20th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Eon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
Senator James Philip TOOHEY made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Petitions in relation to the Superannuation Act were presented as follows : -
By Senator COOKE, from certain citizens of Western Australia.
By Senator CRITCHLEY, from certain citizens of South Australia.
By Senator HENDRICKSON, from certain citizens of Victoria
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the - Senate whether the Government is aware of the intense resentment that is felt by returned veterans of the Korean war. over the Government’s spinelessness in allowing a leading Australian Communist who worked officially for the red Peking Government and was housed by that Government in Peking to flaunt himself unmolested in Australia! Does this: weakness on the ..part of the Government .mean that in future any Australian Communist may give active aid and assistance to governments whose armies are waging war oh Australian troops and then return to this country to continue his subversive activities unmolested?
– The undesirable circumstances that have ‘ been referred to rather offensively by the honorable senator exist ‘ substantially because of the fight that the Australian Labour, party made when this Government attempted to place on the statutebook a measure to condemn the Communist party.’
– What about the decision of the High Court of Australia!
– Had the referendum on the measure been carried, the Australian Government would have had power to deal effectively with the Communist to whom the honorable senator has referred. Even after the High Court of Australia had decided on the illegality of the bill to deal with . the Communist’ party, the Government passed an act for a referendum. The Government strenuously advocated the acceptance of that referendum throughout the country; but the Labour party, through considerable misrepresentation, deluded the people into denying the Government the very necessary, power that it sought.
– -Is it not a fact that this Parliament passed the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the object of which was to ban that party, and that the Australian Labour party supported the passage of that measure? Is it not also a fact that that measure was challenged in the High Court and ‘ the court declared it to be .invalid ? In view of those facts, does not the Minister consider that the reply which he made to my colleague reflects upon the High Court?
– I am amazed that the honorable senator did not blush when he said that members of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament supported the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. The fact is that members of that party fought that measure most bitterly ; but, at the last moment, they were instructed by the Central Executive of the Australian Labour party to change their attitude towards it and, subsequently, they supported it. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition .will agree with me when I say that the effect of the judgment of the High Court was that at that stage this Parliament did not have power to pass such an act. Indeed, it was as a result of the court’s judgment that the Government sought to obtain such power from the people; and, when it did sp, the Australian Labour party endeavoured to defeat the referendum at- which that issue was put before the people.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is true that a prominent member of the Government was the intermediary in negotiations that enabled representatives of the Sydney Morning Herald and Associated Newspapers’ Limited to visit Canberra on Sunday, the 30th August, and obtain consent under the capital issues regulations to the issue of 678,674 shares in record time? Was the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. W. C. Balmford, requested by any member of the Government to expedite that consent to the extent of issuing it on a Sunday under such strange circumstances? Has the Government given consideration to serious allegations that Mr. Balmford permitted an outsider who was representing the applicants to type in the Commonwealth Actuary’s own office on that Sunday afternoon a consent document which the actuary then signed ? Is it true that a false’ date was typed on the consent document in order to create the impression that it was issued in the normal course of departmental practice on the Monday and not on the .Sunday? Was the date on the document subsequently alter.ed after the matter had been raised in the Parliament? Will a judge of the High Court of Australia be asked to inquire into all the relevant circumstances and report to the Parliament?
– I am not aware of the circumstances to which the honorable senator has referred, but I must say that I am rather intrigued by his interest in what he and his party has frequently described as the capitalistic press. I hope that the interest he now evinces in that direction presages a complete change of heart on his part.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health whether some State government departments impose a commission charge uponsocieties registered under this Government’s health and hospital benefits scheme when employees of such departments pay their contributions by way of “ pay-sheet deductions “, the total amount of such deductions for each department then being forwarded as one amount to the’ registered society? If this practice is being followed by State government departments, will the Minister direct the attention of the State governments concerned to the desirability of having it discontinued and, in that way, reducing the administrative costs of registered societies ?
– I am not aware that the practice to which the honorable senator has referred has been adopted by certain State government departments. I shall arrange for the matter to be investigated and make a report to the Senate as early as possible.
On the 10th September, Senator Wedgwood asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether it is true that to date no money has been paid to public hospitals in respect of pharmaceutical benefits ? If that is so, and in view of the difficult financial position of the public hospitals, will the Minister take action to expedite those payments?
The following information has been supplied by the Minister acting, for the Minister for Health: -
It is not true that no money has been paid tn public hospitals in respect of pharmaceutical benefits. Payments have been made to all States in respect of pharmaceutical benefits supplied to non-public ward patients in public hospitals and in all States concerned, except New South Wales, payments have been made up to the 30th June, 1953. In the case of New South Wales, however, no claim has yet been received from that State for the last financial year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for- the Minister for Health,’ upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the acting Minister give favorable consideration to granting to industrial pensioners the same concessions in the provision of medi cine and medical attention as arc provided for age and invalid pensioners.. The industrial pensioners referred to are persons who have been incapacitated in industry and are’ in receipt of an allowance of approximately £5 10s. a week?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Health lias supplied the following answer: -
I understand that these pensions, like many other types of pensions payable under Statu legislation, are not subject to a means test. In these circumstances, it would not be practicable to extend the scope of the pensioner medical service in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
– Last week, I directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture regarding negotiations which had . taken place in respect of the vital question of wheat marketing in th« future. In the meantime, the Minister has had a further conference with State Ministers for Agriculture. Is the Minister now able to make a statement to the Senate as to the present position in respect of those negotiations?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has provided me with the following reply: -
I have been engaged in most numerous consultations with the wheat-growers’ organizations and the State governments, separately and collectively, over a long period and I am gravely concerned at the present situation. The first point I make is that while the Commonwealth Government has always affirmed its willingness to play its part in a guaranteed price stabilization plan it would do so only if the plan had first received the approval of growers through ballot.
I offered last July to conduct a ballot of growers as soon as the States reached agreement on their position in a stabilization plan.
The Commonwealth’s own part in a stabilization plan was finally decided following consultation with wheat-growers and is in all respects ready for ballot, but the .States’ part in a stabilization plan has never been formulated because of disunity amongst the States. La si July, when the Commonwealth offered to conduct the ballot, the States insisted that any ballot of growers must be conducted by them and the Commonwealth has no intention of trying to displace the States from what they claim to be their own prerogative.
That is the full explanation of the delay in conducting the ballot and that delay is now almost certainly responsible for the fact that there is only the most remote likelihood of stabilization continuing. On the other hand there can be, if agreement is reached very promptly indeed now, an orderly marketing of the Australian wheat crop, both locally and internationally, without stabilization or guaranteed price provisions.
The Commonwealth has been ready for months to legislate for its part in such a plan, but the States again have been unable to reach agreement on a uniform selling price in Australia.
The problems of operating an orderly marketing scheme with different prices in different States are tremendous and may not enable ratification of the International Wheat Agreement. They carry grave dangers for the flourmilling industry in certain States, and grave dangers for these live-stock industries which depends on flour mill offals. But if the States would even Bay that they want the Commonwealth to devise an orderly marketing scheme with different prices in different States, the Commonwealth is willing, in fact ready, to put down for consideration almost immediately the best kind of plan that can be devised under those highly unsatisfactory conditions.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce anr! Agriculture been drawn to a reported statement of the Prime Minister of India tq the effect that India and other Asiatic countries were rapidly approaching self-sufficiency in the production of rice ? . As those countries have been supplied with grain under the Colombo plan and have been purchasers of wheat from Australia, what influence will the home supplies of rice in those countries have upon the market for Australian wheat?
– The question that has been asked by the honorable senator is involved , and important. It comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and I shall obtain from him a considered reply.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen recent press reports drawing attention to and expressing grave concern about the existence of Nazi and other fascist immigrant organizations and clubs in Australia? Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that in Melbourne and Sydney, Polish, Hungarian and Ukranian immigrant organizations are practising racial and religious discrimination by refusing admission to nationals of those groups who are of the Jewish faith? Is the honorable gentleman’ further aware that these immigrant organizations are trying to ‘indoctrinate the public with Hitler’s racial theories, and that, in various immigrant camps Nazi propaganda, including pro-Nazi newspapers and Nazi emblems, &c, are being distributed ? Wall the Attorney-General use his wide powers to keep a close check on those unAustralian activities?
– I do not profess to have personal knowledge of all the matters to which the honorable senator has referred, but I can assure him that the instrumentalities available to this Government are keeping a close watch on all activities that may properly be described as un-Australian.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has supplied the following answer: - 1 regret that the figures asked for in paragraph 1 of Senator Willesee’s question are not available. This is because the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, including diseases amongst migrants, are, in general, a State responsibility and most of the States do not keep separate statistics in respect of migrants. However, from careful inquiries made in some States, it is clear that diseases amongst migrants, of the kind that Senator Willesee lias in mind, are negligible when related to the volume of immigration into Australia. As far as can be ascertained, no other country with a big immigration programme has a better record than Australia in this respect. The overseas medical check of intending migrants is already tight and effectual. It includes a chest X-ray and a certification that the intending migrant is not suffering from tuberculosis. Notwithstanding this, my department, in collaboration with the Department of Immigration, is ever on the alert to keep the overseas screening arrangements at the highest pitch of efficiency. Migrants are also subjected to an effectual medical examination upon arrival in Australia. I would stress in this regard that each Australian State has now made it compulsory for all migrants entering the State to have a chest X-ray within one month of their arrival.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army by pointing out that at present the annual training camps for schoolboy cadets, other than navy and air cadets, are held during the winter months, and that in Tasmania the weather is usually unsuitable for efficient training during those months. Will the Minister ascertain whether it would be practicable, with the co-operation of the education authorities, to hold, cadet training camps in Tasmania at a more appropriate time of the year?
– I” shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to the honorable senator’s representations and endeavour to obtain a reply for him as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether it is a fact that, the United Kingdom Government still refuses to reduce the duty on Australian wines imported into Great Britain? If so, what action is the Australian Government taking, or intending to take, in order to enable this rapidly developing Australian industry to compete with the products of other wine-producing countries on an equitable basis? I point out that Australian wines are at least equal in quality to wines produced by other countries.
– I am not aware of any change of the rate of duty at present being levied by the United Kingdom Government on Australian wine. However, I think that the honorable senator is making a mistake if he means to imply that the United Kingdom Government is discriminating against Australian wine in favour of wine produced by other dominions, such as South Africa. I do not think that that is so, and I am under the impression that the same rates of duty are imposed on Australian wine as on wines that are produced by South Africa and the other dominions. We are not in a position to dictate to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer the duties that he should levy on Great Britain’s imports, any more than he is in a position to dic tate to us .the duties that we should levy on our imports. I understand that from time to time the Australian wine industry has made representations ‘for a review of what it considers to be a very onerous duty on its products.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform .the Senate whether it is correct that, as a result of the considerable amelioration of the means test that will be effected by the budgetary proposals, more than 100,000 persons in this country will now become eligible for social services benefits for the first time? Notwithstanding that some of those persons may qualify for only a portion of the pension benefits, will they be eligible to receive full benefits under the Government’s scheme for the provision of free medical and pharmaceutical services for pensioners ?
– I had the pleasure last night of listening to a speech which was delivered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) immediately after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the House of Representatives during the budget debate. I ‘heard him make those points abundantly clear in the course of his speech.
– Will the Minister for’ Social Services inform the Senate whether it is a fact that some time has elapsed since it was announced by his department that agreement had been reached with the Government of the United Kingdom in connexion with reciprocity of pension rights between the two governments? If this is so, can the Minister state when the reciprocal agreement will take effect as, at present, many aged persons, formerly residents of the United Kingdom, who have been in Australia for less than twenty years are unable to exist on their English pension rates, towards the cost of which they have contributed, owing to higher living costs in Australia?
– I understand that negotiations in connexion with the reciprocal’ agreement reached a stage nt which it was hoped that the Prime Minister could have completed the agreement on his trip to the United Kingdom. I shall obtain the information required and let the honorable senator know the present position.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping whether it is a fact that the Australian Shipping Board advised the Government that the last rise in freight rates was not warranted. Is it true that the Minister ordered the Australian Shipping Board to increase its rates to conform with the wishes of private shipping companies? If this is a fact, can the Minister justify his action in view of. the fact that the greatest requirement for economic production, particularly in Tasmania, is a lowering of freight rates?
– The answer to the first two questions of the honorable senator is “No”. If the honorable senator will examine the balance-sheet of the Australian Shipping Board for the year ended March, 1953, he will notice that the board did not make the margin of profit that it could have made if it had invested its money in Commonwealth bonds. The position has changed considerably since Senator Ashley was Minister for Shipping when the board lost £7;000,000 in three years.
– Is the Minister for Shipping aware that the passenger steamer Taroona, which trades from Melbourne to northern Tasmania, is approaching obsolescence? What steps is the Government taking to have a replacement vessel made available when this vessel can no longer be used on this trade? Is it a fact that Taroona, is likely to be subjected to a major overhaul in the near future ? Will the Minister ascertain what steps the shipping company concerned is taking in order to provide a replacement for this vessel during that time?
– A difficult position fa c-ps the company concerned and also the Government in relation to the subsidization of Taroona. Passenger ships are not easy to purchase anywhere in the world and can only be purchased at exorbitant prices. In order to overcome the immediate problem arrangements have been made for a continuous survey of Taroona in order that it will not be laid up for the usual long period required for a general survey. I am npt sure when the next survey under Lloyd’s specifications will be due, but I understand that the anticipated life of the ship is another ten years. In view of the importance of this service to Tasmania, I shall obtain an up-to-date report on this matter and supply the honorable senator with the facts for which he has asked.
– On the 9th September, Senator Robertson asked the following question : -
Having regard to the recent outbreak of typhoid fever in Australia, which has been attributed to the use of infected coco-nut from certain sources, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health give an assurance to the people that the manufacture of margarine and similar substitutes for butter is being closely scrutinized?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
The setting and supervision of standards of purity for margarine manufacture are functions of State governments under their respective Pure Food Acts. I am sure that all State health authorities are fully alert to their responsibilities in respect of the prevention of infection of margarine by any contaminated material. However, refined coco-nut oil as used in margarine manufacture is likely to have been effectually sterilized during the process of refinement. ‘ There has been no suggestion that any cases of typhoid have been spread by coco-nut oil.
On the 10th September, Senator Tangney asked the following question: -
I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health to the recent outbreak of typhoid fever in the Australian Capital Territory and the Australian States, where some deaths have occurred. Is ho aware that scientific investigation lias revealed that Papuan desiccated coco-nut is » source of infection? Is lie aware also that in the interests of public health, the Health Department of Western Australia has placed a complete ban upon the sale and distribution of Papuan desiccated coco-nut? Will the Minister inform the Senate what steps have been taken to safeguard the health of the people of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory generally in the sale of desiccated coco-nut?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply:-
The first cases of typhoid fever in the Australian Capital Territory were notified to the Commonwealth Department of Health on the 19th July, 1953. About this time, the department became aware of the epidemics in Victoria and New South Wales.
On the 22nd July, 1953, the Commonwealth Department of Health circularized the States, indicating that the likely cause of the outbreaks was a common transmitting agency, most likely an infected imported food, and, in conjunction with the Victorian Health Commission and the Department of Bacteriology of the University of Melbourne, immediately undertook an examination of imported ami local foodstuffs. Further, the organisms isolated from the Victorian and Australian Capital Territory cases were identified as being identical sub-types of the typhoid organism.
