20th Parliament · 1st Session
Tho President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 1.1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether, he has received an application from the Government Insurance Office of Tasmania for registration as an approved society under the Government’s hospital and medical benefits scheme? If such an application has been received will the Minister inform the Senate when a. decision can be. announced on the matter?
– The Minister for Health has informed me that such an application has been made by the Government Insurance Office of Tasmania. A few small matters require clarification in connexion with this application, but as soon as they have been finalized the Govern mont Insurance Office of Tasmania will bc accepted as an approved society.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen u report in the Melbourne Argus of the 15th September, to the effect that, during this financial year, Victoria will receive £7,658,000 under the Commonwealth health benefits scheme? Will he inform me of the amounts that will be paid to Queensland during this financial year for pharmaceutical benefits, hospital benefits, tuberculosis benefits, pensioners’ medical benefits, medical benefits, and benefits t.n mental institutions?
– It is expected that an amount of £7,058,000 will be paid to Victoria in respect of the benefits mentioned during the current financial year, compared with £1,705,000 in 1948-49. The amount that will be payable to Queensland in this fiancial year in respect of health benefits is estimated at £3,142,000. If Queensland were prepared to participate in the Commonwealth hospital insurance scheme, and the . scheme for the provision of milk free to children, an additional amount of approximately £1,165,000 would be payable during the current financial year to that State. However, I understand that up to the present Queensland has not signified its intention to participate in those schemes. I shall be pleased to refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague the Minister for Health and. ascertain whether any further information on the matter that he lias raised can be supplied.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform the Senate whether it is not a fact that the merchant marine plays a most essential part in war and defence ? Have the war clouds eased sufficiently to justify the Government’s action in offering for sale all Commonwealth-owned ships ? If so, how does the Government justify the expenditure of approximately £200,000,000 a year on defence while, at the same time, it proposes to dispose of a vital defence weapon such as ships ?
– Honorable senators may rest assured that the Government will not do anything which is likely to jeopardize or put in hazard the defence of the country.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been, directed to a press report that the Orient liner Orion will visit Hobart after leaving Sydney on the 3rd January next year and that the vessel will carry passengers from Sydney to Hobart, and also to Melbourne via Hobart? Can the Minister say whether the report is correct and has he any information to give to the Senate in connexion with it?
– I was very pleased to read in this morning’s newspapers thu report to which the honorable senator has referred. In response to questions which have been asked from time to time by honorable senators from Tasmania, the strongest possible representations have bren made to ship-owners in order to see what can be done to improve the passenger service to Tasmania. I have received no official advice on the subject, but if this press report indicates that tho prospect of an improved service is brighter, it is most gratifying. I shall make further inquiries into the matter.
– I understand that thu Minister for Shipping and Transport has certain information in reply to a question that I asked him some time ago about increases of interstate and overseas shipping freights since the 1st September, 1039, and the alleged usefulness of the Commonwealth shipping line in keeping fi eights down. As shipping is of very great concern to Queensland, will the Minister now provide the Senate with this information?
– I have obtained from the Department of Shipping and Transport figures which show that increases of interstate and overseas shipping rates in the period mentioned by the honorable senator have been considerable. On the 1st September, 1939, the general cargo rate between Melbourne and Sydney was 20s. a ton. On the 1st September, 1945, it was 29s. Sd. a ton, and by the 1st September of this year it had risen to 130s. 6d. a ton. Coal shipped from New South Wales to Fremantle in 1939 cost 18s. a ton. Six years later, the cost was 26s. 6d. a ton, and now it is 70s. a ton. The freight rate on ironstone shipped from Whyalla to Newcastle in 1939 was 4s. 9d. a ton. In 1945 the charge, was 9s. a ton and on the 1st September of this year the figure was 19s. 9d. a ton. I come now to overseas freight rates. The general cargo rate between the United Kingdom and Australia was 138s. Australian a ton in 1939, 251s. Australian in 1945, and now it is 342s. Australian. It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom rate was lowered on the 1st September, 1952. I do not believe that the existence of the Commonwealth shipping line has had any influence upon freight rates.
– Certainly not since the present Government has been in office, but it did so before the Government assumed office.
– Order! Questions are asked for the purpose of seeking information. A questioner has the right to state his question and a Minister has the right to reply to it without interruption. I ask honorable senators to refrain from interjecting. Only one honorable senator may speak at a time. In replying to questions Ministers need no prompting.
– A very highly qualified accountant employed in the Department of Shipping and Transport works in conjunction with the private shipowners and examines freight rates from time to time. I have instructed that officer that while the Government is not prepared to operate its ships at a loss, it desires that freight rates shall be kept to a minimum. It is obvious that several factors are responsible for the substantial increases of freight rates which have been made; they include increases in wages granted since 1939, the lessening of the number of hours worked on the wharfs, the slow turnround of ships in Australian ports and hold-ups by seamen. These factors have had a disastrous effect upon freight rates and, in consequence, upon the economy of Australia.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has suspended all annual leave for Newcastle wharf labourers because of the shortage of labour and because the registered strength of the labour pool was about 200 short of the quota fixed by the board ?
– I have noticed a report concerning the matter raised by the honorable senator and I have received advice that there is considerable congestion in the port of Newcastle. If waterside workers are not prepared to admit new members to their union and so allow adequate labour to be made available to work ships they cannot blame the Commonwealth shipping line or Australian steamship owners for by-passing the port. Some time ago the wharf labourers made representations to me for more ships to call at Newcastle. Those ships subsequently went there and I am sorry to say that the men are not now prepared to stand up to their obligations and provide sufficient labour to keep the ships moving.
– On the 11th September, Senator Seward asked a question concerning the shipment of galvanized iron and galvanized piping to
Western Australia. The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The shipping position to Western Australia has recently shown considerable improvement particularly in regard to iron and steel shipments. As at the 12th September a total of 11,322 tons of steel products including galvanized iron and galvanized piping was awaiting shipment to Western Australia - 7,050 tons at Newcastle and 4,266 tons at Port Kembla. Against these quantities the vessel Lowana loaded 2,994 tons and Woomera 2,500 tons at Newcastle and sailed for Western Australia before last week-end. The Koorawatha commenced loading approximately 3,000 tons of these products at Port Kembla on the 15th September for discharge in Western Australia. The shipment of steel products ex Newcastle and Port Kembla to States other than Western Australia is also well covered at the present time. The congestion experienced at the loading berths has prevented the allocation of any further vessels to date but the Combined Traffic Committee and the Australian Shipping Board are aware of the urgency of Western Australian steel requirements and will allocate further tonnage when the present congestion at Newcastle and Port Kembla hits been relieved.
– On the 11th September, Senator Arnold asked a question concerning the Newcastle Floating Pork. I now supply the honorable senator with the following information : -
A partial survey of the Newcastle Floating Dock was made during recent months and maintenance work carried out on the accessible portions of the structure. As the honorable senator is no doubt aware an industrial dispute involving ships’ painters and dockers was experienced at the Newcastle State Dockyard recently. This dispute delayed the docking of a number of vessels which must now be cleared before the dock itself is immobilized for survey. The site on which the dock is situated is in need of dredging to permit deeper immersion of the dock and it is proposed to synchronize the completion of the survey with the dredging of the site so that the period during which the dock is out of operation will be reduced to a minimum.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that the United Nations Economic and Social Council has called on all nations to incorporate in their national law the principle of equal pay for women doing the same work as men? Is he aware that the British House of Commons has endorsed this doctrine of equal pay, and has approved a private resolution calling on the Government to fix an early date upon which women in the civil service, the teaching profession, local government employment and other public services, will receive the same pay as men doing similar work? As Australia was a signatory to the United Nations Charter, will the Minister indicate Australia’s Attitude in this matter?
-! shall discuss with the Prime Minister the very important matter raised by the honorable senator and let her know the result in due course.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I know that he, with his undoubted knowledge of finance, will answer the question, even if he cannot answer it satisfactorily. In the Brisbane Telegraph there appeared a very interesting statement some time ago by Professor R. Nowotny, in the course of which he said -
By working for only one week, 500,000 American workers can accumulate sufficient wealth to make 50,000,000 dollars available to us. For us to repay the loan will require, for the same period, the efforts of 1,700,000 Australian workers (nearly half of our effective labour power).
Can the Minister say whether the freeing of the exchange rate would make any difference in the present undesirable situation, and has the Government considered doing so?
– Senator Brown has bowled up a fast yorker on the offstump. I must remind him that it is not the practice to answer questions involving matters of government policy, and in no circumstances would I answer a question about the Government’s policy on the subject of exchange. As a matter of fact, the matter has not been considered by the Government. On a subject of this kind it is easy to become involved in complex technicalities, but the common-sense approach is to understand that if we can produce more goods for export we shall strengthen our currency, and the exchange rate will tend to correct itself. If Are are to get the goods we need, two things are required in this country. First, we need a greater production of goods within Australia. Whether we are to obtain increased production by greater individual effort on the part of all citizens, or by greater mechanization of our industries and farming methods, it is patent that those are the two principal methods of approach. Personally, I believe that there is a great need for both to be adopted. It seems to me that a greater personal effort on the part of every Australian is needed if more goods are to be produced. At the same time, additional plant and equipment are required so that we may make the best use of our resources.
– The unemployed are denied the opportunity to make the best use of their resources.
– Senator Cameron has made his usual contribution. Secondly, we need greater capital resources. We cannot hope to undertake the development that is necessary in this country with our present capital resources. The two factors to which I have referred are linked. If w7e can productmore goods and obtain greater capital resources we shall go a long way towards a solution of the exchange problem generally.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by stating that on Tuesday last Senator Henty asked a question of the Minister concerning the operation and management of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in the course of which he. implied that Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited was the major authority in the administration of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. In his reply, the Minister stated that the board of directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited consisted of seven members, four of whom were elected by Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, which held a minority of the shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and three were elected by the Australian Government, which held the majority of the shares. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the name of the Prime Minister, and the political party to which he belonged, when the agreement with AngleIranian Oil Company Limited was entered into?
– It all happened l»a ok in the days when both Senator Morrow and I were comparatively young men. The agreement was made in 1920. Those honorable senators who are better politically informed than I am will probably remember that the Prime Minister at that time was the present right honorable member for Bradfield, Mr. Hughes. I am afraid that I do not remember the complexion of the government of that day.
– Is it a fact that the existing proportion of directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited appointed by the Government and by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company obtained during the eight years of socialist Labour Government and that no attempt was made by that Government to alter the basis of representation?
– It is a fact that the directorate of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited had a majority of nominees of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company during the whole period of the Labour Government’s term of office.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether it was a nationalist government under the leadership of Mr. W. M. Hughes that entered into an agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to form Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? After the agreement was registered, could it be altered without the consent of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, as I attempted to have it altered?
– The agreement was entered into by a government which was led by Mr. W. M. Hughes. Any agreement can be altered by negotiation.
– By consent.
– By negotiation, and by arrangement. 1 am not aware of tl’.e part which the honorable senator took in the negotiations between the Labour Government and the company, but 1 know that there were negotiations, and that the Labour Government failed to achieve its purpose. In the not distant future information will be available to show that, as usual, where the Labour party failed, the Liberal party has succeeded.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that at the recent Royal Show in Adelaide the exhibitsthat probably attracted most public acclaim and interest were the district exhibits of primary and secondary production staged by Tanunda, which is in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the Murray Valley Developmental League, which embraces a portion of a vast inland area of three States stretching almost from Canberra to the mouth of the Murray River, and the Upper Murray district of South Australia? Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether a similar exhibit, depicting Australia’s increasing efforts in food production, could be arranged at Australia House, London, next year, when so many British Commonwealth people will be in England to honour Her Majesty the Queen?
– The suggestion commends itself to me very strongly. It is- an excellent idea and I shall be very happy to discuss it with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Government proposes to take any steps to rectify the unsatisfactory accounts of certain departments mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report for 1951-52? What action does the Government propose to take to secure an adjustment of a contractor’s account which shows indebtedness of £10,621,503? Is there any reason why the Government should ignore previous recommendations and criticisms *‘111Ch directed attention to Department of the Army stores and vehicles that are still not adequately sheltered, and the absence of improvement of the system of controlling accounts in relation to unit stores? Has any action been taken to straighten out the accounts of the Department of the Navy, which are in an unsatisfactory condition? Would it be possible for the Government to secure, for the purpose of adjusting these accounts, the services of the individuals whose financial capacity and genius were eulogized by the Minister for National Development yesterday? Perhaps the result of their efforts on behalf of the taxpayers would be as satisfactory and beneficial as that obtained for the coal mine proprietors at the instigation of the Government.
– It is quite probable that the honorable senator is even more confused on the subject of accounts than he was yesterday on the subject of coal. If accounts are in an unsatisfactory condition, which I do not admit, it is probably a legacy of the eight years of Labour misrule. I can assure ihe honorable senator that the Government will continue to do what it considers to be. proper in the circumstances.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it is a fact that although in the last 52 years the annual report of the Auditor-General on the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure has been submitted to Parliament before the end of September only once - on the 25th of September, 1906 - this year it has been available during the 1952-53 budget debate?
– As I mentioned in reply to an earlier question, my political experience does not extend over a period of 52 years. However, I am not astonished to find that the Auditor-General’s report is available earlier this year than it has been in the past because the Government has introduced its budget earlier this year. Such action is very much to the advantage of Parliament and has been one of the objectives of the Treasurer since he has held office. He has always considered that the earlier the nation’s affairs are submitted to the Parliament in the form of a budget the better.
– Is the Minister for National Development able to inform the Senate whether the question of assisting the New South Wales Government in the provision of much needed additional electric power houses, as rea nested by the Premier of New South Wales, has been considered as coming within the provisions of the Defence Pre parations Act 1951 ? The recitals of that act include the following paragraph: -
And whereas the defence preparations of Australia will include also the expansion of the capacity of Australia to produce and manufacture goods, and to provide services, for the purpose of the defence preparations mentioned in the last two preceding paragraphs and generally for the purpose of enabling the economy of Australia to meet the probable demands upon it in the event of war:
– I cannot grasp the significance of the honorable senator’s attempt to relate the Defence Preparations Act to the provision of power houses for New South Wales. The problem that is confronting the New South Wales Government in this connexion has no relation to the Defence Preparations Act or to any other Commonwealth legislation or regulations issued thereunder. It is one of so efficiently marshalling the economic resources of the State as will enable it to generate the additional electric power that New South Wales needs. The New South Wales Government must itself make the necessary arrangements to provide the requisite additional power houses within the limits of the finances available to it. Having regard to the hopeless confusion that exists in the minds of the people of New South Wales as the result of the tangle which the New South Wales Government has got into in relation to its power programme, I see no prospect of them obtaining their requirements of electric Bower until they have sufficient sense to throw the present New South Wales Government out of office. That time is coming. The New South Wales Government survived in 1950 by a judicious arrangement of electoral boundaries, and it is now engaged in another such arrangement in the hope that it will survive next year’s election.
– I preface a question that I shall address to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by pointing out that at the end of World War II., Sir Thomas Gordon, on behalf of the Australian Shipping Board, submitted to the Australian Government that was then in office a list of the names of merchant service personnel that were considered worthy of honours, in recognition of their meritorious service during the war. However, the then Government, as is well known, did not view favorably the bestowal of honours. Shortly after I was elected to the Parliament I raised this matter with the Prime Minister, and I understood from subsequent correspondence that the right honorable gentleman would look into it. Many honours have been awarded during the last two years, and although the list that I have mentioned was only small, it is not too late for the Government to recommend the award of honours to the men I have mentioned, in recognition of their special services during the war. Will the Minister inform me whether they might still expect to receive recognition for those services?
– I shall be very happy to take up with the Prime Minister the subject matter of the honorable senator’s question, and to furnish lii in with the result in due course.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question concerning reports from which it would appear that the uranium deposits at Rum Jungle will be developed by the Zinc Corporation Limited under agreement with the Australian Government. If these reports are correct will the terms of the agreement be made available to the Senate?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Supply and obtain an answer for him as soon as possible.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question concerning a statement which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, is reported to have made yesterday to the effect1 that the frozen deposits of the trading banks had been reduced from £552,000,000 to £244.000j000, during the year. Dr. Coombs also said that since Junie the Commonwealth Bank had continued to release these special deposits. Can the Minister state the amount of money remaining in the special account at this date?
– I am sorry that I do not carry in my mind the inform action which the honorable senator seeks. The special deposits have, of course, been reduced from month to month for some time. The Commonwealth Bank publishes the relevant figures each month and the honorable senator may find them tabulated in most of the newspapers which compare the position at a given date with that which obtained some months earlier..
– Will theMinister representing the Minister for the Navy inform the Senate whether it is a fact that arrangements are being made to establish a sea cadet corps at Fremantle, Western Australia? If so, what is the nature of help which can be given by the Minister for the Navy to that project? Will that help be forthcoming?
– I have no knowledge of the matter which the honorable senator has raised except that I know that the Minister for the Navy is eager to have a S8a cadet corps formed. I understand that the Royal Australian Navy will assist in the establishment of this corps and I shall obtain information concerning the assistance to be rendered and let the honorable senator have it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether it is not a fact that all first-class mails between Tasmania, and the mainland are carried by air? What amount is paid annually to Trans-Australia. Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the cartage of mails between Tasmania and the mainland? As the Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that no subsidy has been paid to the owners of Taroona for the financial year 1949-50, will the Minister state who carried the second-class mail between Tasmania and the mainland during that year and what was -the cost of its carriage? Is it not a fact that Taroona carries only second-class mail and not all mails as was stated by the Minister? How much is paid to the owners of
Taroona each year by the Postal Department for the carriage of second-class mail matter?
– It is true that all first-class mail matter is carried between Tasmania and the mainland by TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways. Second-class mail matter is carried by SS. Taroona, the owners of which receive a subsidy from the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am not able to give particulars of the contract, but I shall obtain them from the Postmaster-General, and supply them to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say when a start will be made with the building of the new post office at Huonville, in Tasmania? Working conditions for the staff in the present building are unsatisfactory, and the new building has been promised for a considerable time.
– I cannot say when the work will be commenced, but I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and a reply will be furnished to him in due course.
– Yesterday, the Minister for -National Development criticized honorable senators on this side of the chamber for saying that there was unemployment in Australia, and he went on to say that there was less unemployment now- than in 1949. Can the Attorney-General say whether the unemployment figures, which were published in the Canberra Times this morning as official, are, in fact, correct?
– A statement on the employment position was issued yesterday by the Department of Labour and National Service setting out the latest figures. If those are the figures - I have not had an opportunity to check them - which were published in the Canberra Times, they are correct.
– And the Minister for National Development was wrong ?
– I do not admit that he was.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Dr. Donald Cameron had been appointed a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 17th September, on motion by Senator Spooner (vide page 1439) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “bill” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ should be redrafted so as to provide for further reductions of the burdens of the sales tax proposed to be retained, with a view to increasing employment and lessening unemployment in the trades and industries directly affected by the incidence of the tax “.
– .Honorable senators will recollect that when the debate was interrupted on Tuesday night, considerable discussion had already taken place. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) had moved an amendment to the motion that the bill be read a second time, and when the Senate adjourned I was, in truth, winding up the debate. In those circumstances, I do not see any need for me to speak at great length to-day. 1 had, in ‘fact, said all that I intended to say, other than to state that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government. I do not think that it is necessary for me to traverse the points raised during the second-reading debate because I have already replied to them. I think the stage has been reached at which the Senate should record its judgment on the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKENNA’S amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1952.
Debate resumed from the 11th September (vide page 1258), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) [12.21. - These bills are ancillary to the measure that we have just passed, and whilst the same criticism as has been levelled by the Opposition at that measure applies also to this legislation, we consider that, as a certain measure of relief from the sales tax is being accorded, we should not oppose the passage of these bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
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 purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States of a special financial assistance grant in 1952-53 to supplement the amount payable under the existing tax reimbursement legislation.
The precise amount payable to the States in 1952-53 under the formula contained in the tax reimbursement legislation will not be known until later in the year. It is estimated, however, that the formula grant will be approximately £108,800,000. The States’ need for financial assistance over and above the amount payable under the tax reimbursement formula was considered at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held on the 7th July, when the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant tothe States sufficient to bring the total payment for 1952-53 to £135,000,000. As the amount payable under the reimbursement formula was estimated at £108,800,000, this offer involved a special financial assistance grant of approximately £26,200,000.
The Premiers were invited to indicate the manner in which they considered this additional amount should be distributed among the States. Four of the Premiers took the view that it should be distributed in the same proportions as the tax reimbursement grant, whilst the Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania desired the additional amount to be distributed on the same basis as the special financial assistance grant paid in 1951-52. That grant was distributed among the States having regard to the respective financial needs of the States in that year. After some discussion it was proposed that the amount of approximately £26,200,000 should be distributed according to the tax reimbursement formula but the Commonwealth offered to make additional payments to Victoria and Tasmania which would give to each of those States the same amount as they would have received bad last year’s basis of distribution been adopted. It was estimated that the additional payments to Victoria and Tasmania would amount to £900,000, thus increasing the special financial grant to approximately £27,100,000 and the total of tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants to approximately £135,900,000. This proposal is . now incorporated in the bill I have just introduced. The total payments which it is estimated will be made to each State in 1.952-53 as a result of the legislation now proposed are compared in the following table with the total payments made to each State last year. With the approval of h onorable members, I shall incorporate the following table in Hansard: -
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna), adjourned.
Bill received from the House of
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the billbe now read a second time.
Since 1948, when the States assumed responsibility for the control of prices and rents, the Commonwealth has made grants to reimburse them for the cost of administering these controls. The bill provides for an extension of this arrangement during 1952-53. The States have requested and the Government is prepared to grant assistance for another year.
