when in fact, it may continue to repeat requests to the House of Representatives ad infinitum for amendment or alteration. The second great power possessed by the ,Senate is that nothing can take away from it its constitutional right to veto any bill. Accordingly, the question whether we may not amend but still may make requests is, in my view, purely a matter of form and certainly not .a matter of substance when directed to .the powers of the Senate. I should imagine that an opinion of the importance of that given by the Solicitor-General on a matter of such interest to this chamber would not have been submitted by him to the Auditor-General without at least the knowledge, and possibly, the concurrence of the Government. I have no knowledge of what has transpired in regard to this matter, but if any honorable senator on the Government side cares to address himself to the point of order I should be very interested . to learn whether the opinion of the Solicitor-General was submitted with the prior concurrence or knowledge of any member of the Government.
I realize that this is a matter of vast importance to every honorable senator because if you, Mr. President, uphold my point of order, you will open several doors of debate which at present, on the basis of past practice, are closed. I believe that the points that I have raised merit full consideration by every honorable senator. Having raised this matter after more than 50 years have elapsed since federation, I do not propose to take up any more of the time of the chamber, and accordingly I rest my point of order on the submissions that I have made.
– The point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has been very clearly, lucidly, and fairly expressed. Two distinct questions appear to have arisen in relation to this matter, in respect of one of which the SolicitorGeneral has been asked to give advice to the Auditor-General. That question can, I believe, be fairly and shortly stated in this way: Is it proper to include in an annual appropriation bill expenditure for what might be described as nonrecurring capital items? That is the question to which the Solicitor-General’s opinion was directed and his advice clearly indicated that it was not improper to include such items in an appropriation bill and that they could properly be described as a part of the ordinary annual services of the Government. That is a view with which neither this Senate nor any person disagreed in the past. As I understand the record of the debate that took place in relation to this matter, as far back as 1901 it was conceded, upon the highest authority, that the matters to be included in the appropriation bill were not limited to recurring items- I refer honorable senators to a pamphlet entitled Money Bills in the Australian Senate which was written by Mr. J. R. Odgers, the Usher of the Black Rod and Clark of Committees of the Senate. Dealing with this subject, at page 11 of the pamphlet, Mr. Odgers had this to say -
The then Postmaster-General (Senator Drake), supporting his contention with quotations from Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia,, (pp. tilsy-70, 074), stated -
It is intended that this Chamber should only have the right of suggestion in the case of Bills appropriating the necessary money for carrying on the Government of the country, the army and navy, and the civil service. That will cover not only what I shall call recurring expenditure - expenditure for the payment of the civil servants-tout all votes that are necessary Cor the carrying on of the Government from year to year.
Supporting this view, Senator Sir Josiah Symon, who was a South Australian delegate to the Federal Convention which framed the Constitution, explained that ordinary annual services were the services which the Government ordinarily undertakes in the discharge of their daily duties. Both Senator ‘Drake and Senator Symon agreed that items in the Appropriation Bill for the ordinary annual services need not necessarily be recurring items from year to year, as the salaries of the officers of the various departments may happen to be. The test, contended Senator Symon, is whether an item is an expenditure which the Government undertakes in the ordinary discharge of the services of the year - the services which they are bound to -render to the country.
That opinion is, I believe, strongly supported by the opinion given by Mr. Alfred Deakin when he was AttorneyGeneral, which is referred to in the opinion of the Solicitor-General and -to which the Leader of the Opposition also made reference. The quotation which the Solicitor-General has given reads as follows: -
The view was also expressed in 1901 hy the then Attorney-General (Mr. Deakin),’ that “ appropriations for new buildings or additions, when these are required in the ordinary course of. departmental business, are appropriations for the ordinary annual services, and may constitutionally “be included in the annual Appropriation Bill . . .” 1 suggest that those statements very strongly support the views expressed by the Solicitor-General in the opinion to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred. The curious thing about it all, and one which I .find most difficult to understand, is that in spite of the views expressed by the Senate, and by the former Attorney-General, Mr. Deakin, on the matter, the view has been adopted in this chamber for more than 50 years that when an appropriation covering what may be described in general terms as capital items is brought into this chamber in the form of a separate bill it becomes a “bill which the Senate may amend. Within the limited time at my disposal to investigate this matter L have not been able to ascertain the precise grounds upon which that view has been taken. It certainly strikes me as extraordinary to conclude that the bill which is now ‘before us contains items the whole of which could have been included in the first appropriation bill brought before the Senate and that if that bill did include them it would be a bill which the Senate could not amend; but that because, for reasons of convenience, an attempt has been made to separate these particular items from the larger appropriations with which we were concerned in the first bill, the second bill then becomes a bill of a different character. I find that extremely difficult to follow. I have searched for the foundation for that view, and the only thing that I have been able to find is a sentence in the opinion of Mr. Alfred Deakin to which I have already referred, which might at first glance be supposed to lend it some support. After stating that capital items should be included in the appropriation bill, Mr. Deakin continued - -*
Whether they should be so included is a. question of policy merely. If introduced in a separate bill, they will, of course, be subject to the Senate’s power of amendment.
It may well be that some’ one had read that in the past to mean that if there is a separate bill for those items then it becomes a bill that is subject to amendment. But I find it very hard to believe that that is what Mr. Alfred Deakin meant, in that sentence, because immediately before that he referred to the annual appropriation bill. I believe that he had in mind only one bill when he stated - i
All these items might go into the annual appropriation bill. 1 believe that probably he would have said, if it had come into his mind, that there might be more than one annual appropriation bill. The sentence would then have read, “ These items can go into the annual appropriation bills”. When Mr. Deakin stated -
If introduced in a separate bill, they will, of course, be subject to the Senate’s power of amendment. he probably had in mind a bill which was not merely an appropriation bill, but a different kind of bill, that is, a bill which makes a number of statutory provisions and then provides for its own appropriation. That kind of hill is, of course, a bill which the Senate may amend. It is in that sense that I have read the sentence. If I am right in that interpretation of the sentence, quite frankly, I find it very difficult to see any ground upon which it might be said, “ Because this second bill happens to be a separate appropriation measure, it is open to amendment by the Senate “. Suppose, as a matter of convenience, that we thought that the first measure that came before us was a bit too bulky, and we decided to divide it into two appropriation bills, each for an equal sum of money, the total being the amount that was required for the services of the Government for the year, and called them “ Appropriation Bill No. 1 “ and “ Appropriation Bill No. 2 “. How would we determine which was the bill that we could amend and which was the bill that we could not amend? Could that question be determined by the mere chance that No. 1 was introduced first and No. 2 bill was introduced second? That surely is not a sensible and reasonable test of a proposition like this. When I look at the two bills that are now before us, what is it about the title of the second one that is different, in any degree that is relevant, from the title of the first? The title of the first measure reads -
A Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fun-1 a sum for the service of the year ending the thirtieth day of June. One thousand nine hundred and titty-three, and to appropriate the Supplies granted by the Parliament for that year.
The title of the second measure reads -
A Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the service of the year ending the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three, with these additional words - for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure . . .
One might reach the conclusion that the fact that the second measure involves capital expenditure does not take it out of the category of a bill which the Senate can not amend. I suggest that there is no distinction to be found in the substance of those two bills. As a matter of fact the first bill, which was introduced by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), contains quite a number of capital items. For instance, under “ Defence Services “ - Division No. 1 24 - there is a proposed appropriation of £150,000 for the acquisition of sites and buildings, and Division No. 125 contains a proposed appropriation of £2,270,000 for buildings, works, fittings and furniture. I am sure that no one would suggest that th: inclusion of those items in the first bill makes it a bill that the Senate can amend. The items in the second bill are of that character. It just happens, I think, that all the items in the second bill _ are items of that character. They are all required for the services of the Commonwealth for the year.
One could possibly imagine some argument being based on the wording of section 54 . of the Constitution, to the effect that it was contemplated that there would be only one appropriation bill. I do not think that that view could be supported for a moment. Section 54 reads -
The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.
We must read the Constitution subject to the provision of the Acts Interpretation Act of Great Britain as it operated, at the time that the Constitution came into force, and that enables us to read a singular expression to include the plural. So we might read section 54 as follows : -
The proposed laws which appropriate revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriations.
It would be very difficult for any Australian government to concede that it could not introduce a supplementary appropriation bill in the course of the year, except at the risk that that bill could be amended by the Senate. A suggestion that we are limited to one bill seems to me to fall to the ground. We are not facing a decision of the Senate 50 years ago that the items in th° bill that we are considering are of a character that cannot properly fit into an appropriation bill. That is not the argument at all. It was conceded 50 years ago that these items can properly go into an appropriation bill. We arc pursuing a practice for which it is extremely difficult to find justification, that is, that the second bill, the one which is concerned with capital expenditure primarily, is subject to amendment.
Perhaps, Mr. President, I have not said a great dca.! which might help you to resist the suggestion that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition. I can appreciate the fact that, in the light of a precedent of 50 years’ standing, you your.Self, might feel some hesitancy about saying, “I am not going to follow the precedent “. It is a matter for you. If that is your reaction, perhaps you would appreciate very much that an opportunity should be provided for the Senate to solve this matter for you. It may he that ways and means could be found by which that could be done. For instance, my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, could submit a friendly motion to disagree with your ruling. That would provide an opportunity for the Senate to express its view, if you consider that you can not determine the matter in the way that th” Leader of the Opposition has requested it should be determined without some support from the Senate, having regard to the long period during which the precedent has been followed.
– I intrude in this highly technical discussion not without, some trepidation. I appreciate that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has difficulty in establishing specific reasons why the practice of introducing a second appropriation bill for capital works and Services has Been followed. 1 believe that the opinions he- has’ cited are open to other interpretations. The only authority on which the Minister based his interpretation; as far iis I could follow him, was an opinion that was expressed in 1901 by the AttorneyGeneral Of the day, Mr. Alfred Deakin, which is the basis of the point of order that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The Minister stated that the following view was expressed iri 1901 by the then Attorney-General, Mr. Deakin -
Appropriations for now buildings or additions’, when these aic required in the ordinary course of departmental business, are appropriations for the ordinary annual services, and may constitutionally be included in the annual Appropriation Bill.
The Attorney-General directed comment to the immediately following sentence -
Whether they . should be so included is a question of policy merely.
It appears to me that Mr. Deakin’s remarks related to appropriations for capital works, which are necessarily incidental to the ordinary conduct of departmental business. 1 consider that that was an insufficient basis for the submission of the Attorney-General. He also ref erred to Money Bills in the Australian Senate, a publication by Mr. J. R. Odgers* the Usher of the Black Rod and Clerk of ‘Committees of the Senate. “We are all deeply grateful to Mr. Odgers, and congratulate him on his scholarship. Referring’ to a debate in the Senate on the 20th June, 1901, Mr. Odgers wrote -
The then Postmaster-General, Senator Drake, supporting his contention with Quotations from Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution of lira Commonwealth of Australia (pp. mm:70 fi74 ). stated -
It is intended that this Chamber should only have the right of suggestion in the case of. Bills appropriating the necessary money for carrying on the Government of the country, the army and navy, and the civil service. That Vill cover not only what I should call recurring expenditure - expenditure for the payment of the civil servants - but all votes that are necessary for the carrying on of the Government from year to year.
It appears to me that Senator Drake referred explicitly to recurring expenditure, not to capital expenditure appropriation, a3 distinct from what we might call annual running appropriation; Mr. Odgers” continued -
The test, contended Senator Symon, is whether an item is art expenditure which the Government undertakes in the ordinary discharge of the services of the year- the services which they are bound to render to the country.
It is with reluctance that the Senate would turn from a precedent so long established, but there is an unbridgable gap between the practice which has become established in this Parliament and the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral. The argument of the AttorneyGeneral was that the opinion of the Solicitor-General does not raise any newmatter and that there is no point at issue. He contended that the Solicitor-General’s opinion was in conformity with the practice which has been acknowledged and accepted for 50 years both in this Senate and in another place. Obviously, this practice has disturbed the mind of the Auditor-General, who felt it incumbent upon him to raise the matter with a legal authority. It is rather futile of the Attorney-General to say that there is no difference of opinion to be resolved.
I should like to pursue in more detail the question that was directed to the Attorney-General by the Leader of the Opposition, who assumed that this opinion was not merely that- of the Solicitor-General, but that he had conSuited the Attorney-General in relation to it. I do not know the distribution of responsibility between the SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General. Under the Audit Act, the Auditor-General may submit to the Attorney-General any constitutional difficulties that present themselves to him. He is not required to submit such difficulties, but he may do so. Under section 52 of the Audit Act,, the Auditor-General is required to make an annual report. That section reads as follows : -
The Auditor-General shall annex or append to the said report- - (ft) a copy of every case or statement of facts laid by the Said AuditorGeneral before the Attorney-General mr his opinion together with a copy of the opinion given thereon.
Section 15 Of the Audit Act provides- -
The Auditor-General shall be entitled to lay before the Attorney-General a case in writing »s to any question concerning the powers of the Auditor-General or the discharge of hi3 duties and the Attorney-General shall give him a written opinion on such case.
Either the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral is also the opinion of the Attorney-General or the Auditor-General has not acted strictly in accordance with the enabling section. I consider that the Senate is confronted with a difficulty which should be resolved. The determination, of this matter rests exclusively with the Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition and the Attorney-General have said, it is not competent for a court to overrule any determination that may he made here. . However, we are faced with the possibility that the decision of this chamber may differ from a determination on the same subject in another place. If an interpretation of the position were given by the Attorney-General to the Auditor-General that officer would he compelled to act in accordance with that determination. However, I believe that the opinion of the Solicitor-General is diametrically opposed to the previously accepted practice. This matter must be resolved. The Leader of the Opposition has clearly, though not conclusively, expounded the law in relation to the subject and examined the opinion of the Solicitor-General. The argument of the Attorney-General is not specious but might be regarded as a piece of legal casuistry. I do not consider that he satisfactorily answered that paragraph of the Solicitor-General’s opinion 6n which the Leader of the Opposition based his ease.
– I did not attempt to do that.
– The AttorneyGeneral attempted to reconcile his opinion with the existing practice. The Leader of the Opposition contended that the opinion of the Solicitor-General favoured a complete departure from existing practice.
– I said that the opinion of the Solicitor-General was not inconsistent with decisions made by the Senate on that issue in 1901.
– That is virtually what T have interpreted the AttorneyGeneral’s remarks to mean. The opinion of the Solicitor-General is not in conformity with the parliamentary practice which has been followed for 50 years and which must have been based on a clear legal statement. I submit, Mr. President, that the point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition is valid, and, although I do not wish to limit the amending powers or the debating powers qf this chamber, I think that the matter should be determined by the Senate.
– My duty is to interpret the Standing Orders, and I should not be called on to decide constitutional questions except in so far as the Constitution is a guide to procedure and action in the Senate. That view is in accordance with rulings given by my predecessors. In the case now before me there is a clear relationship between sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution and the practice of the Senate.
A similar question was raised in the Senate as far back as the 20th June, 1901, and the practice of submitting separate bills, one of which the Senate could amend, whilst the other it could not, was established then. The system has worked very well for more than fifty years. Standing Order No. 189 reads as follows : -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the question ‘ That this Bill be now read a first time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
The message just read to the Senate indicates that this bill is similar to previous Appropriation (“Works and Services) Bills, and as the practice of treating this class of bill as an “ amendment bill “ has stood for so long I see no reason to vary it now. The point of order is to some extent hypothetical. If, in the future, the Government combines the two classes of bills, the question as to whether they comply with the Constitution oan then be raised. The Senate should exercise constant vigilance to safeguard its rights.
In order to determine how this bill is affected by the Solicitor-General’s opinion that most appropriations dealing with works and services might be regarded as expenditure on the ordinary annual services of the Government,, it would be necessary for every item in the bill to be examined. As the bill is not officially before the Senate until it bas been read a first time, it is impossible for me to pronounce upon it now. Section 54 of the Constitution provides that “ the proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation”.1 Consequently, if the bill contains even one item, which does not come’ within the category of “ordinary annual services “, it is open to amendment by the Senate.