On the 31st July, 1953, Papuan desiccated coco-nut was epidemiologically incriminated in Victoria. On the 4th August, 1953, the Director-General of Health issued a statement advising the Australian public to withhold the; use of desiccated coco-nut until investigations were completed. On the 14th August,” 1903, the University of Melbourne confirmed as typhoid organisms grown from desiccated coconut, and identified as typhoid organisms in thi’ Commonwealth Health Laboratory.. Canberra. The action of the other Australian States concerning desiccated coco-nut followed on thu work of the Victorian and Commonwealth Departments of Health. Immediately desiccated coco-nut was confirmed as the cause of the outbreak of typhoid fever in the Australian Capital Territory all stocks of coco-nut which had been impounded since the 4th August were seized.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether it is a fact that he gave an assurance during the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution legislation that such legislation, if passed by the Parliament, would be implemented only against persons who were acting in a manner subversive to the security of this country? Is it not a fact that the Crimes Act clothes the Minister with sufficient power to take the necessary action against anybody who makes statements or commits acts which are subversive to the security of this country, whether those statements are made or the acts performed inside or outside Australia, when the person concerned is inside Australia and can be apprehended ?
– It is not true that all the crimes that are provided for in the Crimes Act can be prosecuted, notwithstanding whether they are committed in Australia or outside it. The position in regard to treason, as it is denned in the Crimes Act, is the opposite to that suggested by the honorable senator. In addition, of course, he should bear in mind that when a crime is committed or is assumed to have been committed overseas, it is one thing to make an allegation that it has been committed and another to prove it with witnesses beyond all reasonable doubt.
– Has the Attorney- . General, acting for the Australian Government, power under the Crimes Act to prosecute anybody in Australia for an act committed or a statement made in Australia that is subversive to the security of the nation?
-It is very refreshing to find such enthusiasm for the Crimes Act by honorable senators on the Opposition side. I spend much of my timeanswering letters from people, whom I suspect of being supporters of the Australian Labour party, protesting violently against resort to the Crimes Act. There are powers under the Crimes Act to prosecute persons for sedition committed in Australia. In cases where the crime of sedition is committed .and can be proved, the Government will take action.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer because of numerous representations that have been made to me by school teachers’ associations and parents’ and friends’ associations concerning the position of school building programmes in Tasmania and other parts of the Commonwealth. Has the grave social crisis that exists in regard to education been brought to the notice of the Minister? Is he aware that this crisis has been, brought about because of lack of adequate school accommodation and facilities and that it is beyond the financial resources of. the States to cope with it? Will the Minister consult with the Treasurer with a view to raising a special loan for education purposes in order to enable the States to put into effect a vigorous building programme designed to cater adequately for our growing population, due, in large part, to our immigration programme ?
– The subject to which the honorable senator refers properly relates to Australian Loan Council procedure. He is no doubt aware that this Government has waived its right to take its share of moneys raised by means of loan and has also supported the works programmes of the States by making substantial funds available. It is true to say that were it not for the generosity of the present Australian Government, the works programmes of the States would have collapsed during the last two years. In the matter of loan appropriations, the States have been dealt with in an undeniably generous fashion. It is their responsibility to decide, within the limit of the loan moneys available to them, what amount will be apportioned for schools, hospitals and other purposes. The Commonwealth has placed the States in such a financial situation that they should be able to cater for the requirements of their people and also proceed with considerable developmental work. It is for each State to decide the order of priority of its public works and in what manner it will expend the moneys which the Commonwealth has most generously provided for it.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether it is a fact that the gold pass issued to former Tasmanian Labour senator W. Morrow has not yet been returned to the Department of the Interior? Is it true that the gold pass is still in the possession of this gentleman and thought to be somewhere behind the iron curtain “ ?
– I shall make inquiries of the Minister for the Interior and endeavour to find out what has happened to the pass.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs able to inform the Senate whether it is a fact that control over the entry of drugs into the Commonwealth is divided between his department and the Department of Health? If that is so, is not such dual control liable to give rise to error? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of establishing a narcotics bureau, to be staffed by trained personnel, and to be the responsible authority in this connexion?
– There is a certain amount of duality of control in this matter, inasmuch as the Department, of Trade and Customs issues licences for specific drugs at the request of the Department of Health, although the actual entry of drugs into the country is governed and controlled by the Department of Trade and Customs. I shall consider the proposition referred to by the honorable senator.
– In view of the conflicting information available to members of the Parliament and the public in regard to the price for which Australia is selling uranium, will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether it is true, as reported in the press, that Great Britain bought Australian uranium at 16s. 3d. sterling, or £10s. 5d. Australian, a unit, but paid £1 l1s. 3d. sterling, or £1 19s.1d. Australian, to Canadian producers? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the reason for this difference in price is that the qualityof Australian uranium is inferior to that of Canadian uranium?
– I have not had an opportunity to see the newspaper report upon which the question apparently was based. I shall examine the report and, if the circumstances warrant it, a statement will be made. In the meantime, the honorable senator can rest assured that the Australian Government is not giving away anything in this matter. It has the interests of the country completely at heart and well under control.
– In view of the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to freeze wages, which are now three months behind prices, and of the imminent discontinuation of rent and prices controls in Tasmania, I ask the Attorney-General whether the Government has given consideration to an alternative to State prices control in the form of federal prices control or food subsidies ? Will the AttorneyGeneral give an undertaking to make available the figures that are compiled each quarter by the Commonwealth Statistician or the Arbitration Court on the rise or fall of the cost of living based on the “ C “ series index ?
– The honorable senator’s question’ is based upon a fallacy. He has implied that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has frozen wages. I do not understand that any such judgment was given. The effect of the recent judgment of the court was to end, for the time being, the provisions of industrial awards which provide for the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage. In my opinion, that cannot properly be described as the freezing of wages. It merely means that the quarterly adjustments will not take place as they have in the past. I believe that the index figures will be made available from time to time as they have been previously. I do not know the source from which they will be issued, but I believe that the figures will be prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician in accordance with the past practice. The figures were not prepared by the Arbitration Court, but by the Commonwealth Statistician, and the court found that they could be used usefully in the quarterly adjustment of wages. I am pleased to note that in the last two or three years the tendency in Australia has been to free the people from the restraint of prices control and other similar measures that the Australian Labour party sought to impose. It is not a part of this Government’s policy to embark upon that kind of restriction.
– Will the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether it is a fact that when the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration delivered a judgment recently, it rejected an application by the employers for a reduction of the basic wage? Is it not a fact also that the court rejected an application on behalf of the employees for an increase of the basin wage? Having regard to the fact that the court also abolished all fluctuations of the basic wage based upon changes in the cost of living, what other term could be applied to the situation than the pegging of wages by the court ?
– To suggest that in that set of circumstances wages have been pegged is as inappropriate as to say that wages are permanently pegged in New Zealand, because there has never been a quarterly adjustment of wages in New Zealand. In that country, the court alters the basic wage from time to time upon application made to it by employers or employees. The position that has nowresulted from the arbitration court’s judgment in this country in no way differs from the practice in New Zealand, which so far as I know has operated ever since industrial arbitration was introduced.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral received any information that would indicate that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in giving its judgment in the basic wage case on Saturday did otherwise than declare that automatic quarterly increases of the wage in accordance with cost-of-living statistics shall be discontinued? Did the court make any utterance, or give any indication, that would suggest that it would not from time to time, as application was made to it, consider and adjudicate upon applications designed to correlate the basic wage with the cost of living?
– the honorable senator’s deductions are perfectly correct, except that I should add that whilst the effect of the court’s judgment is to prevent any automatic increase from being made in the basic wage, at the same time it brings about a position in which there will not be ‘any automatic decrease either. Alterations in the basic wage will, as long as that system continues, be dealt with by the court on application made to it by interested parties.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is not a fact that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in its judgment in the basic wage case did nothing whatsoever to prevent conciliation commissioners from granting increases or decreases of marginal rates; a,nd that being so, it cannot be said that the effect of the judgment is to peg wages ?
– The court, in the judgment which it delivered last Saturday, was in no way concerned with marginal rates but with applications to alter the male basic wage, the female basic wage, standard hours and the provisions in existing awards for automatic variations of the basic wage in accordance with the cost of living. Also before the court was an application by the trade unions, for an increase of the basic wage. The court dismissed all of the applications with the exception of an application by the employers for the deletion of the provisions for the automatic adjustments of the basic wage.
– In view of the fact that the making of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage will now cease and, consequently, trade unions will be compelled to apply to the court for any further increases as a result of increases in the cost of living, I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government will give consideration to meeting the expenses that, trade unions may incur in making such applications to the court.
– I do not desire to lead the honorable senator to believe that’ it is likely that the Government will undertake to pay the cost of applications of the kind to which he has referred. Until the whole of the reasons for the court’s judgment have been announced, one speaks with some diffidence about the matter. However, I should think that it would be unlikely that the hearing of any application in ,the future for a variation of the basic wage would be as protracted or as costly as have been the proceedings in respect of which the court delivered judgment last Saturday.
– As the Parliament is responsible for the control and operation of the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Woomera, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply whether it would be possible to arrange for members of the Parliament to view the tests of atomic weapons, which, it is expected, will be made at Woomera in the near future?
– I am not in a position to say whether members of the Parliament will or will not be allowed to visit the Woomera range. I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Supply to the honorable senator’s question.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President; I point out that .honorable senators often desire to attend proceedings in the House of Representatives. Last night, about 8 o’clock, I entered the House of Representatives with the object of listening to an important speech that was then about to be made. In the section of the chamber that is set aside for senators, ten senators were sitting on a seat which would accommodate comfortably not more than eight persons. .Furthermore, two honorable senators were sitting on the floor. Will you exercise the power conferred upon you as President to instruct Mr. Speaker to provide forthwith adequate seating accommodation for senators in the House of Representatives?
– I shall ascertain what seating accommodation is provided for honorable senators in the House of Representatives, and furnish a reply to the honorable senator’s question later.
– On the 10th September, Senator O’Byrne asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the new wonder drug gammaglobulin has achieved very satisfactory results in the prevention of poliomyelitis in the United States of America and that the injection of gammaglobulin in the case of school children is becoming a widespread practice in that country? Are the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories manufacturing this wonder drug? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the practicability of such injection being made available for Australian children?
The Minister acting for the Minister for Health has now furnished the following information : -
Gammaglobulin is not a drug but is a protein associated with immunity extracted from whole blood by a process of fractionation. Installation of a fractionation plant at the
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is proceeding. The practical value of gammaglobulin as an agent for mass immunization against poliomyelitis must not be overestimated. In the United States of America is was found to confer significant but not complete protection for a period only offive weeks. There is a possibility that the transient protection conferred by gammaglobulin during an epidemic may prevent the development of active and enduring immunity by natural means.
To provide the gammaglobulin required for the temporary immunization of all children in Australia, some 2,500,000 bleedings of whole blood from donors would be necessary. The total Red Cross bleedings for all purposes in Australia last year were approximately 150,000. It will be evident that mass protection by gammaglobulin is not a practicable method of preventing poliomyelitis. With this in mind authorities in the United States of America have recommended that gammaglobulin be reserved for protection against measles and infective hepatitis and that means for immunization against poliomyelitis be sought in the development of a safe and effectual vaccine. Methods of producing a suitable vaccine have not yet been devised, but in, order that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories may be fully informed in the technique of poliomyelitis vaccine production, the Commonwealth last year detached a medical officer from the staff of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to undertake in the United States of America two years’ study of research and production techniques.
Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
In view of the importance of the transport of coal from the Leigh Creek coal-field to Port Augusta, where a new electric power station is in course of construction, what progress has been made in the construction of the new railway line between Stirling and Brachina, in South Australia?
– The route to be followed by the railway from Stirling North to Brachina was the subject of investigation by a royal commission, and, pending a decision being reached work on the line could not be undertaken. The decision was announced in July, 1952, and survey work on the new route for the railway was then commenced. Standardization work had, however, been commenced on the remaining section of the line to the Leigh Creek coal-field, that is, the section from Brachina to Telford North, and when the royal commission’s findings were announced practically the whole of the surveys and a large proportion of the earthworks had been completed on that section. Before tenders could be invited for any of the work, surveys had to be completed,’ and thus it was not until December, 1952, that contracts were let for the whole of the concrete work and ballasting. This work has been commenced by the contractor. Another retarding factor in the progress of thework has been the difficulty of obtaining sufficient supplies of rails, fastenings, and sleepers.
The Commonwealth railways are in a position to proceed with construction work right up to the rate of material deliveries, which will be the deciding factor on thedate of completion of the new line, and suppliers of materials are now confident that their deliveries will notimpede future progress on the line. At present, survey work on the standard gauge route is more than 75 per cent complete, earthworks more than 52 per cent complete, and rails have been laid to beyond Depot Creek, which is over 20 miles from Stirling North. As considerable savings will accrueto the Commonwealth railways by the transfer of the Leigh Creek coal traffic to the new railway, the CommonwealthRailways Commissioner willmake every endeavour to complete the line as soon as possible.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator R. W. Pearson and Senator I. A. C Wood to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Sulphur and sulphuric acid.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee : -
Third Report, for year 1952-53 - Administrative Arrangements Order, together with Treasury Minute on Second Report of Committee 1952-53.
– I have received letters from Senator Maher tendering his resignation from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and from the Leader of the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) nominating Senator Seward, in accordance with Standing Order 36a, to fill the vacancy now existing on the Committee.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Seward, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36a, be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances.
– I have received a letter from Senator Maher tendering his resignation from the Standing Orders Committee.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to.
That Senator Kendall be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Orders Committee.
– I have received a message from the Speaker of the House of Representatives intimating that, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting , Act 1946, Mr. Bryson, a member of the House of Representatives, has been appointed a member of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings in the place of the Hon. J. S. Rosevear, deceased.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read afirst time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for the purpose of amending the Pearl Fisheries Act 1952-1953. Negotiations which have been proceeding for some months with a Japanese delegation for the purpose of reaching by negotiation an agreement to limit, control and regulate Japanese pearling operations in waters contiguous to Australia have been broken off. During the course of these negotiations the Japanese moved their fishing fleet into an area in which they had been requested to obstain from pearling and announced their intention to take in these waters a tonnage of shell considered by our expert advisers to be excessive. The Government is quite firm in its intention to exercise all our rights to protect our interests, and the amendments now proposed are to facilitate full, firm, and immediate control and regulatory action. A formal assertion of sovereignty over the Australian continental shelf will be made. This will be done by issuing a proclamation similar to that made by the Government of the United States of America. This sovereignty will relate to all the natural resources of the sea-bed and subsoil of the continental shelf.
The Pearl Fisheries Act, which was introduced in 1952 to permit a system of licensing and control of pearl fishing in waters over Australia’s continental shelf, and which has since been amended, will be brought into operation. The licensing system and control measures introduced under the Pearl Fisheries Act will be enforced on all pearlers and ships engaged in pearling in Australian waters irrespective of nationality. Any infringement of the licensing provisions will be enforced in the normal manner in our courts. Before proceeding to outline in detail the nature of the amendments which it is intended to make, I propose, for the information of honorable senators to review the fisheries negotiations with Japan and certain related matters. It will be recalled that in the debate on the Fisheries Bill and the Pearl Fisheries Bill, early in 1952, 1 explained that before entering into negotiations with any other governments for agreements for the regulation or limitation of fishing and the conservation and development of fisheries in waters adjacent to Australia, there should be adequate Commonwealth legislation providing for the management of fisheries in our own waters, I clearly indicated that Australian Government policy is that proper controls must exist to prevent the serious depletion and ultimate ruin of these valuable fisheries. I said -
Prom our previous experience with foreign pearlers, it is necessary to lay down strict regulations in the fishery to control pearlers and thereby ensure a proper conservation programme.