As honorable senators know, the constitutional power to control prices and rents resides with the States, and it is their responsibility to decide the extent and duration of these controls. Since 1948, the States have gradually reduced the area over which prices control is exercised, but there is still a substantial range of goods and services subject to control. During the course of the year advances will be made to the States so that they will be provided with the funds to meet the expenditure as it arises. This procedure has been adopted in past years. The advances so made will be adjusted after the close of the year when audited statements of actual expenditure become available. It is estimated that the grants will amount to £1,087,000 this year, compared with £937,000 in 1951-52.I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
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 purpose of this bill is to provide the capital moneys required for the acquisition, development and improvement of properties and for advances to settlers for stock, plant working expenses. &c, for purposes related to the war service land settlement scheme in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In addition to the £6,000,000 provided for in this bill it is estimated that about £1,800,000, which will result from repayments of advances, &c. by settlers, will become available for the same purposes. As a result, the total expenditure by the Commonwealth on war service land settlement in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania is estimated to amount to £7,800,000 during the year ending the 30th June, 1953. Last year Commonwealth expenditure on war service land settlement amounted to £6,350,000, of which £5.120,000 represented new moneys. The total Commonwealth expenditure on war service land settlement from the inception of the scheme to the 30th June, 1952, was £23,375,000.
Up to the 30th June this year 741 properties, totalling 2,375,306 acres, have been approved for inclusion in the scheme in the three States. Subdivision proposals approved and single unit farms acquired have provided 1,570 holdings, of which J.,212 have been allotted. In addition, there are many ex-servicemen in occupation of holdings in respect of which, for various reasons, official title has not yet been granted. The Commonwealth has not relied solely upon the acquisition of single unit farms or the subdivision of properties that are already productive; it has also embarked upon the development of large tracts of virgin land. These developmental projects include Mount Many Peaks and Rocky Gully in Western Australia ; Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and King and Flinders Islands and Montague Swamp projects in Tasmania. As development progresses, these areas will make a very real contribution to increased food production.
In addition to the proposed expenditure of £7,800,000 during 1952-53 for the purposes that I have mentioned, an amount of £1,652,000 will be made available by parliamentary appropriation to provide mainly for Commonwealth contributions to the writing-off of excess costs of acquisition and development, payment of living allowances and remissions of settlers’ rent and interest during their assistance period.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th September (vide page 1534), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the bill provides for increases of pensions and allowances to be paid to many ex-members of the forces and their dependants, the Opposition supports the measure and will facilitate its passage by the Senate. I am sure that all honorable senators are eager to ensure that the increases shall take effect as soon as possible. However, I must voice a strong protest at the extremely short period of time that has been allowed to the .Senate in which to consider this important legislation, particularly in view of the fact that we were in recess for some weeks. Ample time should have been allowed for honorable senators to make observations about its provisions and to offer suggestions to the Government. I am sure that every honorable senator supports the principle of repatriation, but I condemn the Government most strongly for its scant consideration of honorable senators on this occasion. I sincerely hope that the Government will allow ample time for the consideration of all other important legislation that will be introduced into this chamber during the remainder of this sessional period. One could criticize not only the provisions of the bill but also some of the statements that were made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) during his speech on the motion for its second reading. Publicity has been given in to-day’s press to the tactics of the Opposition in this chamber. I hope that our friends of the press will give equal publicity to the Opposition’s criticism of the Government for hastening the passage of this important legislation through the Senate. The ex-members of the forces who are in receipt of repatriation benefits and allowances havesuffered injury to their health as the result of their service in the defence of this country. Meagre as are the proposed increases of pensions and allowances, they are long overdue and will assist many persons who are in dire distress.
The repatriation legislation now contains many more provisions and restrictions than did the original act. In common with other honorable senators, I have interviewed the Minister on many occasions to try to obtain financial assistance for ox-servicemen and their dependants, and I am quite sure that the Minister himself would be the first person to admit that the legislation is now so unwieldy as to confuse applicants for benefits. A person needs to possess more than m average mental capacity in order to determine the appropriate provision under which he should apply for a ‘repatriation benefit. To many ex-servicemen whose mental capacity has decreased with the passage of the years, the repatriation legislation is most confusing. The original act imposes an obligation on an applicant for a repatriation benefit to prove to the satisfaction of the repatriation authorities that his sickness or inability to continue his normal occupation is attributable to war service. I consider that it is absurd to expect men of advanced years to comply with that requirement. That provision should be waived altogether. Although provision now exists for applicants to be given the benefit of a doubt, obviously the majority of applicants appear before the repatriation authorities only after their health has failed. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree that men -who have served their country well are entitled to social security. Many of these men are utterly bewildered by the numerous restrictions and qualifications of the provisions contained in the repatriation legislation. In consequence of the many “gel; away” provisions, the repatriation authorities may reject applications out of hand. A thorough revision of these provisions should be undertaken by the Government. [ cannot understand why the Government finds it necessary to retain all the provisions of this most complicated act. Is it not absurd that these people who have voluntarily performed the highest duty that any citizen can perform for his country should be treated in this way? Years after a man has been to the war, doctors are required to determine whether or not a disability or sickness is due to war service. When an exserviceman dies no medical .authority would be in a position truthfully to deny that his death had been contributed to by his experience iri Flanders or elsewhere during World War I. or World Wai- II. It is time that the Government considered the points that I have raised.
Sections 47 and 4S of the act which apply to original applications for assistance by ex-servicemen are much too cumbersome. The provisions of those sections leave the individual concerned in a state of bewilderment, and the decision that is made on his application is simply the result of a game of chance or a guess on the part of those in authority in the Repatriation Department. It is true that the officers of the department have a very difficult task to perform. I credit them with being honest. I think that they do the best they can under the provisions of the act. I hope that sections 47 and 48 of the act will be examined by the Government at the earliest opportunity. I doubt whether there is any other country in the world where, in order to secure assistance in obtaining the bare necessities of life, people are called upon to go through the procedure to which members of the forces and their dependants are subjected in this country. More often than not, the decisions of the appeals board are a repetition of decisions that have been given in the first instance. That is a most important point. Most of the men who now apply for assistance from the department have endeavoured to provide for themselves for many years and have not made any previous approach to the Repatriation Department. It is only as the sun has gone down because of advancing years, and their powers have been weakened, that they have been forced to approach the repatriation authorities in order to obtain some relief. The highest medical authorities in the world would not be in a position to decide whether, at that stage of his life, an exserviceman’s malady is due to war service. Is it not reasonable to assume that had a man not offered his life for his country and suffered the rigours of campaigns his physical resistance would not have been impaired ?
The Minister for Repatriation has given me a great deal of assistance in connexion with the many cases that I have referred to him, but I want him to know that I sincerely believe that unless it can be proved that their condition is not due to war service applicants for repatriation benefits, particularly those of advanced years, should receive that assistance which is justly theirs and which a grateful nation wishes to give to them. Many people to whom I have spoken have expressed their disgust at the fact that many disabled ex-servicemen . are not receiving some emolument from the Repatriation Department. When these men apply for benefits they are not examined by the same doctors who treated them immediately after the war. A number of doctors have told me that it very difficult for them to decide whether an injury has been due to war service or not. It might be possible to decide that a condition has been aggravated by war service but it is much harder to determine whether it has been caused by that service when a man’s medical history is unknown. Those who apply to the department for assistance frequently become discouraged and disgusted. It may be true that some men, by means best known to themselves, gain assistance from the department to which they are not entitled, but for every case Such as that there are a dozen cases of men who are entitled to assistance but are not receiving anything. I do not point the finger of scorn at any government, Liberal or Labour, which makes an honest attempt to render this form of assistance to ex-servicemen, but this act is too complicated and cumbersome. It has too many provisions which render exservicemen ineligible to receive a pension and I cannot understand the need for them. Either a man is entitled to receive a pension or he is not.
– Does the act apply to generals?
– I do not know. I should say that it did. However, there appears to be no logical reason why the act cannot be simplified in order to obviate the necessity for these people to go through the avenue of misery which many of them have to traverse when they make application for assistance under the act. These men receive a lot of assistance in connexion with their application from officials of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and sympathetic officers of the Repatriation Department, but those officers are bound by the .provisions of the act. These officials and officers consider that the Government should remove the obligation of the individual to prove that his condition is due to war service and should not require the medical officers of the commission to decide to what extent a condition is due to war service which may have been performed 30 years ago. An applicant may have endured for a long time a dis-. ability which was caused by war service without applying for assistance until, with advancing years and physical deterioration, he has become unable to continue in his employment. If the Senate rectifies this position it will have done justice to a dwindling number of Australian citizens who have performed -gallant deeds for their country.
The Government is deserving of a great deal of criticism for failing to increase the pensions of certain war widows. The Opposition had hoped that this measure would afford additional relief to those who need it. I support the measure but express my disgust at the action of the Government in restricting the debate on such an important measure which was brought before the Senate at approximately a quarter to nine o’clock last night. I trust that the Government will not persist in these tactics but will give both its own supporters and the Opposition adequate opportunity to consider such measures. The Opposition is just as sincere as the Government in its desire to treat these people justly. I trust that the Government will consider my criticism of the bill, particularly in regard to its cumbersome aspects, and introduce improved legislation at an early date in order to assist these men to live as a grateful country expects them to live.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I listened with great attention to the speech of Senator Critchley, and I congratulate him upon his sincere desire to obtain a better deal for the diggers. I do not agree with all his suggestions, but .1 realize that he is sincere, and I am pleased that the Labour party has decided to support the bill. I did not really expect it to do anything else, but in these clays it is not always possible to be certain. “ The honorable senator criticized some aspects of repatriation administration, and I admit that any one who is charged with the responsibility of administering the Repatriation Act is more to be pitied than blamed for any shortcomings. I hope the honorable senator will bts generous enough to admit that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has discharged the duties of his office with more ability and understanding than did previous Ministers who held that portfolio. The two previous Ministers were members of Labour governments, and they did not do much 10 improve the condition of the diggers.
– Be fair!
– I can prove my statement if necessary. I cannot subscribe to the view that the Repatriation Act is a generous one. In some instances it seems that men are generously treated, but I am not concerned with them. I am concerned with the very many others who, over the years, have not received even a semblance of a fair deal. It is not easy to find out why so many hundreds have been passed over without being able to obtain recognition of the justice of their claims. For some reason or other they cannot strike, the right note in order to receive the consideration to which they are entitled.
There are, of course, many anomalies in the act, and I suppose it is impossible to get rid of them all. I do not propose to take up the time of the Senate by discussing them now ; I prefer to discuss them from time to time with the Minister. Those of us who have studied the act know what the anomalies are. Some of them have been corrected, and we hope that, by keening up the fight, we may eventually obtain the sort of act that we want in order to give to ex-servicemen and their dependants the deal we believe they should get. I know that the man who enlisted, and gave his life, gave everything, but those who, as a result of their service overseas, are faced with a lifetime of bad health have also made a tremendous sacrifice for their country. That is why we should try to make the Repatriation Act as nearly perfect as we can, and I agree with Senator Critchley that a consolidation of repatriation legislation would be a great help to those who have to administer it. When we hear of an ex-serviceman who has not been able to get a fair deal from the Repatriation Commission, we generally find that his case does not come within the four corners of the act, and if the Minister were to go outside the provisions of the act he would only make trouble for himself and every one concerned.
There is in the act a provision which was designed to give to the applicant the benefit of any doubt that might exist. This has undoubtedly been of great help to ex-servicemen, but there are still borderline cases. We believed that when we got that provision inserted in the act all doubtful cases would be dealt with satisfactorily, but that has not proved to be so in practice. There is still room for argument before the Appeals Tribunal, and I believe that something should be done to make the section more dependable in its application. In Tasmania, the repatriation system is working very satisfactorily. We have in that State a very fine repatriation hospital which compares more than favourably with those in other places.
– When was it built?
– I prefer not to anwser that question. The population of Tasmania is small, and we know one another better over there. Perhaps that is why it i3 easier to administer the Repatriation Act in Tasmania than in the bigger States. However, even there, the benefit of the doubt is not always given to the ex-serviceman, and there continue to be cases for hearing before the Appeals Tribunal. I once heard Sir Ernest Clark deliver a very fine address before an Anzac Day gathering. He said that, in his opinion, we could best honour the dead by caring for the living. I, too, believe that to be true, and that is why T support this bill. I hope that the present Minister for Repatriation will long continue in bis present job to administer the act.
.- I endorse the protest of Senator Critchley against the way in which this bill is being hurried through the Parliament. This is a very importat measure, and it should be carefully considered. As the bill was initiated in the Senate, and as the Minister in charge of it is a member of the Senate, there is no reason why it should not have been brought before us weeks ago. Why should the Senate have remained in recess for nearly a month after the meeting of the House of Representatives? The Senate is already subject to a good deal of criticism in the press, and this method of dealing with legislation is not calculated to enhance its prestige. Last night, a film was exhibited in the Senate club room. It dealt with industrial conditions, and portrayed one individual who greeted every proposal to instal new machinery with the remark that the machines would make men redundant. Unless this Senate takes its legislative duties more seriously there is a danger that it will become redundant, as many people already believe it to be.
The second-reading speech of the Minister contained a lot of useful information, but it is our duty, as a house of review, to study the proposed legislation with a view to improving it. Senator Critchley suggested that repatriation legislation should be consolidated. I agree, and I suggest further that a repatriation booklet should be published on the same lines as the social services booklet. Such a publication would be very useful, not only to politicians, but :dso to prospective beneficiaries under the act. We know that applicants often find it very difficult to prove war disabilities. I suggest that every person who served in a theatre of war should be regarded as having suffered some degree of disability. I believe that to be so, although the disability may not at first be apparent. Therefore, every one who served in a theatre of war should be granted a nominal pension on his discharge. If that were done it would prevent many difficulties from arising at a later stage. The pension need be only a small one, because the idea would be to make each such person technically a pensioner.
I know that the Minister for Repatriation has a difficult job, and I commend him for his industry and ability. I am sure that he, personally, would be ready to accept many of the suggestions brought to him by honorable senators, but he has to consider the position of his Government. As for pension increases, we must remember that pension rates are relative. If the increases had been based on 1950 values, honorable senators on thi3 side of the chamber would have commended the Government on having done something worthwhile for ex-servicemen. By its inability to stabilize the economy, the Government has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for imposing hardship on persons in receipt of pensions, whether they be social services pensions or war pensions. Pensioners are on fixed incomes. Honorable senators will remember that recently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when speaking in the Senate, referred to the fact that the percentage of age pensioners who have income other than pension is very small indeed. I suggest that the same remark applies also to ex-servicemen who are dependent upon pensions, particularly totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. Because the Government has allowed prices to get out of hand, the people who are in receipt of pensions are being crucified. Whilst increases of pensions are made in each budget that is presented, it is undeniable that the value of the pensions in relation to present-day costs is gradually decreasing. Those who suffered hardships during the war years continue to do so in time of peace.
This bill makes no provision for the increase of pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. When the budget was introduced last year provision was made for the pension to be increased. Had there been no rise in the cost of living from that time until the present time, one could understand the motives of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in not having made similar provision this year. But all honorable senators know that the cost of living has increased by at least 25 per cent, during the last year. Surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that such ex-servicemen should now receive a 25 per cent, increase of pensions. In this connexion, I wish to read to honorable senators an extract from a letter which I have received from the president of the Tasmanian branch of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Australia. The following passage, in my opinion, puts the case of such exservicemen in the proverbial nutshell: -
My executive views with grave concern the omission from the budget of any increase in the pension rate payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, despite, the substantial increase in the cost nf living which has occurred since the last increase was granted. When the special rate for the totally and permanently incapacitated individual was introduced after the 1914-18 war such rate was actually in excess of the basic wage. Now the position is reversed - at the ‘present time this special rate is nearly £3 per week less than the basic wage, and it requires little thought to convey the great hardship which is being placed on these men who have sacrificed their health in the service of their country while serving with the armed forces. It should be realized that if the court secs fit to strike an amount which is regarded as the minimum for economic existence of the individual, surely the pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated should be at least equal, if not more. As it is, it would appear that increases have been granted to all pensioners except totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows, the two most deserving cases of all.
The Opposition does not oppose this bill, because it proposes to confer benefits, small though they may be, on exservicemen. In my opinion, we should aim to provide for ex-servicemen pensions which are greater than the basic wage. Exservicemen who are entitled to pensions have given a lot for their country. In all humanity, we should be prepared to give in return the best that the country can afford, instead of a mere pittance.
– I support the bill. I invite the attention of the Senate to the following words which were used by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the course of the joint Opposition policy speech which he delivered on the 10th November, 1949-
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I contend that the whole course of the repatriation legislation which has been introduced by the Menzies Government vindicates that statement. Honorable senators who consider the record of the Government will be amazed at the particular attention, that it has given to so many matters. As the former president of a large sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and as a member of Legacy, I can personally testify to the human understanding that exists between those organizations and the Repatriation Department. I was somewhat disturbed to hear my friend, Senator Critchley, speaking about the way in which the Government introduced this measure. It was only yesterday that Senator Ashley, who at one time was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, delayed proceedings in this chamber for at least two and a half hours to discuss an adjournment motion concerning coal. The words of that motion were-
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that the Standing Orders provide that an honorable senator may not reflect upon a vote of the Senate. The Senate has already voted upon the adjournment motion moved by Senator Ashley.
– There has been no reflection on the vote of the Senate. The point of order is not upheld.
– I did not expect that it would be upheld.
– Order ! The honorable senator will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The terms of the motion, inter alia, were that the Senate should adjourn until to-morrow morning. I suggest that the motion indicates clearly that honorable senators opposite have not the slightest interest in matters such as social services, which were discussed in the Senate last night, or repatriation benefits. Obviously, they were prepared to defer consideration of those matters until after the debate on the coal position bad been disposed of. It is clear that they are humbugging the Senate. 1 submit that this Government is most punctilious in relation to repatriation matters. The quality of the speeches that have been delivered by honorable senators opposite during this debate indicates that they have studied repatriation matters. As a result they have been able to make quite good speeches. Obviously, they have not been embarrassed in any way because they have not had more time for consideration of this matter.
I can agree with Senator Critchley on only one point of his speech, which is that there is need for a consolidated repatriation act and regulations in order to help all of us through this labyrinth of law. As a practising lawyer, I consider that it is most important that honorable senators should know clearly the whole of our repatriation law. Several honorable senators on this side of the chamber have previously expressed the opinion that our social services legislation should be presented to the public in booklet form. I consider that such a booklet in connexion with repatriation benefits also would be worth while. It is necessary for regulations to be drafted in connexion with repatriation matters. I cannot see that there is any ground for Senator Critchley’s complaint that many injustices are done because of faulty departmental interpretation of the act and the regulations made under it. It seems to me, however, that a booklet such as I have suggested would help considerably, and would perhaps placate a number of people who are not altogether satisfied with the position.
I desire to make only one major point in discussing this bill. I refer to the treatment of country patients by the Repatriation Department. It is well known that after “World War I. a vast Repatriation Department had to be established, with particular reference to medical treatment. The sites of old army hospitals were taken over by the department. Because most of those sites were near the capital cities of the various States, repatriation head-quarters, from a. medical point of view, were in or near those hospitals. Since World War I., however, medical science has progressed tremendously. Most of the doctors who were associated with the first repatriation hospitals have now either retired or died, and a new set of doctors, with experience of World War II. conditions, have taken their place. In the country districts at the present time there are many medical practitioners who served in either World War I. or World War II. I contend that great waste is occurring in the administration of repatriation medical services in the country. For instance, a man who considers that he is entitled to a medical check-up or to repatriation benefits is drafted forward to the capital of the State, after a minor paper war has been fought. For a while, he is kept in one of the repatriation hospitals before being dealt with, and later he is returned to his home in the country. I am not criticizing the standard of medical treatment. I know that the Repatriation Department provides the best treatment that can be obtained in this country. I do say, however, than an injustice is being done to country men. The standard of medical skill and hospital treatment in many country areas to-day is such that the Repatriation Department could well consider the advisability of constituting local boards to deal with local cases. Since the end of World War II. the Commonwealth and. State, governments have implemented widespread soldier settlement schemes. In South Australia, along the River Murray, in the West Coast district, in the South East district and on Kangaroo Island, hundreds of exservicemen have been established on farms. Quite a number of them are undergoing medical treatment and, as the years go on, their ranks will increase. Some are dairy-farmers whose job must bc carried on for seven days a week. When they are compelled to seek their repatriation benefits in the capital cities considerable hardship is imposed upon them. The continuity of their developmental work is interrupted. It is true that, in such cases, their colleagues come to their rescue by forming working bees, but I believe that it should be possible for the Repatriation Department to constitute local medical boards and to provide medical treatment by local exservicemen doctors acting as the depart- ment’s agents. The development of this country depends largely upon decentralization, and I submit that the Repatriation Department could re-orient its system of providing medical service to obviate the necessity for country exservicemen to travel to the cities. If that were done, the ultimate result might well be a substantial saving in the finances of the department, but, more important still, ex-servicemen would no longer have to leave their homes and properties to seek treatment in”-the cities.
I commend the Government for having given honorable senators an opportunity to discuss this very important matter. I trust that Opposition speakers who will follow me will discuss the measure as fully as have their predecessors in this debate. There is no let or hindrance to a frank discussion of repatriation matters and, indeed, such a discussion will be welcomed by the Government. I thank the Minister for Repatriation for the great personal interest that he takes in the work of his department, and the courtesy that he has always shown to me and to my colleagues who have discussed repatriation matters with him. This is a worthy measure, and it should be given a speedy passage.
– I deplore the suggestion that by seeking a full discussion of repatriation matters and social services generally, we on this side of the chamber are delaying or have delayed the implementation of pension increases and other repatriation and social services benefits for which provision is made in this measure and in the Social Services Consolidation Bill that we passed last night. I join with previous speakers from this side of the chamber in protesting against the practice of disregarding the rights of the .Senate that has grown since this Government has been in office. The debates on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and budget papers, and upon the appropriation bills consequent upon the budget, permit a discussion of virtually all phases of human activity; yet the Senate was allowed to remain in recess from the 16th August until this week. This restriction of the time that the Senate may devote to its consideration of the budget proposals may establish a most undesirable precedent. The cost of the Senate is considerable and its treatment by the Government on this occasion must cause it to lose in the minds of the people its importance as a States House or house of review. I believe, therefore, that it is most important that we should protest against this procedure.