In all the circumstances, I rule that the motion for the first reading of this bill is not open to debate, and that it must be proceeded with in the usual way as an “ amendment bill “. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), is justly entitled, under Standing Order 429, to object to my ruling. That would afford an opportunity for the Senate to consider the point carefully - a point so important that the Senate itself should devote special time to resolve the question. However, a motion of dissent would involve delay, and as this bill is urgent I suggest that my ruling be allowed to stand and that an opportunity be given to the Senate to consider the matter and decide it before the next bill of this kind comes before us.
– Encouraged by what I take to be the support of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) for the proposition that I have addressed to you and by what I take to be your kindly invitation to dissent from your ruling, Mr. President, I will say that that might be a proper course to pursue. You suggest that you would be helped if the Senate addressed its mind to this problem and I consider that it is the responsibility of every honorable senator to do that. I think you will appreciate that when I move dissent from your ruling I do so, more or less, in acceptance of your kindly invitation. So, without pursuing the matter further, I formally move -
That the ruling of the President, viz.: - “ That the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill l!)o2-.r)3 is a bill which the Senate may amend “, be dissented from.
I think that this motion will give the Senate an opportunity to deal with the situation that has arisen at its leisure.
– This matter vill have to be determined immediately, otherwise the Senate cannot proceed with the bill.
– I remind honorable senators that an appropriation hill ‘is already before the Senate on which each honorable senator will have an opportunity to speak for an hour and & half. I hardly believe that the Leader of the Opposition has moved this motion in order to ensure that another hour and a half will be available to each honorable senator for the discussion of any bill. From a practical point of view, it is sufficient that there is before the Senate a bill in the consideration of which honorable senators may exercise their full right to speak for one and a half hours. On this occasion, seeing that the ruling of the President is now subject to objection, I suggest that it would be convenient to agree to the first reading of this bill, and allow the debate to take place on the motion for the second reading.
– I agree with thu Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). My main concern was to have the principle established one way or the other. There will be further opportunities to raise the matter when other bills are under consideration. I do not object to the suggestion of the Attorney-General that we should adjourn the debate until a later date, if that be possible. Your ruling, Mr. President, stands until t has been dissented from. I see no practical difficulty in proceeding with the first reading, and- perhaps taking the bill to the second-reading stage, and I raise no objection to such a course if it is in accordance with the Standing; Orders.
– I appreciate the courteous way in which honorable senators have discussed this matter, which has given me a great deal of thought. It is .one which the Senate itself should decide. It is well, I think, that we should agree now to discuss the matter further, calmly, at some future date and then reach a considered decision.
– I direct your attention, Mr. President, to Standing Order 429, which reads -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and Debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without Debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
– I objected at once, and my objection was stated in writing.
– We followed the course prescribed in the standing order.
– The motion has now been seconded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1952-53 Estimates for Expenditure on Capital Works and Services is £106,613,000, made up of £100,003,000 from annual votes and £6,610,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act 1952-53, provides the necessary parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure under annual votes, which may be summarized as follows ? -
Details of the proposed expenditure will be found on pages 192 to 204 of the printed Estimates, and in the schedule to the present bill. The total provision of £106,613,000 is approximately £4,000,000 less than the actual expenditure last year. Taking higher costs into account, this represents a substantial reduction in the volume of works activity. The major proportion of the 1952-53 provision is required to continue works in progress, and to meet other outstanding capital commitments. Any new works included are restricted to those of an especially urgent and essential nature which should be undertaken with the least possible delay.
The bill provides £28,000,000 for expenditure on war service homes compared with £27,600,000 expended last year. This substantial provision is renewed evidence of the determination of the Government to make the maximum possible provision of homes for ex-servicemen. The decision to reduce the intake of immigrants is responsible for the lower provision of £2,770,000 for immigration works. Expenditure last financial year was £7,242,921. Included in the Department of Health estimates is an amount of £1,100,000 for reimbursement to State governments of capital expenditure incurred under the Tuberculosis Act 1948. The Estimates include an amount of £13,600,000 to cover expenditure this financial year on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme, and £1,250,000 for capital expenditure by the Joint Coal Board.
The amount of £6,700,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation includes £4,600,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes, as well as £2,100,000 for the purchase of modern technical equipment. A total of £27,966,000 is required for post office, telephone and telegraph services, whilst capital expenditure on Commonwealth railways is expected to amount to £3,000,000, mainly for the purchase of locomotives and other rolling-stock from overseas. Under the Department of Shipping and Transport, £4,000,000 is provided for ship construction in Australian dockyards, but against this is offset an amount of £3,000,000 estimated to be received by the Australian Shipbuilding Board in respect of vessels which are under construction for sale to private ship owners.
The continued development of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to cost £1,722,000 and £3,752,000 respectively in this financial year. The provision in the Australian Capital Territory is mainly to continue the housing programmes, and for associated engineering works. Expenditure in the Territory will be supplemented by the amount of £977,000 which is included separately for the Australian National University.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 10th September (vide page 1167), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– J shall approach this appropriation bill in a less objective manner than I did the previous one. We have unlimited scope for debate on the motion for the first reading of the bill. Since it is a bill which the Senate may not amend, we may discuss matters both relevant and irrelevant. That opens up a wide field of dis.cusion, and whilst one may be embarrassed by the number of matters offering for consideration, they are fewer by far than the vast number of matters regarding which this Government is open to .serious criticism. I propose to concentrate my criticism on two leading factors. I propose to discuss “the qualities of leadership and to apply the discussion to the Government; and to make some observations on the state of mind of the people of Australia - what the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is pleased to term their psychology.
I shall first discuss leadership. Nearly three years ago, the nineteen men who formed the Cabinet - the number has since been increased to twenty - had the honour to be chosen as the leaders of the Australian nation. From the outset, that Cabinet was under two great handicaps. The first was that their supporters in the Parliament, the elected representatives of the pople, had no choice in the appointment of the Cabinet. That being so, the supporters of the Government do not necessarily have a sense of loyalty to Ministers, who are the leaders of the nation. Evidence of that is to be found in :the fact that both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives some .of those who normally support the Government have, on more than one occasion, voted with the Opposition against the Government.
– Is this not a house of review?
– That is one point of view. There is no contesting the fact that supporters of the Government have no say in the choosing of the Cabinet. I supplement that statement by adding that they seem to have as little say in determining government policy. For instance, it is well known that supporters of the Government had no information about the budget until an hour before the budget speech was delivered in the Parliament. That state of affairs is not good for a government or for a nation.
– The previous Government did not make the contents of its budgets known to its supporters two or three days before the budgets were presented in the Parliament.
– The broad outlines of budgets presented by the Labour Government were discussed with government supporters many weeks before the budgets were presented. The second handicap under which the Government labours is that it is a coalition of two parties. In the House of Representatives there were, until the death of the late honorable member for Flinders, Mr. Ryan, 52 members of the Liberal party and seventeen of the Australian Country party, whilst the Labour party numbered 54’. The Australian Country party, which is the minority, is obviously exercising a disproportionate influence in the government of the country, and it is apparent that the leader of that party, Sir Arthur Fadden, is the dominating factor in the economic thinking and .planning of the Government. Thus, the Government got off to a bad start, seeing that there were present in its leadership obvious internal strains and stresses.
Let me, for the purposes of my theme, say a word about leadership in the abstract. There are two things common to leadership of all kinds : First, leaders must have a purpose; they must know their goal. They must know and see it before they can lead others to it. The second point is that they must know how to find their way to that purpose or goal before they are able to lead other people to it. Therefore, they must have a policy. The two main aspects -are thus purpose and policy
On the question of purpose, I make no attack upon the ‘Government. I believe it to be true that ‘every party and every member of this Parliament has a common purpose : ‘To serve the good of Australia and Australians. It is.J;rue that parties
And ‘individuals approach that purpose with varying degrees of enthusiasm and interest, and that they serve it with diff erent degrees of single-mindedness. But I concede to the Government, on broad terms, the purpose that I have outlined. It is very different, however, when we come down to the practical problem of finding means by which to achieve the purpose. In my opinion, the first thing that is required in the formulation and implementation of policy is intelligence. I should subdivide intelligence into three parts, and I shall proceed to criticize and test the Government tinder three heads. First, there must be knowledge; secondly, there must Le ability to apply that “knowledge.; and thirdly, there must be ability to see and to plan ahead. If .1 were asked to define those qualities by the use of one word, .1 should suggest the word u wisdom “. To-day my attack upon the Government is that it has lacked intelligence in the sense in which I have used the word, and that it ,has plainly lacked wisdom.
Let me deal first with the knowledge factor. There is no excuse for lack of knowledge on the part of the Government. It has at its disposal every expert in Australia, both inside and outside the Public Service. I know from experience that everybody in the country is prepared to come to the aid of the Government. The one risk that the Government runs is that it may acquire too much knowledge. Too many people may be concerned to burden it in that direction. Thi3 Government has left the hard work of acquiring knowledge - and it can be acquired only by hard work - and lie hard thinking necessary to draw the proper conclusions from such knowledge to a very few members. As 1 develop my theme, I shall demonstrate how deficient in knowledge are many members of the Government. 1 repeat that there is no excuse for lack of knowledge on the part of any member -of the Cabinet -I come now to the -.second aspect, which is the ability to apply knowledge. This, in my view, is the great test of leadership, and it is at this point that the Government has fallen down. In this respect, I .shall quote four examples to the .Senate. First, let us consider the question of capital issues. In January, 1950, immediately after the Government was elected, it said, in effect, “ Consent will be .given to everything in the way of capital issues “. Everybody knows what then took place. There was & rush on to the mortgage and investment markets by all who had an idea to exploit, whether or not its exploitation was for the immediate or the ultimate good of the country and whether or not it was ‘directed to our great fundamental purposes of full employment, housing, development, immigration and defence. That rush continued until, in October, 1950, the Government became alarmed. On the 6th October, in the course of a broadcast to the nation, the .Prime Minister :(Mr. .Menzies) said -
We propose to re-institute capital issues control. We think this should be .done so that the absorption of capital, and therefore of labour anil materials, into industries of minor importance at the expense of those of major importance, may .bo restrained.
Tha* knowledge was not translated into action until five months later, so that from January, 1950, until February, 1951, a completely “ open go “ was given to every enterpreneur in Australia. How much damage was .done in that time? I have obtained from the Commonwealth Actuary figures which illustrate the degree of injury which was done to the economy of the country. The Commonwealth Actuary states that the figures expressly exclude reference to bonus shares, exchange of shares and shares issued when one company takes over another. They are therefore net figures. Capital issues approved in 1947 amounted to £30,000,000; in 194S, to £60,000,000 ; in 1949, which was the last year of Labour rule, to £50,000,000 ; and in 1950, which was the first year of office of the present Government, to £150,000,000. Capital raisings and borrowings therefore trebled in the first year of office of this Government.
– The honorable senator should not forget that our .income from the sale of wool also doubled.
– These figures have nothing whatever to do with wool. They refer solely to capital borrowings and raisings by the Capital Issues Board. Capital issues approved in 1951 amounted to £S0,000,000. The figure was higher in that year because there had been a free for all “ during the first few months of the year.
From the examples which I have given, it will be seen that although the Government was armed with certain knowledge in October, 1950, it delayed action until February, 1951. Later in that year, having seen the damage that had been done to .the economy, it introduced the most vicious sales tax that the country lias ever seen, the rate of tax rising to 66s per cent., for the avowed and express purpose of putting out of business or restricting the operations of the very industries that its neglect and misjudgment had called into existence. What, therefore, was the use of knowledge to the Government in October, 1950, when it failed to apply that knowledge ? Who, on the Government side of the chamber, will attempt to justify the events of that period of thirteen months?
Dealing with the ability to apply knowledge, let me refer to import restrictions. We know now that during the last financial year our overseas sterling balances fell from £843,000,000 to £362,000,000. Our overseas reserves, therefore, decreased by £481,000,000 in a period of twelve months. On the 10th March last, the Prime Minister, in a broadcast to the nation, admitted that he knew in December, 1951, that our overseas balances were running out and in fact had declined by £300,000,000. Armed with that knowledge, where was the ability to translate it into action, when nothing was done until the 8th March, notwithstanding the fact that in each month from December to March our overseas balances had been deteriorating? There followed an immediate1 cessation of all imports, amounting .to repudiation of overseas contracts, for the first time in our history. As the Treasurer admitted at the beginning of his recent budget speech, by the 30th June last, “ our international reserves fell, in consequence, by nearly £500,000,000 “. Thai certainly was due, in large part, to a fall in wool prices in the intervening period; but it was also due to the unlimited opportunity for the importation of all kinds of goods. Who, on the Government side of the chamber, will attempt to justify the inaction of the Government from December To March? I therefore make my second point, that there has been lack of ability to apply knowledge which has been acquired.
I make my third point under that head by referring to inflation. During 1950, there was not a quarter in which the basic wage did not increase because of the increased . cost of living and prices generally. Yet, throughout 1950 the Government did nothing about inflation but talk about it. I defy any honorable senator opposite to mention an effective measure taken by the Government to halt inflation in that year. During 1951 the basic wage rose by 7s. in the first quarter and an additional 7s. in the second quarter. The Government still made no move. On the 1st August, 1951, the terrific increase of 13s. a week in the basic wage shocked the nation. It also shocked the Government into introducing what is now known as the “ horror “ budget of that year. Under the crushing budget of October, 1951, the rates of tax in every field were greatly increased. Postal charges, sales tax, income tax, excise duty, customs, company tax, land tax, and even broadcast listeners’ fees were increased. Nothing escaped. During this Government’s tenure of office the basic wage has risen by exactly £5 a week. On the day that the Government took office the basic wage was £6 7s. a week, whereas to-day it is £11 7s. a week. I concede that £1 of that increase was granted by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but the remaining £4 increase has been due to quarterly adjustments. The basic wage has, therefore, almost doubled during the regime of this Government.
– Can the honorable senator suggest any method by which the Government could have controlled that increase?
– -The honorable senator should know that suggestions have been made by the Australian Labour party concerning that matter from the first day that the Government took office.
Members of the Opposition have urged and begged the Government to seek proper constitutional authority for capital issues control, prices control and wages control. I, myself, introduced a measure in this chamber in October, 1950 to authorize the holding of a referendum of the people on the subject of prices. Yet, the Government was so blind to the danger of inflation that it did not have the courtesy to allow the matter to be mentioned in the House of Representatives. The bill was not even discussed in that chamber.
– .Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that we could control the inflationary situation by introducing prices control?
– Let me conclude my answer to the honorable senator’s first question before he interpolates another. If he does not like the answer he is getting, he should at least listen to it. The members of the Opposition have told the Government time and again what should be done. The Australian Labour party policy speech of April, 1951, indicated that it was necessary to control prices and profits. If that were done, there would then be no difficulty in bringing wages to a stand-still. We had agreed with the trade union movement that such controls were necessary. Any honorable senator who has listened to my speeches in this chamber will have heard me urge again and again that the Government should take full control of prices. The prices authorities in every State have asked the Government to do so, because they contend that they cannot efficiently administer prices control. Nothing could be clearer than the fact that they cannot. We assured the Government that if it showed willingness to do something about prices and profits, it would get the agree1 ment of the trade union movement, to a stand-still on wage claims. But the Government did not attempt to do anything. We on this side pointed out repeatedly that expenditure in certain directions should be curtailed. We said that the immigration programme would have to be cut and that the top heavy defence expenditure would have to be reduced. I shall deal with those matters more fully at a latter stage. At present,
I am merely answering questions and pointing out that the Government is now following the course that Labour has been advocating for some time. The immigration programme has now been cut. The flow of recruits into the defence forces is being slowed. Notice is being taken of the call by Great Britain for Australia to concentrate its forces on food production. Those are some of the answers that I can give to the honorable senator. . There are many more that I could give. Who, amongst honorable senators opposite can justify the delay of nearly two years before this Government took even its inefficient and ineffective action under the “ horror “ budget of last year to curb inflation ?