At that time I reminded the Senate that Japan was under an obligation, according to the terms of the recent peace treaty, to enter into negotiations for an agreement in respect of fishing rights, if it were called, upon so to do by any one of the parties to the treaty, and I indicated that Australia would exercise this right” as a means of taking a positive step towards safeguarding our fishing interests. Accordingly, fisheries negotiations with Japan commenced in Canberra on the 13th April. The object of these negotiations was to reach an agreement with the Japanese to ensurethe orderly development of the pearling industry and the conservation of pearl shell near the Australian coasts. During the course of the negotiations the right honorable the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) made two press statements, one on the- 13th May, the day that the Japanese fleet left Japan, and the other on the 5th June, when the vessels had arrived in Australian waters. In the course of those statements the Minister made reference to the assurances that the representatives of the Japanese Government had given us about the organization and management of Japanese vessels which should prevent any prejudicing of Australia’s interests. The Minister in his first statement to the press on these negotiations said -
It will be recalled that at the request of the Australian Government the -Japanese Government agreed to withhold the sailing of the Japanese pearl fleet in advance of negotiations. The Austraiian Government felt tliatT.be operation of the fleet before there was broad agreement on the necessity for control and conservation and before methods of implementing such control had been discussed, would seriously, prejudice the possibility of reaching an agreement between the two countries. In the view of the Australian Government discussions could not be carried on satisfactorily about ways and means of protecting the pearl fisheries if at the’ same time fishing operations were being carried on without regard to proposals put forward, by Australia and being seriously considered by the Japanese Government. In view of the stage which discussions have now reached, and the assurance o’f the Japanese Government that the operations of the fleet will >be managed in such a way as not to prejudice a successful conclusion to the negotiations now in progress, the Australian Government has not sought a further postponement. It is understood that the Japanese fishing vessels will leave Japan to-morrow.
In his press statement of the 5th June, the Minister stated -
A Japanese mother ship and a fisheries inspection vessel, accompanied by 25 pearling luggers, have now readied waters adjacent to Australia. In harmony with the understanding reached with the Japanese Government, specific measures will be taken by the Japanese fisheries inspection vessel to ensure that fishing operations will be conducted along lines at present being discussed in Canberra, between repre- sentatives of the Australian and Japanese Governments. Also in harmony with the understanding reached with the Japanese Government, the Japanese vessels plan to carry out operations in an area of some 900 square miles to the north-west of Bathurst Island. This area is about 150 miles from Darwin at its closest point and 35 miles from the nearest Australian territory ( Bathurst Island ) . Fishing operations, accordingly, will bc well outside Australian territorial waters. The presence of the mother ship makes the fleet self-contained in every respect.
I, quote these extracts from the press releases to indicate the nature of the understanding between the Australian and Japanese Governments on the area in which pearling operations were to be conducted pending the completion of the agreement. Until the 10th August last those negotiations gave promise of a successful conclusion. In discussions with the Australian delegation, the Japanese indicated that they might be expected to be agreeable to conclude a pearl-shell fisheries agreement for an initial period of three years along the following lines. The Japanese would agree -
to refrain from fishing in waters off Broome and Torres Strait;
to exert strict control measures on their own luggers to prevent any violation of territorial waters - no landing to be permitted except in cases of emergency threatening safety of boats or crew, and then only at a designated place under Australian supervision.
The Navy and the Air Force, in the course of their operations in these waters, have kept the activities of the Japanese pearling fleet under almost daily surveillance and they have reported to me on behalf of the Government. I am glad to be able to say that this continuous survey of the activities of the Japanese fishing fleet by aircraft of the Navy and Air Force upon which an officer of the Northern Territory administration travelled on occasions revealed no infringements of the arrangements made with the Japanese which I have just recounted. However, on Monday, 10th August, the J apanese notified us that they were transferring operations immediately to a specific area closer to Darwin where Australians are at present fishing. The Japanese also announced their intention to take a certain tonnage of pearl shell in this area. If in fact such a tonnage is taken from this area, it would leave to Australian pearlers only a relatively small catch which could be taken without the resources of the area being seriously depleted. No prior notice was given of this intention despite the fact that at the time a previous offer made to the Australian delegation was under consideration.
It will be recalled that the Japanese, entered the area to the north of Australia about the year 1935, yet by 1940 they had taken about 12,000 tons of shell from the area. This uncontrolled fishing and marketing was responsible in large part for the serious economic difficulties which faced the Australian industry prior to the war and which necessitated the granting of subsidies and other assistance by the Commonwealth Government. Although the pearl-shell beds have recovered during the enforced discontinuance of pearling during the war, it is felt that the announced intentions of the Japanese in regard to this specific area and the tonnage to be taken would severely prejudice the recovery of the Australian pearl-fishing industry based on Darwin. If the Japanese adopt a policy of over-fishing any one area, it would seem to be only a matter of time before other areas more distant from Darwin would suffer progressively from the same practice. Moreover, the timing of this notification by the Japanese, as well as the substance of the notification, indicated lack of co-operation on their part The notification was incompatible with the continuance of the discussions, and accordingly, the Japanese were informed that their action must be regarded as having broken off the negotiations. Clearly, the Australian Government will not accept a situation in which the operations of the Japanese, in the absence of an agreement, can be expected to deplete the pearl shell resources and jeopardize the Australian industry. It is determined to exercise to the full its authority to control and regulate all pearling activities, whether Japanese or our own.
The problem of control and regulation of pearl shell fisheries is entirely different from that of other fisheries, that is, swimming fish. Pearl shell is attached to a specific area of the sea-bed. It grows in well-known areas which do not change their location. Accordingly, conservation measures, to be effective, must be applied to individual areas on much the same basis as conservation of natural resources on the land. International law and custom regard sedentary fisheries as being in a different category from swimming fish. The problems of pearl fisheries and sponge fisheries have been treated on a different basis from those of ordinary fisheries.
As a result of very recent developments, even during the present year, international law has come to recognize that there appertains to a coastal State sovereign rights over the sea-bed and subsoil of the continental shelf contiguous to its coasts to a depth of 100 fathoms, for the purpose of exploring and exploiting the natural resources of that sea-bed and subsoil. There are a few well-known sedentary fisheries off the coasts of other continents, where foreigners have operated from time immemorial. Under international law, these foreigners may be regarded as having an established right to fish for oysters or sponges, as the case may be, on the continental shelf of another State; but even rights of this kind are still subject to regulation by the coastal State.
In view of all this, the Australian Government intends to exercise Australia’s rights to ensure both the conservation of pearl shell resources on its continental shelf, and the preservation and orderly development of the pearl shell industry. As I have already indicated, the Government intends to proclaim sovereignty over our continental shelf; it will enforce a system of licensing and control of pearl fishing in waters over our continental shelf; and this system will be applied irrespective of nationality. It is clear that the waters beyond the continental shelf, that is, beyond the 100- fathoms depth, are not waters in which pearl shell could be fished using present methods.
In taking this action, the Australian Government is concerned to ensure con-
Senator McLeay. servation of pearl shell resources, orderly development of the pearl shellindustry, and preservation of the reasonable economic interests of the Australian industry. The Japanese will be permitted; to participate in pearling in our waters, but only in accordance with the law and. in harmony with the orderly development and economic interests of the Australian pearl shell industry.
The amendments which I shall submit provide for the definition of Australian, waters extending to the limits of the continental shelf and the proclamation: of the boundaries of the continental shelf, and will make explicit provision for theapplication of this act within these watersto foreigners and foreign ships. To theextent that this amendment is designed to amplify and/or clarify provisionspreviously made, the explanation is that legal advice regarding aspects of national authority on these matters, that is, on. aspects of sovereignty beyond territorial waters, has very recently indeed supported this course. In detail the amendments cover -
In commending this hill to the Senate, I repeat that in taking the action the Australian Government proposes, it is concerned to ensure conservation of pearlshell resources, orderly development of the pearl-shell industry, and preservation of the reasonable economic interests of the Australian industry. The licensing system and control measures will be enforced on all pearlers and ships engaged in pearling in Australian waters, irrespective of nationality.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) agreed to-
That the following Order of the Day, Government business, be discharged: -
Korea - Ministerial statement - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper.
Debate resumed from the 9th Septem ber (vide page 19), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: - Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ended 30th June, 1054.
The Budget, 1953-54 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1953-54.
– The Senate, of course, cannot consider the budget and its associated legislation until those documents and bills have been passed by the House of Bepresentatives, but the motion that the budget papers be printed, which has been moved in this chamber, is a very useful device which allows the Senate to debate the budget simultaneously with the House of Bepresentatives. The previous budget was presented on the 6th August, 1952. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced it on that date, he complimented himself upon its earlier presentation than usual. He very properly stressed the importance to the Parliament and the people of knowing without delay the Government’s financial proposals for the year. We on this side of the chamber joined with him when he expressed the hope that his praise-worthy early introduction of the budget would become the rule. However, his very next budget, which is now before the Parliament, has been presented more than a month later than the budget was presented last year. It has been presented after almost two and a half months of the financial year have gone, and after a parliamentary recess of approximately six months’ duration. The Opposition considers that, in the circumstances, there is not the least excuse for such a late presentation of the budget, which means hardship for all of those who are awaiting taxation relief and concessions, as well as for those who are awaiting sorely needed increases of social services payments.Pensioners of all kinds and, indeed, all recipients of social services benefits, must await the passage of the relevant legislation under this budget before they can begin to obtain additional benefits. The suggestion that we on this side of the chamber make to the Government is that, having regard to the plight of those people because of inflation, it should suspend all debate upon the budget and thus enable the benefit-conferring pieces of legislation to be passed by the Parliament without delay. The pensioners are to get no benefit until the first pension day following the passage of the legislation. On behalf of the Opposition T urge the Government to suspend other activities and speed the passage of that legislation so that the benefits may be afforded assoon as possible to a class that is in dire need. I can offer to the Government the full co-operation of the Opposition to that end. ;
Owing to the delay in the delivery of the budget there was no relief from sales tax for two and a half months of thisfinancial year. The sales tax remissions could not operate until their announcement on the 9 th September. There will be no benefit from the remissions from pay-roll tax and entertainments tax until the 1st October. Even the benefits that are proposed to be conferred by the remissions of estate duty will not apply, apparently, to the estates of persons who die between the presentation of the budget and the passage of the relevant legislation. The relatively small relief in customs, excise and primage will- operate from the date of the announcement of the remissions, of course, and I believe that that announcement has already been made. The first point of criticism that I make on behalf of the Opposition is the undue delay in the presentation of the budget to the Parliament.
The second point of criticism relates to the disclosure of the contents of the budget. It is traditional that they should not be disclosed until the budget is introduced into the Parliament. In Great Britain, the tradition is so strong that some years ago, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on his way into the House of Commons, informed a journalist of some of the contents of the budget, the disclosure led to the resignation of the chancellor. In that case, the disclosure was made only seconds before the budget was presented in the House of Commons at a time when the stock exchanges had closed for the day and when nobody could benefit from the information. That indicates how seriously the safeguarding of the budget is regarded in the Mother of Parliaments. It is a very proper tradition that should be honoured in this country.
For months past in Australia, particularly during the Senate election campaign and before by-elections, we have had the unedifying spectacle of senior Ministers and their supporters telling the electors that there were to be substantial tax reductions. The people were then allowed to speculate upon the extent of the reductions. I suggest that that behaviour showed much irresponsibility upon the part of the Government. It cannot be excused on the ground that it was used as propaganda before parliamentary elections. It led to great confusion in the business community ‘ and much speculation. Finally, in recent months, it led to a marked degree of business stagnation. People waited for the details of reductions of customs and excise collections and pay-roll tax and, in particular, of sales tax concessions.
Honorable senators had the further unfortunate experience of reading in the press of Australia for some days before the delivery of the budget the exact details of some of its features. The newspapers recorded widely that there was to be an average reduction of 12-J per cent, in income tax. That accurate information had been disclosed either by the Government or somebody very close to it. While I make no charge against anybody, obviously there was’ a leakage of budget information and it was obtained by the press. The Government must accept responsibility, even if it is only vicarious responsibility, for those leakages. Honorable senators realize that the budget covers a large number of items relating to all departments of government activity. ~No one speech on behalf of the Government will cover more than broad considerations affecting the budget. ‘ I propose to adopt that course also and reserve the comments that I should like to make on particular provisions, concessions and proposals of the Government until the relevant bills are before us.
The outstanding impression on my mind when I read the speech of the Treasurer and listened to a similar speech in the Senate was the claim by the Government that Australia had reached a condition of economic stability. That statement was completely inaccurate and most audacious. I contest it. I believe that it can be proved, in the first place, that not only have we not reached stability but that we are perched precariously on the crest of an inflationary spiral. This is proved by the basic wage regimen and cost of living adjustments. When this Government took office in 1949, the basic wage was £6 9s. In the following year there were four rises in the weekly rates of pay in the six capital cities amounting to 4s., 2s., 3s., and 4s. respectively. Those increases showed plainly the rapid onset of inflation. In the next year, 1951, the rises were accelerated. They were 7s., 7s., 13s. and lis. making a total rise for the year of £1 18s. a week in the basic wage due solely to inflation and increases of the cost of living. In 1952 the quarterly increases were 10s., 6s., Ils. and 4s., making a total weekly increase of £1 lis. for that year. Last February there was no increase, according to the scale applied to the capital cities, although there were individual increases in various States. An increase of 3s. in May was followed by an increase of 2s. in August.
Those increases brought the basic wage from £6 9s. when the Government took office to £11 16s. at present, an increase of £5 7s. Of that total, £1 was not associated with the cost of living adjustments because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration granted an increase of £1 a week in December, 1950, as a prosperity loading, but £4 7s. has been added to the basic wage because of the onset of inflation since the Government took office. That onset has not even begun to end. It appears to be tapering off but what is the general position under this Government? Disregarding the increase of £1 granted by the court, the basic wage has increased by 67 per cent. If the £1 is included, it has increased by 83 per cent, since this Government took office.
During the four years that this Government has occupied the treasury bench, inflation has inflicted the utmost hardship upon 500,000 pensioners and upon all superannuated people and all persons on a fixed income. Home ownership has been placed beyond hope for the great majority of Australians. The erection of badly needed schools and hospitals has been placed beyond the resources of the States, and the immigration programme has been halted. Yet the Treasurer and hia representative in this chamber claim with pride that we have a stable and abundant economy. Who but the Government believes that inflation has ended? . The Commonwealth Arbitration Court does not believe it because in a judgment delivered last Saturday, of which we have only the barest outline, the court, in effect, pegged the basic wage. It has rejected applications for increases and decreases of wages, and has abolished the cost of living adjustments. Anybody who has any regard to the cost and time that is occupied in making an application to the court knows that the court virtually has pegged the basic wage for a considerable period.
– Did the honorable senator say that the court had abolished the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage?
– It has taken the provision for those adjustments out of the industrial awards. It has abolished them. They are not to operate. A renewal of the adjustments would involve a fresh application to the court either by the employers or the employees. It is not a matter of suspending the adjustments. They have been eliminated. Who believes that the court reached its decision in order to prevent wages from going down ? Any such suggestion is ridiculous. The court has stepped in where the Government has failed to act. It has made an endeavour to reach stability by halting the spiral through the abolition of the cost of living adjustments. While that is an economic contribution to stability, it has been made at the cost of a great social injustice to the workers and salary-earners of Australia. In effect, wages are pegged while prices are allowed to run free.
– State control of prices is in operation.