Senator Chamberlain and, to a less degree, Senator Laught, introduced political consideration into the discussion. Senator Chamberlain attacked previous Ministers for Repatriation. “We all know that the Repatriation, portfolio is difficult to administer. It is concerned with the human problems of men and women to whom we as a nation owe a very great debt. Indeed, there is no debt that a country should honour more faithfully than its debt to those who suffer from disabilities caused by their war service. It is noteworthy that this measure is before the Senate at a time when, throughout the British Commonwealth, we are celebrating the anniversary of the Battle for Britain. I shall criticize the bill not because of what it contains but because of what it omits. Unfortunately the bill makes no provision for the widows of the men who laid down their lives for their country. At the risk of myself being accused of striking a political note, I remind honorable senators that last year, widows’ pensions and pensions payable to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, were increased. This year the general service pension is being increased. Probably, next year, which will be an election year, there will be a little more for all concerned; but the point I wish to make is that the increases granted last year have already been eaten up by the rising cost of living. Our obligation to ex-servicemen and their dependants is a continuing obligation. The Government’s decision, announced in the 1951-52 budget speech, to increase the pensions and allowances of people who are largely dependent upon those sources of income, does not absolve it of its responsibility to make further increases should the rising cost of living justify such action. However, we find no provision in this legislation to assist blinded pensioners, totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, or those who have had two limbs amputated. They cannot wait for the political wheel to make another turn before their payments are increased. It is a reflection on the responsible authorities that they apparently have lost sight of the solemn promises made to servicemen that, should they lose their lives, their widows and families would be adequately cared for. The ratio of the widows’ pension, and of the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, to the basic wage, has steadily declined. In that way the Government is failing to face up to its responsibility.
I pay a tribute to the work of the Repatriation Department. Earlier this year, I was an inmate of the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital and I can say from my own experience that the administration of that hospital leaves nothing to he desired. The treatment of ex-servicemen and the standard of service and personal attention that is maintained by the staff reflect great credit upon all concerned. That view is shared at least by the other patients in the ward of which I was an inmate. I believe, however, that much has yet to be done in a field that lies beyond the scope of the present act. I refer to the growing problem of war neurosis, and of the “ digger “ who is growing old. Many exservicemen are feeling the effects of their war service as they advance in years. Much thought will have to be given to the financial problem of making the incomes of those people such that they will be able to compete in the struggle for existence. The whole Repatriation Act needs to be streamlined. The system of appeals should be given close attention. Undoubtedly the effluxion of time will bring to the surface deep-seated illnesses in many ex-servicemen. Those men will have to be brought within the provisions of the Repatriation Act, and their cases given favorable consideration.
Senator Laught mentioned the acknowledgment by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of the Government’s great and proud responsibility to ex-servicemen. When Labour was in office we, too. looked upon that task as a proud and great responsibility. We did everything pos- sible to make adequate provision for ex-servicemen and their dependants. The plight of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was brought forcibly to the notice of the Senate in the letter read by Senator Cole. The growing margin between the pension payable to those unfortunate people and the basic wage, in terms of real value, is gravely reducing their standard of living. How increased payments to those individuals can be financed is the Government’s problem ; but it i3 not sufficient to say that provision was made for them last year. Totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows are suffering just as much from rising prices as are the pensioners in other categories who are provided for in this measure. In fact the burden of inflation rests . more heavily upon them than upon the person who can supplement his income by modest earnings. I appeal to the Government to reconsider its decision in relation to the pensions paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows and to grant to them increases of pension rates equivalent to those proposed for base rate pensioners. War pensioners, particularly war widows, are experiencing grave difficulties at this time when the cost of the necessaries of life is steeply mounting. The Prime Minister has said that it is the proud responsibility of the nation to meet the increasing cost of repatriation benefits for those who served the nation in its hour of need. I wholeheartedly agree with the right honorable gentleman. Let the Government not be niggardly in its treatment of them.
I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that war widows are denied the benefit of the concessional wireless listeners’ licence fee granted to aged and invalid persons. This matter probably comes under the purview of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). The extension of that concession to war widows would be a small but nevertheless worthy gesture on the part of the Government. I trust that it will give the matter serious consideration.
Other honorable senators have suggested that a pamphlet should be issued by the Minister for Repatriation setting out the full range of repatriation benefits and the conditions under which they may be obtained. During the regime of the Labour Government, comprehensive pamphlets were issued by the former Labour Ministers for Repatriation, Mr. Frost, and his successor, Mr. Barnard, both of whom laid the foundations of an excellent; system of repatriation administration that has been continued by the present Minister. Such a pamphlet would be of great assistance, not only to ex-servicemen and their organizations, but also to the repatriation committees and social workers. The same remarks apply to the Department of Social Services, which also should issue an up-to-date informative pamphlet setting out the whole range of social services benefits and the conditions attached to their payment. During the last year of office of the Chifley Government a pamphlet of that kind was issued by the Department of Social Services. In view of the many amendments that have been made in social services legislation, a new and up-to-date pamphlet should now be issued.
I find no fault in this bill, except that the proposed increases of pension rates are not sufficiently generous and do not -;over a sufficiently wide field. I have no intention to oppose the measure. I merely say that it is a great, pity that the right of deserving sections of our war pensioners have .been disregarded by the Government.
Senator Critchley very ably submitted a case for a complete survey to be made of appeals to and decisions given by the repatriation appeals tribunals with a view to the stream-lining of procedures. I trust that the Department of Repatriation will undertake a consolidation of the various statutes that govern repatriation matters with a view to the formulation of less cumbersome procedures.
During the last two or three years, because of the progressively increasing cost of living, successive quarterly increases have been made to the basic wage. It is regrettable that the relationship between war pensions and the basic wage has progressively worsened and that war pensioners have had to engage in a constant struggle to make ends meet. Provision should be made for a review of the whole range of war pensions, and the former practice under which totally and .permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen were entitled to a pension equal at least to the basic wage should be reverted to. War widows are entitled to receive a pension which approximates the amount which their husbands would have provided for them had they not lost their lives in the service of their country.
I deplore the fact that the Government has declined to extend to war pensioners, other than those in receipt of base rate pensions, the increases proposed in this bill. If the base rate pensioners are entitled to increased rates, so also are totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows. The Government appears to have adopted some kind of back-door method of adjusting pension rates under which it grants increases to pensioners of certain categories from year to year, but invariably grants increases to pensioners in all categories on the eve of a general election, in this bill it is again playing the game of politics. I appeal to it to realize its responsibilities to those war pensioners whose rights have been overlooked in this bill but who in these days of mounting inflation, require assistance just as much as do the base rate pensioners.
– In common with my colleagues on this side of the chamber, and with that spirit of co-operation which we usually extend to the Government, I do not intend to indulge in a lengthy discussion of this measure. I shall confine my necessary criticism of it to a few brief observations. I, too, deprecate the haste with which the bill is being rushed through the Senate. Senator Laught - I almost unconsciously failed to pronounce the “ t “ at the end of his name and called him Senator “ Laugh “ - has contended that because a formal motion for the adjournment of the Senate was moved by a member of the Opposition yesterday, consideration of this bill was delayed and consequently it must be dealt with expeditiously. I remind him that the Senate was in recess from the 6th August to the 10th September and that the Government has given no reason why honorable senators were not called together much earlier than the 10th September. If the Senate had met at an earlier date we should have been given much more time to discuss this measure which covers a wide field of repatriation benefits and consequently should be given the most careful consideration. The Senate is a non-party House of review. No limit should be applied to the consideration of measures brought before it.
I do not oppose the bill. I am sufficiently generous to believe that honorable senators opposite are sympathetic towards the claims of ex-servicemen. My complaint is that the Government has not made a realistic approach to this matter and to other matters to which it has directed its attention. I do not blame the Minister for Repatriation for that factWhile I join with honorable senators on both sides- of the chamber in paying a tribute to him for the excellent work that he has done on behalf of ex-service men and women, I deprecate the statement made by Senator Laught that he is doing a much better job than was done by his predecessors, who were Labour Ministers. That is a very ungenerous statement, having regard to the excellence of the record of the Minister’s predecessors. Every fair-minded person will agree that all of those who have held the portfolio of Minister for Repatriation, whether they were representatives of the Labour party or the non-Labour parties, have done their utmost in the interests of exservice men and women. I pay a tribute to the excellence of the work done by not only the Minister but also the staff of the Department of Repatriation. Mv requests to the department have invariably been received courteously and have been given expeditious ‘ attention not only by the Minister but also by the department’s most humble employee. It is pleasing that the Minister should receive the commendation of all honorable senators. I am sure that we shall pardon him if. to-night, he finds it necessary to open his bedroom widow to enable him to throw out his chest with pride.
With rn.y usual inn ate modesty I claim that the Australian exserv,npmen and women are without equal in the world and that, because of that fact, they are entitled to receive the best treatment that we can possibly give to them. The value of our assistance to them should not be measured in terms of its cost in pounds, shillings and pence. If war broke out to-morrow ample money would be found to enable the nation to take its part in the conflict. Therefore, there is no reason why ample funds cannot be made available for the repatriation and rehabilitation of ex-service men and women. Whatever the cost may be in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, we should gladly foot the bill. But for the services that were rendered by our fighting men during the dark days of the two world wars, we should not be here to-day. I do not desire my remarks to be regarded us criticism of the officers of the Department of Repatriation, who are required to carry out the provisions of the legislation. Indeed, they would be the first to approve of a measure which provided for more sympathetic treatment to be given to our ex-service men and women. In many instances applicants for repatriation benefits have the greatest difficulty in establishing to the satisfaction of the war pensions tribunals that the disabilities from which they suffer are either war-caused or have been aggravated by war service. The relationships between government departments and members of the public are impersonal. While I have no intention to reflect on the administration of the Repatriation Department, I consider that applicants for repatriation benefit* should be given the benefit of any doubt that may arise about their physical disabilities being: attributable to war service. I consider that the task that confronts an unsuccessful applicant who seeks to have, his case reviewed by an appeal tribunal is altogether too arduous. It should be simplified.
I was astounded by some of the statements that were made by Senator Chamberlain, because I am convinced that the honorable senator is as sympathetic towards ex-servicemen as are other member’s of this chamber. Senator Laught complained that the Opposition had delayed the business of this chamber by seeking a special adjournment of the Senate yesterday to discuss the coal industry. He is the only Government senator who has had the temerity, during this debate, to mention the promises that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949, all of which remain unfulfilled. The right honorable gentleman stated during the 1949 general election campaign that repatriation was a great and grave responsibility, and that repatriation benefits should be maintained. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out last evening, the ratio of pensions to the basic wage that existed when Labour relinquished office in 1949 has not been maintained. The Government claims with pride that, in terms of money, it has treated the pensioners fairly well. Honorable senators opposite should approach a consideration of this matter by comparing the adequacy of the pensions now paid to provide the pensioners with food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities, with the adequacy of pensions in 1949 for that purpose. The percentage of pension to basic wage has decreased from about 40 per cent, in 1949 to about 28 per cent, at present.
Honorable senators opposite will probably claim that the Government is unable to provide sufficient money for larger increases to be granted. I remind them that, by abolishing the land tax, the Government has remitted to the wealthy land-owners of this country from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 annually. The workers will not benefit from the abolition of the land tax. How can the Government reconcile this remission to the wealthy interests with its neglect to increase pensions and allowances payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows? Like the man with the wheelbarrow, the Government has its job in front of it to explain to the people of this country why the wealthy interests have been favoured. What does the Government propose to do to stabilize Australia’s economy? Is it not perfectly obvious to supporters of the Government that increases of wages cause increases of prices? In turn, increased prices result in further increases of wages. This is the vicious circle with which we are confronted. The only realistic manner in which to overcome this state of affairs is to re-introduce Commonwealth prices control.
– I rise to order! There is no mention of prices control in the bill.
– Order ! The point of order has been well taken. I have allowed Senator Sandford a fair amount of latitude, but I was about to direct him to confine his remarks to the bill when Senator Chamberlain rose to order.
– I am sure that the supporters of the Government are grateful for your assistance, Mr. President. The point of order that I raised when Senator Chamberlain was addressing the chamber was rejected. Now the honorable senator’s point of order has been upheld.
– Order ! Does Senator Sandford dispute my ruling?
– No, Mr. President, I am merely drawing attention to it.
– Order ! There is no need for the honorable senator to do so.
– The factor that I have mentioned necessarily has a bearing on the rates of repatriation benefits, as my friend Mr. Neville Chamberlain from Tasmania will soon see.
– Thank you.
– If honorable senators opposite consider that my remarks about the necessity to stabilize the economy of this country are irrelevant they should not be members of this chamber. When it was suggested recently to the Prime Minister that control of prices by the Commonwealth should be reintroduced in order to stabilize our economy, the right honorable gentleman replied that to talk about prices control was only to beat the air.
– That is what the honorable senator has been doing throughout his speech.
– The Prime Minister is most competent to beat the air; indeed, that is all that he has ever beaten.
– Does the honorable senator forget what happened at the last general election?
– The right honorable gentleman made promises that he knew he would not be able to fulfil. Do you belong to the Hollway party, the Norman party, or the McDonald party ?
– Order ! The honorable senator will confine his remarks to the bill, and address the Chair.
– I realize that my last remark was out of order, Mr. President; but Senator George Rankin asked for what he received.
– Order! Senator Sandford 13 aggravating his original offence. He has the ability to debate the bill, and is only doing himself an injustice by his present attitude.
– I repeat that I have no desire to delay the passage of this measure. Indeed, I welcome any increase of repatriation benefits. However, I emphasize that had the Government taken steps to stabilize our economy, the repatriation benefits now payable would be of greater value to the recipients. I stress, also, that had land taxation been retained the Government would have derived from that source another £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 a year with which to provide adequate increases of repatriation benefits, including those payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and war widows. However, I shall not labour the matter further. The Government has done a grave injustice to honorable senators by rushing this legislation through the chamber. I hope that it will take steps to correct the anomalies that I have mentioned. Although I applaud the Minister for Repatriation for hi3 courtesy, tact, and attention to repatriation affairs, I am unable to support the hope that has been expressed by Senator Chamberlain that the Minister will remain in office for a long time to come. I regard the results of recent by-elections as a certain indication that the people of this country would welcome an opportunity to again place Labour in control of the Treasury bench.
Senator HENDRICKSON (Victoria) senatoi-3 on both sides of the chamber are disappointed that the bill does not make provision for greater benefits to be paid to the recipients of repatriation pensions -and allowances. One form of repatriation benefit is payable to an ex-member of the forces as compensation for injuries that he sustained whilst engaged on war service. In some instances those injuries do not prevent the recipient from engaging in his normal employment. For example, a war caused disability would not interfere with the work that I perform. Indeed, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is a limbless ex-serviceman himself, but that disability does not prevent him from discharging the duties of his office. On the other hand, many totally incapacitated ex-members of the forces have no means of livelihood for themselves and their families other than the repatriation benefits that they receive. If any section of the community should have an increase in pensions it is 1 hat section which consists of exservicemen who are totally incapacitated. I am sure that those pensioners who are able to do some class of work in order to contribute to their upkeep would not mind my saying that the Government should have increased pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen even if it had increased no others. These men depend completely on what the Parliament gives them in order to live.
With other Opposition senators I am very disappointed with the performance of the Government during the last two and a half years. The money that pensioners received in 1949 purchased much more than it will purchase now. Any one who would suggest that a great job was not done by Mr. Frost as Minister for Repatriation and by Mr. Barnard, his successor, has never had much to do with repatriation matters. Since returning from World War I., I have witnessed many of the anomalies <hat have existed under the administration of various Repatriation Ministers. Prior to World War II., governments refused assistance to many soldiers who had suffered war injuries in World War I., and left them to carry a swag on the road. The soldier who has lost his health in the service of the nation can never be adequately compensated. I know the job that the Minister for Repatriation has to do and I do not wish to take any credit from him. He is a limbless soldier himself and has always done what he could for ex-servicemen. However, lie should do what he can to ensure that the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to put purchasing power into the fi will be. fulfilled. Such notion would be of great assistance to pensioners. If the present trend continues the increase in the cost of living will be much greater next year. Urgent action will have to be taken if the Government is not to repudiate its obligations to ex-servicemen.
When we returned from World War I. many of us were young and fit and did not notice the deficiencies that had resulted from the privations of those years. We were glad to get back to civil life and accepted our discharges without applying for a pension. Some of the men who fought in that war and who are now about 55 years of age have found that they are not physically equal to their fellow citizens who did not go to the Avar. They are finding it very difficult to prove to the repatriation tribunals that their disabilities are due to warservice. The fact that a man has been compelled to live under the sky in a bitterly cold winter in France in two or three feet of mud for weeks at a time must affect him in later life. I consider that an all-party committee should be established in order to ensure that these people receive justice. When they were accepted for military service they were 100 per cent. fit. Now they are not as well as their fellow citizens because of the privations of those years. Without wishing to take away any credit from those who served in World War II. I say that the conditions in France during World War I. were very much worse than conditions anywhere during the second conflict. A returned soldier whom I have known for 30 years is totally incapacitated and up to February of this year he received a recreational travelling allowance of £10 a month. Since February that allowance has been stopped. I do not know whether he was examined by a horse doctor or a doctor of medicine or a dog doctor, but whichever kind of a doctor he was he declared that this man’s health had improved so much that he could now do without the travelling allowance. I do not blame the Minister or the officers of his department. But any one could see that this nian is almost unable to stand up when he talks on the telephone. ‘ He spends most of his time in bed. He is about 62 years of age. Yet the doctor has said that he is improving and that the allowance should not be paid. I can give the Minister the name of the man concerned. The present Minister and the previous Ministers for Repatriation have always given favorable consideration to the matters that I have referred to them.
I have no further criticism of the bill but J look forward to the Government’s promises bearing fruit next year. I hope that the Government will restore value ro the fi and that instead of having to increase soldiers and war widows’ pensions next year it will be able to announce that because of the sane administration of the Menzies Government so much value has come back to the fi that pensions will not need to be increased. If that happens the Government will gain the confidence of the soldiers. Last year the Minister said that the returned soldiers’ organizations were quite happy about everything that had been done by the Government. I do not know “who told him that. I assure him that those organizations which I visit are dissatisfied with the concessions that have been given to exservicemen. However, I give credit to the Ministers who have been prepared to take the whacks from people like the old war horse, Mrs. Vasey, and other people who have lived on politics in order to embarrass governments. But I blame governments for not ensuring that men who bad_ served their country shall receive necessary assistance. The Government has proposed the expenditure of f200,000,000, for the purpose of prosecuting another war. The best action that it could take in order to stimulate the patriotism of the men who will have to fight that war is to ensure that those who have already made sacrifices for their country are adequately provided for. There may then be some justification for the expenditure of such an enormous amount as £200,000,000 on another war.
I have no hesitation in saying that some relief will be given to ex-servicemen by this bill, and, therefore, I wish it a speedy passage through the chamber.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) 1 3.41]. - I rise to support the bill, and should like to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the achievements which it represents. I deprecate the fact, as other Opposition senators have done, that the bill does not go far enough. I think that I should dissociate myself from the remarks of Senator Hendrickson concerning the president of the War Widows Guild. Irrespective of what political party has been in power, Mrs. Vasey, has battled for war widows and has been a thorn in the flesh of every Minister for Repatriation. Only a couple of days ago an article by Mrs. Vasey in which she attacked this bill because it did not provide sufficient relief for the war widows appeared. I feel sure that that article must have escaped the honorable senator’s notice, or he would not have spoken in that way of one who has done a great deal to help war widows in their fight for themselves and their children.
I wish to support the remarks of Senator Hendrickson concerning the treatment of ex-servicemen of World War I. During the last few years I have come in contact with a number of these men who, at the time of their discharge, wanted only to get out of the services quickly. The whole character of World War I. was vastly different from that of World War II. When men enlisted on the first occasion they were absent from their country for four or five years and when they returned they wanted to get off the troopships as quickly as they could. They wanted to dispense with formalities and get back to civilian life. In doing that they did themselves a grave injustice, as the passage of the years has shown. Many ex-servicemen between 50 and 60 years of age have now found that the experiences of those years have told against their health and they have found it difficult, after 30 years, to find independent witnesses who could prove that their submissions to the department are correct. It is most difficult to secure the fresh evidence which is needed to support their appeals for pensions. These men do not want something for nothing, but the majority of them have family responsibilities. They are anxious to ensure that when they die their widows and families will be provided for. It is not the value of the war widow’s pension that matters so much us the services that are associated with it. In actual CaSh there is not much difference between a war widow’s pension and a civilian widow’s pension, but there is a great difference between the rights attaching to each pension, particularly if a war widow has dependent children. It is important to the children of a deceased ex-serviceman that his death should be acknowledged as being due to war service, if that be the case, because they are then eligible to receive various benefits to which they would not otherwise be entitled. I know that the Minister is sympathetic, but the decision in such matters is in the hands of the tribunals appointed for the purpose. It is often very difficult, after a lapse of 30 years, to obtain witnesses capable of giving fresh evidence before such tribunal. Some of them, like the applicants themselves, may be in failing health, whilst others, who might have been able to throw some light on the case, have died. I have a close knowledge of this matter because two of my sisters are widows. One has been classed as a war widow, and the case of the other is not yet decided. However, I approach this matter, not with any personal motive, but with a desire to help the many thousands of ex-servicemen’s families which are closely affected.
I regret that no increase of pension is to be granted to war widows. They appreciate the increase that they received last year, but it has been already swallowed up by the increased cost of living. The Minister said that, in certain instances, war widows could be treated in repatriation hospitals. I am pleased to hear that, because it is something that we fought for years to get. The Minister said that they could be treated in the hospitals if room were available, but I cannot visualize the time when there would not be room, unless another war should break out.
– No room is available in the repatriation hospital in Tasmania.