Dealing still with ability to translate knowledge into action, I come to my fourth point. A day or two after I moved in this chamber for a referendum on prices, the Prime Minister made a half-hour broadcast to the nation about inflation. His talk was entitled “ Rising prices - the answer “, and in it he promised to control basic materials and to impose an excess profits tax. That was in October, 1950. It is now September, 1952. Nearly two years have elapsed, and still no attempt has been made to implement the policy implicit in those two grandiose “ answers’ “ to inflation. What is the use of knowing the answers if one has not the ability to translate knowledge into action? Can any honorable senator opposite justify the Government’s inaction after the Prime Minister had made those emphatic promises? Nearly two years ago, the right honorable gentleman had all the “ answers “ but he has not yet endeavoured to act upon them. So, if I am charitable and concede that the Government has knowledge of all the factors in the field, I am surely entitled to say that in one of the greatest economic crises Australia has ever faced it has failed lamentably to exhibit that salient quality of leadership - ability to translate knowledge into action.
Let me turn now to the third aspect of leadership - ability to see and plan ahead. In October, 1950, the present Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in this chamber that, if anything was to be done about inflation, so far as anything could be done within Australia, the people, themselves, would have to do it. Let us see how far that minister looked ahead. Within a year of his statement that governments could do nothing, and that the responsibility rested on the people, this Government rushed in to re-impose capital issues control, to introduce credit restrictions, and to take the other punitive measures announced in its “ horror “ budget. Since then the Government has introduced import restrictions. How much foresight has a government which, through the representative of the Treasurer in this chamber, in October, 1950 says that inflation is a matter for the people and then within a few months, tushes into activity of all kinds? I do not concede that the action taken by the Government has been efficient or effective. I am merely pointing to the fact that the Government has shown itself completely unable to see ahead. At Perth, on the 15th of this month, and at Brisbane on the following day, the Treasurer said that the purchasing value of the £1 had greatly increased. Three days later, on the 19th July, the basic wage rose by lis. a week. Need I say any more to drive home my point that this Government cannot see or plan ahead? However, if further evidence is needed let me refer to the Estimates for the financial year that has just closed. For the first time in seven years, the Estimates were over-stated. The over-estimates totalled £64,750,000 and the underestimates £26,500,000, leaving a net overestimate of £38,250,000. There again is clear evidence of inability to plan ahead. Revenue from sales tax last year was over-estimated by £21,500,000 and receipts from income tax were overestimated by £32,800,000. As recently as the 6th May of this year, the Treasurer admitted, .through his representative in this chamber, that the Estimates had been based on the wool prices prevailing in the previous year, and would have to be scaled down. Surely to goodness reasonable vision and common sense, quite apart from wisdom, indicated that the Estimates should be based, not on the abnormal wool prices of 1950-51, but on what could be regarded as a normal average figure. Certainly wisdom and caution would have dictated that course.
I come now to immigration. Despite, all the signs of business stagnation and unemployment that were beginning to appear, no action to halt immigration was taken by the Government until those signs became very obvious. Nothing wasdone in fact, until immigrants in certain camps were on the verge of revolt. Again I say that the Government cannot disclaim knowledge of the situation that was arising. Repeatedly in this chamber in recent years members of the Opposition warned the Government that it would have to curtail its immigration programme in view of internal developments. So, on the count of ability to see and plan ahead, here is an indictment that must impress every Government supporter at least. Last ‘year about this time the Government budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000 which, its spokesmen claimed, would be put were it could do least harm. I am sure that all honorable senators will remember the utterances of the Minister for National Development in this chamber on that occasion. His speech was given headlines in the press. Under the two-column heading “ Budget Surplus Won’t be Spent - Spooner “, the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20.th October, stated -
The Minister for National Development said last night that it would he over his dead body that the Government spent the surplus of £114,000,000 it was taking in taxes this year.
– He is still here.
– Never mind about his body. I am delighted that he is still with us, but let us see how good his vision was. Soon after making the statement that I have quoted at a Liberal party meeting at Rockdale, he walked into this chamber with the National Debt Sinking Fund (Special Payments) Bill which provided for the payment of the budget surplus to the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission and authorized that body to use the money to back the States’ works programmes. An this was the honorable senator who would rather die than allow one penny of the surplus to be expended ! How far out was he in his calculation? Was he £114,500,000 out? I shall tell honorable senators. The actual surplus turned out to be £98,500,000. That was expended. In addition, £34,500,000 was scraped from the bottom of the Commonwealth Trust
Fund barrel, and that too was expended, together with another £27,000,000 from the National Debt Commission. Finally, and horror of horrors according to Government supporters, £45,000,000 of central bank credit was injected into the economy. Therefore, the Minister who said that not one penny of the surplus of £114,500,000 was to be expended was wrong to the tune of £205,000,000 in just a few months. Have I now made clear my point that this Government cannot see ahead and plan ahead? If there is still some doubt, let me refer to yet another count. Referring quite plainly to bank credit, although he did not say so in specific terms, the Prime Minister said in the House of Representatives on the 3rd October, 1951-
A deficit budget at an inflationary period like this would be a scandal. It would expose :any. government to the accusation that it did not cairo about inflation because it was prepared to pour £50,000,000 of new money into the existing supplies and so aggravate the inflation.
Yet, before that financial year was out, the Government had passed £45,000,000 of central bank credit into our economy. It is true that this statement was made in 1951; but let us see what the Treasurer said at a much later elate. On the 2nd May, 1952, the Sydney Morning Herald published the headlines, “ Fadden Warns Premiers “ and “ No central bank finance”. The report read -
Canberra, Thursday. - The Federal Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, told the Loan Council today that the Commonwealth would not allow Central Bank credits to be used to finance State works programmes.
That was only two months before the «nd of the financial year; but what did the Treasurer say in his budget speech? At page five of that speech, this right honorable gentleman, who said that no central bank finance was to be used, made the following admission -
We consider it justifiable, in the light of the change in economic conditions as compared with a year ago and the emergence of some signs of unemployment, that loan raisings for essential works of a truly developmental and productive kind should receive some special assistance from bank credit.
So the Treasurer, who on the 2nd May had said that no bank credit would be used under any circumstances because the economic outlook was far too gloomy, three months later made the announcement that I have just quoted in this Parliament.
Senator -Gorton. - He was dealing with a different financial year.
– Surely when he was talking to the Premiers in May, 1952, he wa3 not speaking of loan programmes for 1951-52. Clearly he was talking abou t loan programmes for 1952-53.
– Surely, the honorable senator does not suggest that, in May, 1952, the Australian Loan Council was considering the allocation of loan funds in respect of a year which had only two months to run. That is further evidence of the Government’s blindness and its inability to see or to plan ahead. A Government, which in May, 1952, said that in no circumstances would central bank credit be resorted to, and within three months offered to pour out central bank credit into the community, obviously does not know where it is going. I am not discussing the merits of the use of central bank credit; I am simply proving that the Government signally failed to survive the third test of leadership that I applied to it, namely, ability to see and plan ahead. On all vital counts of policy and leadership, knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge and to plan ahead, the Government has failed to achieve the purposes which it set out to achieve.
Let us examine the state of mind of Australians to-day. I do not have to offer any observations on that matter because the Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, has very clearly directed attention to it. At page three of the printed budget speech the right honorable gentleman said -
Business in a number of directions has passed into a phase of slackness and uncertainty
Some unemployment has emerged here and there in the economy.
At page four of the speech he said -
To-day there are hundreds of thousands who have become apprehensive of the future . . .
There is in some quarters a good deal of fear about the economic future. I believe it to be basically unfounded but the fact that it exists is something we cannot ignore. Psychology is enormously important in economic affairs and can never be safely disregarded
There has . . . been some loss of business confidence leading to hesitancy about investment.
It is fair to ask why, as the Treasurer truthfully says, are the people fearful, apprehensive and uncertain? Are they to be blamed because they are in that state of mind ? Certainly not ; they realize that the Government does not know where it is going. How can they know where they are being led when it is clear that the Government does not know where it is going, and when it is apparent that it has gone off the track into the marshes? The people fear- that they are being led over a precipice, but how far and how steep the descent will be they do not know. That is why they are fearful and uncertain. The complete failure of the Government to give a proper lead to the people of which I have given instance after instance is the sole cause of the uncertainty which the Treasurer himself lias found in the community to-day.
How can the people have faith or confidence in a government that in addition to the shortcomings to which I have directed attention has broken every important promise it made? It promised to put value back into the fi. Need I say any more about that one?
– Such a promise was not made by the Government.
– The AttorneyGeneral received his answer to that statement some considerable time ago. The promise was contained in the joint policy speech of the leaders of the Government and in advertisements published by the Liberal party of which the Minister is a member, and it has been repeated at least a dozen times in the Senate by his leader, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). Will the Attorney-General controvert that statement 1 If he does so, I shall read the advertisements that were published by the Liberal party in newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. If the Minister would like me to read them, I should be glad to do so, and if he would like me to take him through his own policy speech on this matter also, I should be glad to do so.
The second promise was that the purchasing value of pensions would be in creased because, the Prime Minister contended, it would be better to increase the purchasing value of pensions than to increase the pension rates. That promise is also contained in the joint policy speech. Does the Attorney-General suggest that those words do not mean that the Government would put value back into the £1. If he takes part in this debate I shall be glad if he will demonstrate how otherwise that portion of the Government’s policy was to be given effect for the benefit of pensioners and other persons in the community.
– The honorable senator has not quoted the actual words of the promise which he claims was made.
– The words, of whom ?
– The words of the Prime Minister.
– They are printed on page 22 of the booklet which contains the joint policy speech of the leaders of the Government.
– Apparently, the honorable senator has a very good indexing system.
– I know where these promises are to be found better than does the honorable senator or the members of the Government. It is a great pity that supporters of the Government do not know the principles of their own policy as expounded by their leaders. If they did so there would perhaps be a chance that some of the promises would be honoured. My purpose in quoting these statements is to remind the Government of its promises, for it seems to have forgotten them.
Let me deal now with the promise made to the pensioners. On that point the Prime Minister had this to say -
Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
Does the Attorney-General contend that that statement did not involve a promise to put value back into the £1?
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to read the statement in which the Prime Minister is supposed to have said, “ We shall put value back into the £1”.
– That statement appears at page 28 of the printed policy speech where the Prime Minister said -
The greatest task, therefore, is to get value hack into the .pound, that is, to get prices down.
– That was not a promise to put value back into the £1.
– If honorable senators are determined to prevaricate, I shall read for their education the advertisements that were plastered all over the countryside by the Liberal party. That contained a specific promise that the Government would put value back into the £1. There iis no need for mu to do so because honorable senators opposite are aware that what I have said is true.
– Apparently the honorable senator has not got them by him.
– I am merely a little lazy and am not bothering to look for them.
The next promise made by the Prime Minister was that he would reduce taxation. What has happened in regard to that promise? In 1P51-52 the Government increased the burden of taxation on the people to £474,000,000.
– What was the .percentage increase?
– Previously existing rates were increased by 70 per cent, or 80 per cent. When the Government assumed office the total amount of the budget was £567,000,000. In 1951-52 it increased the hurden of taxation by no less than £474,000,000!
– included in that amount was a total of £155,000,000 for the States.
– I am not arguing about the details; I am merely pointing out that in one year this Government imposed additional taxes amounting to no less than £474,000,000. Additional money had to be found for the States because the Government consistently refused to halt inflation. The States are now able to do less work with the greatly increased allocations of money. Everything that is wrong in this country is attributable to the ineptitude of the Government in dealing with inflation.
– The Leader of the Opposition would have prevented the increase that took place in the price of wool if he had had his way.
– Neither I nor the Government had any control over that matter. I am attempting to show that the people are uncertain and unhappy about the future because the Government has broken every promise of substance it has made to them-. Another promise was that the Government would place before the people in 1952 for their approval a plan to abolish the means test. In view of that definite promise I optimistically examined the budget in the expectation that it would contain at least some proposals directed to that purpose, but I was .disappointed. Not one word was directed to the achievement of this objective either in the budget or by the Treasurer in his budget speech. That is still another promise which the Government blithely made and conveniently forgot.
– The honorable senator might like to read the joint policy speech on that point too.
– That promise also appears on page 22 of the booklet containing the joint policy speech.
Sena tor Spicer. - Read it !
– It refers to the elections of 1952. It reads : -
It is only under such a system that we cu fi make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test. During the new Parliament-
That is, the Parliament which ended in April 1951- we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you «t the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval.
How do honorable senators opposite construe that statement?
– The Prime Minister was referring to the present Parliament.
– Because the Government and its supporters choose to say that the words relate to 1954 when in fact the Prime Minister referred to 1952, the people do not trust the Government. In 1949, the people understood that they would be told in 1952 how the
Government proposed to get rid of the means test. Senator Gorton, on behalf of the Government, has now told us that we may hear something about the proposal in 1954:; A promise was also made by the Government that, it would abolish, all restrictive controls. Ear from abolishing controls how many new controls has it introduced?
– The Leader of the Opposition, appears to have overlooked the needs of the. defence programme.
– I have, criticized, the defence and immigration pro- grames. I. have not forgotten them. I quote now the last three sentences in the Treasurer’s- budget speech in which the right honorable gentleman said -
It is clear that the broad conditions have never been more favorable for enterprise. At least that is true of the material conditions. It may be that it’ is’ confidence and faith we need. If that be so, let us look once again across- the face of our country.
I look across the face of my country and I see, first, human beings - hundreds of thousands of pensioners and persons in receipt of fixed incomes who are in the direst straits because of uncontrolled inflation. Next I see 40,000 persons whom the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McBride) himself has described as unem ployed persons - every one of them experiencing a personal tragedy. Next I see the thief, inflation, in every home, taking more and more of the things that the people need, including their sense of security. I see the loan market wrecked. I see losses among all classes of people who invested in Commonwealth loans during the war. I see the share marketbadly depressed. Finally, I see drastic import cuts imposed in respect of necessary commodities.
– Is the honorable senator, thinking of all these things, able to sleep at night?
– I am, but only because I have a clear conscience. I have broken no promises as have the members of the Government. As existing stocks of raw materials dwindle the unemployment problem, will very greatly expand’.
– The honorable senator does .not hope that it will expand?
– I do not.. I am concerned’ as, I hope, Senator Scott. is>. that one Australian citizen who- want9: towork is. unable to obtain a job and thus, fill a useful niche in the community:. I hope that he is as concerned about that man as I would, be, and that he will be just as concerned about the remainder of the 40,000 unemployed’ persons that have been mentioned. I see a grievous halt in home-building, and a decrease of. £500,000,000 of our overseascredits, gross inadequacy of our primary production for export, a threat to our own food supplies- in this country, and’ the same blighting lack of confidencein the community that the Treasurer himself sees. It is precipitating the very evil that the business community itself wants to avoid. It is completely unfortunate. I see the tragic necessity, from Australia’s long-term .point of view,, to halt the vastly improved, immigration programme. It is tragic that that has had to be altered. I submit quite’ seriously to the Senate that, if the Communists of Australia could have communicated with Stalin and told him that they had achieved all these things, they would have received the highest order that he could bestow - probably the order of Lenin and Bar, if there is such a thing. Why are the Communists of Australia quiet to-day? This Government, by its ineptitude, its f ailures, and its defaults is inadvertently - if supporters of the Government like to describe it as such - but nevertheless very clearly and effectively, doing the foul work of the Communists, by wrecking the economy of this country and allowing it to slidein chaos. There is no- need for the Communists to be active to-day, and theGovernment does not pretend any longer to blame all these things onto the Communists. It has- dropped this attitude. These are the circumstances in whichthe people are expected to cheer thisbudget.
– They are cheering, it..
– Let us seeThis budget proposes- taxation concessions amounting: to £49,500,000, after the Government has imposed taxation to- yield an additional £474,000,000. The people will; get back £49,500,000 out of the additional taxation of £474j000j0&0-
– That is bad arithmetic.