– Every State government acknowledges that control of prices by the States is completely ineffective. The States have done their best in the circumstances but it is commonly agreed, and surely honorable senators will not dispute it, that State prices controls are not working effectively. At a time when, in non-technical language, wages are pegged insofar as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court., can achieve that result, the Government, under this budget, is handing taxation concessions to the entrepeneurs of Australia and is saying to them, in practically these words, “We are giving you an opportunity for bigger profits so that you may engage in greater productivity “. There is no emphasis in this budget upon seeking to get costs down, or urging that the people be given the benefit of these reductions through reduced prices. The fact is that under the budget the Government gives every encouragement to certain people to make greater profits. The Government’s very action in refusing to pay any longer the cost of administration of prices control by the States is another indication that it wants profits and prices to run completely free while wages are pegged.
In considering this budget, one cannot look at it in isolation. One cannot merely pick it up as a document or a series of documents and treat it by itself. The proper approach to a consideration of it is to look at it against its background, to examine its contents and to see where it will lead so far as the people are concerned. Such a consideration instantly takes us back to the end of 1949 when the present Government parties, which were then seeking office, made two clear and specific promises to the people. The first of them was that, if returned to office, they would put value back into the fi ; and the second was that they could, and would, reduce direct and indirect taxes. Members of the Australian Labour party in this chamber, in 1950, advocated an amendment of the Constitution to confer power- upon the National Parliament to control prices. We pointed out that inflation was on the march and must be halted before it developed. We put that argument very strongly and told the Government that the trade union movement would agree to the pegging of wages on condition that, simultaneously, effective control of prices was established.
– When was that?
– In October; 1950. We put that to the Government in this chamber. I remember the occasion so well because I, myself, put forward the proposition. So, the fact is that this Government, with the agreement of the trade unions, could have had wage pegging and could have prevented the inflation that has since developed if, at that time, it had been prepared to have an .effective form of prices control. The Government’s blindness to the fact that inflation was then running is the real cause of the mess that now exists and has existed in Australia since that time. For two years, the Government did nothing about inflation. It is my belief that it did not recognize that inflation was on the march until it was staggered by the increase of 13s. a week in the cost of living that was announced in August, 1951. I am not overlooking the fact that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents the Treasurer in this chamber, declared, in 19-50, when the Opposition put its proposition to the Government, that no action that any government could take could halt inflation, that inflation was a matter for the people themselves to solve. In other words, the Government threw up its hands in utter helplessness and said, in effect, “ We, the Government of Australia, can do nothing about it. It is a matter for the people”. The remarks that the Minister for National Development made on that occasion are recorded in Ilansard of the 31st October, 1950, at page 1587. So, it is completely clear that the Government did not see that inflation was under way; and it is equally clear that it did not move into the field against inflation until it introduced its “ horror “ budget in 1952.
– When did the Arbitration Court increase the basic wage by fi a week?
– In December. 1950. To show how blind the Government was to the need to halt inflation, which is the root of all our economic ills at this minute, as it has been down through the years, I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in October, 1950, promised to. re-impose capital issues control. The Government had lifted that control as soon as it assumed office in January, 1950. And with what result? In one year, the sum of £150,000,000 poured into luxury industries. The Government, alarmed at what was taking place, announced in October, 1950, that it would reimpose capital issues control in order to halt the inflationary trend. The Government considered that such action would provide one answer to rising prices. Yet, so blind was it,, and so incompetent and inactive, that it did not reimpose capital issues control until February, 1951. The Government took five months to take that action after deciding to do so. In the following year, another £80,000,000 was poured into luxury industries which were established throughout Australia, to the detriment of the national economy. The Government, realizing the damage that had been done, introduced its punitive sales tax at the rate of 66$ per cent, in order to crush out of existence the very luxury trades which its action had caused to be established. In that way it contributed to unemployment in this country. Persons who had been employed in those luxury industries were spilled on to the labour market. Unemployment has been a real factor in our economy, and it still is. I was amazed to hear the Minister for National Development, when referring to import cuts and their effect upon our economy, say -
It is certainly true to say that no essential industry has been handicapped by a lack of raw materials.
At once, I point to the industry in South Australia that was conducted by Davies Coop Limited and which -was forced to close down because of its inability to import raw materials.
– That is not the whole story .about that company.
– It is the story that was told by the managing director of the company in April, 1951, when he flatly contradicted the claim that was made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). The facts are that that industry did close down, that it is still closed down, and that in South Australia, at present, 800 skilled operatives are out of employment. I have that information on the authority of the secretary of the Textile Workers Union, who supplied it to me by telegram as late as this morning. If honorable senators opposite have any later information on the matter they certainly are exceedingly up to date, in which event a surprising change must have taken place within the last few hours.
One is tired of attacking this Government. The Opposition has been obliged to attack it during election after election, and at by-election after by-election. But in assessing this budget it is necessary to point to the incompetence of the Government in order to indicate how we have got into the wretched mess in which we are at present, perched precariously on an inflationary spiral that has not yet ended. We sincerely wish that it had. Our present economic ills have really been caused by the inaction and incompetence of the Government in the first place, and, in the second place, by the wild and desperate remedies to which it has resorted. The Government, under its “ horror “ budget in 1952, budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000 with the object of taking that sum from the people in order to prevent them from exerting pressure against the prices of goods in short supply. At that time, the Minister for National Development, in his” capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Treasurer, announced that that money would be placed where it could do least harm. Every one remembers the occasion on which the Minister made the dramatic announcement in this chamber that not one penny of that sum would be expended except over his dead body. But what happened? Within three weeks, the Government introduced a bill under which it proposed to expend every penny of that sum. What does such action portray? It reveals that the Government just did not know what it was doing. That was clear. And how wrong was the Minister proved to be? In due course, the actual surplus for that financial year was £98,500,000, but not only was that sum expended; the Government also borrowed £27,000,000 from the National Debt Sinking Fund, and injected into the economy £45,000,000 of central bank credit, although it professed to abhor that method of finance. In the same year, it scraped the bottom of the Treasury to obtain another £34,500,000. So, when the Minister for National Development said that not one penny of the surplus of £98,500,000 would be expended he was wrong to the tune of approximately £205,000,000 in one year. That is the kind of outlook that has caused chaos in this country during recent years. Even the Treasurer confessed that the people had lost confidence and that there had been a loss of confidence in the community ; and he acknowledged that that was one of the mo3t serious factors in the situation. It was, and it still is. To show, again, that the Government did not know where it was going, we read in the press on the 2nd May, 1952, the headlines, “Fadden warns Premiers. No central bank finance.” He warned the Premiers that, during the ensuing year, in no circumstances would the Government have recourse to central bank finance during a period of inflation. Yet, three months later, on the 6th August, 1952, in his budget speech, he said calmly that circumstances demanded and required the use of central bank credit. Having regard to that fact, who would argue that the Government knew where it was going from minute to minute? It used not only £45,000,000 of central bank credit in that year, but, also, during the financial year which has just closed, an additional £71,750,000 of central bank credit.
I am still dealing with the claim made by the Government that we have now reached stability and that we have an abundant economy. The fact is that the Government is claiming credit for a position that does not exist. The ills of our economy have been caused either by the Government’s inaction or by the steps that it has taken from time to time. I may well be asked, and properly so, to say in what respect I would reduce expenditure in order to reduce taxes. That brings me at once to the fact that last year the Government expended on capital works and services the sum of £103,000,000, whilst this year it has budgeted to expend £101,000,000 for that purpose. Last, year, it paid oft war savings certificates to the tune of £6,000,000 ; and scattered throughout the Estimates now before us are capital items in respect of all departments. It is a reasonable estimate that last year approximately £150,000,000 was expended on capital works and services and that the Government contemplates expending approximately the same amount for that purpose during the current financial year. In undertaking capital works and services, what does the Government do? I cite the following figures from the budget papers for the current financial year. The Government, out of its taxation revenue just for one year, proposes to expend £101,000,000 on projects of that nature. It proposes to expend £2,500,000 on the aluminium project in Tasmania, £13,500,000 on the Snowy Mountains project, £28,000,000 on the construction of war service homes, £3,000,000 on the construction of ships, £1,750,000 on airways, £27,000,000 on new post offices, telephone exchanges and trunk-line services, and £5,000,000 on railways. Those are assets that will last for generations, and, perhaps, for centuries ; yet in one year the taxpayers are being asked to shoulder a financial burden of approximately £150,000,000! One cannot argue against the use of some revenue for capital works and services as a steadier during an inflationary period, but this Government claims that economic stability has been achieved. One could understand the expending of £103,000,000 last year, but, if stability has been achieved, one would naturally expect to find capital works and services moving off revenue and on to loan funds in the current year.
– Where could loan funds be obtained?
– I shall be only too happy to tell the honorable senator why the Government has been unable to get loan funds in the past, and how it could get such funds in the future. Under normal conditions capital works and services are financed out of moneys borrowed from the general public. The burden is borne by the people over a period of perhaps 50 years. A little is contributed by the taxpayers in each successive year. In that way the contributors are able, without undue financial strain, to enjoy some of the benefits of the great assets that are being established. Nobody can controvert the proposition that if in the current year the capital works that I have mentioned were to be financed out of loan funds, approximately £150,000,000 extra would be available immediately for increased remissions of taxation. The burden that is now being carried by the Australian taxpayers would be lightened to that degree forthwith.
The key to the solution of Australia’s economic problems to-day is the restoration of confidence in the loan market. Why have successive loans failed? Why is confidence lacking? Public confidence in the loan market has completely vanished, as the Government itself acknowledges, because of uncon-.trolled inflation. People who are asked to lend their money know that if they purchase a £100 bond to-day, when that bond falls due, they will be paid off in substantially depreciated currency because of uncontrolled inflation. That is the first thing that has knocked the bottom out of the loan market. The second thing is the high interest rate permitted by this Government with, of course, the cooperation of the Loan Council. I concede that the Commonwealth Government does not carry all the odium, but unquestionably that Government leads, and indeed dominates the Loan Council. The Government would not even allow the State Premiers to confer with the experts who had advised it on loan matters. The Commonwealth’s attitude was, “We have been given all the advice that is necessary. There is no need for you to check it. All you have to do is to accept it”. The Commonwealth Government is, of course, the agent of the Loan Council. It is charged with the responsibility of publicizing and handling loans and it has a dominating influence in the Loan Council. Should the Loan Council decide upon a loan programme of, say, £231,000,000, the Commonwealth can say, “ You will not get that much money. You will get only £200,000,000 “. That has been happening year after year. It. is clear just who dominates the situation. The Loan Council’s decisions do not matter. The important thing is what the Commonwealth is prepared to do.
– Most important of all is what the investors are prepared to do.
Sena tor McKENNA. - Eventually, yes ; and the willingness of investors to support Commonwealth loans has vanished because of uncontrolled inflation, and increased interest rates. The value of some Commonwealth securities issued during the war fell to £82, thus involving hundreds if not thousands of small investors in grievous losses.
– Is that not a symptom of a scarcity of money for investment?
– I invite the honorable senator to consider the buoyancy of bank deposits generally, and in particular savings bank deposits. Clearly there is no lack of ready cash available to the people. The root of the trouble is loss of public confidence, as the Treasurer himself acknowledged last year.
– There are numerous avenues of investment besides loans which absorb the surplus money in the community.
– There was a time when honorable senators opposite professed to abhor the use of central bank credit. We were told that this Government would not use central bank credit because such action would lead to further inflation; yet, a few months later central bank credit amounting to £45,000,000 was issued, and subsequently a further £71,750,000 was made available. This change of front on the part of the Government has not inspired confidence. A bold and imaginative approach must be made to the problem of restoring public confidence in the loan market. The Commonwealth Government, which, as I have said, dominates the loan situation, should proclaim its faith in the destiny of Australia and recognize the urgent need for development. It should recognize the needs of the community generally, and encourage people to lend their money.- That can be done only by assuring the investing public that Commonwealth bonds will remain as stable as savings bank deposits, and will be readily redeemable without loss. It is a disgrace that our national bonds should have fallen as low as £82. They should always be redeemable at par, except for minor variations due to the approach or recession of interest payments.
I believe that if the people of Australia were asked, in view of the urgent needs for houses, schools, hospitals and developmental works, to subscribe to a series of ten-year developmental loans, they would be only too ready to do so. If on top of that the Loan Council had the wisdom to say, “ We shall reduce the interest rate once more to 3^ per cent, from 4£ per cent, but if during the currency of a loan interest rates are increased, the original bond holders shall receive the benefit of that increase “, the success of the loans would be assured. At least the instability caused by fluctuating interest rates would be eliminated. One of the first things that any government must do is to halt inflation. Let the people know that inflation has ended, and that if they put £100 into Commonwealth bonds to-day, the purchasing power of that £100 will not have diminished by the time the loan falls due. Something must be done. I make only one suggestion. It may not be the best suggestion but I believe that the Commonwealth Government has to tackle the problem of the depressed loan market and solve it before the economy of this country will fall into place.
– Semi-governmental bodies are finding it difficult to raise money at even higher rates of interest.
– They are. There are all kinds of difficulties, many of them psychological and unrelated to the absence of money. The imagination of investors must be stimulated. I believe there is still a strong patriotic urge amongst Australian people who have savings. I am certain that if they knew that their money was to be used for essential purposes of the kind that I have outlined, they would readily and happily come to the rescue of their country; but they are entitled to an assurance that their investment will not depreciate because of increasing interest rates during the currency of their bonds. The only solution I can offer is to include in the terms of any loan a provision that bond holders will receive the benefit of any increase that may occur in interest rates.
– Is that statement made on behalf of the Opposition or is it a personal opinion?
– It is a personal view. I have not discussed it with anybody, but I should be happy to have my party adopt it. I cannot imagine that it would hesitate to do so. This is not a situation in which the Government can sit down and wring its hands simply because it cannot get loan money. It must act boldly and with imagination. I leave the matter there. At least I cannot be accused of having failed to make a- constructive suggestion. Honorable senators opposite may not agree with my view, and they may criticize it if they wish, but at least it is a constructive suggestion.
Let us have a look now at taxation rates in Australia. Immediately the war ended, the Chifley Government set out boldly and deliberately to reduce taxes. In the first year, 1945-46, tax reductions totalled £24,000,000. In the following year the total was £37,000,000, and in 1947-48, it was £41,500,000. In 1948-49 taxes were reduced by £29,000,000, and the figure for 1949-50 was £46,000,000. Those reductions totalled £177,500,000 in five years. In 1950-51, the first year of office of the present Government, income tax reductions totalled £15,000,000. There was a reduction of £1,000,000 under one head of sales tax, and £1,500,000 under another, making the total £17,500,000. However, that was immediately offset by other sales tax increases totalling £10,000,000, an increase of postal charges by £6,000,000, and the famous wool grab of £103,000,000. In 1951-52, the Government parties which had promised to reduce both direct and indirect taxes, increased taxes, according to their own budget statements, at the rate of £209,000,000 for a full year, or £160,000,000 in that particular year. That is the record of the parties which claimed that taxation could be and would be reduced. In 1952-53, taxation remissions totalled £49,500,000 leaving still a. long way to catch up to the increase of £209,000,000 in the previous year. This year, taxes have been reduced at the rate of £118,000,000 for a full year which will mean £81,500,000 in the current year. Clearly the Government is still a long way even from wiping out the effects of the horror budget of 1951-52. In that year,- scarcely one rate of tax was not increased. The Government went for everything. Income tax was increased; the restriction of the averaging system cost farmers £47,000,000; the tax on private companies was increased; the advance payment system was imposed on companies; the maximum sales tax rate of 25 per cent, was increased to 66jj per cent., a tremendous jump; the land tax was increased, customs and excise duties were increased, and even broadcast listener licence-fees were increased. That is the picture presented by successive budgets. Wow let us have a look at another picture. In Labour’s last year of office, the revenue burden imposed upon the Australian people in taxes was £567,000,000. In this Government’s first year of office, that burden was increased to £784,000,000. By 1951-52 the figure of £1,002,000,000 had been reached, and last year there was a drop to £988,000,000.