– Then I should like to know whether any provision has been made for the treatment of war widows in civilian hospitals at the expense of the Repatriation Department. 1 do not know the position in other States, but in Western Australia war widows are not treated as outpatients at repatriation hospitals. In order to give them treatment it is necessary to go through the formality of admitting them as in-patients, perhaps only for a day. At the repatriation hospitals there are excellent clinics for the treatment of out-patients, and I can see no reason why war widows should not bc: allowed to attend the clinics as outpatients.
We have excellent repatriation hospitals in. Western Australia, and I should like more use to be made of them for the treatment of ex-servicemen. At the present time, ex-servicemen who fall ill, and cannot, perhaps for some technical reason, prove that their illness is due to war service, must go to an ordinary public hospital for treatment, perhaps to the exclusion of civilians in need of treatment. I know one man who served overseas for seven years in the two world wars, but who now, when he has fallen ill, cannot receive treatment at a repatriation hospital. Other men who were attached to head-quarters staff in Australia, and never slept away from their own homes, have been admitted to repatriation hospitals to be treated for ulcers. I should like the Minister to arrange for all ex-service men and women to receive treatment in repatriation hospitals. If their disability is accepted as being due to war service they are eligible for treatment in repatriation hospitals now. I believe that, even if their disability is not so accepted, they should still be treated in repatriation hospitals, but they could then be required to pay for the treatment if they are able to do so. That would relieve pressure on public hospitals, and it would have the advantage of giving ex-service men and women the benefit of being treated in con.genial surroundings among their former colleagues. It need not cost the department any more, but it would mean a great deal to the patients.
I hope that the Repatriation Commission will give more sympahetic treatment to ex-servicemen of World War I., who are becoming fewer every day. If we look at the death notices in the newspapers we must be impressed by the number of ex-servicemen between 50 and 60 years of age who are passing away. Although it cannot be definitely proved, there seems to be no doubt that their deaths have been hastened by their war experiences, when they were subjected to the severe climatic conditions in Europe, and sometimes to the effects of gas.
I congratulate the Minister upon having extended the education benefit to children of twelve years of age. Secondary education often begins at the age of twelve, and it is proper that this provision should be made for the children. I hope for the Minister’s own sake that the political fate of his two predecessors will not overtake him. His has become known as the suicide portfolio. We know that it is impossible to please every one, but a Minister can at least try to do justice to all.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to do what he can to abolish the means test as it applies to service pensioners, or to burntout soldiers, as they are called. There is much talk now about the abolition of the means test over the whole field of social services, and I suggest that we might very well start with service pensioners. Many ex-servicemen who have reached the age of 60 years find that they either cannot work at all, or that they can no longer work as they used to; yet it is sometimes impossible to prove that their condition is due to war service. I have here particulars of a man whose pension number is X25122. He was a prisoner of war in Si am, where he contracted malaria, and had 48 attacks of the disease. He also suffered from dysentry, cholera and diphtheria, and for six months both his arms were paralyzed. He later suffered from hookworm and pneumonia, and from a strained back. Upon his return to Australia in October, 1945, he was awarded a pension of £1 10s. a fortnight because of the hookworm, malaria and general disabilities. On the 5th September, 1945, his pension was reduced to 15s. a fortnight, and his appeal was disallowed. In October, 194S, there was a general increase of pensions, and this man’s pension rose to 16s. 6d. a fortnight. He became ill in January, 1949, and in February of that year was a patient in Dawes Road Military Hospital, where he remained for two months. In May, 1949, he obtained employment al the Islington railway workshops. In June, 1949, because of a general increase of pension rates, his pension was increased to £1 2s. a fortnight. He again entered Dawes Road Hospital in December, 1949, for one month, and was released in a complete body plaster. On the 8th December, 1949, he was granted a pension of £10 12s. a fortnight. He was fitted with a back support, and declared fit for work by the Repatriation Department. He returned to the Islington workshops, but the medical officer for the Railways Department, Dr. Black, declared him to be unfit for work, and he was dismissed. On the 3rd August, 1950, his pension was cut to £4 Ss. a fortnight. A little later, he obtained light, casual employment in a rubber firm at Gawler. He appealed against the reduction of pension, and the result was that he received the 100 per cent, rate, making his pension £7 a week, on the 21st December, 1950. He was taken ill again on the 7th July, 1951. The repatriation doctor, whose name I do not wish to state unless the Minister desires me to do so, sent reports and medical certificates to the Repatriation Department, through the Social Services Department, which resulted in a new allocation of totally and permanently incapacitated pension nine months later. On the 3rd March last his pension was increased to £17 10s. a fortnight. That was the first time he had received the full total and’ permanent incapacity pension. He continued to report at Keswick for some weeks. X-rays were taken and the doctors decided on a spinal operation, to which the man agreed, but as there is no successful surgical treatment in such cases, an operation was not performed. He was sent to the Adelaide employment office but was taken ill again on the 12th May. A doctor was called and reports were sent to the department. On the 17th July his pension was reduced from the total and permanent incapacity rate to the general rate of £7 a week. He has since applied for reconsideration of his pension, but the application has been rejected. I ask the Minister to make a special effort to investigate this case in order to see whether the evidence which was taken by the appeal board cannot be reconsidered. Apparently, some one in authority has the idea that this man, who was once encased in plaster and who must now wear back supports, is capable of earning a living. He has a wife and children. In my opinion he would be able to do only the lightest kind of work, if any. On each occasion that he has returned to work his health has broken down and he has had to go back to hospital for medical treatment.
– in reply - I shall be very glad to investigate the case mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty. I thank honorable senators on both sides of the chamber for the manner in which the bill has been received and for the way in which the debate has proceeded. I thank them, too, for their assistance in getting the bill through the Senate. No time limit was placed on the debate,, but naturally every Minister likes to have his bills passed as quickly as possible. That was particularly true in this instance, for reasons that are obvious. I also appreciate the congratulatory remarks that have been made about the officers of my department. I fully agree with those remarks. I have always found such officers to be a grand body of men and women. They are loyal, co-operative, and willing to give of their best. I take no credit for the fact that they are so, because they are public servants. I am sure that they would give- similar assistance and loyalty to other Ministers of the Crown and that they have done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I appreciate the kind remarks that have been said about me. In the hurly-burly of politics it is very nice to receive an occasional pat on the shoulder instead of the usual kick in the pants.
Senator. Critchley and other honorable senators have referred to the plight of the 1914-1S war pensioners. It is true that it is most difficult to link up a disability of comparatively recent origin with a war which occurred’ more than 30 years ago. I agree with honorable senators, who have said that after the 1914-18 war’ ended many servicemen were concerned only to get out of the armed forces as. quickly as possible. There were at that time insufficient facilities for medical examinations and for the recording of results of such examinations on medical history sheets. However, we have learned by experience. The ex-servicemen with the best medical history sheets are those who were prisoners of war during World War II. After their liberation they were thoroughly medically examined. Of a. total of approximately 12,000. about 10,700 have received full medical examination, so that a clear picture of their state of health at the time of their discharge is available.
The Repatriation Department is. doing its best for the ex-servicemen of the 1914-1S war. At the present time 145,831 of those ex-servicemen are receiving pensions, whilst 377,166 ex-servicemen of World War II. are in receipt of pensions. Yet the total sum paid to each group is practically the same. The total of pensions paid to the ex-servicemen of World War I. is £14,513,000 a year, whereas the total paid to a much greater number of ex-servicemen of World War II., is £15,6S3,000. It will therefore be seen that most pensioners in the 1914-18 war group receive comparatively high rates of pension.
I shall be pleased to investigate various other matters referred to during the debate and of which I have taken note, particularly the position of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I think that every member of this Par.liament has the greatest sympathy for this group of pensioners, and also for war widows who have children. I assure honorable senators that the Governmet has not been ungenerous in its treatment of those two groups of pensioners. .During my second-reading speech last night, I pointed out that a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen -will receive a pension of £10 10s. 6d. . a week when this bill becomes law. Admittedly,, that sum is not equal to the basic wage,, but. it should be remembered that, other benefits go with the pension. For instance, such persons do not pay taxes. When those factors are taken into account, it will be. found that the pension has a greater value than it would appear to have at first sight.
It has been suggested that the total and permanent incapacity pension should be equal to the basic wage. 1 think that ex-servicemen on both sides of the chamber will agree that exservicemen’s organizations have always kept strictly away from any link-up of pensions with the basic wage, I suggest that the C series index is a. more reliable indication of the trend of costs than is the basic wage, because, from time, to time, prosperity loadings have been added to the basic -yage. In 1920, when the first repatriation legislation was introduced, the C series index figure was 1,022. At that ti.me the special rate pension, or the total and permanent incapacity pension, was £4 a week. By last May the index figure had risen to 2,098, or slightly more than double the 1920 figure. The total and permanent incapacity pension for a man with a wife and children was then £8 15s. a week, and it will be £10 10s. 6d. a week when this bill is passed…
This Government, in common with the previous Government, appreciates that a widow with children is much more deserving of a high rate of pension than is a widow who has no children. For that reason, the domestic allowance was introduced. When this bill is passed, a widow with three children, two of whom are attending school, will receive a pension of £10 17s. a week. I do not think that it can be said that the Government has been ungenerous or unsympathetic in its treatment of either totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen or war widows with children.
Senator Laught has suggested that local repatriation boards should be set up. That is a matter which has received a great deal of consideration by the Repatriation Department. As most honorable senators are aware, there are local repatriation medical officers from whom ox-servicemen who are entitled to war pensions may receive medical attention. Such ex-servicemen may choose from a panel of doctors. War widows, totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and the 100 per cent, rate pensioners are entitled’ to free medical treatment in respect of all sicknesses. In addition, there are local repatriation committees, although I admit that such committees do not take the place of boards.
– T referred more particularly to medical boards.
– Yes. I am coming to that matter. The department has considered the establishment of such boards, but is of the opinion that it would not be practicable to do so. The relevant files would have to be sent from a capital city to a country district, and it would be necessary for the board to travel from the city to the country, or for it to be appointed on the spot. If boards were appointed in country districts, difficulties would no doubt arise because of the fact that different methods of approach would be adopted in the various areas. At the present time there is a more or less uniform approach throughout the States. I have endeavoured to institute such a system in Queensland, where distances are very great, but a trial tribunal at Townsville proved that it would be most difficult to make the scheme work successfully, and it was abandoned. I have taken a note of other matters that have been raised by honorable senators, and I shall be pleased to give consideration to them.
In conclusion I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the whole repatriation organization in this country has been highly complimented by Mr. Scott, an official of the United Kingdom Ministry of Pensions. The following is a newspaper report of what Mr. Scott said at Geelong on the 5th of this month -
Australian ex -servicemen had one of the most beneficial pension schemes in the world, a representative of the British Ministry of Pensioner” said here to-day.
He is Mr. B. C. Scott, who is touring Australia to meet British war pensioners.
Tie paid to-day that the Australian Repatriation Commission was more “open-handed” willi pensions than the British Ministry. “ Australia really looks after its soldiers,” ho said.
British pensioners in Australia had complained to him of the inadequacy of their scheme compared with the Australian system..
Mr. Scott said the Repatriation Commissionwas more liberal with pensions for disabilities, which followed war injuries.
That was entirely unsolicited, and I. quote it for what it is worth.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without, amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs) f4.19] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal features of this bill are, for the most part, of an administrative nature. The act already provides that excisable spirits may be entered through the customs for home consumption by the distiller or, alternatively, by the owner. This bill contemplates making the person who clears the spirits responsible for the payment of the duty. The distiller will remain answerable for the duty on spirits whilst they are in his licensed distillery, but his obligation will be appreciably eased, as I have just indicated.
Ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth it has been customary to collect duty at the rate in force at the time of entry for home consumption. A redrafting of the relative sections makes this practice legally clear, and conforms with procedures under the Customs Act, and under an excise bill which will come before the Senate later to-day. It is also clearly stated that duty must be paid before the entry for home consumption is passed.
A further clause in the bill proposes, without destroying other provisions in the act for the protection of the revenue, to afford distillers a measure of relief from responsibility for the safe custody of excisable spirits after delivery from their control to the control of other persons. This will be done by placing a responsibility on the person who had actual control or custody of spirits at the time when they are lost, pillaged or otherwise not accounted for satisfactorily. For many years past, the department had depended upon a regulation under the Excise Act for recovery of damages in respect of spirits unaccounted for, but the regulation was shown to have exceeded the terms of the act. The insertion in the Distillation Act of terms similar to the invalid regulation will establish the department’s right to reintroduce a timehonoured practice considered fundamentally necessary to safeguard the revenue. In addition, the bill will discontinue in law, an obsolete system, already discontinued in practice, whereby the sum of money recoverable from distillers for spirits short-produced from a stated quantity of raw material was assessed. A simpler method is substituted. The distiller, moreover, will not be legally compelled, as hitherto, to suspend his operations until the claim is dealt with, but may be given permission to continue distilling without interruption. The rest of the bill’s provisions are only drafting measures.
– The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. hi committee:
– Can the Minister give a further explanation, of the reference in his second-reading speech to the responsibility for loss of spirits. The Minister said -
A further clause in the bill proposes, without destroying other provisions in the act for the protection of the revenue, to alford distillers n measure of relief from responsibility for the safe custody of excisable spirits after delivery from their control to thu control of other persons. This will be clone by placing u responsibility on the person who had actual control or custody of the spirits at the time when they are lost pillaged or otherwise not accounted for satisfactorily.
I should also like to know something more about the invalid regulation to which the Minister referred. How was that invalidity revealed, and what is the effect of the provision that is now included in the bill?
– Section 48 of the principal act has been redrafted to make the owner of excisable spirits responsible for the payment of the duty in cases where he enters the goods for home consumption. Previously, the department looked to the distiller for the duty in all instances. Opportunity is taken to harmonize the Distillation Act with the terms of the Customs Act by stating clearly that the appropriate rates of duty payable shall be those in force upon entry of the goods for home consumption, and that payment shall be effected before entry is passed. Sections 49 and 50 of the act, which are obsolete, are repealed. A new section 49 is inserted to make the person who had actual custody or control of excisable spirits responsible for “damages” if the spirits are not safely kept or are not accounted for satisfactorily. This provision is fundamentally necessary in the interests of the revenue «and it takes the place of a regulation upon which the department had previously relied but which was recently successfully challenged. In response to the honorable senator’s second inquiry, I inform him that there was a recent High Court case in which, although the authority of the department to proceed along those lines was not challenged, the regulation was held to be ultra vires the section of the act under which it was issued. The act has been amended to cover the loophole exposed by the High Court case.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatiives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan), read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be nowread a second time. Ithas been deemed advisable to amend the Excise Act 1901-1949, on the lines indicated in the bill now presented for the consideration of honorable senators. For obvious reasons tobacco producers are required to furnish each year a return of leaf produced, disposed of or held on the farm. An unsatisfactory position has existed in that a grower of tobacco, who might have been holding a carry-over stock of leaf from an earlier season, was not compelled by law to render an annual return to the customs authorities giving details of his transactions and stock, if.no leaf was produced by him in a subsequent year. The proposed amendment will rectify this discrepancy.
The Excise Act permits excisable goods to bo entered for home consumption by the manufacturer or by the owner, but as the law now stands the manufacturer is ultimately liable for the duty. This bill aims to transfer that responsibility to the owner of the goods after the goods have passed beyond the control of the manufacturer. In a rigid legal souse excise duty was attachable to excisable goods upon their manufacture, although in practice collections were made at the rate ruling when the goods were cleared from the customs. The bill states in definite terms that the rates of duty to be applied shall be those in force at the time of entry for home consumption. Furthermore, it is made clear that duty must be paid before the entry is passed. In this connexion, the conditions will be uniform with statutory requirements under the Customs Act and thus will harmonize practices within different branches of the department.
In addition, whilst preserving other revenue safeguards, the amendment seeks to incorporate in the act a section which will establish responsibility for the payment of damages by the person who had actual control or custody of goods liable to excise duty when the goods were lost, pillaged or otherwise not satisfactorily accounted for. Previously, reliance had been placed on a regulation which, after 80 years of operation, had been found to be invalid on the ground that it exceeded the terms of the act. The proposed amendment will restore the status quo which is considered essential in the interests of the revenue. The proposals are virtually machinery measures. 1 commend the bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition has no criticism of the measure to offer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to effect a number of changes, mainly of a machinery nature, in the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946. That act was passed to give effect in Australia to the recommendations of a British Commonwealth telecommunications conference held in London in 1945 with a view to proposing measures for promoting and co-ordinating the telecommunication services of the British Commonwealth and Empire. The conference recommended the transference of these services to national ownership and control, and the plan put forward with this end in view was that national bodies should be set up in each of the British Commonwealth countries to take over and operate the then existing services, which at that time were mainly operated by commercial organizations. The conference also recommended that a central representative body, to be known as the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, should be established to co-ordinate the activities of the national bodies. These recommendations were subsequently approved by the governments of the countries concerned, which are referred” to in the conference proposals and the subsequent legislation as the partner governments. The partner governments under the arrangements as originally brought into operation were the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Southern Rhodesia. The Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 provided for the establishment of the Australian Overseas Telecommunications Commission as the Australian national body for the purposes of this scheme. The act also authorized the execution on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia of an overall agreement providing for the establishment of the inter-governmental machinery necessary to bring the scheme ns a whole into operation.
Some of the amendments proposed in this bill are submitted with a view to providing statutory authority for changes which it has been necessary to make in the inter-governmental machinery. The other amendments relate to the domestic administration of the 1946 act. The amendments of the former group have been necessitated by constitutional developments within the British Commonwealth, and by practical considerations which the collective experience of the national bodies during the past few years has shown it to be necessary to take into account. The amendments of the second group are proposed in the light of experience in the administration of the principal act within Australia.
Dealing with the amendments in the order in which they are. proposed in the bill, I come first to those that relate to the intergovernmental machinery. It was originally contemplated that this machinery should be established under the form of agreement set out in the first schedule to the principal act, and section 7 of the act authorized the execution of an agreement in that form on behalf of the Australian Government. Following the enactment of the 1946 legislation, however, it became clear that the original agreement was not sufficiently compre hensive or elastic in its provisions. Constitutional developments within the British Commonwealth made it apparent that provision would have to be made for the admission of new partner governments, and as a corollary it was thought proper to provide also for the withdrawal of partner governments from the partnership. Moreover from a financial standpoint, it was seen that certain changes were necessary, and there were one or two matters of administrative detail upon which it was agreed that some recasting of the original agreement would be appropriate. The changes as a whole were the subject of lengthy consultation between partner governments, and the proposals now embodied in the bill before honorable senators represent the unanimous conclusions of the partner governments on these matters. Statutory authority for these changes is sought in clauses 4 and 12 and in the three schedules to the bill.
Clause 4 proposes the repeal of section 7 of the principal act and the insertion in its stead of the proposed new section set out in clause 4. The new section authorizes the execution on behalf of the Australian Government of an agreement and protocol executed in London by representatives of the partner governments on the 11th May, 1948. This agreement, which is set out in the first schedule, is substantially identical with the agreement to which Australia’s adherence was authorized by section 7 of the principal act, the differences consisting mainly of new provisions to authorize changes in the partnership and changes in the financial arrangements between the national bodies. The protocol qualifies the agreement in certain particulars to which, insofar as they affect Australia’s position, I shall refer presently. In view of the nature of the changes, which, as I have said, have their origin in constitutional developments within the British Commonwealth, I think honorable senators will hardly need to be persuaded that they are sensible and necessary, and I hope that no difficulty will be found in approving them. “When the overall agreement set out in the first schedule was entered into, the view had been accepted by all the partner governments that the financial arrangements contemplated in clause 7 of the third schedule to the agreement would, not work out satisfactorily in practice. At that stage, however, it had not been possible to decide what changes might best be made, and in the circumstances it was decided that the agreement should be qualified by the second article of the protocol, by which the partner governments declared themselves to be not committed to the terms or principles of clause 7 of the third schedule to the agreement. Since then, the position has been comprehensively examined, and new arrangements which are acceptable to all the partner governments have been agreed upon. These have been embodied in a redraft of clause 7 of the third schedule to the agreement, the terms of which are set out in the second schedule to the bill. I do not propose to take up time by going over the paragraphs of the new clause in detail, but I can assure honorable senators that they have been carefully examined by the Government’s expert advisers, who are satisfied that they provide a workable and equitable basis for the financial relationships of the national bodies. Very briefly, the principle which the clause establishes is that the cost of maintaining the common-user system of submarine cables and radio services, through which the British Commonwealth telecommunications system is operated, shall be shared by the national bodies in proportion to their net annual revenues, subject to certain definitions and adjustments which have been worked out on a’ basis acceptable to all the countries concerned. Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section 7, covered by clause 4, will approve the adoption of these arrangements, to which the assent of the Australian Government has already been signified.
Sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 7 will similarly approve a number of amendments to the second schedule to the agreement as executed on the 11th May. 1948. These are minor machinery amendments, their purpose being to vary the arrangements under which remuneration is paid to the chairman of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board and to change the title of the board’s chief executive officer from “ Director-General “ to “ Secretary-General “. Under the new arrangements the chairman of the board will receive a remuneration of £2,500 per annum, and, where the occupant of the office normally resides outside the United Kingdom, an additional overseas allowance of £1,000 per annum. In its original form, the relevant provision fixed the salary of the chairman at a fiat rate of £3,500 per annum. The overseas allowance provided for in the new arrangements is payable only if and as long as the partner governments consider it to be appropriate in any particular case. There need, I suggest, be no objection to th es, changes, in which all the partner governments have concurred. The amendments necessary to give them statutory recognition so far as Australia is concerned are set out in the third schedule to the bill.
Summarizing my remarks so far, I can therefore say that the amendments proposed in clause 4 and in the schedules to the bill in no way vary the principles established by the 1946 legislation. The changes, though important, are all essentially of a machinery nature, and have been approved both in their aims and in their terms by all the partner governments. In the interests, of intergovernmental co-operation within the British Commonwealth of Nations, it is clearly desirable that Australia should fall into line. By signifying its acceptance of the changes, the Government has, in fact, already done so. The bill gives statutory recognition to this action, and I hope that honorable senators will in the circumstances feel able to give to these provisions of the measure their approval.