– It is not bad arithmetic, as I shall point out. The throwing of £49,500,000 into the arena of the electors to-day is like throwing a handful of wheat into a ten-acre paddock of hungry fowls. That is how little there is to go around. I shall particularize. Individual taxpayers will be granted concessions amounting to £23,000,000 during this financial year. Last year they paid taxes amounting to £3S6,000,000. During this financial year they will be called upon to pay taxes of £383,000,000. The Treasurer will be only £3,000,000 a year worse off. What has the right honorable gentleman done? He has merely given back to the people the extra amount that he would have collected as the result of inflated incomes during this financial year. That is all that he has given away. It is a confidence trick. Irrespective of what the right honorable gentleman has stated, the people will be required to pay only £3,000,000 less in taxes during this financial year, based on present incomes, than they paid” last year. Let us consider the position of companies. The Treasurer has stated in his budget speech that companies will he given relief of £15,000,000. In the last financial year the Treasury collected £150,000,000 in taxes from companies. During this financial year the Treasurer proposes to collect taxes of £167,000,000 from them. Honorable senators opposite should go round the country explaining to the directors of companies how the companies will be better off this year. Do honorable senators opposite claim that the companies of Australia are cheering?
I shall now refer to the small but quite welcome concessions and allowances. The Government proposes to allow as a deduction for income tax purposes a portion of the cost of educating families. This will cost the Treasury £1,500,000 a year. Concessions to be granted to sporting clubs will cost the Treasury £20,000 a year. The Government has decided to abolish the land tax, at a cost to the Treasury of £6,250,000 this year. The benefit will flow mainly to large property-owners in the big cities, mostly breweries, banks, theatre companies, retail stores and institutions. This fairest tax of all is to be abolished. It has not applied to anybody who owns land the unimproved value of which exceeds £8,750.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition tell us why that tax was imposed ?
– It will be to the eternal disgrace of the Government that remissions totalling £6,250,000 are to be granted to the big land-owners that I have mentioned. That revenue would have enabled the Government to increase all pensions by 6s. a week.
– The Leader of the Opposition has complained in the past about the incidence of the land tax.
– I have complained about the basis of valuation.
– And that the Government was collecting too much-
– I complained about the department assessing land on the basis of the abnormally high values that obtained in 1951.
– Did not the Leader of the Opposition vote with us for the reduction ?
– I voted for a reduction of the exemption value, but contended that the rate of tax should be increased. The Opposition contended that land of an unimproved value of less than £5,000 should be exempted. In other words, we suggested that there should be a higher rate of tax imposed on land above that value. I repeat that the budget which the Government has claimed is intended to do a little good for everybody will have no practical effect upon the things that really matter in Australia. For instance, it will not put one man back in employment; it will not result in one more house being built; it will not restore the lost confidence of the people; it certainly will not halt inflation; and it will not stimulate the production of food. I call it a placebo budget, which is a word that is used to describe a phenomenon that is well known to medical men. It is applied to coloured water or any old thing that is given to a patient to keep him quiet. It will not do the patient any good, and it is not intended to do him any good. This is purely a placebo budget which has, been designed to please the people superficially. It will not achieve any fundamental purpose.
Although I should like to address myself also to the subjects of uniform taxation and hospital benefits, I shall not prolong my speech, despite the amount of time that is strictly available. I always remember the following remark that is credited to Lord Tweedsmuir -
The only ism that kills the soul is pessimism.
The only thing that the Government needs to be pessimistic about is its own political future. There is no need for it to be concerned or pessimistic about the future of Australia. I believe that the quality of our people, and the amount of developmental work that requires to be done are such that this Government will fall because of its ineptitude, defaults and broken promises. I have no doubt about that. I think that the Government itself has real cause for pessimism about its own future, and deservedly so, in the light of the observations that I have made.
.- [ suppose that it is the duty of a leader of an Opposition, when a budget is presented, to examine it critically, to attempt to tear it to pieces, to criticize it because it will raise too much money, or because too much expenditure is planned, and to turn the spotlight of the most searching criticism on every part of it. Perhaps it is well that that should be the duty of a leader of an Opposition. Perhaps it is some measure of the goodness of this budget that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) devoted only a few minutes, in the concluding stages of an hour’s speech, to try to pick holes in the actual budget that has been presented. For the greater proportion of his time he did not refer to the budget. He made, instead, a philosophic treatise on leadership, and he endeavoured to illustrate a thesis that this Government is lacking in leadership. I should like to examine some of the points that the Leader of the Opposition advances, because it seemed to me they were extremely weak. If they are the best that he could advance, his thesis that leadership by the Government is lacking is wrong. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned, as an example of inability to apply knowledge, the matter of import restrictions. He said that the Government knew that the overseas reserves were falling - in fact they fell from £800,000,000 to £300,000,000- month by month, but did nothing whatever to correct the’ position. It is true that this Government built up our overseas reserves in England from £500,000,000 to £S0 0,000,000. It is also perfectly true that the overseas reserves represent money. They do not represent goods in thi”, country. The building up of large balances overseas by a country is a potent inflationary factor. The money is virtually in the .pockets of the producers of this country to spend, but no goods have been brought, in to back it. Consequently this Government publicly announced its intention to set out on a programme of large-scale importation, in order to bring in goods that were so badly needed in this country, as an anti-inflationary measure. The Leader of the Opposition did not mention that that policy decision was announced. Naturally, our balances overseas fell. The Government knew that they were falling, and, indeed, intended that they should fall. The manufacturers in England had many markets open to them for their goods on the continent of Europe, in Canada, in South America and in Australia. Indeed there were so many markets available to them that they could not keep up supplies to all of them. Suddenly, without warning, their markets in Canada, South America and Europe shut down. They immediately switched all their current production to Australia. There was a sudden and unprecedented flood of goods to this country. Some had been ordered,up to two years previously. In addition, consignments of goods which had not been ordered from the manufacturers were sent to this country to be sold if possible. A crisis which was not brought about by the Government of the United Kingdom or the Australian Government arose suddenly. Sudden action was demanded and sudden action was taken. As a result, our overseas balances are gradually rising. Would the Leader of the Opposition contend that the Government should remove import restrictions because there has been an improvement of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 in our overseas balances? Of course not. Yet he contended that the Government displayed a lack of foresight in failing to stop all imports when our overseas balances first began to fall.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government’s action against inflation should have been confined to an attempt to regulate basic wage increases. He must know that, under the Constitution, the Government cannot interfere with the basis on which the Commonwealth Arbitration Court determines cost-of-living adjustments of the basic wage. The honorable senator might have mentioned that in the month after the Government came into office the Commonwealth Arbitration Court raised the basic wage by £l which resulted in the accelerated rate of increase in the cost of living.
– Is the honorable senator criticizing the court?
– If Senator Cooke had read the judgments that were delivered by Judge Dunphey and Judge Foster, he would be in no doubt that those two judges knew that the increase of £1 a week in the basic wage would have an inflationary effect. They stated that the increase would be a very inflationary factor but expressed the opinion that that was none of their business. What did the Leader of the Opposition want the Government to do, specifically, to interfere with the functions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? I suggest that he did not want the Government to do anything but he might well have made some suggestions in that connexion because I think that the costofliving adjustments of the basic wage are now the only inflationary factor in the economy of this country. If the cost of the items in the “ C “ series index could be reduced the result would be a lower basic wage which would result in still lower prices for items in the “ C “ series index which, in turn, would result in a lower basic wage. A state of affairs would develop which would be the reverse of the spiral of inflation. In my opinion, that would be extremely bad for the economy of this country. Surely in times of falling prices it is essential that purchasing power should be sustained. The present method of calculating cost-of-living adjustments might operate to the detri ment of the workers and of Australia. That is a matter which the Senate might well examine in a non-partisan spirit.
I shall deal now with a few of the minor criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition. He complained that, in preparing its last budget, the Government had over-estimated its income and underestimated its expenditure for the financial year 1951-52. As he knows, the Estimates are prepared by Treasury officials who are never expected to be exact within £1,000,000 or £2,000,000. This part of his argument did little to support his criticism of the Government. He invited honorable senators to look across the face of the country and he drew such a gloomy picture that when he said later that pessimism was the only thing that kills, honorable senators thought that they must have been listening to a ghost speaking for the previous five minutes. I do not consider that his gloomy prediction will be believed by Australians. I have cut from recent issues of newspapers in all States a number of items which demonstrate that the honorable senator’s gloomy picture cannot be substantiated. One report reads as follows : -
New South Wales primary industry is experiencing one of the most prolific seasons on record.
The Daily Telegraph of the 9th September stated -
Australia’s improving economic position will benefit every wage-earner . . .
A Sydney Morning Herald article reads as follows : -
Trade in clothing and textile industries has improved “noticeably” during recent weeks, and some re-employment of labour has taken place, manufacturers said yesterday.
Another item stated -
Savings Bank deposits increased £58,167,000 in the year ended July 31.
– I am pleased to have the admission from the honorable senator that the people are able to save money. The newspaper cuttings that I have read are a general indication of the state of mind of the people who do not participate in the calamity howling of the Leader of the Opposition. Turning from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I want to review what has happened since the general election of December, 1949. I ask honorable senators to take their minds back to the position of the economy of this country in December, 1949.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– One of the two surviving copies of the 1297 Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta has been purchased in London for the National Library. This issue represents Edward I.’s confirmation of the Great Charter in the identical words in which, in its final and definitive form, it is to be found in the Statutes of the Realm. The copy is certainly that sent to Surrey to be proclaimed in the county court. No doubt, it was consigned to the sheriff, Robert de Glamorgan, but its subsequent history until it came into the possession of its late owners probably in the sixteenth century is unknown. The document is written in Latin in a clear courthand on a vellum-skin measuring 20 inches by 16½ inches. At the foot an impression of the Great Seal in white wax is attached to the document by a tie of green and pink thread. The document is clearly legible and in fine condition.
The first Great Charter to which King John had assented at Runnymede, in June, 1215, retained its validity only for nine weeks before it was annulled and superseded by a revised and shortened version produced a fortnight after Henry III., then a child of nine, had succeeded to the throne. In 1225, Henry, having become of age, re-granted a charter “of our free and good will “, using the form which, in virtue of the confirmation of Edward I., still remains in the statutebook. This issue is, therefore, of extreme importance in the development of the law of England and the liberties it protects in Britain and the Commonwealth.
The circumstances surrounding the confirmation of the Charter in 1297 are, briefly, that Edward I., wishing to carry out an expedition to Flanders, asked for a supply, engaging to confirm the charters in return. He embarked for the Continent on the 22nd August, leaving his son Edward, a boy of thirteen, as regent. Parliament was called on the 6th October and on the 12th October both the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest were recited and confirmed by Inspeximus, tested in the name of Prince Edward.
Magna Carta was the earliest and most rotableof the documentary statements of English civil liberty. It did not purport to set up new rights, but was rather a statement of the existence of certain rights. It pledged the King to refrain from certain clearly arbitrary acts; it forbade the sale of justice; and it provided that no man should be deprived of his property, imprisoned or banished save by the legal judgment of his peers and the law of the land. It proved to be a practical document routinely administered in the courts through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. After a period of comparative eclipse under Yorkists and Tudors it entered powerfully into the seventeenth century struggle against the Stuart kings, and was construed to furnish authority for principles finally embodied in the Bill of Rights.
There is scarcely one great principle of the English constitution of the present day which has not been read into the provisions of Magna Carta. Many of these were wrongly claimed to flow from Magna Carta, but we cannot afford to underestimate the value of traditional interpretations, whether they were historically well-founded or ill-founded. The greatness of the Magna Carta lies not so much in what it was to its framers in 1215, as in what it afterwards became to the political leaders, to the judges and lawyers, and to the entire mass of the men of England in later ages. The Australian Constitution, embodying, as it does, the principles of British liberty and representative government, is in that sense a true lineal descendant of the Great Charter.
– by leave - I should like to offer the congratulations of my colleagues and myself to the Library Committee upon its acquisition of this historic document. Magna Carta has been written about probably with much greater enthusiasm than accuracy. To the barons of 1215 it was merely a declaration of what they considered to be their existing rights. Magna Carta had little or no impact upon the lives and fortunes of the mass of the English people of that day. However, the greatness of Magna Carta does not lie in what it meant to its framers. Its greatness emerges from what it has meant to’ political leaders and jurists down the ensuing centuries, during which the civil and political rights of the people have developed, and the rule of law has been established. In an age which, while boasting of its freedom, witnesses the sorry spectacle of an evil influence designed to reduce to a state of slavery, not only the bodies, but also the minds of men and women, it may be salutary that we should read and meditate upon the last sentence of Article 29 of the charter, which is as follows : -
We will sell to. no man, we will not deny or defer to any man, either justice, or right.
Probably the greatest heritage bequeathed to civilization by England is the rule of law as practised in the Englishspeaking world, and it is fit and proper that this historic document, which is so closely associated with the development and establishment of the rule of law, should find an honoured and an abiding place in the National Parliament of this young country.
– by leave - Magna Carta, 1215, is recognized as a milestone in British history by every one who has even glanced at the subject. Produced primarily to resolve conflict between the absolutism of a monarch on the one hand, and the barons of England on the other, it expressed for the first time in writing certain fundamental principles. These principles, well expressed by you, Mr. President, have been
developed to become the very foundations of democracy and individual civil liberties.
The people of England live constantly in history, surrounded by places, buildings, things and documents rich in historical and traditional associations. English history, accordingly, is alive for them. They live it day by day. We in Australia have inherited the British tradition, but it lives somewhat less for us because of the lack of its visible signs and marks. The purchase of this authentic copy ‘of the 1297 Inspeximus issue of Magna Carta - for which I readily commend the Library Committee - and above all its physical presence on our soil, will, I believe, do much to make more real to Australians their priceless heritage of liberty under law. It is a reminder that we owe a great debt to the past. It is a reminder, too, of what Lord Tweedsmuir said so well -
The only way in which we can pay our debt to the past is by putting the future in debt to ourselves.
Debate resumed (vide page 1280).
.- Before the dinner recess, I was endeavouring to reply to what appeared to me to be the ill-based criticism of the Leader of the Opposition. In his speech, which occupied an hour of the Senate’s time, he devoted only five or ten minutes to a criticism of the budget. The rest of his speech was devoted to extraneous matters not connected with the budget at all. We may be justified in drawing the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposition had very little real criticism to offer. Towards the end of his speech, he did, as one might have expected, say that the reductions of taxation made by the Government were small, but he did say that they were unwelcome. From that, I draw the conclusion that no real criticism can be directed at it.
I now turn to the larger field which the Leader of the Opposition traversed for 50 minutes of his speech. The honorable senator suggested that we should take our minds back to the situation which existed in 1949, and I think that that was really the point from which he commenced his survey. If we do so, it is fair to say that the economic position of Australia had been influenced by the fact that prices control, that great panacea of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers, had been in operation. Because prices control had been clamped down on those industries which are the very basis of our economic processes, but had not been applied to other industries, we had been driven to what an eminent economist has referred to as a “milk bar “ economy. We had little coal, and not sufficient bricks, cement, timber and building materials. It is true that there were plenty of glass ash trays and eels in champagne, to which Senator Armstrong has referred in speaking of luxury industries, but there were not sufficient of those commodities on which a really vibrant economy can be built. We had a great unfilled demand for labour from all sources. Concomitant with that demand, there were grave problems of absenteeism. There was a quick rate of labour turn-over in all industries, which caused concern not only to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but also to trade union leaders who appreciated that such a position must lead inevitably to increased costs to the consumers who, in the main, are the workers of the country. There were factories throughout Australia which were able to work only short shifts and to produce goods only intermittently because of electricity and power restrictions due to lack of coal and other basic requirements. Yet no effort was being made to produce those commodities.