– The Leader of the Opposition is ignoring the national income.
– No. I can only deal with one factor at a time. I ani speaking of the quantum of the tax burden carried by the people of Australia. There is no denying the fact that these are the financial burdens that have been imposed by this Government upon the community at large.
– The Leader of the Opposition should be honest enough to compare those figures with the national income.
– I acknowledge instantly that much of the increase has been due to inflation. The one body that benefits under inflation in a financial and fiscal sense is the Government. It wins all the time, because people who move into higher income brackets have to pay tax at higher rates. In 1951-52 the additional revenue collected by the Commonwealth amounted to £435,000,000, yet the Government parties told us at the time that the extra amount of revenue that would be collected for a part of that financial year would be only £160,000,000. The difference’ between £160,000,000 and £435,000,000 represented an extra burden on the people. The taxation impost necessary to-day is due to uncontrolled inflation. Inflated incomes do not benefit wage and salary-earners at all. Indeed their position worsens as they move into the higher income brackets because more of their earnings is taken from them by taxation.
During this inflationary period expenditure, instead of being curtailed, rau fully with the revenues and the burdens that were imposed on the people. It amounted to £783,000.000 in 1950-51. £1,002,000.000 in ‘ 1951-52, and £974,000,000 in 1952-53. It will amount to £981,000,000 in this financial year. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced in the press not long ago that ho and his Cabinet bad the pruning knife out and were ruthlessly ‘ pruning and cutting back all of the Estimates. The extraordinary thing is that despite taxation reductions at an estimated cost to revenue of £31.500,000 in this financiayear, the Government. is going to expend more than it did during the last financial year. In this financial year the Government expects to expend £981,000,000. What has happened is that the Prime Minister got hold of the wrong tool. Instead of getting hold of the pruning knife and cutting down, he took up a trowel and built up. In the final result the Government expects to expend £7,000,000 more in this financial year than it did during the last financial year.
I shall now make one or two brief comments about other aspects of the budget. The budget provides for a great many concessions, which are spread widely, and I doubt whether I can oppose any individual concession or item. However, the test to be applied is whether a concession is directed to the interests of the economic future of this country. I do not consider that the proposed concessions make any contribution to the costs problem or the loan fund position. I do not believe that this budget will result in the building of one more school, hospital, or house.
– On what does the honorable senator base that opinion?
– I am confident that that is the position. Let us consider one small aspect of the budget in the light of the figures that have been supplied by the Treasurer. A basic wageearner, according to the right honorable gentleman, earns about £600 a year. According to the table his tax is to be reduced by £7 14s. under the proposals contained in the budget. But the Government does not tell him that in order to obtain health benefits and to receive an additional public hospitals benefit of 4s. a day he has to pay £7 16s. a year to a private benefit society.
– That is only the minimum amount.
– Although he is to be let off paying £7 14s. a year, ‘he will be forced to contribute £7 16s. a year to a private society, and will thus be 2s. a year worse off on the deal. This is another form of taxation. The Treasurer claims that tax payable by a man with a dependent wife and child will be reduced by £7 2s. a year. However, he has to pay £7 16s. a year in order to obtain medical and hospital benefits. A man with a dependent wife and two children will pay £5 15s. less in tax, but as he will have to pay £C 5s. for hospital benefits he will lose 10s. on the deal.
– What does he get in return ?
– Under Labour administration he received free public hospital benefits. The people of Australia have already paid for the whole range of social services benefits in the contributory tax, which this Government merged with income tax. I invite the Government to state where it obtained the £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 last year out of trust funds in order to support the State works programmes. Although the AuditorGeneral has reported that there is a credit balance of £566,000,000 in trust funds, I wonder how many real assets back those funds? An amount of £563,000,000 is represented by I O U’s and internal treasury-bills, despite the fact that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated that central bank credit would be utilized only over his dead body. Within a few weeks no less than £45,000,000 of central bank credit was used. The Government does not know where it is heading.
– It has not even a clue.
– That is so. We had the horror budget, and then last year the placebo budget, which set out to please everybody but pleased nobody. This year we have the death-bed repentance budget. Although the Government claims that it has been brought down to cure the economic ills of Australia, it will do none of the things with which this Government should be concerned. It is a futile effort to win friends on the eve of Nemesis, the next general election. We know perfectly well that it is designed having: regard to the politics of the movement rather than to the main interests of Australia. It does not fool the Opposition, and as one leading newspaper has stated it does not fool the people either.
– As I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I could not help feeling that if I closed my eyes I might well have imagined that I was listening to a wire recording of the speech which he has delivered in this chamber not once but probably half a dozen times during the last four years. Very little of the speech that he has just delivered had anything to do with the budget. The Leader of the Opposition invited us to consider the budget from the point of view of its background. I shall do that for a moment or two, because I think that the more one looks at the background the greater credit one considers is due to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and to the Government. I shall commence a consideration of its background by reading a passage from the Treasurer’s speech. The right honorable gentleman said -
Clearly, therefore, we have now practically attained the stability we set out to achieve in the strenuous days of 1950 and 1951. It has not been easy cither for the Government or for the community and yet, if we look back to earlier periods, it is remarkable that the transition from violent boom to comparative stability -lias been accomplished with relatively little unemployment, dislocation and loss. It used to bc axiomatic that every boom had to be followed by a slump and, usually, the worse the boom the worse the slump. Yet the recent boom, one of the sharpest in our history, was brought under control without incurring anything that, by any stretch of imagination, could be called a slump. That, I venture to claim, was a quite unprecedented achievement.
I think that it is worthwhile to recall precisely what has happened in this country during the lifetime of this Government. I place some emphasis on the extreme fluctuations which have taken place in the export income of this country during the period between 1949 and 1952, fluctuations which were as great as any that have ever been experienced.
– Some of those fluctuations were caused by the Government’s own actions.
– I dispute that contention entirely. The fluctuations in tho export income were caused by the tremendous rise of prices overseas for the commodities that we produced. The Labour party has indulged in a lot of gibberish to the effect that it would have combated this situation by controlling prices. I ask honorable senators opposite to come out in the open and say whether they believe that we should have frozen £300,000,000 of new income that came to the wool-growers in 1951. The addition of £300,000,000 to the income of the wool-growers was not only unprecedented but was a major factor which contributed to the inflationary situation that developed in this country.The export income of this country in the financial year 1949-50 was £637,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– The most extraordinary fluctuations occurred in the export income of Australia during the years 1950 to 1952. In 1950, our export income was £637,000,000. In 1951, it rose to £1,024,000,000, a rise which was largely attributable to the tremendous increase in the price received for the wool that we sold overseas. In 1952, our export income dropped to £721,000,000 which was a decline of 30 per cent. I venture to say that never before in the history of Australia, has our export income suffered a drop of that magnitude without our having to go through the pangs of a major depression. It is not with pleasure that I recall that this last happened in the years 1930 and 1931. It is not insignificant that the fall in our export income in those years was precisely the same percentage as it was in the financial year 1952. In 1931, the fall in export income was accompanied by unemployment to a degree that we have never known before. It would be unkind of me to suggest that the Labour government which was in office in those days was responsible for the conditions which then existed. But the opportunity was presented to the people of our generation to learn lessons during those years that could be applied under a similar set of circumstances at some future time. It stands to the credit of this Government, though the Opposition gives us no credit, is that we not only learnt those lessons, but were prepared to apply the remedies necessary to avoid the catastrophe that we had to face in 1931. If it had not been for the great skill, courage and foresight which has been displayed since 1949, by the Government and its financial advisers, we should not be in a position to present to the people of Australia the budget that we are now debating. When I look over those years, I think that in the long run, the Government will take greater pride in the budget that we presented in 1952 than in any other budget, even though the 1952 budget is still described by the Leader of the Opposition as a horror budget, for that budget was an instrument whereby stability was restored to this country.
The Leader of the Opposition is very fond of referring to the year 1949. He has almost learned the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by heart.I am quite prepared for the Government to be judged at the general election which will take place next year on a comparison of the conditions which existed in 1949 with those which exist to-day. The community is somewhat apt to forget the state of affairs which existed in 1949 because conditions are now so much better than they were then. When this Government came into office, rationing still existed, blackouts were the order of the day and there were shortages of all the principal commodities required for the advancement of this country. We were forced to attribute those conditions, in no small measure, to the fact that we were plaguedby strikes which the previous government had been unable to deal with effectively. I invite my friends in the Opposition to pay attention to what the leaders of the trade union movement had to say 021 this subject when they appeared recently before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In the course of the recent great case on hours and wages, counsel were asked to put their cases in written form before the court. The written case was subsequently supplemented by the final address which counsel delivered during the last week of the hearing.
– You can never rely on counsel.
– I am not relying on counsel, but on the prepared case of the Australian Council of Trades Unions as set out in a document described as an “ Outline of Submission on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and Affiliated Unions”. In the course of this thoroughly prepared written statement, the Australian Council of Trades. Unions put this submission to the court -
It is submitted that the capacity of the economy to sustain a high level of real wages is better than in 1940-50. Productivity has greatly increased not only because labour and maetrial shortages have been almost eliminated but also because of the high rate of capital investment in recent years; primary production is flourishing, exports have expanded and overseas funds are rising (with a current account surplus); retail trade is improving, employment is rising, available supplies are higher and the economy is better balanced.
These are the words of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– To what period do they refer?
– They are comparing present conditions with those which existed in the financial year 1949-50. The submission continues -
The difference between earning and award wages is higher than in 1040-50, and profits have continued to rise despite difficult trading conditions due to overstocking and tightness of credit.
I ask -the Senate to listen to the next sentence particularly, because the Leader of the Opposition said in the course of li is .speech that the statement by the Treasurer that we had now reached economic stability was wholly inaccurate. We were told by the Leader of the Opposition that we were on the crest of an inflationary spiral. He said that no one but the Government believed that inflation had ended. I propose to tell him of one body of people which believes that inflation has ended. In the course of this submission the Australian Council of Trades Unions stated -
Inflationary pressure has virtually disappeared. .
– Whose case is the Minister reading?
– I said that I was reading the statement of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– But who announced it?
– I can only describe the document, which is headed “ Outline of Submissions on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and Affiliated Unions “. I suggest that Opposition senators might pay some attention to this material and weigh it against the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition on this subject this afternoon. The oral submission on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions was made by Mr. Eggleston, Q.C., who was the counsel for that organization. On the- 8th September he said, in addressing the court -
If you make a comparison between 1949-50 and the present time, in my submission you find a better condition of the economy in every respect now.
I ask honorable senators to remember that the Chifley Government was in office until the end of 1949. The learned counsel continued -
Externally, we are in the position of having a higher level of exports and a very little higher level of imports, some slight increase in the import price index. From the point of view of our external operation we are in a more favorable position, in my submission, than in 1949-50. From the point of view of our internal position, we have been relieved of the embarrassments of the pressure of excess demand, which plagued industry from 1946-47 until 1951-52. We have still as high a percentage in the work force, substantially as high a percentage in the work force, as we had in the conditions of over-full employment in June, 1947.
In the face of a statement such as that, we were asked this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition to believe that unemployment is still a major factor in the economy.
I point with justifiable pride to the record of this Government in dealing with the extremely difficult conditions that it has had to face in the course of the last few years. In facing up to those conditions, it has received no assistance from the Opposition. At no stage has the Australian Labour party had a policy to relieve this country of the difficult conditions which have confronted the Government.
The speech delivered this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition” was little different from that which he has made a half dozen times since the Government parties came to office in 1949. As usual, it contained one point, on which he always harps, as the Australian Labour party remedy for all the ills from which the country has suffered. I refer to prices control. The honorable senator reminded us of the great contribution that he made towards dispersing the inflationary pressures by introducing a bill in the Senate with the object of restoring Commonwealth prices control. I point out to him that even the State Premiers do not now believe in prices control. In any event, throughout the period of office of this Government such control has been functioning in the States of the Commonwealth. The Australian Labour party has always overlooked the fact that inflation arose not so much from the internal prices structure as from inflationary pressures operating throughout the world, and that it was impossible to add to the income of this community, from one commodity alone, more than £300,000,000 in a single year without such an addition having a very serious effect on the economy. Drastic remedies which required courage and foresight to apply, were called for. The Leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon to the pre-payment of income tax by woolgrowers, which was one of the remedies which we had the courage to apply. The honorable senator spoke of that measure ae the “ wool grab “, which it never was. It was merely a pre-payment of tax, for which the wool-growers themselves became very thankful to the Government when it was necessary to pay the large amounts of tax for which they were liable because of the high incomes they had earned.
Let us now survey briefly some of the principal features of the budget. The Leader of the Opposition had very little to say about the budget, but as far as I could understand his remarks, he supports it. We have made a big reduction of income tax in respect of individuals. I think that it can fairly be said that this budget is a budget for every man and woman in the community, because every one will benefit from it. If honorable senators refer to the tax tables which are set out as annexures to the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), they will discover that every married person whose income does not exceed £800 per annum will receive a cut of either 20 per cent, or more in income tax.
– That would not buy a packet of Craven “A” cigarettes a week.
– Let us look at it in another way, then. We heard a great deal this afternoon from the Leader of the Opposition about the pegging of wages. Do honorable senators opposite appreciate that on incomes of £800 per annum, in respect of married people, the reduction of tax will amount to approximately 5s. a week? That means an addition to the pay envelope for people in that income range. I suggest that that is by no means an insignificant addition. Indeed, it will be the first real addition which wage-earners have had for a few years, because this 5s. is not going to be passed on in the next quarter in the form of increased prices for commodities. When other features of the budget are examined it will be seen that, because of reduced prices of many commodities, which will follow the tax reductions, the amount of additional money in the pay envelope will be considerable. Another aspect of the budget which should not be overlooked is also disclosed in the tax tables to which I have referred. Honorable senators will find that married people who earn incomes up to £800 per annum, which is a fair range to take by way of example, will pay half the amount of tax that is payable on similar incomes in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
The members of the Labour Opposition are disposed to scoff at reductions of company tax, although I gather that they intend to support the reductions proposed by the budget now before the Parliament. No doubt it is popular in some places to pretend that company tax is not a tax on individuals, which of course it is. When companies are relieved of tax, individuals are also relieved of tax. Thousands of men and women in this country, in the middle income groups, will benefit greatly from the reductions of company tax because more of the company income will be made available to them in the form of dividends. Similarly, the savers and investors on a small scale, who represent a very deserving section of the community, will also benefit from the removal of the iniquitous differentiation between income earned from property and that earned from personal exertion.
The benefits proposed by the Government are to be widely spread. The reductions of sales tax and the relief to be afforded in respect of customs duties and excise will all make their contribution to a real reduction of the cost of living and add to the value of the family income. Entertainments tax might perhaps be mentioned particularly .in this connexion, because it is the second tax which has been abolished during the lifetime of this Government. I do not wish to do my friends of the Opposition an injustice, but I cannot recollect a single instance in which a Labour government in thi3 Parliament has abolished a tax. Such governments do not believe in abolishing taxes. The Australian Labour party opposed the abolition of the land tax, and there are Labour Premiers in this country to-day who apparently would love to restore the entertainments tax. This Government takes pride in the fact that it has been able to abolish two taxes. It may well be that when the present Government parties are returned to office after the next general election, they may be able to find other taxes to abolish.
It is with some pride that I lend my support to this budget. I do so because I believe that it is going to make a great contribution to the further development of the country. I take still greater pride in it because it is the result of the very firm foundations upon which this Government has built during the very difficult period to which I have referred.