Turning now to the proposed amendments relating to the domestic administration of the 1946 act, I may say that these have been framed in the light of practical experience of the administration of the act since it came into operation five and a half years ago. They are, for the most part, of a minor nature. Like the proposed amendments which I have already mentioned, they do not vary any of the principles established by the 1946 act, which, I remind honorable senators, was introduced by a previous Labour Government. I shall now comment briefly on the proposed amendments in this second group. The first of the proposed amendments of this group affects sub-section (3.) of section 18 of the principal act, which prescribes the conditions under which persons may be admitted to the service of the commission. The object of the change is to enable the commission to accept passes at the leaving certificate examination, and other school-leaving examinations conducted by public examining authorities, as passes for the purpose of admission to its service. The change is proposed to be effected by recasting sub-section (3.) in the form set out in clause 5. As sub-section (3.) stands al present, the commission is required to conduct a prescribed entrance examination for the admission of officers to its service. The same entrance examination must be conducted in all States. It is the opinion of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers that this requirement would not be satisfied by following the practice of the Commonwealth Public Service of accepting the results of papers submitted by candidates for the leaving certificate and other school-leaving examinations. Under the conditions which have prevailed during recent years, it has proved extremely difficult to persuade young men who have obtained the leaving certificate to sit for the additional examination which sub-section (3.) requires. The commission has consequently been placed at a special disadvantage in the recruiting of junior officers “to its staff.
In order to place the commission upon the same footing as other official and private organizations which recruit at the school leaving standard, proposed new sub-section (3.) provides that examinations conducted by the universities or other public examining authorities may bc specified in regulations made under the act as appropriate entrance examinations for the purposes of the act. As the leaving certificate and other school leaving examinations are now widely accepted as entrance examinations by public authorities, including the Commonwealth Public Service, I suggest that this is a reasonable proposal. It will certainly not lower the entrance standard for admission to the commission’s service, and it will not deprive the commission of its power to hold a separate Australia-wide entrance examination if and when conditions make it possible to follow that course.
The object of the next proposed amendment, which is contained in clause 6, is to authorize the recognition of service with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited prior to service with the commission for purposes of eligibility for long service furlough. When the commission was established in 1946 it took over from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited the employees who were then engaged in the telecommunications services operated by the company. Although the rights of some of those employees to long service furlough had been secured to them by earlier agreements between the company and the Commonwealth, about 440 others came to the commission without fully established furlough rights. Those employees had, from time to time, requested the company to grant furlough rights to them, and some time prior to their transfer to the commission they were given an assurance that the company had under consideration a long service furlough scheme. Not long after their transfer to the commission, the company’s scheme was, in fact, introduced. Those employees were taken over by the commission under the provisions of sub-section (12.) of section IS of the principal act, which directed that in determining their conditions of employment the commission should take into consideration any pension, superannuation, retiring allowance or furlough rights that they had while with the company. Accordingly, they represented to the commission that they would have been granted furlough rights if they had continued with the company, and urged that their service with the company prior to their transfer to the commission should be recognized retrospectively for furlough purposes. That claim was examined by a committee which was appointed by the Postmaster-General of the day, and a recommendation that the claim should be granted was made to and approved by the Government that was then in office. The present Government has since confirmed the approval. The proposals contained in clause 6’ will give effect to that approval. It is proposed that furlough shall be granted in accordance with the scale laid down in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act for employees of Commonwealth authorities generally, and the cost will be borne by the commission. I point out that all employees of the commission, as employees of a Commonwealth authority, are eligible for furlough under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act as from the dates upon which their service with the commission is commenced.
The proposal embodied in clause 6 is that service with the company should be recognized back to the 8th May, 1922. That date is the logical starting point, as it was the date upon which the company took over from the Commonwealth the operation of the Commonwealth radio service. In keeping with principles recognized under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, clause 6 also incorporates provisions to authorize recognition of prior service with Commonwealth or State instrumentalities for furlough purposes. “When the company took over the Commonwealth radio service on the Sth May, 1922, it also took over a number of employees who were previously engaged in civil and defence radio services in the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territories. Subsection (3.) of proposed new section 18a provides that their service in those employments shall be recognized.
Representations were also made to the commission to recognize, for furlough purposes, service with Cable and Wireless Limited, the other company whose telecommunication services were taken over by the commission under the principal act. Those representations were very carefully examined by the committee that made recommendations in regard to the former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the matter came before the Government for consideration. The position of the former employees of Cable and Wireless Limited differed from that of the employees of the other group, in that the cable staff had no actual or prospective furlough rights at the date of their transfer to the commission, and there appeared to be no statutory basis upon which the company could be regarded as an “ authority “ of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. A further aspect of the matter was that those employees had had a larger allowance of annual leave than the former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In all the circumstances, the Government was compelled to make a distinction between the two groups of employees, and the bill will confer furlough rights only upon the former employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. If and when there are developments in Commonwealth furlough policy which would make it possible ro recognize service with Cable and Wireloss Limited for furlough purposes, the Government may be prepared to give the matter further consideration. Provision has been made in the bill for matters of this nature to be dealt with by regulation.
The objective of proposed new section 23, which is contained in clause 7, is to broaden the constitution of the Promotions Appeal Board so as to enable the commission’s officers to be represented on the board at different salary levels. The board was established under existing section 23 of the principal act. It is composed .of an independent chairman, a representative of the commission and a representative of the staff. Experience lias shown that it is desirable to have two staff representatives, one to sit with the board when appeals against provisional promotions in the lower salary ranges are being heard, and the other to sit with the board when the appeals concern positions in the higher salary ranges. This will bring the commission’s arrangements broadly into line with those of the Commonwealth Public Service, and will be in keeping with present-day practice to have employee representation on such bodies. It is proposed to effect the change by repealing existing section 23 and substituting a new section therefor to provide for the appointment of representatives of officers of prescribed classes.
Section 24 of the principal act prescribes the retiring age for female officers as 55 years, subject to a proviso that such officers may be continued in the service of the commission until .they attain the age of 60 years. There is a slight lack of consonance between the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 and the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. The superannuation legislation makes no provision for the payment of pensions to female officers before they reach the age of 60 years, and it does not contemplate the payment of an actuarially reduced pension to female contributors who retire between the ages of 55 and 60 years. It is proposed to bring the. acts into line by replacing the references in the overseas telecommunications legislation to the retirement of female officers at 55 years, or between the ages of 55’ and 60 years, by a single provision for the retirement of female officers at age 60 years. The proposed change will be effected by clause 8.
Clause 9 .proposes that the changes suggested in relation to the Promotions Appeal Board shall be applied also to the Disciplinary Appeal Board. The clause will repeal section 31 of the principal act and insert in lieu a new section to make provision for the appointment of officers’ representatives from prescribed classes. It is intended that when appeals are being heard the officer who represents the prescribed class of officers within which the’ appellant is included will act as a member of the board. This is a simple and sensible change and will bring the procedure into line with practice that is observed in the Commonwealth Public Service.
The remaining clauses are mainly of a formal character. Clauses 10 and 13 repeal two sections of the principal act which no longer have any operative effect, and clause 11 makes provision for a small language alteration consequently involved in one of those changes. Clause 12 proposes to insert in section 42 of the principal act words which will, in the opinion of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers, make the intention of the section clearer. The matter’ has a bearing upon the delimitation of the commission’? powers and functions in relation to those of other authorities, and the change is desirable iti the interests of administrative clarity and precision.
I have now only to mention the amendment proposed by clause 14. the effect of which will be to repeal section 78 of the principal act. Under this section the commission is required to handle, free of charge, meteorological telegrams within Australia and between Australia and ships at sea. There are, of course, costs associated with the handling of this traffic, and as matters stand at present they are borne by the commission. Prom a strictly functional stand-point, however, they are costs incidental to the operations of the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior. As a matter of accounting, it is now proposed that these costs should be borne by the votes of the Department of the Interior, and the repeal of section 78 is therefore necessary.
As this completes my summary of the ground covered by the bill, it will,’ I think, be clear, as I said at the outset, that it is essentially a machinery measure. In so far as the matters dealt with affect the inter-governmental machinery established under the principal act, the changes proposed in the bill all represent the outcome of , discussion and agreement by the partner governments, and in the interests of inter-governmental co-operation it is desirable that the assent and concurrence of the Australian Commonwealth should be confirmed by legislative process. In this connexion I emphasize that the changes are fully in harmony with the principles established by the principal act, which was introduced by a previous government. The other changes proposed in the bill are also, I suggest, entirely in keeping with the spirit and intention of the 1946 legislation. I hope, therefore, that this measure will commend itself to both sides of the chamber.
Debate, (on “motion by Senator MCKENNA) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to meet the wishes of the dried fruits industry, that the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-193S should be so amended as 10 reconstitute the Dried Fruits Control Board which was set up by statute nearly :-50 years ago to regulate and supervise the export trade in dried vine fruits from the Commonwealth.
As at present constituted, the board has a membership of eight persons, including five elected representatives of the growers of dried vine fruits in Australia. Victoria has two grower representatives, and New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, one each. In addition, there are two members with commercial experience and a Commonwealth Government representative. The bill provides for an increase of i he present grower representation on the board by the addition of one representative “f each of the States of Victoria and South Australia and also for the appointment of a member with experience in the marketing of dried fruits. If the bill is approved by the Parliament, the total membership of the board will, therefore, become eleven, instead of eight as at present.
The proposals have been recommended to the Government by the board itself. They are also supported by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which is an industry organization comprising over 90 per cent, of the growers of dried fruits in Australia. The proposed increase of grower representation is a recognition of the development of the dried vine fruits industry in Australia since the board was originally constituted, and preserves the balance of representation between the two major dried fruit producing States of Victoria and South Australia. Australian dried fruits face increasing competition in oversea markets. At present they are in a rather different category in this respect from some other products, for example, meat which is a staple commodity in worldshort supply. The industry is keen that there should be provision in the personnel of the board for a member with particular experience in the technique of marketing Australian dried fruits in oversea markets of any importance, particularly the United “Kingdom, Canada and New
Zealand. The bill gives effect to the industry’s wishes in the matter. It is also designed to extend the tenure of office of all members of the board, excepting the Commonwealth representative, from twoyear periods, as at present provided, to three-year terms. The board has emphasized that this will ensure a more satisfactory continuity of policy and operations. Moreover, it is in line with the practice operating with most other marketing boards and will lessen the pressure on the Commonwealth electoral machinery in respect of the preparation of rolls of growers, the nomination of candidates, the printing of ballot papers and the conduct of elections.
An opportunity has been taken in the bill to bring some of the general machinery provisions of the existing act up to date by making some drafting alterations which are considered desirable in the light of the experience gained during the operation of this and similar acts. The amendments of any substance provided in the bill are included on the representations of the central industry organizations and are designed to strengthen the existing export marketing machinery in the interests of the important dried vine’ fruits industry. I commend the bill to the consideration of honorable senators.
– The Opposition has no criticism of the proposals contained in this measure.
– I notice that under clause 8 of the bill a. new section 18 of the Act is introduced which adopts the pattern of a section contained in the Apple and Pear Organization Act. It provides that a contract for the carriage of dried fruits by sea to a place beyond the Commonwealth shall not be made except by the Dried Fruits Control Board, acting as an agent of the owner of the dried fruits, or another person having authority to export the dried fruit in conformity with conditions approved by the Board. Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section contains a most drastic provision that a contract for the carriage of dried fruits by sea to a place beyond the Commonwealth made otherwise than in accordance with that section shall be void. I should like to know the object of that provision. If it is to secure control by the Dried Fruits Control Board of the actual terms and conditions of bills of lading which shipping companies offer to exporting producers and exporting boards I suggest that consideration of a more general nature should be given to the matter. I believe that the proposed new sub-section (2.) is likely to boomerang to the prejudice of the board because, under it, if people in the ordinary course of commerce enter into a contract which is not strictly in accordance with conditions approved by the Board, that contract will be void. I suggest that the provision is a snare and a delusion in that it* will prevent the people from being bound by a contract when practical common sense and commercial experience dictate that it should be binding.
– I concede that the clause to which the honorable senator has referred is very rigid. It has been inserted in the bill at the request of the board which has had wide experience in connexion with these contracts. Apparently, the board has found it necessary to have such a clause in the bill.
– I am heartily dissatisfied with the suggestion of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) because my experience of the operations of the Australian Apple and Pear Board leads me to believe that it has not given the slightest consideration to its legal position in respect of certain matters. Whether the Dried Fruits Control Board has been better informed I am not in a position to say, but I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport to bring this matter to the notice of the board. Perhaps the Solicitor-General should be asked to advise on the subject; and if I could be promised a copy of such advice in order to ascertain how the section will operate in law - whether to the prejudice or the. protection of the growers - I shall be quite happy to refrain from objecting further to the bill.
– I give Senator Wright the assurance that he has requested.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th September (vide page 1303), on motion hy Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– When the debate on this bill was interrupted last week, I was discussing uniform taxation, and its effect on the various States, particularly on Western Australia. According to the budget speech, the Government proposes to hand back to the States the power which they formerly enjoyed to levy income tax, and I said that such action was likely to affect unfavorably the States which have less wealth and smaller populations than the large industrial States, and yet have commitments which are proportionately much greater. That is particularly so in the case of Western Australia which, with an area one-third of the whole of Australia, has a population of only about one-third of that of the City of Sydney. Western Australia has large undeveloped areas, and a lengthy coastline to defend. It would be impossible for the people of Western Australia adequately to discharge their responsibilities if they had to find all the money needed for defence and developmental purposes. Moreover, it is contrary to all our ideas of nationalism to expect 500,000 people in Western Australia to bear such a burden. We are all members of one nation, and not merely residents of a particular State. The development and defence of an area equal to one-third of the whole of Australia is a national duty, which cannot bc limited by State boundaries.
The importance of Western Australia in the defence of the Commonwealth cannot .be -overestimated. At the present time, preparations are being made for certain experiments in atomic research, and these are focussing the attention of the whole world on a certain part of the north-western coast of Western Australia. That part of Western Australia is particularly vulnerable, as was proved during the last war when the settlements along the coast from Carnarvon to Broome became targets for enemy bombers. Few people realize how close that part of the Australian coast is to the over-crowded areas of south-eastern Asia. Those areas could become either a bulwark against Communist aggression or a jumping-off place for Communists or others who might wish to attack Australia. During the war, the enemy made many raids against the north-west coast nf Western Australia, and to this day there are grim reminders of the inadequacy of our defences in that area. A research station has been established by one of the oil companies at a place called Potshot, a local name bestowed by the troops during the war because enemy bombers used to come over occasionally ii nd take potshots at anything they could see. That their efforts did not cause loss of life is no tribute to our defences, but rather to the fact that there was very little there for them to hit. It has become clear that such places as Broome, Port Hedland, Roebourne and Onslow were not only inadequately defended, but were also well known to. the enemy; yet there are members qf this Parliament, and even of this Senate, who would again open up our ports tn Japanese pearlers. I have received communications from servicemen’s organizations in the north protesting against the re-entry of our former enemies into i he pearling trade.
Australians are selfish in their attitude towards the northern parts of the continent. If we do not develop them, someone else will try to do it for us. and we might not be given a second chance as we were during the last war. Successive governments have paid lip-service to the pioneers who went out into the remote areas, but nothing, more has been done to develop those areas.. Our empty north is a standing challenge,, not only to the Australian Government,, but also to the State governments immediately concerned. The Government of Western Australia cannot, alone and unaided, do very much. I have travelled’ extensively in the north-west of Australia,, and I know that people who live in theovercrowded cities of the south and east cannot even visualize the loneliness of the scattered communities of the farnorthwest. Some of the country along thecoast is rather arid, and would not repay efforts at development, but fartherinland there are vast potential resources; which must be developed if we are to> hold that part of Australia. The biglandowning companies, which this Government so recently befriended by remitting land tax to the amount of £6,000,000, could easily afford to put. back into developmental projects .10 per cent, of their profits. So far they have taken everything out of, the country and put nothing back. That is why it is so difficult to induce young Australians to go to the north and stay there.
I wish to speak particularly of the difficulty which confronts women in those remote areas. Admittedly, conditions have improved considerably since their grandmonther’s day when women who went into the north did not see another white woman for years. In that isolation, they bore their children and reared them to become citizens whose names are known and respected all over Australia. To-day, there is the flying doctor service and there are also dental and nursing services. We have tried to bring some sort of security to the women of the north, but little else has been done to give them comfort. Housing conditions must be seen to be believed. Only in two areas, Yampi Sound and Wittenoom gorge, are modern houses to be found, and in both those places the houses have been provided by private companies. I have no desire to condemn Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited as an industrial octopus when I find it doing a good job, and it is certainly doing a good job at Yampi Sound, where it has provided for its employees comfortable, convenient houses equal to those found elsewhere in Australia. What has been done in those areas could and should be done in other remote parts of the country. Good housing has also been provided at Wittenoom gorge, but unfortunately it has not been found possible to induce a doctor to take up residence there, although tempting offers have been made, and both the company and the residents are eager to have the services of a doctor. At the present time, a cousin of mine, who is a trained nurse, does much of the work that should be done by a doctor. Conditions are very trying for expectant mothers who must travel over rough roads to Marble Bar to await confinement. There is no other way to travel since the railway line was closed down. When they arrive at Marble Bar they must pay hotel expenses while waiting admission to the hospital. Hostels should be provided where expectant mothers could rest in comfort, and at little expense, while awaiting the birth of their children. Sometimes, women have to travel from Wyndham down to Perth for dental attention before their babies are born, a procedure which involves them in much worry and expense. During the last few years a flying nurse service has been added to the flying doctor service. Pew people in the more settled areas realize just what the flying doctor service has meant to. residents in the outback. Not only does the flying doctor bring them a medical service, but he also relays messages between residents, and does much to relieve the loneliness of those who live on the outback stations.
However, there still remains the problem of education. The greatest tragedy of the north is that so few of the young people who are born in the area return to it when their school days are over. Educational facilities are poor. There is no high school between Onslow and Darwin, so that children have to be sent to one of the southern cities to receive a secondary education. Their education completed, they prefer to remain in the south and obtain employment there, so that they are lost to the north and to their parents. I believe that :if improved facilities were available the young people would remain in the district of their birth, and would help to develop it.
– It might not be well if Labour members who represented those areas in the Parliament during the last twenty years were to hear what the honorable senator is saying.
– This is not a party political matter. I hope that we, as members of the Senate, can take a national view of these problems,- irrespective of our party affiliations. The blame for the present state of affairs rests on all governments, and in some measure on the people of the north themselves, who have been too complacent and have not made enough fuss. They are few in number, but that is no reason why they should be ignored. We have failed to discharge our obligation to develop the north as an integral part of Australia. There is not even a technical school in the whole of the area. After I returned from a visit in 1945, I suggested that a school of tropical agriculture should be established in the north-west, but seven years have gone by since then, and nothing has been done. Admittedly, things were difficult in 1945 just after the war, but steps should be taken without further delay to establish such a school somewhere in the north-west, perhaps at Carnarvon, where young people could study the agricultural problems peculiar to their district. It has been said that the pioneering spirit is vanishing, and that people now want everything to be done for them. However, I do not blame people for being reluctant to go on living in the north when there is no prospect before them but. to lose their children when the time comes for them to receive their secondary education. Uniform taxation, by spreading the burden of this development over those members of the community who are best able to bear it, and by spreading it over the whole of the States of the Commonwealth, assists in the development of this very important strategic area.
I come now to the subject of native welfare. Western Australia has one of the heaviest burdens in this field because so many of our native people are to be found in that State. The natives live in very scattered communities. In the north-west of “Western Australia they arc to be found in their natural habitat, whereas, in the south-west, as Senator Seward knows, they live as outcasts of society. They are huddled together in makeshift camps on the outskirts of the towns. Where they have come in contact with the white man’s civilization they have not profited over much from his good qualities but have been quick to learn from his vices. It is a national problem. In time of war the aborigine is called upon to fight side by side with his white brother in the defence of this country. Many striking examples have been provided of his worth as a soldier and also as a citizen. We cannot sit back and allow our native people to deteriorate as they have deteriorated in the past. We owe a great deal to them. After all, this is their country. If we are to develop Australia, which we have taken from them, we should give them a fair return for it, as New Zealand has given the Maoris. It was somewhat of an eyeopener to me when I was in New Zealand to find that the Maoris were taking their place in government and in the professions and the arts. When I went abroad to a parliamentary conference some years ago I found that 66$ per cent, of the delegates to the conference would not have been eligible to vote in Australia because they were coloured. Yet in their countries they were regarded as highly reputable citizens and as leaders. If we are to learn anything at all from our participation in international conferences, and if we wish to give practical, effect to the knowledge we acquire, we must treat our native peoples in a decent manner.
In the north-west of Western Australia there are two groups of natives - those who are still in their native tribes and who live according to native customs, and those who have come in contact with the better class of civilization, if I may so refer to it. I should like to ray a tribute at this stage to the missionaries of all religions who have done so much for our native people. I am afraid that without the work of the various religious bodies, our record of service to the aborigines would be a poor one indeed. I have seen native girls employed as telephonists, as wardsmaids in hospitals, and in some instances as nurses. They are doing fine jobs. Such instances, however, are so rare as to be almost phenomenal. That should not be so, because many native children have as much natural ability, as their white brothers and sisters, and in some instances they have more ability.
The present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has a particular interest in this matter. I am a little disappointed that during the last eighteen months or two years more has not been done by one who gave such great promise at the outset of his ministerial career, for the native people who have been so sadly neglected over the years. I have spoken before in this chamber of the work that is being performed at the leprosarium at Derby. Three hundred lepers are being treated at that institution with Christian kindness and skill. They are being led back to health - but to what purpose? When I visited the leprosarium., the inmates gave me a grand farewell concert during which they sang “ Home, Sweet Home “. I wondered then what their homes were really like. When they are discharged from the leprosarium they return to their “ home, sweet homes “ which, in many instances, are humpies made of bags, tins and hessian. One wonders whether it is worth while being cured in such circumstances. Apparently some of them think that it is not because some who have been declared fit for discharge have refused to leave. Presumably, they did not care to face once again a nomadic life during which they would be hunted from pillar to post as if they were convicts instead of the original inhabitants of this continent. If we do not do something, as a nation, to develop the northwest of Australia, the sooner we give the country back to the natives the better. If we do not proceed to develop the country, some one else will do the job for us, perhaps in a way that we shall not find to our liking.