The shortage of housing which has been mentioned from time to time by honorable senators opposite and, I think, was also referred to by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, existed because the costs of home building were rising rapidly. Delays occasioned by the necessity to seek materials which could not be found were pushing building costs higher and higher every day, not only in relation to factory building, the increased cost of which could be recovered by charging higher prices for the goods produced, but also in relation to the building of homes for the people. Communists were in control of most of the basic unions and called strike after strike for political purposes, with the sole object of pushing up costs and pulling down production. Although the Communists waged war on all political parties, nothing was being done about it. There were no large-scale public works in progress such as those to which we have become accustomed during the last few years. The Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme had only just commenced. The available money, materials and manpower could not be measured against those which are now being used, let alone required. We had gone through a period of war during which nothing had been done. It should not be thought that I wish to blame the Opposition party, which was then in office, for that inactivity. Nothing had been done because nothing could have been done to repair the ravages of time on our roads which were breaking up, and on the machines in the factories which were becoming obsolete and could not produce quickly enough or effectively enough the goods that were needed. Nothing was being done to replace the generators in our electricity stations which had passed their period of economic usefulness. It is true that nothing could be done about those matters during the war, but by 1949, which was almost four years after the end of the war, there still had been no attempt to counteract these real and fatal flaws in our economy.
It will be recalled that the Government of the day was concerned solely with theoretical, doctrinaire actions, such as nationalizing air lines, banks and medicine. No consideration was given to attacking the basic flaws. Yet there was plenty of money available at the time - the back-log of the war, during which nothing could be expended except on the black market. All the inflationary effects of the war had led to ample supplies of money being available, but it could not buy commodities. All that it could do, and in fact all that it did, was to make a dangerous situation doubly dangerous. It did so by giving a false appearance of prosperity. That was what happened in 1949, and that is why I think the people voted as they did at that time
Opposition senators interjecting,
– I am sorry if my remarks are hurting the feelings of honorable senators opposite. I do not think that they can controvert the facts that I have placed before the Senate.
I wish to refer to some of the factors which, in my opinion, aggravated that situation immediately from the time that the present Government was elected to office. The first factor was that approximately a month after the election of the Government the basic wage was increased by £1 a week. That increase has been reflected in all the cost of living adjustments which have been made since then. The second factor was the outbreak of the Korean war. The commencement of that war was itself sufficient to involve this country in great inflationary pressure and to aggravate the difficulties which faced the Government when it came to office. However, in addition to the outbreak of the Korean war, there was a sudden resurgence of Communist attacks all along the northern marches of Australia, from Burma, Malaya. Indo-Ohina, to Korea, involving this country in great defence expenditure. Although such expenditure unfortunately is inflationary, T understand that all parties in this Parliament agree that it is necessary. In addition, there was an immediate increase of prices of all those commodities which we had to import, such as rubber, petro], and oils. On top of those events came the immense and unprecedented rise in wool incomes, which, as I have pointed out previously, was purely a money rise at the time. It was reflected, not in goods in this country, but in money and in overseas balances which did not take the place of goods to back such money.
On the action which the Government took to counter its problems, and on the plans which it made, must be judged the quality of its leadership. The Leader of the Opposition has said that that quality has not been good, but I suggest that to assess the matter properly it is necessary to examine the actions of the Government. Certainly it has done more than the honorable senator gave it credit for doing. I suggest that we examine the present position and compare it with the position in 1949. I believe that in the result we shall see that the leadership has at any rate been justified by results.
The Leader of the Opposition omitted to mention a number of things which this Government has done. One of its first actions was to endeavour to attack our basic paralysis by raising a huge dollar loan overseas and bringing into the country machine tools, diesel electric locomotives and earth-moving equipment. On such basic equipment depends the true economic prosperity of the country, as opposed to the false economic prosperity which first flushes the country with money and then leads it into collapse, as we have seen happen in other countries of the world. The Government introduced also administrative measures. Customs duties were relaxed on building materials so that building might go ahead, which it did at an unprecedented rate. I am not now speaking in terms of money but in terms of houses commenced and com- pleted I make it clear that whereas in 1949 there were no materials available, the shortage was not due to the fact that a great number of houses were being built. The number of house.? built at that time is not comparable with the number built since this Government came to office. Economies were made in government services. Such economies were opposed by the Opposition, but of course it is the job of the Opposition to oppose, and its action wa3 purely political. The number of persons employed in the Public Service was reduced. The Government used the Crimes Act to stop rolling strikes called by Communists on the wharfs in an endeavour to paralyze transport and to increase prices and freights. All those matters were effected by administrative, not legislative action, yet not one of them was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism of the Government.
The Government has legislated to enable the unions to throw off Communist domination which has been imposed upon them. As a result of such legislation, many of our leading unions, such as the Federated Ironworkers Union of Australia, the Federated Clerks Union, and, to some extent the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, have discarded policy dictated from Moscow. Time prevents me from going more fully into the matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Hear, hear !
– I am sure that the honorable senator does not wish me to do so. In conclusion I point out that at the present time, as opposed to the position in 1949, there is a record .production of those sinews of industry on which we all depend. For instance, there is a record production of coal. The Leader of the Opposition, who apparently carries in his head the text of the 1949 joint Opposition policy speech, will remember that a great and leading point in that speech referred to the fact that coal is the real basis of our economy and that if elected to office this Government would seek coal by open-cut and other methods. The Government has sought coal and has found it. And so it has been with steel, bricks, cement, and all the basic requirements of agriculture. Looking with the Leader of the Opposition across the face of the Australian economy I see a different picture from the one that he sees. I see now all the things that we need and which we did not have in 1949. I see a greater output per man-hour, on which alone depends our social services and all real gains, than I have seen for the last ten years. I see a confidence which, although shaken some months ago, is steadily growing. I placed ample evidence of that confidence before the Senate earlier in my speech. “We still have inflation. We still have a measure of unemployment. Et is no greater than it was in 1947 when the Labour Government was in office and a prosperity loading was granted, nevertheless, it is more than we should like it to be. I am confident that it will disappear and that this Government will lift this country, as it has already promised, to true prosperity.
– -I listened with little interest but with considerable regret to Senator Gorton’s speech, which consisted largely of apologies for the Government’s inability to fulfil its promises. The honorable senator spoke with apologetic buffoonery about many of Australia’s most serious problems. First, he attacked the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on the subject of taxation, but his effort was very poor. The figures that were given by the Leader of the Opposition can easily be checked. Over the financial years 1949-50, 1950-51 and 1951-52, this Government increased its annual tax extractions from the people of Australia by £474,000,000. In 1949-50, revenue was £567,000,000. In the following year, the figure rose to £783,000,000, an increase of £216,000,000. In 1951-52, it reached the huge total of £1,041,000,000, an increase of £258,000,000 over the previous year and of £474,000,000 over the 1949-50 figure. It is all very well for Senator Gorton to come into this chamber with a sandwich board displaying Liberal party propaganda. I have no doubt that his aim was to hearten Government supporters, whose morale is very low indeed; but the honorable senator failed completely to justify the difference between the Liberal party’s policy at election time, and the’ same party’s policy now that it occupies the treasury bench. Senator Gorton sees with dreamy eyes many improvements in the Australian economy, but his optimism is not shared by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who said in this chamber on the 6th August -
A year ago few people were disposed to worry over the morrow. To-day there is widespread uneasiness about what may be in store for us.
Apparently, whereas Senator Gorton surveys our economy through rose-tinted glasses, the Minister sees the hard realities of the situation. The Minister also said -
The feelings of business men in particular have radically changed and there is in some quarters a good deal of fear about the economic future.
That is closer to the true story than Senator Gorton would nave us believe. Businessmen have every right to be fearful. Senator Gorton sought to make political capital out of his claim that, under this Government, industries had been expanded, dollar loans raised, and public servants sacked. The sackings were confined mainly to office boys and supernumeraries. Secondary industries have been forced to close down because of the Government’s vacillating policy.
Incomes have been allowed to remain unregulated to the great embarrassment of the business world. That necessitated the imposition of severe credit restrictions, once again to the great embarrassment of business men. The imposition of high rates of sales tax on many commodities has closed factory doors. There is ample evidence of that. Unrestricted imports seriously threatened Australia’s secondary industries, which the Labour party had fostered at considerable expense, but remedial action was unduly delayed by the Government and eventually wholesale restrictions became necessary. A close examination of the effects of the policy of the present Government parties reveals that production has not increased at all. Some industries in fact are in desperate straits. The production of wool, wheat, butter, meat and other foodstuffs has not increased. Our secondary industries have suffered severely from credit restrictions and import restrictions, and our rural, industries have deteriorated because of the withdrawal of subsidies, difficulty in obtaining superphosphate, and the imposition of higher taxes. One of the earlier acts of this Administration was to withdraw the initial depreciation allowance on plant and machinery. Government supporters offered strong arguments in favour of that course, but it was not long before criticism from within the Government parties, or from the electorates, forced the Government to restore the initial depreciation allowance. However, instead of restoring it to its original 40 per cent., the allowance is now limited to 20 per cent. In 1948-4.9, taxation totalled £63 a head per annum. Of that sum, £35 was paid in direct taxes, and £28 in indirect taxes. To-da,y, the per capita tax contribution is £102, consisting of £7$ in direct taxes - more than double the 1948-49 figure - and £30, or £2 more than the 1948-49 figure, in indirect taxes. Inflation has taken an even stronger grip on the community.
We are told that the Government has been generous to pensioners but the truth is that its treatment of pensioners has been harsh. In 1948, the age pension was 39 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, it is only 29 per cent, of that wage. Child endowment in 1941 was 6 per cent, of the basic wage; to-day it is only 4^ per cent.’ of that wage. Those figures are hardly in accord with the stories that honorable senators opposite told to the people of Australia during the two most recent election campaigns. They promised to tackle the problem of the means test, which I consider to be the most unjust feature of our social services legislation; but the means test remains. The permissible income of a pensioner when Labour left office was 30s., which represented 23 per cent, of the basic wage. The permissible income to-day is still 30s., but it Ls only 13 per cent, of the basic wage. Taking the pension at 39 per cent, of the basic wage and the permissible income at 23 per cent., we find that when Labour left office, a pensioner was entitled to receive from his own earnings and his pension combined, an income which represented 62 per cent, of the basic wage. Now, with the pension at 29 per cent, and the permissible income at 13 per cent, of the basic wage, a pensioner is asked to meet greatly inflated living costs out of an income which totals only 42 per cent, of the basic wage. It is mean for the Government to claim that it is improving our social services by increasing pension payments whilst it insists on maintaining the permissible income at the present low rate. To continue to qualify for a pension, a pensioner must now earn proportionately less than he was able to earn when living costs were much lower than they are to-day. The unemployment benefit has been doubled, but the means test has not been altered. Many unemployed people are suffering because the permissible income which was fixed when prices were considerably lower than they are to-day has not been increased to conform to economic trends. It is of no benefit to an unemployed person to be able to receive double the f ormer unemployment benefit if the means test prevents him from claiming that benefit in full.
There is another matter in connexion Math which the Government has acted shamefully. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the ex “tragic Treasurer”, and now an equally tragic Minister for Health has, apparently without reference to the Government and certainly without reference to the Parliament, introduced regulations that have had a disastrous effect on hospitalization in Australia. Last month, he issued regulations covering patients in private hospitals and in private and intermediate ward 3 of public hospitals. The regulations are most complicated, and I defy any average person to explain them or to understand his entitlement under them. The Government should prepare a statement setting out quite simply what people must do to become entitled to benefits under the Page scheme. The hospital and medical benefits scheme is wrong in principle. How can the Government justify a scheme which discriminates between insured and uninsured persons in respect of the payment of hospital benefits ? Under this scheme the Government has introduced the twin evils of compulsion and discrimination. It professes to be solicitious of the rights of the ordinary citizen but it says to every man and woman in the community, “ You must become a member of an approved organization or you will not be entitled to hospital benefits payable from revenue derived from the taxation that has been levied on you “. No doubt there are many persons in the community who cannot afford to pay the fees fixed by approved organizations, but notwithstanding the fact that they are in most need of assistance to meet the high costs of illness they will be discriminated against by the Government in this scheme. No information has been given to the Senate in regard to the scheme. The little we know of it has been gleaned from the press. When the Minister for Health was in Opposition he trenchantly criticized the Chifley Government’s decision not to apply a means .test in respect of health services and that patients in the public wards of public hospitals would receive hospital treatment free of charge. Let us consider the harsh conditions which the Minister has sought to foist upon the States in connexion with his scheme. He is veritably holding the States to ransom to coerce them to enter into agreements with the Commonwealth. Two States have vigorously resisted the pressure applied to them and the Minister has said that unless they come to heel the Commonwealth will not make any payments to them under the scheme. What right has the Government to say to the citizens of the States, “ If you are not prepared to enter into an agreement covering the new scheme that we have formulated, you will receive nothing from the Commonwealth in the way of hospital benefits “ ? Under this scheme a hospital patient who is not a member of an approved organization will not receive the payment of 4s. a day unless the hospital in which he is undergoing treatment charges him for his accommodation and treatment. Thus, the Minister has virtually made it mandatory for the States to provide that no hospital treatment shall be given free of charge. What an infringement of the sovereign rights of the States and of rights of the citizens! Where fees are charged by hospitals the Government will make payments of 8s. a day to uninsured persons and 12s. a day to insured persons.
Members of the Liberal party who repeatedly talk about the necessity to preserve the sovereign rights of the States, are prepared to support a scheme which denies to hospital authorities the right to provide free treatment for public ward patients. The hospital benefits scheme is indicative of the brazen audacity of the Minister for Health and will involve a gross misuse of the taxpayers’ money in the National Welfare Fund. No hospitals provide better treatment and attention than do our State public hospitals and by foisting upon our public hospitals a scheme which is so manifestly unfair, and by forcing the people to join approved organizations in order to obtain benefits, to which they are entitled as a right, the Minister for Health has done a grave disservice to this country.
I propose now to deal briefly with rural production. The Government has chosen a most inappropriate time to abolish the averaging system as applied to the incomes of primary producers in receipt of more than £4,00tt a year. Last year it collected no less than £47,000,000 from that source. It has done nothing to assist primary producers to increase production. It has reduced the subsidy on superphosphate and lowered the rebates and concessions granted to primary producers to assist them to increase the production of essential food and other commodities. Its food production programme has failed miserably. Before the Liberal and Australian Country parties -were elected to office the weight of their propaganda was directed against the Chifley Government for its alleged failure to provide incentives to increase production. I challenge Government supporters to demonstrate that the budget provides incentives to those engaged in primary or secondary industries to increase production. It is idle for honorable senators opposite to claim that the taxation concessions included, in the budget will assist in the attainment of that objective. Indeed, so far from having reduced taxation, the Government has immeasurably increased it. Government supporters have made much of the Treasurer’s decision not to reimpose the 10 ‘per cent, super tax on incomes during the present financial year. They conveniently overlook the fact that the Government will lose no revenue as the result of that decision because basic wage increases have resulted in many workers being brought into higher taxation groups. They also conveniently forget that although the Government has made certain reductions in the sales tax rates this year it will collect £2,000,000 more from that source than was collected in 1949.
– In spite of the honorable senator’s remarks, Australia is still the lowest taxed country in the world.
– It is a cardinal principle in good government that if the services rendered by a government are worthwhile there is justification for the maintenance of high taxes, but that if the services it renders are not of a high order, taxes should be reduced. The services rendered to the people by this Government are the poorest we have ever known. Government, supporters have endeavoured to liken the health and medical benefits scheme formulated by this Government to the much more generous and embracive scheme in operation in the United Kingdom. They have confined themselves to half-truths.