– It is comforting to know that this budget is so outstandingly wonderful. I am amazed that the members of the Government should attempt to make us believe that, at the moment, everything in this garden of ours is lovely. How any man who thinks and attempts to worry out the problems that confront the nation could believe that that is so, is beyond me. He would, indeed, be easily gulled and led astray. I shall attempt to answer the points made by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and in doing so I shall take the good with the bad. Unfortunately for the nation, the bad in this budget far outweighs the good. The Attorney-General suggested that no country has ever had to face such a heavy impact of falling export prices as Australia has had to face.
– I did not say that at all.
– I understood the Attorney-General to say, in effect, that this country has never previously had to face such a heavy fall in export prices.
– The honorable senator was not listening.
– The honorable senator gives this Government great credit for the action it took when our export surplus, which arose mainly from wool and wheat, fell from approximately £1,000,000,000 to £721,000,000. He is apparently of the opinion that some extraordinary effort was made by this Government to stop the country from plunging into a very serious situation. There was no reason why Australia should be plunged into a depression, but we almost suffered that disaster because of the maladministration of this Government. Our export income was beginning to fall but at the same time the Government allowed a flood of imports into the country. The value of those imports exceeded £1,000,000,000 and half of that quantity comprised luxury goods and commodities that were not needed in Australia. An even more serious feature of those imports was that they included goods that Australian workers were making in quantities sufficient to meet the demand. Those goods ranged from radiators to textiles. Although the industrial position has improved, textile factories that should be open are still closed because of the maladministration of this Government.
When I was in Japan recently, I inspected army stores to see the equipment that wa3 worn by Australian soldiers in Korea. I discovered that many articles of equipment that should have been made in Australian factories were made in the United Kingdom. The only Australian products that were worn by Australian soldiers there were “ Pelaco “ shirts, boots and hats. Webbing equipment, trousers .and tunics were made in England.
– So what?
– Those goods could be produced in Australian factories, which.’ were good enough to do the work in World War II. This Government almost plunged the country into serious difficulties by allowing large quantities of material and manufactures to be imported including many that were not necessary. At the same time, our overseas balances fell in five months from £800,000,000 to a little more than £300,000,000. Then the Government imposed import restrictions. The Attorney-General has said this community is in a sound position, yet the Government maintains the most vicious import restrictions in the history of the nation. The Govern.ment cannot lift the restrictions : because the inflation that it has encouraged by its policy has sent costs soaring. If honorable senators study -the stock exchange lists in the newspapers, they will discover that there has been a substantial fall in the value of stocks since details of the budget were announced. The Attorney-General attempted a coup d’etat when he quoted a statement by the representative of the Australian Council of Trades .Unions to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the wages and standard hours case. One has to go to the law to get a case. By some extraordinary means, the Attorney-General sustained his argument by going to the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I shall destroy his argument by referring to the representative who appeared for the Australian manufacturers in the same case. I have a written document attested by Mr. K. H. Boykett, who represented a large number of employers on that occasion. He stated -
The labour costs are already higher than the economy of the country can sustain. The present level of costs is adversely affecting public and private finance.
The representative of the Chambers of Manufactures of Victoria and South Australia said- during the same hearing -
The nation’s economy is precariously unstable and this instability will be accentuated by further wage increases. The rise in labour costs due to frequent wage increases has reduced, and is increasingly reducing, the ability of industry to provide employment.
– The court did not believe that.
– I do not know about that. I assert, however, that an argument that looks sound when produced by. the Government can be destroyed easily by reference to the words of the Government’s friends. The AttorneyGeneral has claimed that wonderful benefits will accrue from this budget. I say that it is an incredible budget. The authority that gains most from inflation is the Government. Because of the effects of inflation, this Government expects to collect in the remaining nine months of this financial year, £70,000,000 more than it collected last year. It proposes to add to that sum the surplus of £13,000,000, from the last financial year so that it will have available, altogether, £83,000,000 more than it received in 1952-53. Approximately that amount is to be returned to the community in so-called concessions. I invite honorable senators to examine them. In a great crescendo, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced that millions of pounds would be distributed to the taxpayers through this budget. The anti-climax was the announcement that the pensioners would receive 2s. 6d. more each week. Collections from customs last year totalled £70,000,000. In this financial year, the Government will collect £12,000,000 more from, customs. Although excise is to be reduced, total collections of excise in this financial year are expected to exceed those of last year by £7,000,000. Sales tax collections may be £1,000,000 more or less than last year. Income tax on individuals will exceed the 1952-53 collections by £11,000,000. Only the companies will get substantial benefits from the budget. Collections from that source are expected to be £23,000,000, lower in this financial year.
– Will the honorable senator fight against that reduction?
– I am telling the Senate what I think about the budget. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have been advocating reductions of taxation at every opportunity. The final reactions of the people to this budget will be very different from those anticipated by the. Government and its supporters last week. The Government will not collect less from the community, but more. The Government’s duty was to assess the problems of the community and try to relieve them. The importance of decisions by the Australian Government, and their effect upon the community, cannot be over-emphasized. They cannot be disregarded, because everything that the Government does affects the whole community. 1 had hoped that with primary production in a prosperous state and a high level of overseas balances, the Government would have prepared a budget that would encourage primary and secondary industries and help to develop Australia so that immigration could be renewed at its former level. There is no time to be lost. If the time should come when those who are now our friends become our enemies, Australia might be in a difficult position unless it has an adequate population. We should be in a position to defend this country ourselves if the necessity should arise. Every year that is lost is valuable time that cannot bc replaced. It is the bounden duty of governments to develop Australia, but in this budget the Government has missed the bus.
I approached this budget with the idea of finding out what the Government proposes to do in order to develop the country, but I am forced to the conclusion that it does not intend to do anything worthwhile in that direction. The primary problem that confronts Australia is the expansion of our primary and secondary industries. After all, in modern total warfare it is just as important for a country to have at its disposal efficient plants and buildings for the construction of weapons, aircraft and war equipment as it is to have men in uniform armed with rifles. Under modern conditions, equal consideration must be given to those two factors if we are to have an efficient national force. Therefore, the greatest possible encouragement must be given to Australian industry; yet, the Government appears to be more concerned about non-essential industry. It has hailed as a feature of the budget the proposed reduction of sales tax. By reducing sales tax, it will encourage the revival qf industries which only twelve months ago under its horror budget it sought to close down by the imposition of high rates of sales tax. Now, it proposes to encourage such industries not only to continue to exist but also to expand. That is not the proper approach for a government to make to the problem that confronts thi3 country in the industrial sphere.. We must do everything possible to expand our industries. I thought that the first thing that the Government would do, and which Labour had promised to do, would be to give every possible encouragement to essential industries. Thi* Government has failed to make that approach to the problem. It has failed! to restore the initial depreciation allowance in respect of plant. Every industry in Australia, regardless of size, should be enabled to obtain the most modern equipment. Only by adopting efficient and’ modern methods can we hope to expand’ industry to a degree that will enable it te absorb our increasing population. The Government has ignored that fact. At the same time, however, it acknowledges the importance of the initial depreciation allowance to primary industries, in respect of which a concession is allowed at a rate of 20 per cent. That concession was introduced and is being continued in order to enable the primary producers to increase their production. If it is effective in respect of primary production, how can the Government withhold! similar concessions from secondary industry? In such circumstances, secondary industry will not be encouraged to obtain modern plant and machinery.
Only by increasing efficiency in industry can we hope to absorb our increasing population. I thought that the Government might have made specific proposals for the purpose of encouraging building, for instance. It could do so by making provision for a depreciation allowance on buildings erected for industrial purposes. In that way, industry generally would be encouraged to expand. The question is often asked, “ How can Labour reduce taxes and, at the same time, increase pensions ? “ Any government would be able to achieve that objective if it set out to increase industrial activity to th* utmost degree. Lack of industrial? activity is really the core of this problem. When one talks to big industrialists one is made aware of that fact, unfortunately, in respect of too many industries. Invariably they reply, “ Our problem is. not production. Our problem is that we cannot sell what we produce “. That position exists because the community has lost confidence. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to say that only 20,000 persons are now in receipt of unemployment benefit. The fact remains that 100,000 persons, who were in employment two years ago, are not working to-day. Those persons are now out of our buying force. They are not in the queues of prospective purchasers of refrigerators and other amenities. Many of those persons will be included in the number that will become eligible under this budget to receive social services benefits either at full, or reduced, rates. They find themselves in their present plight because industry ha3 tightened up largely because of financial restrictions.
To-day, many of our most important industries are looking for buyers. This position must be reversed. We must enable industries that are already established to expand and, at the same time, encourage the establishment of new industries. We must make a practical approach to this problem and put ourselves foursquare on the side of Australian industries and say to them, in effect, “ You are the only means whereby we shall be enabled to employ the millions of persons whom we need to develop this country”. Indeed, even in respect of primary production, the prospects are that instead of continuing to have an enormous export surplus we shall in the not far distant future be unable to produce sufficient to feed our increasing population. Has the Government evolved any tangible plan to break up big properties in order to enable more people to settle on the land? Has it any plan to open up our vast empty spaces by the construction of railways? The provision of railways is not merely a State responsibility. The States cannot discharge that responsibility, having regard to their limited financial resources as a result of the limitation of their taxation revenue. In those circumstances, the Australian Government must undertake that respon- sibility. Mistakes might be made, and I have no doubt that some mistakes will be made. Nevertheless, if the Government is imbued with the idea of doing its utmost to develop Australia, we shall go forward; and the progress that will thereby be achieved will offset any mistakes that may be made. We shall then be able to afford to forget about them. I repeat, when I read the proposals contained in the budget and realized the things that have been omitted from it, I was most disappointed.
The Government could take a step immediately in the direction I have indicated by encouraging home construction. The time has come when it must provide money at the lowest possible rates of interest in order to encourage persons to build their own homes. To-day, however, the building industry is stagnant. We are often told that the peoples in the countries to the north of Australia are living under poor conditions, but any one who visits Singapore, Hong Kong, or Japan, will be amazed at the volume of home construction that is being carried on in those places, where they are building not single unit flats but flats that cover acres. The volume of house construction in those areas is almost incredible. Similar stories are told to us by persons who have visited the United States of America and Europe, where it has been noted that home construction is one of the most important activities being carried on. However, here in Australia, the volume of home building is beginning to slow down although,, at the same time, our population is increasing.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Japanese are doing better than we are ?
– I say that there is more building activity in Japan than there is in Australia. At present, one can hardly find a building in most of our great cities that did not exist many years ago. The Government must realize its responsibility in respect of this problem. It must do its utmost to get building moving again. Recently, a young ex-serviceman sought my aid to. obtain finance for him to enable him to build his own home. He told me that he had gone everywhere in search of finance but in vain. He was constructing his own home during his spare time at week-ends, and all he required was finance to enable him to complete the roof and to finish the interior. Indeed, I was not able to obtain finance for him until this week. Is there not something radically wrong when a young man, who is prepared to spend his week-ends building his own home, is unable to obtain adequate finance for that purpose. I have searched this budget in vain for the slightest sign of encouragement to young Australians of that type who wish to build homes for their wives and families? The young man to whom I have referred has a wife and three children. Cannot the Commonwealth Bank, which, incidentally, made a profit of over £10,000^000 during the financial year just closed, be instructed to help individuals who find themselves in a similar position? If such a task i.« beyond the Commonwealth Bank, the Government itself should undertake it. If no one else will shoulder the responsibility and if, for instance, co-operative building societies are short of funds or simply refuse to make finance available in such instances, the Government must do the job. And once the Government tackles that job with determination, others will soon join it in that field. Under this Government rates of interest have increased. For instance, a person who required finance to build a house at a cost of £2,000 and pays interest at a rate in excess of 4 per cent., at the end of a period of 25 years, will find that he will have repaid £3,900 in respect of that dwelling. That fact reveals the impact which interest rates exert ‘ on home building. Therefore, those rates must be reduced as much as possible. If this Government finds the job too big for it, someone else must be entrusted with the great responsibility of developing this country so this nation will be enabled to take its proper place among the nations of the world.
It is all very well for supporters of the Government to say that costs have -now settled, and that inflation. has been halted. A gallup poll that was taken last week revealed that within the last six months the minimum cost of keeping a family of four persons had risen by 16s. 6d. a week. I, personally, prefer to be guided by an opinion of that kind which is obtained by direct contact with ordinary everyday people with whom those who conduct the poll discuss bread and butter affairs. In this budget, the Government has completely missed the bus because it has ignored the claims of that section of the community which is most deserving of assistance. The Government has failed to discharge its responsibility to get prices down and to enable industry to expand. It has omitted to restore initial depreciation allowance on plant and equipment. Although it has decreased sales tax on articles upon which it imposed that tax at the rate of 50 per cent, only a few years ago sales tax at the rate of 12% per cent, will continue on many articles that are essential to the setting up and maintenance of homes. Surely, the Government could have exempted such commodities from sales tax. If it did so, it would substantially reduce the cost of living of families such as that to which I have referred. I repeat that the Government has missed a great opportunity. It has ignored the national interest and, in respect of social services benefits, the insignificant increase that it proposes to provide is an absolute insult to the Australian people. I cannot understand how honorable senators opposite approved of its proposal to increase pensions by. only 2s. 6d. a week. The day before yesterday, I walked into a fruit shop and found that tomatoes were selling at 2s. 6d. a pound. Such a simple purchase will absorb the increase that- this Government proposes to give to the age pensioners. To-day, potatoes are selling at the rate of 3 lb. for 2s. 6d. whereas, in 1949, when the Chifley Government relinquished office, one could purchase 8 lb. of potatoes for that sum. How does this budget really help the nation? Certainly, it will not help the Government parties politically because the reaction against it- is daily gathering strength. Government supporters have approached this budget in a completely dishonest way. They have turned and twisted continually since their parties assumed office; and they have twisted on this occasion simply because they believe that by doing so they will gain some party- political advantage. The budget has pleased nobody. Even the friends of the Government are disappointed. The great mass of the community, including the pensioners and the ordinary workers, feel that they have been let down completely. This is truly a budget that has missed the boat.
– Historians have a habit of producing an apt short title for every great event. I believe that this 1953-54 budget will find an appropriate place in Australian history, and that it will become known as “ the budget for the family man “. Senator Armstrong said that the budget would please nobody. The truth of that statement can be tested by a perusal of newspaper headlines published on the morning after the presentation of the budget. For instance, the Melbourne Argus proclaimed in spectacular headlines on the front page, “ Here is the news we have all been waiting for. This is a budget for the little man “. The report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph was headed, “ Low Incomes Get Most Relief. Allowances to Assist Families “. The Sydney Morning Herald said, “ An Expansive Budget “. The Sunday Herald said, “ Budget designed to help employment”. Headings chosen by the Sydney Sun included “Budget Boost to Business “, “ Budget Gives Australia a New Stimulus “, “ Tax Experts Say it is an Excellent Budget “ and “ Warm Welcome to Budget “. We may assume that the great press of the Commonwealth of Australia was merely reflecting general public opinion when it recognized the budget as a magnificent achievement.