A great deal remains to be done to develop the outports of Western Australia. From time to time during the last ten years, questions have been asked in the Senate regarding the diversion of shipping to ports such as Esperance, Albany, Geraldton and Bunbury. The last time I was at Bunbury I had occasion to attend a “ pick-up “ of waterside workers. Sixty-four workers were available and ready for work. However, only two were picked up, their job being to sort out some fruit cases and timber which had come in on trucks to the harbour. The remaining 62 were paid attendance money and had to go home. At the same time, there were numerous ships in Fremantle harbour. Businessmen were awaiting the discharge of cargo from the eastern States and from overseas which could not be unloaded quickly enough because of the scarcity of labour at that port. Surely something could be done to rationalize such matters. There are some excellent ports in Western Australia., other than Fremantle. For instance, there are Albany and Esperance. The port at Esperance could be used much more extensively than it is at the present time because it is so much closer than is Fremantle to the gold-fields at Norseman and Kalgoorlie. Not only must cargoes consigned to the gold-fields via Fremantle .travel greater distances than those consigned via Esperance, but additional expense is also involved, which means a loss to the business community. 1. remember that some years ago a consignment of batteries was urgently required by a gold mine at Kalgoorlie. After a great deal of delay, shipping space was secured for them, but they arrived from Fremantle almost a week later than batteries which had been consigned to Esperance. That is an example of the time that could be saved by the proper handling and discharge of goods at outports.
The development of such ports will cost a great deal of money. It is said that money is the root of all evil, which may or may not be true. Nevertheless, we all require a lot more money than we have, because without money so little good can be done. A road from Esperance to Norseman and on to Hyden would open up some good farming country. Such undertakings would need to be carried out on a big scale and would cost far more than Western Australia’s 500,000 people could afford to pay. I hope that for the good of Australia and its development uniform taxation will not be abandoned. It is a fair system and is based on democratic principles. It has put taxation on a fair and equitable basis. For that reason, I sincerely hope that the Government will not discard it.
I come finally to a discussion of external affairs. A week ago to-day tinmembers of this Parliament were privileged to listen to a wonderful address given by His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Republic of Ireland, in the King’s Hall, on the occasion of the presentation to the people of this country of a copy of the famous Book of Kelts. Every one to whom I have spoken on the subject - and I am sure that it is also the opinion of honorable senators- considers that the address was one of the most cultural and inspiring ever made in this Parliament. Yet we have not repaid the courtesy that has been extended to us by the Republic of Ireland. We have had no duly accredited representative in Ireland on the same status for the last three years. Although the Estimates this year provide for the expenditure of many thousands of pounds in sending an envoy to Russia, we have done nothing about the appointment of an Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, which is able to produce such fine examples of culture as the Book of Kelts. Surely such a culture is likely to have a much better influence on Australia than is the kind of culture being imported into this country from Russia. I hope that in the next few months this matter will be rectified.
– Are not some of the honorable senator’s colleagues imbibing a little culture from Russia at the present time?
– I am not quite certain what the honorable senator mean? by his interjection, but if it, is in reference to functions arranged by any foreign embassy I am sure that representatives of Her Majesty’s Australian Government have also been invited and they, too, will participate, in the ordinary course of their duties.
A matter which is agitating the minds of many honorable senators at the present time is the non-participation of Great Britain in the ANZUS pact. In my opinion, this is a serious omission. After all, Australia and New Zealand are integral parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the British Government is annoyed or dismayed because it has not been invited to participate in the pact, one would expect a statement from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) explaining the reason for the omission. To my mind it would have been common courtesy to extend an invitation to the United Kingdom Government to participate in the discussions. The interests of the United Kingdom in this important part of the globe are inextricably bound up with those of Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.
– Does the honorable senator think that the pact is just a social engagement?
– Of course it is not a social engagement. We all know that had it not been for the American participation in the war in the Pacific between 1941 and 1945, Australia and New Zealand would not have remained within the British Commonwealth. But we also know that the participation of the United States of America did not come until after Pearl Harbour. Until that time, Australia and New Zealand were obliged to depend for their existence on their own efforts, which were considerable, and which I do not intend to decry, even for Senator Wright’s benefit, and on the efforts of other members of the British Commonwealth. Our feeling of security came from the fact that we were members of the British Empire and had behind us the might of Great Britain, even though that country could not come to our assistance as effectively as it would have liked. At that time, Great Britain alone was fighting Nazi aggression in Europe. It then had no allies. We should not underestimate the burden which the British Commonwealth carried alone during the early days of World War II.
Time does not permit me to refer to the great wave of unemployment which is sweeping Australia. This morning’s newspapers contain reports that the number of registered unemployed doubled during the month of August. Those. reports should make every honorablesenator take his duties and responsibilitiesto the. community much more seriously.. We cannot allow unemployment to snowball. I trust that the proposals contained1 in the budget will put a stop to the trend towards unemployment, and that by the time the next budget is presented the spectre of unemployment will be only a dim memory of a very bad year.
.- I gather from Senator Tangney’s remarks that she hails from Western Australia. I have listened with considerable interest to her speech. The honorable senator never fails to battle for the State which she represents.
Sitting’ suspended from o.J/5 to 8 p.m.
– I am a keen supporter of this budget which, I believe, has been very well received throughout Australia. I am confirmed in that opinion by .many leading business people who have given some thought to thematter and have commented favorably upon many features of the budget. I think the budget can best be described as a convalescent budget and, strangely enough, it has received the approbation not only of commercial leaders but alsoof some leaders of trade unions. I have in mind particularly a South Australian trade union official. The press, too, hascommented favorably upon the Government’s financial and economic proposal’sfor the current year. Even some newspapers which were far from favorably disposed towards the 1951-52 budget,, apparently have been rather impressed! by the proposals that we are now considering. Whilst the widespread support that has been accorded to the budget throughout the length and breadth of theland has heartened me considerably, my confidence has been even morestrengthened by the budget speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt), and thesecondreading speech made on thismeasure by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). Thelatter commenced his speech with a dissertation on leadership. I thought it rather ironical that he should have chosen that subject in view of the fact that only now arc the wounds that were inflicted upon our economy during eight years of Socialist-Labour rule being healed. However, let us measure the situation with the yardstick selected by the Lender of the Opposition. As I have said, he spoke of leadership. What qualities of leadership were displayed by the Chifley Government of which he was a member? The outstanding feature of the leadership of that administration was compulsion. It sought to compel the British Medical Association to do certain things. It sought to compel chemists to do certain other things. The people of Australia were to be compelled to take medicines only according to the formula laid down by the Government. The trading banks were to be compelled to close their doors. The people were to be compelled to bank with only one bank. That was the leadership that characterized the administration of the Labour Government. If the Leader of the Opposition believes that the people of Australia have forgotten all those attempts at coercion he is very wide of the mark indeed.
In the course of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition assumed, as he has been prone to do in recent months, the mantle of the prophet - the prophet who prophesies in 1952 what is going to happen in 1951. He was able to show us that many of the things that lie had prophesied in 1952 had actually happened in 1951. He chided us because certain of our legislation had been declared invalid by the High Court and said that if we had listened to his advice, that legislation would never have been brought before the Parliament. Sometimes, of course, it is most convenient to have a short memory. The ability of the Leader of the Opposition to foretell the future would have been most useful when he sought to introduce his pharmaceutical benefits scheme which was ultimately declared invalid by the High Court. It would have been most useful, too, when the Banking Act was under consideration because certain provisions of that legislation met a similar fateUndoubtedly his powers of prophecy would have been of great value had he used them prior to the double dissolution of the parliament last year.
I am sure that Senator Ashley would have appreciated a warning that many of his colleagues who had been elected to the Senate for six years would be returned for only three years and that others would not be returned at all.
The Leader of the Opposition then referred to bank credit, and I shall deal briefly with his argument. The Senate will recall that, at this stage of the honorable senator’s speech, some Government supporters interjected - very irregularly of course. The honorable gentleman quoted from a press report a statement by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that, in no circumstances, would the Government use bank credit. He then procedeed to point out that, two or three months later, in this Parliament, the Treasurer had said that the Government was using bank credit. The truth is that the press report referred to a statement made by the Treasurer to the State Premiers. The Premiers had enjoyed a Roman holiday for nine months and had expended nearly all the money that the Commonwealth had allocated to them out of its taxation revenue. They wanted more money to carry on their activities in that financial year. The Treasurer pointed out, quite frankly, that the Commonwealth raised its revenue by imposing taxes on the people. He reminded the Premiers that the Commonwealth had underwritten the loan requirements of the States from tax revenue, and he added that, in no circumstances, would he use bank credit in that year. We are now in a different financial year, and we are considering a new budget. An incentive is to be given to the taxpayers by a reduction of income tax. The Commonwealth is no longer prepared to collect money to underwrite unnecessarily high State loans. To make the tax reduction possible, the Government is using bank credit, but, as I have said, this is a different financial year. The Leader of the Opposition destroyed his case by dealing in half truths.
The honorable gentleman then resorted to statistics. He said that the Government’s claim that it was reducing taxes by £49,000,000 was without foundation. He proceeded to show that whereas last year income tax revenue totalled £386,000,000 in round figures, this year the figure would be £383,000,000. Therefore, he argued, the Government was not reducing taxes by £49,000,000 but by only £3,000,000. He described this as a confidence trick. 1 shall reduce the issue to simple terms - so simple that they will penetrate even the intellect of Senator Aylett. The proposition advanced by the Lender of the Opposition was, in effect, that, if income tax last year was ls. in the £1, and a . taxpayer had a taxable income of £1, he paid ls. in tax. If the tax were reduced to 9d. in the £1, but the man had a taxable income of £2 and therefore paid 18d. in tax, he was the victim of a confidence trick. The honorable senator has the knack of infusing into his statistics the delightful qualities of the Bikini bathing suit - they are often revealing but always cover essentials. What the honorable senator covered was the fact that the increase of the national income will produce a higher total tax revenue, although tax rates will be lower. It cannot be denied that the income tax reductions announced in the current budget represent a reduction of £49,000,000 on the basis of last year’s income.
As I have said, the speech of the Leader of the Opposition ‘in the House of Representatives has also strengthened my approval of the budget. Whilst it was noticeable that the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber offered no constructive alternative to the Government’s financial proposals, the Leader of the Labour, party certainly did. I . have described the budget as a convalescent budget. During a period of convalescence, moderation in treatment is most desirable. The Government proposes in the current budget to stimulate the national economy by using approximately £120,000,000 of bank credit; but the alternative offered by the Leader of the Labour party is to pump about £400,000,000 of bank credit into the economy. That would undoubtedly choke the patient, and the sufferings of pensioners and others on fixed incomes due to inflation would be increased tenfold.
Mention has been made of the increase of deposits in savings banks and honorable senators opposite argue that this is due in a substantial measure to the fact that people will not invest their money in government loans. I have obtained some interesting figures from the oldest savings bank in the southern hemisphere, the Launceston Bank for Savings, which is in its one hundred and fourteenth year. It is interesting to note that during the last ten years the deposits in that bank, which handles the business of customers in all walks of life and enjoys their undisputed confidence, have risen from £2,900,000 to £8,700,000. Of still greater interest is the fact that during the same period the number of its depositors increased from 61,000 to more than 99,000, of whom 72,000 have deposits of less than £100. Thus, the bulk of the deposits in the savings banks are made by the less wealthy people in the community. Is it suggested that they normally invest their savings in government loans? It is far from the truth to say that the great increase in deposits, in the savings banks is due to people withholding their money from government loans and depositing it in the savings banks. It is true that during the last twelve months there has been a slight decline in trade and commerce in Australia. I point out, however, that we have been passing through a settling down period which inevitably involved hardship for those who in process of settling down lost their jobs or their businesses. Irrespective of the political party to which we belong we shall do nothing to better the employment position and we shall do a disservice to our country bv continually moaning and groaning about unemployment and the economic position. Such talk can only delay the revival of our industries and do Australia irreparable harm in the eyes of other countries. Heartening signs are now in evidence that trade and commerce, which provide . the greatest volume of employment in the Commonwealth, are on the up grade. I read in the press recently that textile workers in New South Wales who had lost their employment have been re-absorbed in the industry which is again being restored to its former prosperity. It is true that in Tasmania there are signs of recession in the timber, furniture and building industries. Recession in those industries is perhaps peculiar to that State. I trust that they will rapidly recover. I understand that the building industry there is already showing signs of revival. The cry of unemployment which is raised by Opposition senators from morning to night, and the groaning and moaning in which they indulge when they speak of our economic position do nothing to provide employment for the unfortunate unemployed and will in no way improve our economy.
The budget for 1952 will have a beneficial effect on our economy because it provides incentives to those engaged in industry. We look forward confidently to a quickening of activities in trade and commerce towards the end of the year. 1 conclude by quoting the following passage which appeared in a recent issue of the Sydney Sun: -
Wis may now look forward with confidence to better times, but it would be wise to constantly remind ourselves that prosperity cannot bc created by legislative action alone. 1 have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I agree with Senator Henty’s description of the 1952 budget as a convalescent budget. Unfortunately this nation is suffering from a Menzies-Fadden disease of inflation, unemployment and political paralysis. I am afraid that the patient, the body politic, will get much worse before it gets better.
When the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) introduced this bill, he informed us that the total expenditure last year, after excluding the realized budget surplus of 98,500,000 amounted to £903,895,000. The Minister tried to paint a rosy picture for the electors by telling them that while the budget estimate for 1952-53 exceeds the total expenditure pf last year by approximately £55,000,000, reductions of taxation would be effected and social services and other Commonwealth payments would be increased. Let us analyse those figures. The additional £55,000,000 will be partly offset by additional expenditure on defence alone amounting to £4.0,000,000. Another £6,000,000 will be absorbed in additional administrative costs. Heaven knows how much of it will irc in increases of the basic wage, which has risen by £2 a week in the last twelve months. On the basis of the proposed additional expenditure for defence, and additional administrative costs resulting from basic wage increases, the budget estimate would have had to be increased by much more than £55,000,000 in order to maintain employment at its former level. In cutting the expenditure on capital works by £4,000,000 the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is at least partly responsible for the growth of the number of unemployed persons in the community. That cut, coupled with the increases granted in the basic wage during the last twelve months, must inevitably mean that unemployment will increase. There is nothing in this budget that will give a ray of hope to the sick patient - the Australian nation. In addition, the loan allocations to the State are insufficient to enable them to carry out their most essential works projects. The construction and maintenance of roads and the building of essential schools and other activities of the States have already been curtailed and the States are unable to add necessary new works to their programmes. The Government has claimed that the country cannot provide additional money for expenditure by the States. It is true that the loan allocations for the States have been slightly increased, but having regard to recent basic wage increases and steadily increasing prices the additional allocations will be insufficient to meet their requirements. So essential works will have to be curtailed and additional men will be thrown into the pool of unemployed persons. In view of these facts, can any honorable senator claim that the picture before us is a bright one? The budget will do nothing to place one unemployed person in a job.
The Minister has said that defence expenditure is to be increased by £40,600,000 to £200,000,000. Was the decision to increase defence expenditure made because the Government believes that before the financial year has ended Australia will again be plunged into another world war? Honorable senators will recall that in 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) warned the country that it might be at war within three years. If his prediction proves to be correct, the provision of £200,000,000 for defence purposes will be warranted, even though it may bc completely insufficient to meet our needs.
– The Prime Minister did not make such a statement in 1949.
– He made a definite statement to that effect in that year.
– The honorable senator is completely wrong. The Prime Minister made the statement to which he refers in 1951.
– The right honorable gentleman said that this country might be at war within three years. If that prediction proves to be correct, the provision of £200,000,000 for defence purposes this year will be quite inadequate, because that amount of money will not go further to-day than £100,000,000 would have gone when this Government took office. In that circumstance, no real increase has been made in the provision for defence. The increase is represented only by an increase in pounds, shillings and pence. Additional wages and administrative costs will more than account for one half of the proposed increase.
How is the money made available to the Government for defence purposes being expended ? Yesterday, 1 informed honorable senators that I had recently seen a small boy in uniform when he held hi3 rifle upright, with the butt on the ground, the muzzle was 18 inches above the top of his head. Apparently, the Government is spending money on the military training of boys of tender years. Certainly, huge sums of money are being expended on training camps for them. How many years must pass before such a boy becomes a trained soldier? Not until he is eighteen or twenty years of age will he become an effective fighting man. Having regard to the advances in scientific warfare that have taken place in recent years, it is doubtful whether, ten years hence, a uniform will be needed by ‘any person in any country.
– The boy mentioned by the honorable senator will be all the better for the physical development which will result from military training.
– Would it not be far better to provide our young people with physical training in gymnasiums? The Government has discouraged the establishment of additional gymnasiums by imposing a heavy rate of sales tax on gymnasium equipment. I am not so foolish as to suggest that the Government should neglect the defence of this country. However, its approach to the subject has been inconsistent. Ships are vital to Australia in time of war. They are required not only to transport goods around our coast in order to maintain Australia’s economy, but also to keep our fighting forces supplied with food. Most honorable senators will recall readily how hard it was for Australia to obtain ships for this purpose during World War II. Despite the Prime Minister’s warning about the imminence of war, the Government is endeavouring to sell not only the 30 ships that are in commission, but also those that are under construction, which may not be launched within the next couple of years. If it is necesary to expend £200,000,000 on defence during this financial year, why is the Government trying to sell its ships?
– The ships would still be available if another war should occur.
– Yes, and the Government would still be waiting for its money. Australia has not yet been paid in full for the previous line of steamers which an anti-Labour government sold. Would it not be better for the Australian Government to own its own ships rather than to be compelled to acquire ships at high prices in the event of this country again becoming involved in war? The Government might decide to pay a certain price for ships that it would have to acquire, based on the selling prices of the present Commonwealth-owned ships, but the owners would be certain to appeal to the High Court of Australia to obtain higher prices. In the past the price that the Australian Government has offered to pay for land and machinery it has acquired has been challenged by appeal to the High Court. In 90 per cent, of the appeals that were made to the High Court during the regime of the former Labour Government, the prices were increased. If the war clouds have cleared to such a degree that the Government now considers it wise to sell its ships, how can an expenditure of £200,000,000 during this financial year be justified? The Prime Minister should tell the people frankly whether or not this country is in danger.
The Government is not carrying out to-day nearly so much effective defence preparation as was being carried out two years ago. A proposal to increase expenditure on defence does not necessarily indicate that effective defence preparations will be undertaken. Had it not been for public dissent, the Government would have sold TransAustralia Airlines. Although the Government claims that it is endeavouring to correct the socialistic trend in this country as a result of the administration of the former Labour Government, it now intends to go bald-headed into another socialistic enterprise in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea with a Canadian company. I suppose when roads and other facilities have been established the Government will sell out its interest in this venture to the Canadian firm, which will then exploit the natives. Although the Government claims that inflation is one of the greatest evils confronting this country to-day, it intends to abolish subsidies that have been paid in order to keep down the cost of some items of food. The Government intends to save an expenditure of about £3,000,000 a year as a result of the reduction of these subsidies. When the prices of butter, tea, and other foodstuffs rise the basic wage will be again increased. This in turn will cause another rise of prices, which will accentuate the inflationary trend still further. Truly, the tail is wagging the dog.
Some honorable senators on the other side of the chamber have referred to what has been accomplished overseas. Not very long ago the Treasurer took a trip around the world, during which he hawked Australia’s prestige all over Europe to try to raise loans. After his return he announced that Switzerland had promised to lend £5,000,000 to Australia. The right honorable gentleman returned with his tail down, because his mission had been a f ailure. Subsequently the Prime Minister went abroad, because it had been pointed out to him that our sterling balance had fallen from £843,000;000 to £362,000,000 within a period of twelve months. I suppose the right honorable gentleman thought that the position was getting serious, as he could not close down any more Australian factories by flooding this country with imported goods, and so establish a pool of unemployed persons here. The right honorable gentleman was not favorably received by the financiers of Great Britain, who remember what happened when a former Prime Minister of a similar political colour mortgaged this country. I refer to Mr. Bruce, who is now Lord Bruce. That right honorable gentleman had to plead for more money in order to pay the interest on loans that he had previously raised in Great Britain. Is it any wonder that the present Prime Minister was rebuffed? He then took a trip to the United .States of America where he succeeded in obtaining a loan of 50,000,000 dollars from the International Bank ; but he stated on his return to Australia Chat this would probably be the forerunner of yearly loans of 50,000,000 dollars. Why are the dollars required? I do not believe that a greater insult has ever been offered to the tradesmen of Great Britain and Australia than was implied in the Prime Minister’s statement that they are required in order that we might import machinery from the United States of America. That was a calculated insult to the skilled tradesmen who achieved so much during the war period. Although it had not been necessary for Australia to borrow even one dollar in the period from the end of the war until 1949, now the Prime Minister has seen fit to increasingly mortgage this country year by year. Where does the Government expect to obtain the dollars to repay these loans, or even to meet interest payments on them? Our production has not been increased to any appreciable degree since the machinery has been imported from the United States of America. It is sheer nonsense for supporters of the Government to say that the machinery could not have been obtained elsewhere. It was not necessary in the” past to obtain machinery from the United States of America in order to establish hydro-electric undertakings in this country. Had this Government conserved its dollar and sterling reserves it could have purchased all of the machinery that it required from Great Britain and other countries. The Prime Minister has deliberately mortgaged this country to the land of the almighty dollar, just as the previous Prime Minister to whom 1 have referred mortgaged it to Great Britain in the ‘twenties. It will be necessary for the growing generation to pull this country out of the mud.