There are many counts upon which the Government stands condemned. I trust that during this debate an attempt will be made by honorable senators oppo site to justify the granting of concessions and privileges by the Government to wealthy .companies at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia. Recently the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) issued a press statement in which he indicated that the Government had decided to refund £1,500,000 to TransAustralia Airlines and certain private airline companies. As a result of this decision Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will receive rebates amounting to £600,000. The Minister said that the rebates would make a tremendous difference in the finances of airline companies which have experienced great difficulty in balancing their ‘budgets because of increasing costs. I point out that notwithstanding that the amount to be refunded to Trans-Australia Airlines had already been paid to the Government, the balance-sheets of that instrumentality showed it to be in a sound financial position. Indeed, it recorded a profit on its operations for the financial year ended the 30th June last. The remaining £900,000 is to be paid to the other private airline companies. Where will the Treasurer obtain the revenue with which to make these payments? Obviously, it will be extracted from the taxpayers. In his search for additional revenue the Treasurer has imposed taxes on persons in the lowest income group. Under the regime of the Chifley Government a basic wage worker with a wife and two children was exempt from income tax. Under the administration of the ‘present Government wage-earners in that position have been brought into the taxation field. That is the way in which the Treasurer will obtain the additional revenue he will need with which to pay large rebates to the private airline companies which assisted the Liberal and Australian Country parties to attain office. The Government imposes high taxes on all sections of the community in order to make handouts to its wealthy supporters. Under the administration of this Government, industry, both primary and secondary, is declining and food production is dwindling to a seriously low level. In spite of the statements made by Senator Gorton about, the happy position of the States I assure honorable senators that State governments and local governing bodies are dissatisfied with the road grants and the arrangements made for the financing of their public works programmes. The roads of this country are falling into disrepair because insufficient money has been provided by the Australian Government to maintain them. The Government has failed miserably to deal with inflation. After allowing a flood of goods to enter thi3 country, the Government suddenly decided to restrict import to 20 per cent, of the former rate. The vacillating policy of the Government has been responsible for considerable uneasiness on the part of business people.. The cardinal point that has been stressed by supporters of the Government is that savings bank deposits have increased since the present Government came to office. The reason why people have chosen to lodge their money in savings bank accounts where it earns a relatively low rate of interest, rather than to invest it in Government loans at higher rates of interest, or in industry, is apparent. They have lost confidence in the present Go- vernment. This is proved by the fact that recent government loans have been undersubscribed.
I am very pleased that some progress has been made in the field of social services. The amplication of the means test to invalids between sixteen and 21 years of age has been abolished. This small, but welcome concession will assist many unfortunate young people to maintain a desirable standard of dignity. Another welcome innovation is the proposal to allow, as a deduction for income tax purposes, expenditure of up to £50 a year on the education of each child. In the main, however, the budget has done little to alleviate the fears of many people in this country about the future. The Government has done nothing to check the increase of unemployment. Although there is a real necessity to increase the production of food, the provisions contained in the budget will not encourage the primary producers to produce more. Indeed, I am convinced that the reverse will be the position. Although small reductions are proposed in relation to income tax, in the current financial year the expected yield from taxation will be £470,000,000 more than was the revenue from this source for the financial year in which Labour relinquished office. Our overseas balances have fallen from £S00,000,000 to £300,000,000. Under the administration of the present Government, the prosperity of Australia has deteriorated.
– It is most unfortunate that the excellent hospital benefits scheme that has been introduced by this Government has been so severely criticized by Senator Cooke. The scheme has much to commend it. The most important aspect of the matter is that people who are ill will be able to obtain accommodation in hospitals. During the last few years hospital accommodation in this country has been severely taxed. This Government is doing all possible to ensure that people who require treatment in hospitals shall be able to obtain beds. Hitherto many people who could afford to pay for hospitalization have obtained beds in public wards, and have deprived poor people of that accommodation. In the light of these circumstances, it is futile for Senator Cooke to refer, as he has done, to the means test.
I believe that the budget both anticipates and reflects the character and mood of our national fortune. It is indicative of the sober approach that has been made by this Government to the problems at present besetting the country. It offers incentive to free enterprise, which is still the biggest employer of labour in Australia. This country has immense possibilities. It is deplorable that honorable senators opposite should refer continually to the possibility of another depression occurring. Their remarks tend to injure the genuine efforts that are being made by this Government to maintain economic stability in Australia. It cannot be denied that people who are employed by private enterprise are directly interested in the industry in which they are engaged.
Let us consider how this budget faces up to our national problems. I invite honorable senators to reflect on the conditions that existed in Australia following the termination- of
World War II. Transition from a war-time economy to a peacetime economy is always difficult. It is the responsibility of the government of every country to safeguard the internal needs of the country during such a period. In Australia it was necessary, also, for the Australian Government to take steps to preserve and safeguard the peace that had been won. I think that all honorable senators will agree that it was imperative for the Government to make adequate provision for defence during the present financial year in order to ensure the safety of this country should the world be again plunged into war. At the same time, however, the rich natural resources of this country should he developed, and social services, in accordance with our financial capacity, should be provided for the people. In other words, it is essential to maintain a balanced economy in the community in order to avoid the development of unsettled conditions. Without wishing to criticize the previous Labour Government unduly, I remind honorable senators that war-time controls were still being applied when this Government came to office two and a half years ago. A number of commodities were rationed, and many black markets existed. In the main, the restrictions that were then operative have been removed. After the war many trade unions in this country were controlled by Communists, and they had to struggle for their very existence. This Government brought down legislation to provide for the holding of secret ballots by trade unions, and now the majority of those organizations are in a far healthier condition than formerly. Prior to this Government coming to office the community was subjected to much unnecessary suffering as a result of industrial unrest. To-day, however, record production is being achieved in many industries. During the regime of the former Labour Government there were many interruptions of coal production, with consequent shortages of steel and other commodities. In turn, those shortages delayed the completion of building programmes. To-day, however, an abundance of coal is available.
Before this Government came to office the economy of Australia was in grave danger because of the socialistic attitude of the previous Labour Government. It will be remembered that that Government attempted to socialize the banking system of this country. The people exercised sound judgment when they removed Labour from office. Much work still remains to be done to desocialize Australian industries, but I think it will be agreed that this Government has done much to halt the socialistic trend that was in evidence before it came to office. As I have already mentioned, great progress has been made in the industrial field. Strikes occur now only on rare occasions, and there are large quantities of coal at grass. Indeed, we shall soon be exporting coal, as well as pig iron. The production of consumer goods has been developed considerably. This has an important bearing on our standard of living. I shall illustrate my point by stating some figures. In 1938-39 the production of domestic refrigerators was at the rate of 4.24 per 1,000 of population ; in 1946-47 the percentage was 9.8; in 1950-51 the percentage had risen to 24.58. The value of furniture produced, per 1,000 of population, was £600 in 1938-39, £968 in 1946-47, and £2,015 in 1950-51. In 1938-39, £4.923 worth of washing machines was made for every 1,000 of population, compared with £28.64 worth in 1946-47 and £470.7 worth in 1950-51. These figures indicate remarkable increases in production. People bought these items out of their savings at a time when they needed to lift their standards of living. Those quantities of refrigerators, furniture and washing machines could not have gone into homes without improving the living conditions of the people. At the same time as people have bought these commodities, savings bank figures have risen. In 1939 savings bank deposits amounted to £245,000,000; in 1946 to £434,000,000; in 1951 to £837,000,000; and by March, 1952, to £873,000,000. So as”” well as being able to buy these commodities people have been able to save, a circumstance which indicates the general strength of the finances of the community.
The Korean war is a problem with which we have had to deal during the last two and a half years. The Government’s defence programme provided that
Australia should make a contribution to the needs of the United Nations organization and that defence measures should be undertaken at home. It has successfully achieved both objectives. The Government has instituted a system of national service training which has been a huge success. Following the outbreak of the Korean war it was found necessary to stock-pile wool, base materials, and other requirements of war. That activity, superimposed on the existing boom, made it extremely difficult to control the price spiral. But the Government has dealt with the situation effectively and sufficient goods are now available to meet the demand for them. I am convinced that inflation has been arrested. The proof of this contention is that consumer goods may be seen displayed in shops although they were scarce a few years ago. The increase in the supply of consumer goods has followed on the payment of high wages. High wages contribute more to our standard of living than any other factor. The people are now living on a much better standard than that which obtained from 1930 to 1939. They have more comforts and conveniences in their homes than they had before the war. The Opposition seems to love to foster antagonism to the employers. The greatest purchasing power in the community is possessed by the wage-earners. Well-paid employees are necessary to buy the goods that they produce. There must be goodwill between employer and employee and I very much regret the tendency on the part of trade unions frequently to try to drive a wedge further between employer and employee.
The social services that have been rendered by the Government have been very satisfactory. Life-saving drugs have been made available at great cost. The best possible pensions have been paid to age pensioners and the Government has made proposals which will assist the work of tuberculosis control to a considerable degree. I consider that the Government has laid a safe foundation on which to build the future. As other honorable senators have mentioned, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in introducing his budget, said -
It may be that it is confidence and faith wc need. If that we so, let us look once again across the face of our country.
In this debate, two honorable senators have examined the face of the country from different viewpoints. First, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) seemed to stray into a marsh and he seemed to be afraid of the precipice which he found at the edge of it. Perhaps he regarded Australia from the point of view of the city dweller instead of from the point of view of the country man. The real wealth of Australia lies in its primary industries. Australia’s whole life depends on its exports. As exports fall, so conditions in Australia deteriorate ; as they rise, so do conditions in Australia improve. Our prosperity is dependent on the amount of money that we receive from exports which must consist largely of primary industries because secondary industries make only a very small contribution to our export earnings.
Senator Cooke painted a gloomy picture of primary industries. It is a great pity that people do not inform themselves of the true position before they allege that food production is falling in Australia. Last year Australia shipped 3,000 tons of mutton abroad. It has been estimated by a reliable authority that 25,000 tons will be exported this year. The quantity of lamb exported last year amounted to 11,500 tons and it is anticipated that 45,000 tons will be exported this year. It has been estimated that exports of canned meat will increase this year by 10,000 tons. Admittedly, there will be a fall in the export of frozen beef, but that will be balanced by the additional amount of canned meat that we shall send away. It has been anticipated that there will be a tremendous increase in the export of eggs, sugar, barley, dried fruit, canned fruit, processed milk, butter and canned meat. The number of sheep in Australia has risen to 115,000,000 and the wool clip will be one of the best for years. It will be considerably heavier than the clip of last year and it is to be hoped that the ruling prices will continue because they will assist the producer. It is unfortunate that the production of wheat will fall in New South Wales this year because of excessive rain in the wheat belts of the southern areas. But because a man has no wheat in his paddocks it does not follow that they are lying idle. He will probably run stock on them so that the production of wool or meat will benefit.
– The honorable senator’s figures deny his own theory.
– I feel confident that these figures are correct. I wish to emphasize that pastoral conditions are better than they have been for many years. The Northern Territory has suffered a regrettable drought but most of Australia has had good conditions. I should like the Leader of the Opposition to have seen the country that I have seen which is capable of producing great wealth during the next twelve months.
The Government has made considerable concessions to primary producers. “Woolgrowers have been unfortunate in that when they received high prices for their wool they were not able to take full advantage of them and were almost embarrassed by their own prosperity. An effective budget must have as its objective the greatest possible development of Australia. That development must be of two kinds. Development must take place in the Northern Territory, but we must also give considerable thought to the development of the closer settlement areas where diversified farming could make a great contribution to food production. In New South Wales only 15 per cent, of the land that is suitable for pastoral improvement has actually been improved. There is tremendous work to be done by organizations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which would make great development possible. The Government is wisely encouraging rural extension schemes. What rural educational schemes have accomplished in America can be accomplished in Australia. The land is capable of returning many times the amount which the Government has proposed in this budget to expend on its development. I hope that this will be but the beginning and that in the years to come more money will be made available for the same purpose. The system has proved to be a great success in America, and I am convinced that it will be equally successful in Australia. We in New South Wales are confronted with a special problem, in that we have a State government that is not sympathetically disposed to rural developmental works. For instance, the New South Wales Government is electrifying the railway lines within 100 miles of Sydney. This will lead to an even greater concentration of secondary industries in the city, something which we wish to avoid. It should be our policy to spread secondary industries over the whole State, rather than to group them in Sydney.
I look forward to the future with confidence. I have nothing but admiration for the ability of the Prime Minister to lead this nation. He is a man of courage and great ability, who has made his mark in the world, and it is distressing co hear small men sneering at him and trying to drag him down. He is a giant, a man of vision who loves his country, as we all do. He is resolved to carry on the great work entrusted to him by the people. I deprecate all this talk about helping one section of the people at the expense of other sections. Those who talk in that fashion lack a proper Australian outlook. It is also regrettable that the word “ depression “ should be so freely bandied about. There is no need to fear economic depression. As one who is very fond of his fellow man, I should be sorry to see in Australia anything other than a prosperous community and a healthy economy.
– I listened with great attention to those Government supporters who have spoken on this bill. They tried to convince themselves and their colleagues that everything in Australia is just lovely, but the plain fact is that the budget has been received by the people with dismay. There still may have been some people naive enough to believe that the Government would try to redeem the promises that it made during the 1949 election campaign, but this budget should disillusion even the most hopeful of them. Two and a half years ago, Government supporters painted a gloomy picture of Australia’s economic position. Now, those same persons call us calamity-howlers when we dare to tell the people what is the true situation in Australia. I propose to use, not my own words, but those of members of the Government, to justify my claim that there is reason for grave apprehension. Government supporters have said that those who dare to criticize the present Government are criticizing Mr. Menzies, who, in their opinion, is a great man. Well, I intend to criticize Mr. Menzies. I propose to point out to the people that this Government, which, made such glowing promises only a little while ago, has failed to honour them, because it consists of men who are either incapable muddlers or cheats and tricksters. If they have made no attempt to honour their pledges they are cheats and tricksters, but I am prepared to be generous, and to believe that they are mere muddlers who are incapable of administering the affairs of the country.
This budget is a record of mismanagement by the Menzies Government. I remember that, in 1941, the first task that confronted the Curtin Government was to clean up the muddle left by the former Menzies Government. Having done that, the Labour Government had then to set about the job of governing Australia in the midst of a war. I have no doubt that the first task that will confront the next Labour government will be to clean up the muddle left by the present Menzies Government. In 1949, supporters of the present Government promised that if they were returned to power they would put value back into the £1, reduce taxation, remove controls and make Australia a country worth living in. Now, two and a half years later, what is the position? The last budget introduced by the Chifley Government provided for the raising of £500,000,000 by taxation. This year, the present Government proposes to raise £863,000,000 ; and this is the Government that promised to reduce taxation! As a matter of fact, the Government claims that it has reduced taxation by nearly £50,000,000. First, it increases taxation by over £300,000,000, and then claims great credit for making a reduction of £50,000,000. In 1949, supporters of th« present Government told the people that Australia’s economic position was bad because taxation was too high, and for that reason, they said, the people had no incentive to produce’. Now, when taxation is much higher, they insist that everything in the garden is lovely. I have no wish to be described as a calamityhowler, and I refrain, therefore, from describing the present situation in my own words. I prefer, instead, to quote the words uttered last night by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who said -
The problem of financing this expenditure is closely involved with economic developments that have occurred in the last twelve months. The prime element in the economic experience of 1951-52 upon what the Government had to frame its budget were these: Wool prices fell sharply and our international reserves shrank; imports flooded in and we were forced to impose drastic restrictions upon them.; rural production was set back through unfavorable natural forces; certain of the symptoms of inflation continued to show themselves-
What a masterpiece of understatement !- notably cost inflation and an enfeebled loan market which was unable to meet the demands of the State governments for works finance; business entered into a phase of slackness and uncertainty; employment opportunities grew scarcer, and sonic transitional unemployment appeared.
That is how the Minister for National Development described the situation last night; yet Government supporters stand in their places and tell us that everything in the garden is lovely, and that we are merely passing through a phase of disemployment. Members of the Government are to be congratulated upon their extraordinary ability to spin words. I have never heard any one else with their facility for finding pleasant names for the common ills from which the country is suffering. By using such expressions as “ disemployment “, “ recession “, and “ cost inflations “, they are able to make matters sound less bad than they are. The Government has so mismanaged affairs that the position now is almost as bad as it was when the first Menzies Government went out of office in 1941. Indeed, I do not know how long the people can afford to keep this Government in office. The embittered electors of New South Wales are always reminding me of the Prime Minister’s catch-cry that he would restore value to the £1. The people of Australia were deluded by that promise into the belief that the Prime Minister was in earnest. As I have said, however, I believe that the people are now thoroughly disillusioned by their two experiences of life under administrations led by the present Prime Minister.