When the Menzies Government was first elected, it immediately set about removing the restraints that had been placed upon this country by the Labour Government. When that task was being tackled in 1950, Australia was called upon to face an economic situation of world-wide significance. As the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has said, the situation was phenomenal. Our wool cheque had sent our income from exports to a record level but within a short space of time, our exports dropped by 30 per cent. Fortunately, there was no repeti tion of the events of 1930 when approximately one-third of our working force was out of employment. Under the leadership of the Menzies Government, Australia was able to ride out the boom period and the subsequent rapid fall of our export income. Now, that Government is in a position to produce a budget which, in some measure, will reward the Australian people for their co-operation in the recent difficult times. There are some people in the community who, for political reasons, are not prepared to recognize the fact that our economy has improved considerably. One does not need to rely upon the findings of a gallup poll to be convinced of that. Figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the earning power of our currency has depreciated by only 4 per cent, in the last twelve months. The AttorneyGeneral, very properly, I believe, has pointed out that the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which represents the great Labour movement, indicated in its representations to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation arid Arbitration recently that the difficult inflationary period had ended and that Australia was now enjoying economic security and prosperity. That assertion bears repeating again and again because of the propaganda that has been spread by certain politicians who are not prepared to recognize the true situation. Therefore, I have no hesitation in reminding the Senate once more that according to eminent Queen’s Counsel representing the Australian Council of Trades Unions in the basic wage and hours case, inflationary pressures ‘ have virtually disappeared, exports are increasing, overseas balances are rising, productivity is increasing, and the economic outlook generally is more favorable. Because this Government believes those things to be true, and because of the magnificent effort made by the Australian people in a time of adversity, this 1953-54 budget, which I believe to be the most outstanding budget ever compiled in the history of this great Commonwealth, has been made possible.
The budget is notable for many outstanding features. I shall enumerate them briefly before proceeding to deal with a few of them in detail. Income tax rates are to be substantially reduced. The allowance for a dependent wife is to be increased by about 25 per cent. Allowances for the education of children are to be liberalized. The differential tax on property income is to be abolished. Sales tax levies are to be substantially reduced. The entertainments tax is to be abolished, and the pay-roll tax is to be considerably modified. I shall endeavour now in the limited time that is available to me to deal with some features of the budget in more detail. I shall deal. first with the proposed income tax reductions. Income tax rates have been slashed to provide benefits ranging from the complete abolition of tax in certain instances, to reductions of approximately 10 per cent, at the other end of the income scale. The new rates will operate retrospectively from the 1st July, although the new deduction scales for salary and wageearners will not come into force until November. It should be understood, therefore, that substantial refunds of tax will be made when assessments are issued next year. Income tax reductions provided for in the budget are at the rate of £51,300,000 for a full year, and will reach a total of £39,500,000 in the current financial year. The Treasurer, very conservatively, I believe, has said that the reductions will average approximately 12-J per cent. That figure is, of course, worked out over the whole income range. For the great mass of the working community the reduction will be between 20 per cent, and 28 per cent. A person with a dependent wife and one child, and in receipt of a taxable income of £500, will pay £8 16s. this year compared with £13 12s. last year. That is a saving of 35.3 per cent, for the basic wageearner. The tax scale has been worked out on the basis of allowances for a wife and one child, but has not taken into account other allowances such as deductions for medical expenses. A taxpayer in the same category, but with an income of £600, will receive a reduction of 28.5 per cent. A taxpayer with a net income of £800 - his gross income would probably be about £1,000 - will pay £42 17s. instead of £54 19s., a saving of £12 2s., or 22 per cent. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children will receive even greater concessions. If his taxable income is £500 a year, which means that his earnings will be about £650 a year, he will pay £5 6s. instead of £8 14s., a saving of 39.1 per cent. The reductions are there for everybody to see. The result will be more purchasing power in the pockets of the great mass of the community. Here again is clear evidence of the regard that the Liberal Government has had for the welfare of workers and their .families in the preparation of the budget.
I come now to the pay-roll tax. The budget provides for the raising of the exemption from pay-roll tax from £1,040 to £4,160 annually. The new exemption will apply on and after the 31st October. In other words, any employer whose wages bill is less than £80 a week will be exempt from payment of pay-roll tax. Official statistics show that about 90,000 employers have been liable to pay this tax, but as a result of this concession about 54 per cent, of employers will be exempt from this tax in future. Hundreds of small businessmen will no longer be required to submit pay-roll returns and pay the pay-roll tax.. It has been estimated that this concession will save a small business with a pay-roll of about £77 a week approximately £100 a year. I congratulate the Government on its splendid achievement in relieving such a large proportion of the business community from this taxation burden. The taxation exemption, as far as pay-roll tax is concerned, on the remaining 46 per cent, of employers has been raised to £4,160. I emphasize that the exemption of small businessmen, including butchers and grocers, small clubs, returned servicemen’s clubs, sporting clubs and other employers of up to six adult employees and a journeyman having a wages bill of up to £80 a week, from the payment of pay-roll tax is a magnificent achievement by this Government. Ultimately, in accordance with fundamental economic laws, the remission of this tax will result in a considerable saving to the people of this country.
I shall now address myself to the subject of education. I have already described this budget as a family budget, which bristles with advantages to the working man. Last year, for the first time in our history, the present Government allowed education expenses as a deduction for taxation purposes. That allowance was only in relation to fees paid by parents in connexion with the schooling of their children. In addition to raising the amount of the allowance from £50 to £75 a year, the budget will liberalize the conditions of the allowance to cover almost the full cost of a child’s education. As many parents were not aware of the concession last year, I consider that it should be given the widest possible publicity. In New South Wales last year approximately 25 per cent, of children received tuition at private and denominational schools. Their parents were entitled to a concessional allowance in relation to the school fees. In 1951 the average weekly enrolment of school children in New South Wales was 529,089. Of that number 130,790 attended private schools. Many people in the community have the erroneous impression that education at public schools is completely free. In point of fact the parents of children who attend State schools constantly have their hands in their pockets in order to pay expenses incidental to their children’s education. I remind honorable senators that a girl attending a .State high school requires at least two uniforms a year - one for summer and one for winter - a hat, a blazer, and a quantity of incidental clothing. In addition she has to pay fare3 to and from school. Under the budget proposal all expenses incurred specifically in relation to a child’s education can be taken into account by a taxpayer in order to avail himself of the allowable deduction of £75 a year under this heading. There are many items of expense associated with the education of a child. At the beginning of the school year a parent may have to pay from £1 10s. to £2 for sporting equipment and text-books, as well as a library fee. It is clear, therefore, that the parents of all school children, not only those attending private schools, will receive an advantage as a result of this provision. I assure honorable senators from the knowledge of this subject that I have gleaned by discussing the cost of education with many parents, and as a result of attending many meetings of Parents and Citi-
Senator Anderson. zens Associations over the years in my capacity in another sphere, that it costs the parents of a child attending oven a State school at least £50 a year for items incidental to the child’s education.
In the limited time at my disposal I shall refer only to two other aspects of the budget. The first is in relation to estate duty. The budget provides for the raising to £5,000 of the statutory amount of exemption on deceased estates that pass to the widow, children or grandchildren. This is another example of the way in which this Liberal Government is following a pattern of lightening the burden on the ordinary working man. This Government’s approach to the subject contrasts sharply with the attitude of the present Labour Government in New South Wales, which last year brought down legislation imposing heavy death duties. In many instances, as a result of that legislation, tax will be payable twice in New South Wales on property and moneys placed in trust. When that legislation was introduced, Mr. Vernon Treatt, the Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, moved an amendment in the precise terms of the proposal that is contained in the budget now under consideration, but it was rejected by the Labour Government. This budgetary provision is further evidence that the present Australian Government recognizes its responsibility to do everything in its power to ease the burden on the humble man in the community.
Under this budget, entertainments tax will be abolished. I shall offer no comment in that connexion. Although sales tax is commonly believed to apply only to luxury goods, I point out that it is imposed on many items essential to modern living. The abolition of all but two rates of sales tax, namely 12-J per cent, and 16$ per cent., will therefore make an important contribution to the lowering of the cost of living in this country. The sales tax concessions will cost the revenue £8,700,000 in this financial year and £11,700,000 in a full financial year. These concessions will result in more money remaining in the pockets of the people. It is interesting to consider the effects of the reductions of sales tax. The average man may not be fully seised of the value of the exemption from sales tax of buttons, buckles, hooks and eyes, and slide fasteners. I point out that this exemption will result in a saving to a housewife of about 2s. 6d. in the cost of making an ordinary afternoon frock. A mere man will save 5d. on the cost of a collar stud. If a small businessman wishes to buy an Austin A40 motor car - a make of vehicle which I understand has been featured in the news recently - the reduction of sales tax will save him about £28. Let us consider the effect on the cost of ladies’ handbag3, which, I am sure, nobody would suggest are luxuries. I think all honorable senators will agree that it is completely essential for a lady to have a handbag. A modern miss, a matron, or a grandmother will save about lis. 6d. on the purchase of a handbag costing about £5 5s. As I have said before, this budget bristles with advantages to the working man. Its provisions show conclusively that this Government recognizes that the future of this great country depends upon the confidence, the resoluteness, and the courage of our great working community.
Since this is my first speech in this Senate chamber, perhaps I shall be forgiven if I intrude a personal note. I should like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to honorable senators for the courtesy that they have extended to me to-night by permitting me to make my speech uninterrupted. I came here to serve, as I believe is the wish cf every member of this chamber. I set about serving on the 2nd July, 1940, and I shall not turn back now. In common with other honorable senators, I just want to do whatever is within my power to help my fellow man. In 1950, when I made my maiden speech in the New South Wales Parliament, I concluded with a simple little motto that is honoured frequently by schoolchildren. I think that it is apt for any person about to engage in a new endeavour. As I set about the task of trying to serve in this new sphere I hope that I will always remember to honour my God, to serve my Queen, and to salute my flag.
– I am sure that honorable senators on both sides of the cham ber will join with me in congratulating Senator Anderson on his maiden speech. It must have been quite an ordeal for him, knowing that he was on the air and speaking, through you, Mr. Acting President, to the people of Australia. I think that budgets might well be termed milestones of government. This budget is indeed a milestone of the present Government. It has a political context, having been deliberately framed in an attempt to win the next general election. That fact has been clearly demonstrated by the political manoeuvering which foreshadowed the budget and the stagnation of business which was brought about by that manoeuvring. A few weeks ago, on his way back from the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at a press conference in Perth, deplored budget speculations. For the first time in my life I agreed with a statement of the Prime Minister. But during the election campaigns which preceded the by-elections in the electorates of Corangamite and Lang the Prime Minister himself indulged in budget speculation by saying to the people in his usual nebulous way that they would be more than pleased when the contents of the budget were disclosed to them. If that is not budget speculation I do not know what is. I suggest to honorable senators that if we are to grasp the responsibility that is ours with both hands budgets should be more than mere political instruments. They should be constructed with fear of none and in favour of none, putting the seal unequivocally on the Government’s economic and social policy for the year to come.
The present budget has obviously been dictated by pressure groups. It is a lopsided budget and indicates the truth of the old saying that the wheel that does the creaking is the wheel that gets the grease. The pensioners who have only a little voice in the community are to receive only a little rise. The children who have no voice at all are to receive no rise. The big companies which have the means of propaganda at their disposal through the radio and the press are to receive an unprecedented rise. If honorable senators will read a report that has been published by the stockbrokers of Australia. they will find that the decrease in company taxation proposed hy the Government is more than even the stockbrokers dared to suggest prior to the introduction of the budget. It is nearly time that this Government made a clear statement to the people that it will not be pushed about by pressure groups any longer and that at long last it will govern according to the old-fashioned principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. It is time that the pressure groups were pushed away from Parliament House. After hearing the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) one would think that the members of the Cabinet were dipping into their own pockets and distributing largess to the people. The proposed decrease in the rate of taxation has been made possible by a 10 per cent, increase in the national income and, as a matter of fact, instead of a decrease in government spending, there will be an increase.
During the last ten years the people of Australia have become inured to high taxation. It was a Labour government which reached an all-time high in taxation in 1944 at the height of the war. The decision to impose that taxation was made in a deliberate manner because the then Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, considered that while people were dying as frontline troops the backline troops who remained in this country at the direction of the government would have to pay for the war. I do not think that there was any great quarrel with that outlook. But after the war there was a gradual recession of taxation. The Labour Government set the compass of the Australian ship of state so that every common man and woman would understand where we were going. But even the biggest war-time budget of the Labour Government was not as great as the budgets of the last two years which have aggregated £2,000,000,000. In 1944, the budget totalled £700,000,000 ; in 1949 it was £502,000,000; but in 1952 it amounted to £1,000,000,000 and this year’s budget is only slightly less than that of 1952. The concessions proposed in the rates of taxation have been quite rightly proposed because of the increase in national income. The 1950 budget of this Government was a really calamitous budget and the object of the budgets introduced in 1951 and 1952 was to correct the errors of the 1950 budget which should never have been made in the first place. The Government has wasted valuable time. The Australian nation has a lot to do in a short time and we cannot afford to fritter opportunities away as Ave have done since 1951. Many people have claimed that this budget is a success, but however it might succeed as a political instrument it will certainly fail as an instrument of government. It will fail because of the smug attitude of the Government, which has offered a lot to those on the top rungs of the ladder whilst it has offered very little to those on the bottom rungs. On the basis of that action the Government has claimed that inflation has been halted and that the budget will provide an incentive to progress and development.
I was astonished that a legal man such as the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) should have quoted counsel for the Australian Council of Trades Unions as an authority in support of his argument that inflation had been halted. As a legal luminary and a Queen’s Counsel, surely he knows that counsel does not address the court on oath. Counsel presents the side of the case that he is representing. Surely that is the basis of Australian and of British justice.
– Does the honorable senator mean that they do not tell the truth?
– I have appeared in court as an advocate on several occasions and judging from the statement made by opposing counsel on those occasions I think that Senator Wedgwood’s statement might be correct. However, counsel, whether representing employers or employees, appears in court to put the case for his client and I am astonished that the Attorney-General should quote counsel for the Australian Council of Trades Unions as an authority on the economic position. The merest tyro in economics knows that inflation has not been halted. Australia has been passing through an inflationary period for 53 years. During that period the graph has gone sharply upwards at some points, whilst during the depression it fell sharply. Could any honorable senator convince the mothers of Australia that prices have stopped rising? They certainly could not convince the employers of that fact because the culmination of their endeavours before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration wa3 a judgment suspending the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. Do honorable senators imagine that the employers would have asked for those adjustments to be suspended because they considered that the basic wage would fall? Of course not. Their action was based on the belief that it would rise. People have said all sorts of things about employers but nobody has accused them of being benevolent societies. They went to court in order to save money because they knew that inflation had not ceased and that they would have to find a greater amount of money to pay wages every quarter unless the court made a new determination on a. different basis. This budget will not curb government expenditure. Under its proposals, each department will spend as much money as it spent last year. From 1949 to 1951 not one of the Ministers in this chamber debated a bill on its merit. They always used the old 1949 general election propaganda because their only objective was a double dissolution. During that time they ignored their departments and so lost control of them. The Government has contended that it has set its house in order, but the Auditor-General in his annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, has made the following statement : -
The Department of Works has not adjusted discrepancies disclosed in a stocktake of consumable stores on 23rd July, 1952.
Under the heading of “ Control of Labour and Materials on Projects “, the Auditor-General has stated -
In the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory, there -is no satisfactory uniform procedure in operation to ensure that all labour and materials, the costs of which are charged against projects, are actually expended or those projects. . . . The costing records of the Woomera project are unsatisfactory. Materials have not been satisfactorily accounted for and considerable amounts of operational expenditure have been incorrectly charged to many of the jobs. Existing departmental instructions for cost accounting are not sufficiently comprehensive for proper control.
The report continued -
The control of departmental stores, including plant, furniture and equipment, in respect of various departmental activities in the Australian Capital Territory is unsatisfactory. Lengthy periods have elapsed between: stocktakings, and records of departmental assets in many cases are inaccurate, causing considerable delays in reconciling the stocktaking results with ledger balances. The stores controls at the Woomera project have been unsatisfactory, but the department has taken* action to improve the position. Existing departmental instructions for the control of large ‘project stores are inadequate.