Senator Henty has referred to the budget as a convalescent budget. I agree with that description of it, and I believe that the country is in for a lengthy convalescence. I have already referred to the effect of high wool prices on our economy. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated during his speech on the motion for the first reading of the bill -
Wool prices fell sharply and our international reserves shrank.
Of course they did ! But I point out that during the years that Labour was in office, when the prices that were obtained for Australia’s wool overseas were much lower than last year’s prices, Australia’s sterling funds were increased by more than £100,000,000 in each year. I realize that exorbitant prices were obtained for wool last year, but nobody could have imagined that, in one year, our sterling funds would fall by so much. Now the Government is blaming the shrinkage of wool prices for our present economic position. The Minister continued -
Certain of the symptoms of inflation continue to show themselves.
That was an amazing admission by a Minister who has referred so often recently to the position of the loan market. “Why have we an unfavorable loan market? The reason is that this Government has lost the confidence of the people. As Senator Henty pointed out yesterday, the people now prefer to place their money in savings banks rather than to invest it in Government loans. The Minister laid great stress on the fact that the people are now reluctant to invest in Australian Government loans. Yet when the Tasmanian Government sought a loan of £2,000,000 recently, it was oversubscribed, within a short period, by £700,000. An extension of a week was sought, in order to obtain another £300,000 and to save the expense of floating another loan for £1,000,000, but the Treasurer refused permission.
– At what rate was the loan floated?
– It does not matter at what rate it was floated. The Australian Government would not have obtained the money if it had floated the loan at the same rate. The people would not have sufficient confidence in it because it would probably float another loan in six months’ time at a rate of interest i per cent, or 1 per cent, higher. The people know that the Government performs a somersault every week day and twice on Sunday. The Minister proceeded - an enfeebled loan market which was unable to meet the demands of State governments for works finance; business entered into a phase of slackness and uncertainty; employment opportunities grew scarcer, and some transitional unemployment appeared.
It is not only Opposition senators who say that the picture is gloomy. The Minister himself has admitted it in those words. He said - . business entered into a phase of slackness and uncertainty; employment opportunities grew scarcer and some transitional unemployment appeared.
Yet honorable senators opposite contend that unemployment is not increasing. Could any clearer statement be obtained that the economic position of the country is unstable? Government supporters should not criticize the Opposition when it warns people of the significance of economic trends.
In depriving the people of free hospitalization and free medical treatment the Government has taken one of the most retrograde steps of the last 25 years of our history. The people of Tasmania have enjoyed such services free for a long time and the people of other States were also beginning to discover their worth. The Government has offered the excuse that it has not sufficient money to continue these services. Last year sufficient money was found for the upkeep of the hospitals which gave free treatment in all public hospitals in Australia. The Minister has announced a budget surplus of £9S,500,000 yet he has contended that the Government has not sufficient money to continue free hospitalization and free medical treatment. The taxpayers have paid for these services and are entitled to them. Now the Government proposes to ask them to pay again by contributing to an insurance scheme. It also wants them to pay a third time, when they go into hospital, when they will have to find the difference between 18s. a day and the amount that the hospital bed will cost. The Minister has alleged that the Government cannot afford to make these services available free although it had a surplus of £98,500,000 last year.
– What happened to that amount?
– The Government has performed the greatest thimble and pea trick that I have ever known. It has claimed that it had a surplus of £98,500,000 yet it had to issue £45,000,000 worth of bank credit in order to show the surplus. After making the most retrograde step in Australian political history for 25 years the Government has claimed that it has greatly benefited the people by reducing taxation in accordance with its promise. It is true that it promised the people a reduction in taxation, but it has failed to honour that promise. During the last financial year the basic wage rose from £8 a week to £10 a week. The extra £100 a year has been awarded to basic wage earners by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in order to enable them to meet the extra cost of living. Twelve months ago a man who received the basic wage, which was then £400 a year, paid £12 9s. a year in income tax. If the man were still in receipt of only £400 a year he would pay only £11 6s. a year in tax. But although he is still in receipt of only the basic wage he now has to pay £22 ls. in income tax because the basic wage now amounts to £500 a year. This example illustrates the fantastic manner in which the Government has reduced taxation. This is indeed a convalescent budget. It reduces to convalescence the poor basic wage-earner. He was awarded an increase of £100 by the court in order to meet the extra cost of living, but the Government has mulct him of £9 12s. - the difference between £12 9s. and £22 ls.
That is claimed by the Government to be a reduction in taxation. I should like the Minister to describe to the Senate an increase in taxation if this budget provision is a reduction. The Government’s whole case is based on false figures. The Government has been guilty of breaking its promises ever since it came to office. Although it pledged itself to give reductions in taxation, particularly to the basic wage earner, it has increased taxation, but has published certain figures to try to persuade people that they have received a reduction.
Honorable senators opposite have said a great deal about the mess in which they alleged the Labour Government left the country. During the war the Labour Government had to issue a tremendous amount of bank credit and float a lot of loans. Up to 1946, £343,280,000 worth of bank credit had been created by the Labour Government. From 1946 to 1947, however, the Labour Government reduced that amount by £65,000,000 to £278,2S0,000. At the same time, that Government announced a handsome surplus and was able to consider making free medical and hospital services available to the people. By 1948 it had made free hospital treatment available. During the financial year 1947-48 the Labour Government reduced the value of outstanding treasury-bills by £70,000,000, which brought the outstanding balance to £208,280,000. It then provided free medical services for the people also. Both free hospital services and free medical services have now been terminated by the present Government. In 194S-49 the Labour Government reduced the amount of treasury-bills outstanding to £123,280,000. In the financial year 1949-50, for only half of which the Labour Government was in office, the amount outstanding was further reduced by £15,000,000 to £10S,280,000. While the Labour Government was reducing its indebtedness there was full employment in this country. Free hospitalization and free medical treatment were available, as well as unemployment and sickness benefits and widows and other pensions. The purchasing power of pensioners’ money has now decreased by at least 25 per cent. Let us examine the record of the present
Government. In the financial year 1950-51 this Government made no reduction in the value of issued treasury-bills. In the financial year 1951-52, not only did it fail to reduce the value of treasury-bills outstanding, but it issued another £45,000,000 worth. Yet it announced a budget surplus of £98,500,000. The Government has obtained its big surpluses only by the use of bank credit. This is the type of policy which the political parties opposite told the Labour party during the regime of the Scullin Government, would cause bankruptcy. At that time Mr. Theodore,, who was Treasurer in the Scullin Government, asked for only £18,000,000 to save people from starvation. Members of the then Opposition hoodwinked the people into believing that it would be bad finance to create that amount of credit. Now honorable senators opposite consider that it is good finance to issue bank credit in order that the Government may have a budget surplus. Has this Government kept any of its promises?
– I shall tell the honorable senator of them when I speak.
– Senator Kendall had better not mention the so-called fulfilled promises just now because if he does so I shall be able to correct him. Instead of providing more social services, the Government has deprived the people of social services. Instead of putting value back into the £1 it has deflated the value of the £1. If the £1 had the same value now as it had when the Government took office it would derive the same value from a. £600,000,000 budget as it will derive from this £900,000,000 budget. The reason that budgets have expanded so greatly is that the Government has broken its pledges to the people and somersaulted. Instead of putting value back into the £1 it has allowed inflation to get completely out of control.
Senator ROBERTSON (Western Australia) [8.5S . - I rise to support the budget. I intended to take notes of Senator Aylett’s attack on the Government and to answer his criticisms, but his speech reminded me of a meeting of the Salvation Army at a street corner. He spoke with great conviction. He ranted about various matters in a way that meant nothing. J would prefer to hear an address by a Salvation Army officer, for he, at least, would speak some words of truth. I support the budget, although I do not give it unqualified support. About some of its provisions I feel very strongly. However, T applaud the Government for bringing in the budget so much earlier than usual, and for having remitted some taxation. Although .Senator Aylett will not concede the point, we know that the Government last year embarked upon a plan to reduce the spending powers of the people by increasing their savings, and to increase the production of such basic materials as coal and steel. It would now seem that the plan has been successful. Senator Henty cited some very telling figures to show how savings bank deposits have increased in Tasmania. In the .Daily ‘Telegraph of the 6th August, figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver, were published. They show that in June of this year savings bank deposits in Australia increased by £16,339,000, to £891,898,000. At the 30th June this year, average savings bank deposits per head of population amounted to £104. 10s., whereas in August, 1939, they amounted to only £35 2s. The increase of deposits tells its own story of general prosperity. Savings bank depositors represent that great body of people to whom we are proud to belong - the workers. We know that business has suffered a recession during the year. We do not attempt to hide that fact, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not attempt to hide it. It suited Senator Aylett to quote only those parts of the Treasurer’s budget speech which dwelt upon the less favorable aspects of our economy. Before I conclude my remarks, I propose to quote some of the more optimistic passages from the budget speech. Although there is some slight unemployment in Australia compared with the picnic years, it is due mainly to the process of transferring- labour from one sphere of employment to another, a condition envisaged by the Labour Government. The late Mr. Chifley, when offering a very serious warning to the people, said that: it might be necessary in the interests of the national economy to transfer workers from non-essential industries to essential industries. Apparently, Senator Aylett believes that such a course of action is right when suggested by a Labour government, but altogether wrong when followed by the Menzies Government. I congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) upon the statement which was published in the press the other day, and which illustrates very well what I have been saying about the transfer of labour. I quote as follows from the Minister’s statement, as published in the Canberra ‘Times, of the 15th of this month : -
In one of the greatest single man-power increases ever recorded, 3,307 nien took jobs in the coal industry in the twelve months ended June, 1!)52, Senator Spooner, the Minister for National ^Development, said to-night.
After taking into account compulsory and voluntary retirements, the actual increase was 1,300 men.
The situation is reflected in an improvement of living conditions on the coal-fields where, according to the Minister, the demand for homes has been tapering off, That is an indication of increasing prosperity, and more and more miners now own their own homes. I quote again from the statement as follows : -
One thousand mine workers have either built or are constructing, their own homes under the Joint Coal Boards co-operation scheme.
He said that the Coal Board had informed the New South Wales Housing Commission that sufficient homes for mine workers were now nearing completion. For migrant miners, 22/5 homes had been built and were tenanted by migrants and the balance of 420 in the Commonwealth’s target would become progressively available between now and March next veur.. Senator Spooner said.
It is, of course, well known that, for the first time in at least ten years, there is enough coal for industry. The Minister foi- National Development is to be complimented upon the success of his efforts to obtain co-operation between the workers and the employers. The chairman of the Commercial Bank of Australia has made the following interesting comment on the future of Australia: -
Australia appears to be through the worst period of economic adjustment. We should look to the future with confidence and vision. A satisfactory wool price is indicated for the coming season despite some competition from synthetics. Co-operative effort by management and labour to reduce unit cost is abso lutely essential. There ure indications that both are responding.
This co-operation between management and labour has been greatly assisted by the action of the Government in providing for the holding of secret ballots of unionists. This procedure has helped them to get rid of disturbing influences which, for many years past, have been injuring the economy of the nation. In this connexion, it is interesting to note a sworn statement by Mr. Albert E. Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is in violent contrast to the vicious attack made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) the other day on the Government and its budget. Mr. Monk made his sworn statement before the Commonwealth. Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, so we may be assured that he did not indulge in exaggeration. This is what he said -
The nation’s economy is not precariously unstable. Conditions are basically favorable for enterprise, as is witnessed by the increases in coal production and in basic steel production. Public confidence is not being undermined.
After citing statistics relating to various sections of industry, Mr. Monk continued -
Although there lias to be a re-adjustment of economic activity, which is still proceeding, the economy of Australia is fundamentally sound.
That is a very striking statement. It cannot be contradicted by honorable senators opposite, most of whom have joined in a Jeremiah chorus of woe about tha economic prospects of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition made a spurious attack on the Government, and on the Treasurer in particular, although why the Treasurer should be particularly blamed I do not know. The budget is the responsibility of the Government as a whole. The Treasurer is no more responsible for it than is any other Minister, except that he had the labour of actually preparing it. The Leader of the Opposition criticized the Government for not taking earlier measures to check inflation, but towards the end of his speech, which was the most illogical I have ever heard him make, he criticized the Government on the ground that it had taken action. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that the underlying reason for imposing import restrictions was that our unprecedented prosperity had upset our import and export arrangements, and had adversely affected our overseas balance. It was necessary to restrict imports in order to keep our overseas balance in a healthy condition. It was also necessary that manufacturers in Australia should have their minds directed to the fact that there are raw materials in Australia which can be used for much of their work, and that they should look to internal markets for some of their requirements. I remind honorable senators that in 1945 the Labour Government issued’ a White Paper on the subject of full employment, and I quote from it as follows : -
Minor fluctuations in export income will be met by running down ‘overseas reserves in poor years and building them up in good years and if there is a prolonged or severe fall in export incomes it will not be possible to meet the deficit in the ‘balance of payments, merely by drawing from overseas reserves and we shall have then to reduce expenditure on imports.
Is that not exactly what the present Government has done? Apparently, it was quite right for a Labour government in 1945 to contemplate that policy, but it is wrong for a non-Labour government to apply the policy in order to meet the economic crisis of 1951-52. Presumably, those who condemn the action of the present Government would themselves have embarked upon a policy of frenzied finance. They would have rushed to “the printing press, and run off an unlimited number of bank notes. That is certainly the conclusion which we would be justified in drawing from the speeches of some honorable senators opposite.
Members of the Opposition have claimed that the Government has no reason to be pleased with its budget. Those honorable senators who make that claim must have failed to study the figures or, if they have done so, they have not realized their full import. The budget provides for tax remissions amounting to roughly £50,000,000, and for a record allocation of £164,000,000 for social services. Surely that is something which the people will applaud. Sales tax receipts are to be cut by about £6,000,000, repatriation benefits and pensions are to be increased, and last year’s special income tax levy of 10 per cent, has been removed.
Surely those are measures for which the Australian public have reason to be thankful.
Despite the startlingly large sum which has been allocated for social services expenditure during the current financial year, I greatly regret that the Government has not been able to grant larger increases of pensions. The additional 7s. 6d. a week will increase the cost of pensions from £59,000,000 to £72,000,000 a year, which is a very substantial sum. However, the unpleasant fact remains - and honorable senators on this side of the chamber appreciate it thoroughly - that those who are solely dependent on pensions find the present rates totally inadequate. The partial lifting of the means test will be of help to some of the thrifty members of the community, but I consider that nobody will be really satisfied with pension plans until a sound national insurance scheme is evolved. In criticizing the present pension rates, I am not unmindful of the fact that this Government has been responsible for the largest increases of age pensions that have been made, and that the difference between the pension offered by the Opposition when it was in office and that offered by the present Government is £1 7s. 6d. a week. Nevertheless, I maintain that provision for the aged persons in the community, which surely is a duty all of us owe to the pioneers, should- not be made by penalizing the’ thrifty. The granting of an adequate pension, as a right, to all citizens will be possible only when we have a scheme of insurance which has been thoroughly tested and proved to be actuarially sound. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has frequently voiced his approval of such a scheme, and I am sure that he will continue to give sympathetic consideration to the introduction of a scheme whereby the means test may be completely abolished.
While referring to pensions, I wish to pay a tribute to the Australian Pensioners League, Western Australia Division Incorporated, which does a wonderful job in supplementing the provision which the Australian Government makes for pensioners in that State. As I should like the public of
Australia to know what the league has done, with the consent of honorable senators I shall incorporate in Hansard the league’s balance-sheet for the year ended the 30th June last, which reads as follows : -
I note with great pleasure that the league has assets of £45,098 l1s. 8d., thatit has investments in Commonwealth bonds amounting to £9,750, and that it owns properties of a total value of approximately £29,187. I commend the work of the league in “Western Australia.
I do not wish to say a great deal about sales tax during this debate, because that matter has been threshed out fairly thoroughly. However, I wish to remind the Senate that the maximum rate of sales tax has beenreduced by this Government from 662/3 per cent, to 50 per cent. The rate of tax on toilet accessories has been reduced from 50 per cent, to 331/3 per cent., and on sporting materials from 331/3 per cent, to 20 per cent. Goods purchased for the use of universities and schools which are not conducted for profit are now completely exempt from sales tax. All this must surely appeal to large sections of the Australian public. However, I invite the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that sales tax at the rate of 50 per cent, still applies to jewellery and electroplated goods. The jewellerymaking and electroplating crafts are very ancient, and the imposition of a 50 per cent, rate of sales tax on their products has spelt almost their utter extinction in Australia. In Western Australia, a num ber of parents have endeavoured to cancel the apprenticeships of their boys and girls to these crafts because there seems to be no future for them. I think that it is a great pity that a country as poorly equipped with crafts as is Australia should lose crafts which have reached such an excellent standard of skill. I hope that the Government will reconsider the incidence of sales tax in this connexion and so reduce it that these industries will be permitted to flourish once again.
The avowed policy of the Government to assist rural production should prove to be a strong incentive to greater primary production throughout Australia. Recently I enjoyed the privilege of travelling up the Western Australian coast, calling at most of the north-west towns on the way, and ultimately arriving at Darwin, where I spent some time gauging the reaction of the different classes of people in that area to the future of the north-western part of Australia under this Government. I say unhesitatingly that where previously there had been a feeling of pessimism because the dead hand of Canberra had been placed on everything in the Northern Territory, to-day there is a spirit of optimism. The people have been encouraged and now feel that the north-west of Western Australia and “ Centralia “, as they like to refer to the area which extends south as far as Alice Springs, is experiencing almost a renewal of life. I was most gratified to learn that the Government had offered financial assistance to that wonderful scheme, the beef air lift. As honorable senators are aware, last year the Northern Territory experienced its worst drought in 50 years. When I reached Alice Springs, having come down by road from Darwin, calling at most places on the way and making inquiries about the cattle industry, mining and tropical growth of all lands, it rained. There in Central Australia where it had not rained for eighteen months, rain fell more torrentially than it does even in Canberra. It rather spoilt some of my sight-seeing opportunities in Alice Springs.
The Australian Government is tremendously interested - to the extent of approximately £10,000 I understand - in the air beef scheme in the Kimberleys. During the drought this year, millions of pounds worth of cattle were lost. It was a dreadful sight to see dead cattle lying all over the countryside.- The air beef scheme is one with which all honorable senators should make themselves familiar. It has saved Australia thousands of head of cattle and thousands of pounds of beef not only for our own consumption, but also for export. I asked the management of the scheme if they could let me have some comparative figures so that I might present them to the Senate. With the consent of honorable senators I shall incorporate the following statistics in Hansard: -
Instead of being obliged to drove cattle over miles of frightful country during n drought, where there is neither water nor feed, the suggestion has been made that island abattoirs should he established at strategic points all over Australia and that cattle should be transported by air. The whole scheme is intensely interesting end of great importance to Australia.
I was particularly struck by the scenic beauty of Central Australia. Incidentally, my pocket was also struck because of the actions of certain tourist agencies which are actively engaged in Central Australia to-day in stripping the tourist of everything they can possibly get from him. 1 think that the administration of the Northern Territory and those responsible for such matters in Alice Springs should take steps to ensure that tourists, who are well repaid for their visit by the wonderful scenery of the Macdonnell Ranges and the beauty of the inland country, arc not fleeced so unmercifully that they are unwilling to return to the area.
I wish, at this juncture, to pay a tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who in no small fashion has been responsible for the wonderfully optimistic outlook that the whole of the central Australian population has assumed. One of our great problems in Australia is the fact that so many of our young people are drifting to the cities. In Darwin I was interested to learn that as a means of keeping young people in the northern parts of Australia an apprenticeship board has been set up, and that instructors are being appointed to train apprentices and to further the education which they have acquired by the time they leave school. At the present time there are 22 apprentices in Alice Springs and Darwin who are receiving training as motor mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, electrical tradesmen, and fitters and turners. That means that there will be a constant pool of young apprentices coming on as journeymen. The whole of the Northern Territory will benefit from that scheme.
I also congratulate the Minister on the new school which is being constructed at Alice Springs. It is one of the most beautiful buildings that I have seen for some time. This school will cater for kindergarten, primary, secondary and technical education. In addition, the Minister has promised that a branch of the Australian National Library at Canberra will be established in Alice Springs to help with the education of the people. The library will also lend books to residents of the outback areas round Alice Springs.
While in Alice Springs I was thrilled to stand on the spot where the flying doctor service was begun by that great Presbyterian, the Rev. John Flynn, who was an ordinary, humble parson of the Presbyterian Church, but who had a vision of Australia peopled from end to end. He was keen on decentralization and the need to fill the centre of Australia with some of our best citizens. As honorable senators know, he has passed to his rest. It is proposed to build a memorial to him in Alice Springs, although he was not a man who would have liked a memorial. I mention this matter because, during my visit to Alice Springs, I was invited to the school of the air, which is connected with the flying doctor service. This school enables children to talk back to their teachers, which is not a very good thing at most times, but quite good when it is on the air. While I was there I heard a teacher giving a lesson. He told me that some 30 stations, with about 42 children, were listening in te the lesson that he was giving. When the lesson was over, the machine Was switched to broadcasting, and the listeners were able to talk to the teacher and ask questions about th, lesson. That is making a wonderful difference to people living in the outback Senator Tangney mentioned the importance of this development in her speech. It is making the women of the outback feel that they are not forgotten. They are able to hear every day what is happening in other parts of Australia and they are being made to feel that the splendid job they are doing in this wonderful country is not being overlooked. The following quotation is from a recent issue of Muster: -
Four basic needs will have to be satisfied before any significant developments can be expected. These are: security of tenure and freedom from controls for the cattlemen without whose co-operation there will be no appreciable development; provision of adequate transport facilities; planned improvement of water supplies: and a very big influx of now private capital.
The Government should get busy on those things. I am sure that we shall get that influx of private capital under this Government. The 1952-53 budget will provide an incentive to the people. It will change hesitation and doubt into optimistic decision. That purpose can hardly be frustrated because it is supported by the bright promise of material conditions. Export prices are high, seasons are good, great defence programmes and works programmes are in train, and our population is increasing rapidly. Industrial bottle necks have been broken, and taxes are lower than they are in any comparable country. The scene, indeed, has never been set more favorably for enterprise. It is up to us to make this budget and this country a success. I support the bill.