To-night, Senator Gorton said that inflation had been almost cured, and that the only factor still making for inflation was the basic wage. What an extraordinary statement to make! If the Government really believes that the high basic wage is the sole cause of inflation, I do not wonder that the country is in such an economic mess. The fact is that the basic wage is only a barometer. It is a payment made after prices have risen. The lowest paid workers in our community have been provided with a minimum standard of living by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. There was a time when that standard was adjusted every year, but that system worked so unfavorably when prices were rising that it was abolished, and adjustments then took place every six months. Later still, adjustments were made every three months. When a worker receives a basic wage increase he is merely receiving an amount which has been based on the increased cost of living. A rising basic wage is a barometer which shows that prices are rising. It is an attempt to give to the lowest paid workers in the community the chance to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Apparently, the only thought in the mind of the Government is to attack the lowest paid workers and to assert that they are responsible for our economic difficulties. An honorable senator opposite has said that I should not attempt to stir up trouble between employers and employees. I have no desire to do so. I merely wish to point out that the employers, as well as the Government, have attacked the employees and are attempting to have the basic wage reduced by 20 per cent. I warn the Government that if that attempt succeeds it will be the most disastrous move which the Government and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration can make against the workers of Australia.
– It has nothing to do with the Government.
– I understand that the Government is supporting the move.
– It is doing nothing of the kind.
– Will the honorable senator assure me that the Government will intervene in the case at present before the court and support the unions in their efforts to have the basic wage kept at its present level? Of course he will not. He and other honorable senators opposite know very well that in a “ snide “ way the Government will help the employers to make out their case.
Senator Gorton has stated that the Government has had a tough time in trying to control inflation.
– It will have a still tougher time!
– Exactly. Senator Gorton also pointed out that because of the war in Korea our economy has become disorganized and the Government has lost control of it. I remind him that a war was also fought while the Labour Government was in office. Instead of having only a few thousand troops engaged in battle, there were at that time more than 1,000,000 Australian men and women engaged in warfare and in producing munitions.
– And there was no inflation.
– That is true. In 1941, when the Curtin Government took office, the basic wage was £4 2s. 6d. a week. In 1949 it was £6 9s. a week, an increase in eight years of only £2 7s. 6d. a week, despite the fact that more than 1,000,000 Australians were engaged in warfare and great numbers of others were employed in the manufacture of munitions, so that the normal needs of the community could not be supplied.
– The Labour Government was in a position to peg it.
– The members of the Opposition have asked this Government to introduce prices control and to exercise various other controls. The invariable reply of the Government has been that such controls are socialistic. It will have, nothing to do with them. It says that it will get rid of controls. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out that after the Government removed capital issues control the economic affairs of Australia became so muddled in eight or nine months that it was obliged hastily to reimpose the control. It then clamped, down the control so hard that it was not possible to obtain a capital issue at all.
If the Government will heed the advice of the members of the Opposition and not wait until it is too late to do the things that we have suggested, it may be able to control the economy of the country. But of course it is not prepared to take advice. lt has destroyed our economy and its only reply to the suggestions of the members of the Opposition is, in effect, “ You have nothing constructive to offer “.
Honorable senators will remember that at the 1949 general election the supporters of the present Government boasted thai they would control inflation if returned to office. They said that inflation was rampant in Australia, that nobody would work because of high taxes, that prices were rising and thus disrupting the economy. I repeat that in the eight years during which Labour was in office the basic wage rose by only £2 7s. 6d. a week, whereas from 1949 to 1952, a period of approximately two and a half years, it. has skyrocketed to £11 7s. a week, or an increase of £5 a week.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to that increase?
– “What a crazy question for the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to ask me! I do not wish to reflect on his intelligence, because he is a very good friend of mine, but 1 suggest that he should attempt to control such senseless interjections. I have young children growing up and I naturally wish to see the nation kept on a stable economic plane. I also wish to see it advance to the condition that it was in when Labour left the treasury bench in 1949. At that time there was promise of stability and progress. Senator Gorton has said that no public works were being carried out at that time. I inform him that, more than £1.000,000,000 worth of public works had been planned and were ready to be carried out as man-power became available. The Labour Government commenced the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. It will be recalled that the members of the then Opposition were not big enough to attend the opening ceremony.
Apparently the Minister for National Development disclaims all responsibility for the economic state to which the Government has reduced Australia. During his speech last night he stated that that state of affairs has been brought about “ not because the Government has miscalculated, but because the times have conspired to produce it “. I do not know exactly what that statement means. The members of this Government are so used to indulging in double talk that it is often difficult to understand their meaning. The honorable senator also stated that “ we have, lacked faith in ourselves “. I suggest that it is extraordinary for the Minister who represents the Treasurer in the Senate to say that the people of Australia have lost faith in themselves. It seems to me that what he really means is that the people have lost faith in the Government, but he chooses to see it the other way round.
I now wish to refer to the subject of uniform taxation, a matter that the Government has handled in an extraordinary fashion. The Australian Government, in its dealings with the State Governments during the last two years, has caused continual disputation at conferences of the Commonwealth and State Ministers. Apparently it has attempted to override the six State Governments. At the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said, in effect, to the State Premiers, “ If you do not agree with what we want to do, we shall not be prepared to give you the money for which you have asked “.
– Did not that ever occur when Labour was in office?
– No. At least the Australian Labour party did not allow the position to develop as this Government has done. After all, the Premiers are responsible men. They are surely entitled to receive decent treatment at the hands of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when they come to Canberra. They resented the treatment meted out to them at the last conference and complained about it when they returned to their States. The Prime Minister, in a fit of pique, said, in effect, “All right. You can take back your taxation rights “. What an extraordinary statement foi- a Prime Minister to make! I know of no proposition to limit or to abandon altogether the functions of the Australian Loan Council. Theoretically, of course, because the States are sovereign States they are entitled to levy taxes. But whilst there is the Australian Loan Council and uniform taxation, with the Commonwealth having the prior right of taxation, it is impossible for the States to assume their sovereign rights. In any event, after the Commonwealth has made its inroads into the taxable fields there will be very little left for the States. It is easy for the Commonwealth to say to the States, “You. can collect your own taxes”, knowing that it will skim the cream and that the States will have only what is left.
It seems to me that the Government has approached this matter in the same manner as the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), has approached his problems. Under the Government’s medical benefits scheme, the only person who is not to he considered appears to be the patient. As’ far as taxation is concerned, apparently the only persons who will not be considered are the people of Australia. Anyone who has become used to uniform taxation will not wish to return to the old method of tax collection. There is no suggestion that the abandonment of uniform taxation will benefit the people, or that taxes will bo reduced. Indeed, it is obvious that taxes will increase if uniform taxation is abandoned. I contend that this Government should deal with the State Governments in a sympathetic and understanding manner. Although I contend that uniform taxation should be continued, I am willing to admit that there is need for revision of the formula under which the States receive reimbursements from the Commonwealth.
In my opinion, the budget proposals offer nothing to the people of Australia md do not constitute an attempt to honour the pledges made by the Government parties. Taxation is not to be reduced. There will still be restrictions on business activities. In fact, the budget contains no assuranthat our economic state of affairs will get any better than the position outlined by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) last night. The people of Australia are dismayed by this prospect. Nothing that honorable senators opposite may say can disguise the fact that, once again, they have failed the people of Australia.
– I rise to support the .1952-53 budget. Senator Arnold made some rather amazing charges against .the Government. He called members of the Cabinet muddlers, and accused them of mismanagement. He said that they had done nothing for the good of the country. It is my privilege to show that this Government has done a remarkably good job. As Senator Arnold referred rather scathingly to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I invite his attention to some rather important matters. In 1949, the outgoing Labour Government said quite definitely that petrol rationing could not he abolished. The Menzies Government, immediately it was elected, derationed petrol, and it has remained derationed ever since. The Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand quickly followed the Australian Government’s example. In 1950-51, the Prime Minister was able to get a loan of 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, mainly for the purchase of earth-moving machinery and other essential equipment. This year, the bank has been able to make a further 50,000,000 dollars available, principally for the purchase of electrical equipment. What chance would the learned Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) have had to raise such loans for the development of this country? What is his record in the handling of this country’s foreign policy? Who did he have as his principal adviser on foreign affairs? He had none other than Dr. Burton, who, incidentally, has now been de-controlled by the Labour party and deprived of his endorsement for the Lowe electorate. It is rather amazing, therefore, that Senator Arnold should claim that he and his colleagues are capable of advising the Government. What happened to Manus Island under Labour administration? That strategic base which to-day might well have been an important perimeter defence is incapable of accommodating even one ship of war simply because the Labour Government had a row with the United States of America and so missed the ‘bus completely. In view of these facts I see no need to dwell at any length upon the suggestion that the Government should accept the advice of the Opposition on important national problems. 1 compliment the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon the early presentation of the budget, and I trust that this practice will be f ollowed every year. The budget should be introduced not later than early August. Over the years, the Labour Government introduced its budgets in September. The Treasurer and the government officials who were responsible for the early presentation of the budget this year are to be commended for their work. Last year’s budget was a courageous document in the light of then existing conditions and, since it was introduced, as other speakers on this side of the chamber have pointed out, considerable improvements have taken place in the transport industry and in the production of coal and steel and other basic materials. The public works programmes of the States have been extensive. Possibly, as Senator Arnold has claimed, the Labour Government did prepare plans. Perhaps there was too much planning in those days. In fact, I believe that one of the causes of our present economic troubles is the over-planning of State works. However, at present expensive and important State works are being carried out.
My references to income tax will be brief, because we shall have a full dress debate on that subject when income tax legislation implementing the budget proposals come before the Senate. I invite attention to the fact that the Government has provided great incentive, particularly to companies, in its income tax proposals. The allowances that private companies will have will enable them to plough money back into their businesses, and this has been warmly welcomed. I remind the Senate that the budget was introduced about a month ago, and that we are now able to observe public reaction to it. The taxation concessions are very much appreciated.
I pass now to several matters that might otherwise escape attention. The budget will assist certain causes that have been languishing of late. One such cause is the cause of education. In future, school fees up to a maximum of £50 a year will be allowable as an income tax deduction in respect of a child under 21 years of age who is receiving full time education. That concession will grant some much needed relief to parents whose children attend convents, colleges, and universities. The Government has shown great imagination in its treatment of the sales tax. Just as, last year, the task of taxpayers was made easier by the introduction of a simplified income tax form, so, under this budget, a measure of simplification ha? been introduced into the sales tax field by the reduction of the number of classifications from six to four. This move is welcomed by the merchants and, in Adelaide, I have heard many appreciative references to the sales tax proposals generally. Returning for a moment to education, it is noteworthy that, in future, education equipment for schools and universities, including not only technical equipment hut also furnishings and sporting equipment, are now completely free from sales tax. Here, too, assistance ia being given to church schools and universities that are not carried on for profit. Such schools are doing a fine job in the field of education, because they are relieving the State of enormous expenditure on providing education for hundreds oi thousands of children. In this respect also the Government has shown real imagination.
The Leader of the Opposition said that, in his opinion, land tax is the fairest tax of all and he bemoaned its abolition. But how fair is a tax that is levied, for instance, on land that has been ravaged by drought, flood, or bushfires? Is it fair to tax golf clubs whose property provides a green belt around, the cities, and which render a splendid service to the public? The abolition of the land tax is a notable achievement. It was introduced 40 years ago as one of the first acts of socialism in the Commonwealth Parliament. It is the privilege of this Government to “ delouse “ the statute-book of this piece of socialism at least, and I commend the Government for its action. 1 come now to the taxing of aged persons. Under the Chifley regime, any person who received an income of more than £104 a year paid income tax. This Government, in its wisdom, has provided that an elderly couple, a man over 65 years of age and his wife over 60 years of age, mav receive between them an income of £.”>07 per annum without being obliged to pay one penny in income tax. That concession demonstrates the Government’s consideration for the elderly citizens of Australia.
This budget will influence the broad framework within which private enterprise works. It will influence the climate within which the States are able to work. For a few- moments I want to dwell on the remarkable progress that has been achieved in South Australia in recent years. My task in this Senate is first and foremost to represent the State of South Australia. The Senate is the States’ house. South Australia is remarkably fortunate in that it has been governed by a Liberal administration for more than fifteen years. Its progress has been marked in the years since 1949. A greater sense of reality is developing among its people. I was rather struck by a short paragraph that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser yesterday dealing with the success of the Royal Show in Adelaide. The paragraph reads -
Undeterred by cold winds and an occasional light shower, 52.9S2 people attended the Royal Adelaide Show up to 5.30 p.m. yesterday - the biggest day attendance since 1947.
Side show owners also reported a slight improvement, but the Secretary of the South Australia Showman’s Guild (Mr. E. A. Ward) said they had a long way to go yet to equal last year’s business.
I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to two aspects of the report. First, the attendance at the show was the largest since 1947. Secondly visitors to the show were more interested in the exhibits than in what I might describe as the trivialities - the side shows. That fact indicates that people are now much more realistic than they were formerly. To-day, they do not indulge in mad spending as they did a few years ago. The era of bread and circuses that preceded the downfall of the great Roman empire, signs of the revival of which were being exhibited in Australia a year or so ago, has gone. To-day, people have a greater regard for the value of their money and consequently money is increasing in value. This Government has provided the climate for such a change. I pay a tribute to those who were responsible for the exhibits at the Royal Show in Adelaide. The principal exhibit, contained three parts; first, an exhibit by the Murray Valley Development League of the produce of the soil of the River Murray Valley in New South Wales and Victoria; secondly, an exhibit from the upper Murray - the Renmark district - which was settled by ex-servicemen from the two world wars; and last, but not least, an exhibit from the Tanunda district, which was settled in the early years of South Australia’s history by immigrants from central Europe - brave men and women who fled from religious persecution in their own countries and settled in Australia and made the great Barossa Valley flower in a most amazing way. The exhibit, the equal of which has possibly never before been seen in Australia, won first prize in competition with exhibits from all over the Commonwealth.
Let me compare the cost of essential basic foods in South Australia with their cost in other States. I am indebted to Mr. Adamson, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South “Wales - to which side of politics he belongs I do not know - for the figures that I shall cite. Mr. Adamson made some research into the cost of essential commodities and ascertained that bread in Sydney costs ll.Sd. a loaf and in Adelaide 10.5d. a loaf; self-raising flour in Sydney costs 16.3d. per lb. and in Adelaide 12.9d. per lb.; and that a tin of plum jam, possibly the most humble kind of jam we can obtain, costs 29d. in Sydney, and 19.5d. in Adelaide. For many years socialist governments have been in office in New South “Wales and Liberal governments have been in office in South Australia, but the value of the climates provided by respective Labour and Liberal governments in those States has been revealed in the tremendous divergence in the costs of essential commodities that I have indicated. Socialist governments in the State or Federal sphere stand condemned by these figures. Between August, 1939, and March, 1952, the cost of living increased in New South Wales by 177 per cent., and in South Australian by 157 per cent. I bow in the direction of Western Australia senators and direct their attention to the fact that in the State which they represent the cost of living increased in that period by only 137 per cent.
I pass now to a consideration of some of the benefits that have accrued to South Australia under the administration of the Menzies Government. The South Australian Government hopes that this Government will long remain in office and it is confidently looking> forward to further benefits to flow to it from the provisions of the budget now under review. During the last four years the value of wheat production in South Australia has increased from £20,000,000 to £49,000,000; pastoral production from £11,000,000 to £40,000,000; and factory production from £31,000,000 to £67,000,000. It may be said that values have increased in all directions, but it is also important’ to remember that in the same period the average mean yield of wheat in South Australia was increased from 11 bushels to 13 bushels an acre, ‘ of barley from 16 to 20 bushels and of oats from 7 to 12 bushels. These figures demonstrate that the proper climate for increased production has been provided by the Liberal State Government assisted by the Liberal and Country party Government in the Commonwealth sphere. The Commonwealth has made a great contribution to the progress of South Australia in the field of primary production. As honorable senators are aware the Commonwealth is interested in the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. South Australians very much appreciate the provision in the budget of £2,000,000 for the broadening of the gauge of the spur line between Port Augusta and Leigh Creek. When the work has been completed it is hoped that 1,000,000 tons of coal will be brought to Adelaide from Leigh Creek annually. In the south-east of South Australia £500,000 has been provided for the broadening of the railway gauge from 3 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft. 3 in.
I come now to a consideration of what all honorable senators will agree is a noncontentious matter. I refer to the work done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in South Australia in the improvement of soils. Honorable senators will recall that the Waite Institute, which is located near Adelaide, has done an enormous amount of work of that kind. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has assisted in experiments m the use of trace elements as a means of bringing into production millions of acres of land in the 20-in. rainfall area of South Australia formerly known as the 90-mile desert. The feature of this work that most interests me is the co-operation that has been achieved between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial liesearch Organization and the Australian Mutual Provident Society in which almost every Australian is interested as a policy holder, large or small. It has been my great privilege to move about in the area and to witness at first hand, the enormous change that has occurred there in the last year or two. J pay a tribute to the Government for Having in a quiet way assisted to bring this vast area into production.
– “What is the nature of the production there?
– The Australian Mutual Provident Society is establishing clover pastures and bringing the land into production. In five years land which was formerly useless for grazing purposes will be able to carry one and a half sheep to the acre. It is hoped that the first settler will be established on the area next year. The programme is proceeding according to plan, and in time 300 settlers will be settled under this amazing scheme. A similar scheme is also being developed in Victoria in an area known as the Big Desert. But for the <;<;-operation of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Australian Mutual Provident Society, these schemes would not have been possible. Any attempts to settle the area would probably have resulted in loss and broken lives.
I conclude on the note that our greatest achievements have been made possible as the result of the intense co-operation between employers and employees and between the Government and the Opposition in South Australia. Mr. O’Halloran, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, so efficiently discharges his task that I hope he continues to remain in it for a very long time.. It is the degree of co-operation between employer and employee that exists in the United States of America that bus made that nation great. In that country, the employees are not always suspicious of the bosses. The calamity howling that is so frequently indulged in by honorable senators opposite is not evident to any appreciable extent in that country.
I commend the budget. I have outlined the benefits that will flow to South Australia as a result of its proposals, and I hope that during the year ahead there will be more co-operation not only between the political parties in this chamber, but also between the employers and employees of this great nation.
– I wish to comment on the budget, not from the point of view of an economist, but rather from the point of view of an ordinary citizen. I have scanned it in a vain attempt to find some hope of relief to the ordinary breadwinners, the ordinary taxpayers, and the ordinary householders of this country, from the cost of living. I have been unable to find any provision that will reduce the price of bread, butter, clothing, shoe repairs, rents, or anything else that will make the lot of the common man a little better. To-day a woman has to pay 16s. 6d. to have her shoes repaired. She derives very little comfort from the claims of supporters of the Government that this is a good budget. When presenting the budget in the House of Representatives, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was not very optimistic about the economic future of this country. I have jotted down a few of the remarks that he made on that occasion, which made me feel quite pessimistic. The right honorable gentleman stated -
At the same time, however, costs have been forced up inordinately so that the purchase of a home has risen beyond the reach of more and more people. As a result, there is a strong tendency for people to hold off purchasing homes in the hope that a reduction in costs will make it more financially practicable for them to do so.
Business in a number of directions has passed into a phase of slackness and uncertainty. . . . There is thus a mood of indecision as to whether investments should be made now or deferred for a period until the outlook clarifies. . . . The number of people on relief has risen to something over 12.000.
Of course, that figure was cited five weeks ago ; since then the number of unemployed persons in Australia has increased considerably. It is somewhat ominous that, for the first time since the depression of the thirties, the words, “ people on relief “ has been used in this National
Parliament. Following the depression came World War II., we all hoped that, after the termination of hostilities, this land would be fit for heroes to live in, and that never again would we witness the spectacle of men and women on relief. But in introducing the budget the Treasurer himself has used the term “ on relief”. He continued -
To-day, there are hundreds of thousands who have become apprehensive of the future. . . A very different outlook prevails to-day and there is in some quarters a good deal of fear about the economic future. . . . There is still inflation. . . .
Lest I also should be branded as a pessimist, I should like to compliment the Treasurer on certain features of the budget. It is pleasing that the Government proposes to double the amounts of unemployment and sickness benefits, because they have remained static ever since those benefits were introduced by a former Labour Government in 1945. Many people are solely dependent on such benefits. I congratulate the Government on removing barriers that have existed to prevent invalid persons between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years from receiving pensions. Several other proposals in relation to social services are also worthy of commendation.
I shall now offer some constructive criticism of the budget. Unfortunately, [ shall have insufficient time to deal fully with some of its aspects. We have heard a good deal about the effects of high wool prices, and imports. We all know that the present inflationary situation has been contributed to, in a large measure, by the high wool prices that prevailed last year. However,, that is not the sole cause of the present economic situation. After this country had been flooded with a mass of imports, it became necessary for the Government to impose very drastic import restrictions. For the life of me, I cannot see why it is necessary for us to import agricultural machinery at a time when Australian factories that are capable of producing such equipment are being closed down. In Western Australia the very fine factory of Chamberlain Industries Limited, at Welshpool, the establishment of which was heavily subsidized by the Government, has been closed. Many men have been thrown out of employment, and large stocks of agricultural machinery are still held by the company. During the last few weeks many other industries in various parts of Australia have been forced to retrench. There is something basically wrong with a system which permits the importation of large quantities of products that could be manufactured in this country, while, as the Treasurer has rightly stated, many of our citizens are on relief. They cannot maintain a decent standard of living solely on the unemployment benefit.
I regret very much that successive governments have failed to relate age and invalid pensions to the basic wage, arid thus lift this phase of social services out of the hurly burly of party politics. I believe that, every honorable senator has a sincere regard for the pensioners, and realizes how difficult it is for them to make ends meet. For so long as the present system obtains, anomalies will continue to exist in the field of pensions. The basic wage is determined on the normal and reasonable requirements of a man, his wife, and one child. It would be far better to establish the rate of pension at, say, 40 per cent, of the basic wage, instead of about 30 per cent., as it is at present. If that were done the age and invalid pension payable to-day would be £4 10s. a week instead of £3 7s. 6d. a week after the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week has been implemented. I remind honorable senators that we are dealing not with institutions but with human beings. Therefore we should approach a consideration of this subject in a humanitarian manner. When women of 60 years of age and men of 65 years of age become eligible for the age pension they usually have on hand sufficient clothing to carry them through for a few years. It then becomes necessary for them to replace some garments. There is nothing more horrifying than to see, as I have seen, aged and invalid people rummaging at jumble sales and secondhand shops for winter overcoats, because they cannot afford to buy new articles. I contend that, after a person has been in receipt of an age or invalid pension for, say, five years, the rate of pension payable to that person should be increased, to enable him to replace his worn out wearing apparel. It would not cost as much to give effect to this suggestion as does the free milk scheme, which is not repaying a quarter of its cost. There is another anomaly in relation to pensions. Wives of age pensioners do not become eligible for a pension until they reach 60 years of age. The effect of this provision is that in many instances a pension which is only a pittance for one person becomes a pittance to sustain two persons. The average woman of 60 years of age is not able to undertake work that she could previously do, because her husband is in receipt of an age pension. Again, many men who are unfit to work after attaining 65 years of age are not eligible to receive an invalid pension because they are not 35 per cent, incapacitated. Therefore they continue to work for as long as they can, because it is impossible for two people to live on £3 a week plus 30s. a week that a pensioner is permitted to earn. I suggest that the wives of pensioners, where such wives are of age 50 years or more, should be treated in the same way as are widows of 50 years of age or more, without children. They should be given a similar pension. This would overcome the difficulty that is at present suffered by many aged women.
There is a real necessity for the Commonwealth to assist the States to provide homes for aged people. During the past ten years I have consistently advocated that this should be done. Just before I left Perth to attend the current sittings of the Senate, an old. man was found dead in the Swan River. He was 70 years of age, and had been sick. He -had been unable to enter an old man’s home or a hospital, because hospitalization is no longer free. Although he was- a chronic sufferer from asthma there was nothing left for him but to jump into the Swan River. There have been several tragedies of this kind during the last couple of years. There is nothing more pitiful in life than an aged person who has no one to care for him. Generally speaking, it is possible for an elderly man to get by, but it is very difficult for an elderly woman to manage by herself. I can assure honorable senators that it is a tragic experience to talk to an aged woman who has no money, cannot obtain admission to a home, and has nowhere to go. Her plight is truly desperate. There is a very excellent home for aged women at Mount Henry, in “Western Australia. The money that was expended on its construction would have been sufficient to provide two homes of less expensive construction. There is a move afoot in Western Australia to purchase large private homes that are coming on to the market, in which to house from twenty to thirty elderly people. However, there is a need for something more than this to be done. We do not want to segregate aged men and women, to separate husbands and wives who have lived together for practically all their lives, but who cannot now afford to maintain their own household. There should be more cottage homes of the kind that have been provided for the aged in some States. These should be established away from the capital cities. They are needed in the capitals, of course, but it is a tragedy to take people from where they have been raised and where their friends and interests are. In Western Australia such homes could well be built at such places as Kalgoorlie, Narrogin, Bunbury, and Northam. I consider that the Commonwealth Government should help by making grants to the States specifically for the erection of homes for aged people. The Government was able to build camps during the war almost overnight and since the war it has been able to erect hostels and provide other facilities for immigrants. Why can it not provide dwellings for our own old people? I suggest that this would be a practical way of giving more than lip service to the aged. It is regrettable that many children have not a sense of responsibility towards their parents, but we cannot allow these old people to bear alone the burden of loneliness and despair which causes them to end their lives as the person to whom I have referred ended his.
Although the Government’s health scheme has received so much publicity very few people have realized its impact on the community. It was stated in this chamber to-day that the cost to patients of hospital accommodation in wards in Western Australia was 35s. a day Even in private hospitals, before the Government’s scheme was introduced, the cost of accommodation was as little as a guinea a day. All the benefits for which the Government’s health scheme provides will not reimburse patients to the extent of £12 5s. a week. Consequently, hospitals are reluctant to accept age pensioners as patients. I spent three weeks before returning to Canberra in trying to obtain the admission of old people to Perth and Fremantle hospitals. The hospital officials wanted to know who would be responsible for paying the fees for these people. While the hospitals ave quibbling about the payment of fees people can die. I should like the Government to conduct a survey of public hospitals and endeavour to achieve uniformity of charges. A little more humanity should also be introduced into hospital administration. It is vitally necessary that these unfortunate people who are both poor and ill should not have to wear the badge of pauperism on their shoulders before they are admitted to hospital for treatment.
During the regime of the Curtin Government I was a member of the Social Security Committee on which members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party also served until the latter party refused to continue to co-operate. During the three years that I was a member of the committee we visited the main hospitals in Australia, and, after due deliberation, prepared a unanimous report on the basis of which the Government introduced a health scheme which has been ruthlessly discarded by the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). Because I know the value of a good medical scheme it annoys me when I hear honorable senators opposite praising the Government’s scheme. The Government’s present policy is not to give increased health benefits to any individual but to assist the State governments to balance the budget of the hospitals. The Government should not confine its activity to providing for the cure of sick people, but should endeavour to keep healthy people well. The Government has not given any attention to that objective in its budget. It has provided for milk to be supplied to a certain proportion of school children but before this can be done it will be necessary to obtain the cooperation of already overburdened school teachers. Children in remote areas will not be supplied with milk and in many of these areas such as the north-west of Australia children never see fresh milk and do not even get powdered milk. It istime that the Senate and honorable members in another place combined to formulate a real health scheme which would not. distress people by making them worry about financial burdens which arise from the- necessity to pay high hospital fees.
I do not believe that everybody should expect everything for nothing. Those who can afford to pay should make some contribution to the cost of their treatment. I agree with the necessity for a hospital benefits scheme, but I do not agree that benefits under such schemes should be taken into account when sickness and unemployment benefits are applied for. Recently, a woman whose husband had been in hospital for twelve weeks came to me. Because she received money from a benefit society and the hospital benefits fund she was not permitted to receive the sickness benefit which the Chifley Government had declared should be her right if her husband were ill. Fortunately, there is a very sympathetic man in charge of the Department of Social Services in Western Australia and he was able to effect a compromise by dealing with the matter from a humanitarian point of view. While a man such as he administers a department, anomalies can be rectified, but it may not always be possible to obtain such sympathetic treatment in all departments. I told the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) about this matter and he seemed to be astounded that such a state of affairs existed.
The Government has proposed that all classes of pensions except war widows’ pensions shall be increased. Surely this must be an oversight. I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is very considerate of the needs of war widows. I am sure that when this matter is brought to his attention he will have it rectified. I also wish to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the Repatriation Department could assist in solving the health problems of the nation by admitting returned soldiers as patients to its wards whether their illness was caused during their war service or not. There is a fine hospital at Hollywood in Western Australia where the treatment cannot he surpassed, but where whole wards are empty. Other hospitals in Western Australia are overfull and people are dying while awaiting admission to them. I consider that if a returned soldier suffers from any illness, whether caused by war service or not, he should be admitted to military hospitals. If his illness is not caused by war service he could pay for his treatment as he would elsewhere. Last year a soldier spent five weeks in Hollywood Hospital before it was discovered that his illness was not due to war service. Although he was dangerously ill he was sent home. He could not obtain admission to Perth Hospital. His wife sent for me and I found her in a very distressed state because she was unable to attend to her husband properly and give him the injections that he needed. We managed to have him admitted to Perth Hospital, but he died. It was dreadful that this man should have been sent away from a hospital in an ambulance because his illness had not been caused by war service. He was sent away to die. That was a callous way to treat him. I know that the Minister for Repatriation gave this matter some consideration before the hospital scheme came into operation, but he would greatly help ex-servicemen and those who operate public hospitals if he wouldhave beds made available in repatriation hospitals for ex-service patients whether their illness is caused by war service or not.
The Government proposes to spend a large sum of money on defence. A lot of it will be well spent but I do not consider that all the money that has been allocated for defence purposes in the past has been expended in the best possible way. I consider that fewer women should be used in the services in un-essential capacities. On one occasion I noticed a large car, being driven by a nice girl in a glamour uniform bringing the wife of an officer to town to shop. The girl minded the children in the car which remained parked in the one position for four hours. Such work could easily be performed by a civilian. ‘ We must examine these matters realistically. X do not decry the part that was played by women in uniform during the war, but I do not think that there is any necessity for men and women in certain branches of the services to do jobs which could be done by civilians.
Linked with the subject of defence is Western Australia’s vulnerability to attack. This vulnerability is demonstrated by the fact that atomic research is taking place there. Western Australia is a very important State. Honorable senators from Western Australia particularly desire that the uniform taxation system should continue, not only for purposes of defence but for purposes of development, because it would be ridiculous to expect a State with onethird the population of Sydney to carry the brunt of the defence of that very important part of the Continent. Western Australia, with its small population, would suffer severely if left to provide for its own defence. In Western Australia huge incomes are less common than in the eastern States, and we also lack industrial development. We should be placed in a very difficult position if we were left with the task of developing and defending such a vast but important part of Australia without assistance. It is easy to talk of restoring the taxing rights of the States but, having regard to the needs of the various parts of Australia, such a policy might not be so easy to justify.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
Edward Mattner). - 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 affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health - H. 0. Lancaster, S. De Mylons.
Shipping and Transport - R. J.G. Cocks.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19520911_senate_20_218/>.