– I am sure that all honorable senators have listened with considerable interest to Senator Robertson but I could not help feeling, after hearing the honorable senator’s references to the bright things that are on the Australian horizon to-day, that, because of circumstances beyond the control of the Government, and, indeed, beyond its reach, this country may survive, in spite of the Government. Let us hope that it will. Unfortunately the honorable senator confined her remarks to those things which shine brightly on the horizon. There are many other things that are gloomy because of sheer maladministration on the part of the Government, and as they are important things, we feel impelled to draw the attention of the Senate and of the people of Australia to them. An examination of the 1951-52 budget, and of the current budget leads inevitably to the conclusion - and it is not a pretty conclusion - that they are perfect examples of special pleading brought to a particularly high level. There is no evidence in either document of the purely objective review of our financial and economic situation that should be part and parcel of every budget. There has been no objective and impartial assessment of the position. That is indeed a serious allegation ; yet it is the inescapable conclusion that must be drawn from any close and analytical study of the two budgets. A budget speech should be purely objective, lt should state the facts no matter how unpalatable they may be. It should not cloud facts with words that are capable of a number of meanings in order to give a good impression where a bad impression is the one that should naturally follow.
The Government’s approach to the last two budgets has been to postulate a certain condition of affairs to suit the remedies that it intends to apply. Such an approach is unworthy of any government. A government should be. prepared to state facts, and then to decide what remedies should be applied. It should be able to say why one remedy is preferable , to another, and why course A is more desirable than course B. This Government has not been able to do that either last year or this year. Both budgets have indicated too clearly the remedies that the Government has had in mind. The parallel has been too complete. The analysis of the facts, and the outline of the remedies to be applied have been so completely coalescent that they are subject to the gravest doubt and suspicion. I am reminded of the doctor who, before examining his patient, has already determined the remedy that he is going to prescribe, and makes his diagnosis accordingly. That is what the Government has done in its last two budgets. I doubt whether I have ever seen better examples of special pleading. It is very subtle. It is even smart. Unfortunately, to some degree, it is also unscrupulous. The basis on which both budgets were framed and on which the remedies were specifically prescribed, does not indicate a completely impartial and objective assessment of the situation. That is a serious allegation and one that I should not make lightly.
In our approach to the 1951-52 budget and the 1952-53 budget, we must be guided by the political situation in which the Government found itself. That situation was, for the Government, a most unhappy one. It had pursued a course which ultimately had become unbearably tortuous. The Government parties were threading their way through a political and economic mine-field, and the situation was becoming increasingly hazardous. There was a revulsion of public feeling. The Government sought the same refuge in this budget as it sought in the last budget. It sought refuge in the doctrine of inevitability. To-day, an atmosphere of complete inevitability is being fostered by the Government. The people are being induced to believe that certain things have happened because they had to happen; that certain things were done because nothing else could be done; and that certain remedies have been applied because they were the only remedies that could be applied. In the circumstances, that is a necessary political expedient, and it may be good politics when a Government has to answer for as many sins of omission and commission as this Government has to answer for. So, the Government is encouraging this aura of inevitability in the hope that the people will believe that nothing could have been done that this Government has not done and that, had Labour been in office, it would have had to do the very things that this Government has done. That is a very clever political trick and it could succeed. It is our duty to remove this wrong impression completely from the minds of the Australian people. We do not admit even that the condition that had to be rectified was inevitable, and certainly we do not admit that the remedies that this Government has applied were inevitable.
This Government is prepared to postulate a state of economic determinism which would make even the Communist party blush. We are being encouraged to believe that our economic drift had reached such a stage that there was no way out other than that proposed by the Government; that the suffering and misery that is upsetting commercial and industrial life, and the disarrangement of domestic life were inevitable. We do not believe that. The Government may adhere to that view and, if it be correct, it is indeed a shocking admission of the inherent weakness of our economic system ; but we do not admit that it .is correct. The doctrine of inevitability is, of course, an extremely comfortable shield for the Government. In what situation did the Government find itself just prior to the presentation of the 1951-52 budget? There had been eighteen months of complete administrative inertia. No attempt had been made to deal with the economic problem. During that period, every issue had received its due measure of attention, except the most pressing and vital issue of all, the growing economic problem. The crime committed against the Australian nation between the election of this Government in 1949 and the presentation of the 1951-52 budget will not be expatiated easily by this Government, or by the Australian people for many years to come. The Government concentrated solely on giving effect to its political ideology. Even to-day, when the problems of this country are most pressing, the antisocialist ideology of honorable senators opposite remains uppermost in their minds.
The Government parties are still bent on dispossessing the nation of its assets, because that is part of their ideology. More important matters requiring urgent attention remain unheeded. That has been the fundamental political weakness of the Government since it took office. However, worse even than the Government’s inertia and its concentration upon its political ideology, has been its betrayal of the Australian people at two elections. The Menzies Government was returned to office in 1949 and again in 1951 on certain specific promises. Honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the House of Representatives told the people that they would be led into a promised land flowing with milk and honey. I am reminded of another biblical reference - one of the cruellest in the Book. I think it was Rehoboam who said, “My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions “. That is exactly what this Government has done. Taxes imposed by the Labour Government were painful as taxes usually are; but how much harsher and unconscionable are the impositions of the present. Government! Truly if Labour chastised the Australian people with whips, this Government is chastising them with scorpions. The Government’s failure to redeem its election promise to reduce taxes was a gross betrayal of the Australian people and honorable senators opposite cannot escape at least a part of the blame for that betrayal. They all supported the joint policy speech of the Government parties, and therefore subscribed to the promises made by their leaders. They must stand or fall by those promises. The promise to reduce taxes was only one of the election pledges on which the present Government was returned to office.
This Government’s taxation policy has had a most detrimental effect on the economy. Senator Robertson spoke of the incidence of the sales tax, and referred particularly to one of our highly skilled trades. Her remarks called to my mind the protest that was made by the radio industry against the sales tax proposals contained in the 1951-52 budget. The radio industry is a highly technical undertaking. If it is killed commercially it will not be available when it is needed for defence. Modern warfare is becoming increasingly technological and requires vast numbers of highly-trained technicians. Only by keeping our technical industries going in peace-time can we ensure that they shall be ready in time of war. That is one of the serious implications of this Government’s harsh and stupid sales tax proposals. The radio industry needs all the patronage that we can give it in peace-time so that it may keep abreast of modern developments, absorb apprentices, and train technicians. The punitive rates of sales tax imposed upon the products of this industry drew a protest from the Radio Association. Its representative said that should war break out in three years’ time, it would not be nearly so well prepared technically as it was when the last war broke out. Even if it was prepared it would be initially the weak link in our chain of modern defences. Conditions would be worse next time. When the Government decides to impose a tax for a special purpose it should not close its eyes to all the implications of that tax; but this Government has done that on many occasions. Taxation generally killed incentive in this country in all the fields in which it was imposed harshly. The Government is now retracing its steps. That it should do so was inevitable. The only things that were inevitable were the results that flowed from the Government’s policy. Other things were not necessarily inevitable.
The fourth matter for which the Government must accept responsibility was its open-handed welcome of imports from overseas. In this matter it was guilty of a flagrant violation of its responsibilities; it showed a complete sense of irresponsibility and a complete unawareness of the situation. Either it refused to face up to the dangers inherent in a great rush of imports or it was guilty of self-delusion or inattention. On any count its action was inexcusable, and we are paying the penalty for it to-day. That is another reason why the Government shelters behind the refuge of inevitability. All round the country I hear the Liberal party’s propagandists saying, “ These things were inevitable “. We give that statement the lie direct. They were not inevitable; they were the direct result of government inattention and lack of responsibility. Our overseas balances were consumed in a holocaust of encouraged extravagance. That was a tragedy. In the 1951-52 budget the Treasurer predicted a heavy importation of overseas lines as part and parcel of his cure for inflation. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ Close down Australian industries and make up the loss of production by imported goods “. He made no suggestion that imports should be controlled or rationalized. 1 have said that our London funds were consumed in a holocaust of encouraged extravagance, because that fact is plainly set out in black and white in the Treasurer’s 1951-52 budget speech. This was a mistake for which the Australian nation will have to pay for very many years. I propose at a later stage of my speech to deal with it in greater detail.
Then, the Government deliberately encouraged unemployment. I do not think that in any other country has unemployment been deliberately organized by its government. This Government set out to transfer mon from one industry to another without any conception of the absorptive possibilities of alternative industries, and without regard for the practical difficulties that must accompany the displacement of a man from one industry and his employment in another. It put upon the displaced person the responsibility of finding alternative employment, but he has not found it. The Government must accept full responsibility for having deliberately brought about unemployment as a part of its budgetary plans. The unemployed man of to-day is very different from the unemployed man of the ‘thirties. Then he was the victim of a world economic disaster. He was often hungry ; he did not father children; he was without a. job, and he lost his human dignity. Tn the depression years the Communists were ready to receive him into their midst. To-day the Communist party is still a well-equipped organization. When the Government deliberately set out to bring about unemployment, as it did thi3 year, it failed to realize that an unemployed person, however good a citizen or however worthy he may have been, is likely to become a potential saboteur and traitor to his country and a victim of the wiles of Communist propaganda.
The Government must accept responsibility for the fact that its planned policy will have that inevitable result. A logical man would reason in this way : “ In the depression years we were told that, there was too little money and too many goods and that only by unemployment could the position be relieved. But since then, more than 20 years have passed by and the position is reversed. Now, there are too few goods and too much money, but again the system proclaims that unemployment will provide the remedy “. The ines capable conclusion that he will reach is that die system will not work. In fact, it will not work because the Government has not made it work. But the unemployed person does not reason in that way and becomes a potential revolutionary who seeks to overthrow the system. And who can blame him? The impression that the Government has formed in the minds of the unemployed is still another evil for which it must accept responsibility. I could go on indefinitely with this exposure of miscalculation, blunder, and maladministration on the part of the Government, but I realize that it would sicken the minds of my listeners.
I gome now to the final blunder perpetrated by the Government. In spite of all the remedies it applied, the evils that beset us remain uncured. The Government has not cured the evil of inflation. It acknowledges that inflation is still with us in a violent form. We still have money inflation, if not in an open state then at least in its concealed state, and we undoubtedly have cost inflation; and the Government still shelters behind the refuge of inevitability. We advised it to take other measures than those which it has taken to overcome these difficulties. During the debate on the Appropriation Bill last year our suggestions were characterized by Senator Cormack as “hindsight “. If such an allegation could reasonably have been made last year, it certainly cannot be made this year. The honorable senator must surely realize now that we displayed foresight and not hindsight. The consequences that we contended would follow from the policies of the Government were inevitable. It is a pity that the Government did not accept some of the suggestions that we made last year. Had it done so, many of its present difficulties may have been avoided.
Since the budget of 1951-52 was presented twelve months have passed by. They have been unhappy months - politically unhappy for the Government and tragically unhappy for many citizens. At best they were very dreary months for the S,500,000 people of this country. They were disastrous months for many people who were the victims of disaster and whose recovery will be slow and tortuous. To very many people those twelve months brought stark tragedy. They are living on charity, ekeing out their existence because they are unable to bridge the gaps between their income and high living costs. I refer principally to the pensioners whose perilous position the Government so belatedly realized and attempted to improve in a measure that was passed by the Senate yesterday - thrifty people who, during the whole of their lifetime, have been good citizens, and have paid their taxes and are now living on superannuation payments or income received from investments. The solid elements in the community are in a tragic plight, because almost everything has been lost to them. Those who invested their money in government securities are the victims of the effect of the loss of confidence in the Government. They are the victims of inflation and the Government’s broken promises. The Government must accept full responsibility for their plight.
Coming to the present budget we again find this horrible aura of inevitability created by the Government. It still tells the same story. The Treasurer said in his budget speech last year that certain unpopular measures were necessary to safeguard our economy. This year he has repeated that statement. Apparently he sees no way out of the Government’s difficulties. The last budget may have been the greatest blunder ever perpetrated in this country - in many, if not in all, respects, it was - but this budget contains no acknowledgment of blunder, or of miscalculation. In the eyes of the Treasurer the Government’s economic policy has been almost 100 per cent, perfect. With almost Divine prescience the Government has said what we must do, completely ignoring the fact that it has badly miscalculated the effects of its past policy. Again, the Treasurer has given evidence of the Government’s doctrine of inevitability. We warned the Government last year that it was leading the people along the .wrong path, but it ignored our warning. Perhaps on this occasion it will heed us.
The Government has described the budget as an incentive budget, but in fact, it is essentially a rectifying budget. It rectifies the blunders and mistakes that were made in the 1951-52 budget. There again, the Government indulges in special pleading. In every line of the budget, which indicates a variation of the policy applied last year, the Treasurer has indulged in special pleading. I note a complete absence of an objective, impartial and nonsubjective approach to the economic situation. One illustration of that is to be found in the Government’s attitude to unemployment. The budget is framed on the basis of what I regard as the figment that there is no substantial, and no chronic unemployment in Australia. If the budget rests upon that kind of supposition, then it represents another example of special pleading, of self-delusion or of deliberate evasion. When the budget was drafted, unemployment was even greater than the Government is prepared to acknowledge. The framing of a budget on the basis of a phantasy is a serious matter. Inevitably, the budget proposals cannot achieve their objective, because the budget is based on a figment of imagination, and not on factEn the last few days, the figures relating to unemployment have grown to staggering dimensions. But all of those persons who are unemployed have not become un employed in the last fortnight or so. Many of them were unemployed when the budget was framed, but they did not register for the unemployment benefit, because they had a little money to. tide them over. Thus, unemployment was not considered in its proper perspective when the Treasurer framed his budget, and, to that degree, it rests upon fiction rather than upon fact. The Government suffers from the delusion that nothing else can be done. I do not think that the Australian people will accept that reasoning. They well know that many other things could and should have been done. They will not admit, as inevitable, unemployment, misery, the depreciation of capita] assets and the constant struggle to make ends meet. The speeches that have been delivered by honorable senators opposite have been full of explanations and assurances. They should have been full of expressions of doubt. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) would have us believe that everything is all right in this country, yet unemployment stalks the land as a result of the bad administration of the present Government.
I shall now direct the attention of honorable senators to the close relationship of imports and unemployment. Honorable senators opposite have stated that the unemployment problem is only temporary, and that it will not reach a higher level. When I said at the commencement of my speech that I intended to refer to import restrictions in some detail, I had this aspect of the matter in mind. Australia is dependent upon imported goods in order to maintain employment in this country. We are more dependent upon imports of raw materials than is generally realized. As I wish to be precise in my approach to this matter, I shall refer to copious notes. In March last, the Government was faced with the position that the value of record imports far exceeded the value of our foreseeable exports. In order to reduce the consequential heavy drain on our overseas funds, the Government decided upon what was tantamount to a blanket cut of imports. We began the year 1951-52 with overseas reserves of £843,000,000, in terms of Australian currency. We had heavy commitments for orders placed abroad, and the price of wool - our principal source of export income - had fallen considerably. It was quite obvious that the conditions that obtained in 1950-51 would not be repeated. At the end of the year we had an adverse trade balance of £384,000,000, and a further liability of about £200,000,000 for net debit on services such as transport and insurance involved in the bringing- of goods to this country. The adverse balance of payments for that year was probably about £600,000,000. Australia was then faced with the inevitability of import restrictions. In view of the analysis that I have just made, I charge the Government with a complete lack of appreciation of the situation. If my analysis is correct, the position is particularly serious for the Government. It should have anticipated and taken steps to prevent the development of that situation.
There is a definite relationship between expenditure on imports and our national income. The normal rate of imports, excluding the abnormal imports during 1951-52 and the restrictions that were imposed in March last, is approximately 25 per cent, of the national income. In 1951-52 our national income was approximately £3,23S,000,000. A significant factor is the percentage of each additional unit of national income that is expended on imports. Between the years 1944-45 and 1950-51 the average percentage was 35 per cent., compared with only 25 per cent, between the years 1931-32 and 1937-38. Thus, as income has increased during the post-war years, the average Australian has spent on imports about £35 out of each additional £100 of national income. Therefore, there has been an increase of our dependence on imports, in relation to national income, by about 40 per cent. It is very difficult t<> estimate what proportion of the nation’s total requirements of raw materials is imported, but I consider that from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, would he a safe approximation. This is the important consideration. As our dependence on imports is now about 40 per cent, greater than it was in 1938-39, when 10 per cent, of our working population was unemployed, a 40 per cent, cut of imports now might well be accompanied by a 10 per cent, fall in employment - approximately 350,000 people. In other words, we are facing a condition in which a level of unemployment not directly attributable to consumer resistance or to anything of that nature, but to an actual decline of the availability of imported raw materials, might be reached. At least 70 per cent, of our imports are goods that we vitally need in order to maintain our secondary industries. Imports to the value of approximately £900,000,000 are needed to maintain full employment in this country.
– Did the’ honorable senator say £900,000,000?
– Yes. Imports to the value of £900,000,000 are required in order to maintain full employment in Australia. At least 70 per cent, of those imports are what might be called producer materials and producer capital equipment. I have before me a list of essential imports that directly affect factory and farm- employment in this country.. I shall read to the Senate only some of the more important items. The estimated annual values that I shall cite a:re based on the imports during the ten months ended April last. The total value of essential imports is approximately £1.100,000,000 a year, including metals. metal manufactures, and machinery to the value of £402,000,000; paper and stationery to the value of £73,000,000; chemicals, drugs, and fertilizers to the value of £29,000,000; sard oils, fats, and waxes to the value of £86,000,000. The figure of £1,100,000,000, includes £200,000,000, being net debit on services involved in importation. The Government should have realized that any reduction of essential imports would precipitate a state of unemployment in our secondary industries. At the present time our income from exports is only £675,000,000 a year. If we add to that figure the £25,000,000 loan by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it will be apparent that our external income is at present 36 per cent, below the level that is needed to maintain full employment. It is evident that the Government did not make an analysis such as I am presenting to the Senate. Evidently the Government has not a sincere regard for the maintenance of full, employment. Some honorable senators opposite believe .that in order to attain industrial discipline, a certain degree of unemployment is necessary in the community.. If our external income fell below £700,000,000 a year, a position could arise in which we would have 11 per cent, or about 335,000 unemployed persons in this country. The Government must attempt to rectify this serious situation.
– How can we bridge the gap ?
– There are a number of ways in which it could be bridged. One of the obvious ways is to try to replace imports with our own production of raw materials. That is a logical approach to the matter. I postulate that we could1 increase our production of basic raw materials. At present we import £20,000,000 worth of tobacco annually. If we could stimulate the production of tobacco in this country we could probably reduce the value of our import requirements of this commodity by £5)000,000 a year. We could also undertake the- production of flax and linseed oil,, and we could export coal.
– On the honorable1 senator’s reasoning we should have to save about £500,000,000:
– The honorable senator is extremely impatient. I have indicated one means of saving import expenditure. I have merely mentioned industries in which production could be stimulated. I am convinced that we could stimulate the production of chemicals in order to save import expenditure of from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 a year. In all, according to statistics I have before me. it should be possible for us to stimulate Australian production in order to save an aggregate expenditure of about £110,000,000 on imports. If we add to that figure the saving of £75,000,000 that could be effected in relation to services, the possible aggregate saving would be about £1S5,000,000 annually. That would be of tremendous importance to Australia. Although some honorable senators opposite appear to regard my suggestion somewhat cynically, I consider that the Government is moving in an encircling gloom. Supporters of the Government bask in a ray of sunlight only occasionally. Yesterday they basked in a metaphorical ray of sunshine that was provided by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I could well understand their pleasure, because, they are not often presented with an opportunity to do so. Our present position is most serious. The relationship of imports of basic materials to the unemployment situation is one that demands the immediate and close attention of the Government. We must stimulate rural production in this country.
– Such as sorghum in Queensland.
– The honorable senator who has just interjected should realize that there is a very complex political situation in his State at present. It is vital to our economy to expand the volume of our primary production. I castigate the Government for what I consider to bc one of the most grievous blows that have been struck in relation to the immigration programme. The continuance of Australia’s bold immigration policy depended on the maintenance of full employment in this country. But this Government has destroyed full employment. Under the restricted immigration programme we should bring agricultural workers to. Australia from the countries of Europe where the landhunger of the people is so pathetic. In countries sueh as France, Portugal and Italy pocket handkerchief farms are tilled, sown and harvested. With our vast miles of uncultivated land it is in our own interests and the interests of the world to achieve increased primary production and a balanced economy. A large number of the immigrants which the Government brings to this country should he skilled in the agricultural development of restricted areas. We could accommodate unlimited numbers of these people if we brought, them in gradually. That is one way in which the Government should set about bridging the gap. lt should also secure foreign capital for the development of this country. The procurement of capital represents a serious problem. I think that our American friends have a new consciousness of our value to them in the Pacific. They have a growing consciousness of our defence situation and I thank that they would be prepared to recognize that the security of this country depends ultimately on its population and development.
– Senator Aylett does not want American help.
– I do not know what Senator Aylett wants. ButI submit that we should increase primary produc-. tion by stimulating the rural immigration programme. We should also attempt to attract the capital necessary to develop this country. I was very much impressed with the high emotional content of the concluding words of the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He said-
If depression with its unemployment, waste and suffering reappears in this country it will not be because the Government has miscalrulated or because the times have conspired to produce it. It will be because we have lacked faith in ourselves and have lost sight of our manifest destiny.
This Government has all the theological virtues. It has robbed the people of hope; a considerable number of them live on charity; it is only appropriate that, finally, the Government should offer the people faith.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeat) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to make a short statement. Honorable senators may remember that it was suggested during the week that General Cassels should address honorable senators at some informal gathering. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has asked me to inform the Senate that he approached General Cassels with this request. However, the general leaves for Now Zealand next Tuesday and whilst he was very appreciative of the compliment paid to him, he will be unable to make arrangements to talk to us here upon Korea, as was suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Temora, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Menai, New South Wales.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19520918_senate_20_219/>.