Dealing with the timber mill in the Australian Capital Territory, the AuditorGeneral made the following statement: -
At the date of compiling this report annual financial statements for the timber mills had not been prepared by the department. Due to faulty costing of timber stocks no reliable annual operating results are available for the Kingston Timber Mill for some time prior to 1952-53.
Concerning the Department of the Navy, the Auditor-General stated - . . but Navy storekeeping and accounting generally are not yet on a fully satisfactory basis.
Dealing with the subject of matter handled for other departments by the Postal Department, the Auditor-General made the following observation :- r
The law, however, does not take into consideration the well-known factor that the recipient of a free service does not always cooperate in securing an economical free service.
Under the heading “Post Office Stores and Transport Trust Account “, the AuditorGeneral states that effective control by authorizing officers, in accordance with the treasury regulations, does not operate. His remarks on this subject conclude in the following strain : -
The use of this Trust Account for three purposes, without complete segregation of the funds which are being used for each purpose, is not conducive to effective control of expenditure.
Those comments were made in respect of a department which has been under federal control since 1901. Do honorable senators believe that such a state of affairs represents an incentive to the business people and the workers of Australia? As
Senator Armstrong stated earlier this evening, the Attorney-General apparently would have us believe that everything in the garden is lovely. It seems that the Government intends to sit down and say smugly, “ We have put the ship of state into calm waters. All that we have to do now is paddle along.” The report which I have read is not that of a propagandist or a politican but of a gentleman who engages in the very conservative profession of accountancy. The Government which now has this report before it is the one which was going to do all sorts of things to the Public Service when it assumed office. Just1 as the Government has lost touch with the various departments I believe that it has also lost touch with the people of Australia.
We have heard a great deal spoken about percentage reductions in this budget. I suggest to the Government that families cannot eat percentages. Percentages must be brought down to money values and related to the essential commodities which money will buy in the community. With due respect to Senator Anderson, who delivered his maiden speech earlier in the evening, I point out that he ignored the fact that this budget has overlooked the family unit. However, I shall treat the honorable senator as a billiard ball in baulk - it may neither be potted nor scored off. A man with, two children, who earns £700 a year, which is a little more than the basic wage, will receive a reduction of £8 3s. 6d. in his income tax under the budget proposals. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out this afternoon, such a man in Western Australia is forced by this Government to pay approximately £8 8s. so that he can obtain protection in respect of medical benefits. Surely it is unique in Australian government for the Commonwealth to say, “ We shall not let you have back any rebate of taxes until you make a. contribution to a private organization “. One might be pardoned for wondering whether this matter raises a constitutional question.
The fact is that those in receipt of the basic wage will pay more by way of income tax this year than previously. The basic wage has been inflated, not by real money increases but on the basis of the “ C “ series index, which covers only a narrow range of commodities. For instance, if I remember correctly, brown onions and potatoes are the only vegetables with which it is concerned, and light plum, dark plum and quince are thu only jams included in the list. Those with incomes of £5,000 a year, who, in certain social circles are not so rare, fare well compared with the family man on £700 a year. A man with an income of £5,000 a year, with a wife and two children, will have the benefit of a tax reduction of £230 4s. ‘In addition, he will no doubt obtain the benefit of other reductions, because of his investments in various companies. Because his dividends will be bigger, he will thus receive a double hand-out I have no doubt that he will also be interested in the reduction of sales tax in respect of motor cars. He may be interested, too, in the reduction of sales tax on whisky, which will reduce the price by 3s. 6d. a bottle. The man with a wife and children, who will receive a reduction of £8 3s. 6d. in his income tax, is not interested in such things, nor is his wife concerned with the reduction of sales tax on fur coats. She is interested in the quantity of food that she is able to purchase and the items which are subject to the 12£ per cent, sales tax rate, which used to be 8^ per cent, when Labour was in office. With this Government it is the big fellow first, last and always.
I do not wish to detract for one moment from the good work which employers, such as manufacturers, do in the community. My point is that a government which fails to bolster the family unit and legislate in its favour completely ignores the only solid foundation on which to build the nation. All the poppycock that has been spoken about businesses failing was merely clever propaganda to which I think the Government wanted to succumb. The freckle-faced kids that have been ignored by this budget are the finest asset in which the country could invest. It will not be the big business interests which will develop the country but the family units and the freckle-faced kids to whom I have referred. It amazes me that the Government could turn its back so completely on that fact at this stage of the political history of Australia.
– A .LiberalCountry party government introduced it. But I am amazed that such a government has not seen fit to increase child endowment in this budget, although it proposes to give £28,750,000 to companies. It can spare only £417,000 for widows. Yet widows, of all the members of the community, require special consideration because widowhood comes without warning.
Does not this Government appreciate that the plight of the family unit to-day arises largely from the fact that food prices have increased so greatly that there is no surplus money to be spent outside the home? Those who are bringing up families need to receive a very high salary indeed in order to have any surplus money after providing food for the family. When a tax is levied on the man who receives £5,000 a year, it is really taken from his bank account, but when £1 is taken from the man on £700 a year it is, in effect, depriving his children of shoes because he has no bank account.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), when answering a question in the Senate this afternoon, claimed that this Government ha3 been most generous in its allocation of funds to the States. To hear the honorable senator, one would have thought that he was making a hand-out from his own pocket. Apparently he does not appreciate the meaning of the federal system. Does not he realize that State and Federal governments handle money as trustees for the people of Australia? We have no right to say to the people of the States, “We shall give you a few pounds, and you should be very thankful to get it “. The States have tremendous responsibilities. Because of the devilish position into which Federal-State financial relations have drifted, the Commonwealth is ignoring such matters as the development of roads and air strips.
As one who was bom in the north-west of Western Australia, I do not think I am being at all parochial when I refer to the Kwinana oil refinery project. There, on the marvellous Cockburn Sound, a refinery is being developed on a very -large scale indeed. Recently, the Prime Minister passed through Western Australia, and although the Acting Premier pleaded with him to visit Kwinana, the right honorable gentleman was far too busy to do so. Apparently he had an afternoon tea party and a meeting of the Liberal party to attend. It is possible that, had he visited the project, the representations made to him by the Western Australian Government would not have been completely ignored. That Government is not asking the Commonwealth for countless millions of pounds but only for about £2,000,000. Cockburn Sound is being dredged. When the work is completed, a safe anchorage will exist for the whole of our fleet, if necessary.
The supporters of this Government are continually referring to our undeveloped north. Yet very little has been done to develop that area. The previous Labour Government introduced “ A “ and “ B “ zones which, at least, was a recognition of the people who are living hundreds of miles away from the amenities to be found in the cities and carry on under extreme. climatic conditions. This budget contains no reference to such people. I have no doubt that the reason for the omission is that the northern part of Australia is not very heavily populated and therefore those who live there do not represent a pressure group as effective as the manufacturing concerns in the big cities.
This budget must stand condemned because the hallmark of statesmanship is not on it. Instead, it bears the mark of the politician on every page. It is not a valid instrument of government but a showy windowpiece for purposes of political gain. Real budgets are indeed the milestones of government. I am sure that the Australian people hope that this will lie the last budget to be presented by the Menzies Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Marriott) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
– In rising to support this budget with enthusiasm, I sincerely pay tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for the work that he has done for Australia, often in the face of abuse. The Treasurer has followed steadfastly the course that he set to guide Australia’s economy into safe waters. In spite of the criticism that has been voiced by honorable senators opposite, the name of the Treasurer will be acclaimed and he will be known as one who gave invaluable service to Australia when its economy was threatened by grave problems. The Government can face the people of Australia confidently as a government that has honoured its pledges. In the past two years, it has given taxation concessions amounting to £200,000,000. The national income has been greatly increased during its term of office. The population of the nation has grown. Business activity has expanded. Primary production has been assisted by the Government’s policy and the country has entered a period of marked prosperity. Yet for the sake of party politics, supporters of the Australian Labour party have gone about the country howling calamity. I cannot understand how they can reconcile their consciences with their cry of depression. By moaning about the possibility of a depression they have sinned against Australia. There is not a sign of a depression on the economic horizon. The budget has been given several names. Honorable senators opposite at first called it “ a 2s. 6d. budget”. Then it was more correctly termed a family budget. Then it was called a milestone-
– A tombstone !
– The Government risked unpopularity when it introduced the so-called horror budget, but it hit the people’s pockets for their own good. The people realize now that the economic medicine that ‘was administered to them has helped to cure their ailments. Employment is increasing. The savings of the people have reached a record high level. Primary production has increased in monetary value as well as in quantity. Basic metals are in better supply than they were in the black market days of 1949. The uranium deposits in South Australia and the Northern Territory are strengthening the economic life of the nation. I do not claim credit for the Government for the presence of uranium in Australian soil, but I do claim that the Government is developing the uranium deposits to the best advantage for Australia.
Oil refining facilities in Australia are being expanded. Obviously those who have capital to invest in the great oil refining projects have confidence in Australia, and we owe that confidence to the policies of this Government. If the search for oil in Western Australia is successful, the resultant economic advancement will defy description. When the Government parties before their election to office claimed that they would abolish petrol rationing, the supporters of the Australian Labour party said that it could not be done, but this Government honoured that promise to the benefit of Australia. The motor-car industry has advanced as a consequence, and large sums of money have been invested in it. That is yet another sign of the ‘confidence that investors have in the Government.
A remarkable feature of this debate has been the absence of any mention of defence by honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber. Defence is one of the major responsibilities of the Australian Government and it has a marked effect on the budget. Under the direction of this Government, the Royal Australian Air Force has been strengthened and the production of modern aircraft has been speeded. The Royal Australian Navy has been expanded. The land forces which fought so gallantly in Korea and the other arms of the serviceshave been strengthened by the National Service Training Scheme. I visited a camp for trainees at Brighton, near Hobart, recently, and I pay tribute to this Government for initiating the national service training scheme despite the opposition of supporters of the Australian Labour party. If all the camps are as efficiently run as the Brighton camp, the national service training scheme is doing fine work for the nation. lt is strengthening the defences of Australia and the trainees are benefiting in health and in discipline. The long range weapons establishment at Woomera is a credit to this Government. I agree that representatives of this Parliament should witness the tests that are to be conducted there soon. Such a visit may engender more enthusiasm for the project in the minds of those who are lukewarm about it.
Honorable senators opposite have ignored the achievements of this Government in promoting the health of the nation. The Government will be honoured in the future for its efficient national health scheme. Its medical and hospital benefits are of great value to the families of Australians in particular. Honorable senators opposite have criticized the Government for introducing a compulsory national health scheme. I wonder how many of them have neglected to- insure their lives, their homes and their motor cars. They cannot be sincere in criticizing the schemes that have been developed by this Government to safeguard the health of those who are well and care for those who are sick. The free milk scheme for children has been of marked benefit to school children.
The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) is reported to have said that the budget is a wealthy man’s budget. An analysis of the budget proposals, however, shows that income tax concessions range from 50 per cent, for the low wageearners to 9 per cent, for those who might bc called tall poppies by honorable senators opposite. The sales tax also has been criticized by them, but they carefully refrain from reminding the electors that the sales tax was the’ brain child of a Labour party Treasurer. Families and children will benefit from the abolition of the entertainments tax and from income tax concessions. Under this budget, 50,000 of the 90,000 employers who now pay pay-roll tax will be exempt from that tax. The persons who will benefit from that concession are small businessmen. Perhaps, many of them would be described by honorable senators opposite as “little capitalists”, as a former Minister in the Curtin Government described persons coming within this category. Yet, honorable senators opposite say that this budget is a wealthy people’s budget. The fact is that under it a sum of £118,000,000 previously collected in taxation will be returned to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth.
I shall not go into details about the budget proposals in respect of pensions, because the records prove that no government has shown itself to be more awake to its responsibilities to those who require pensions than the Menzies Government has been. The increase of pensions proposed to be granted under this budget is . smaller than the increases that were granted under previous budgets, but, at the same time, pensioners of all classes will, like other sections of the community, be given considerable relief through the reduction of sales tax and entertainments tax.
As a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia I read with regret in the press recently a rather intemperate statement regarding the proposed increases of war service pensions that was attributed to Sir George Holland, who is the president of that organization. I believe that such a statement does harm to that very important organization which Sir George has led so well for some years, and still has the honour of leading. The league, since its inception after World War 1., has enjoyed the reputation of being completely non-party political and of worthily looking after the interests of ex-servicemen. Unfortunately, Sir George Holland’s statement cast a slur upon the Government, and I can only say that it did not do credit to the league.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he would like to see the debate on the budget shortened in order to enable the Senate to deal with the bills that are to be introduced to implement the budget proposals. The honorable senator knows that his suggestion is impracticable. I recall that when the present Government introduced a bill to provide for the payment of endowment in respect of the first child in a family, members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives were not in a mood to hasten the debate on ‘that measure in order that the additional endowment of 5s. a week could be paid to the hundreds of thousands of families that would qualify to receive it. On the contrary, members of the Opposition in another place resorted to every procedural device in order to delay the passage of that measure, with the result that three months elapsed before it passed through that chamber. In view of that fact, the Leader of the Opposition acted hypocritically when he made the suggestion to which I have referred. He made it, no doubt, merely in order to tickle the ears of persons who might be listening in to the broadcast of this debate.
The Leader of the Opposition cast a slur upon the Government and upon senior public servants when he alleged that details of the budget proposals had leaked out to the press. He stated that on the day on which the Treasurer delivered his budget speech one newspaper reported that taxes would be reduced by 12£ per cent., which, in fact, was the average reduction that was proposed in the budget. Surely the honorable senator is aware that every newspaper in Australia attempted to forecast the reduction of tax that would be imposed and that one of them was hound to guess correctly just as one newspaper is almost certain to tip the winner of the Caulfield Cup when all the newspapers between them tip every horse engaged in that race. In those circumstances, the honorable senator was not justified in implying that some member of the Cabinet, or some public servant, had been guilty of divulging information about the budget proposals. The Leader of the Opposition and his colleague, Senator Willesee, said that the Prime Minister, in the course of the by-election campaigns in the electorates of Corangamite and Lang, had given hints about the budget proposals. I remind those honorable senators that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, during the course of his speech last evening, informed his hearers of the exact rates of pension that Labour would provide if it were returned to office. If it was not wrong for the right honorable member to divulge that information, how was it wrong for the
Prime Minister, during a by-election campaign, to tell the people that his Government proposed to reduce taxes under its next budget? A mere declaration by the leader of a party that hisGovernment proposes to reduce taxes affords no ground for accusing him of divulging budget secrets. The Leader of the Opposition also criticized the Government for delaying the presentation of the budget. I agree with him that the budget should be presented to the Parliament as early as it is possible to do so.. However, I remind him that senior members of all parties in the Parliament, in both this chamber and the House of Representatives, were, until recently, absent in England attending the Coronation, and that the Prime Minister’s return to this country was furtherdelayed because he had to attend a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. If the Parliament had re-assembled earlier, one honorable senator oppositeI shall not mention his name - would have been very late in making an. appearance in this chamber, because, as it was, he turned up the day after the sittings commenced. The Opposition has no grounds for criticizing the Government on that score. I repeat, however, that the budget should be introduced as early as possible in August each year.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that the Government’s policy has been responsible for all increases of the basic wage that have occurred since it assumed office. Is it not reasonable to suggest that conditions that prevailed not only in Australia but also throughout the world when this Government took office in 194S, contributed most towards the increase of the basic wage that was made during the ensuing twelve months? When one attempts to place the blame for -the inflation that has occurred during the last few years, it is only fair to recognize that this Government inherited from the preceding Labour Government the conditions that existed in this country when it assumed office in 1950. I do not say that that Labour Government was wholly responsible for the conditions that existed here when it was ejected from office, because, as all fair-minded people will recognize, the inflationary trend in
Australia at that time was part and parcel of a world-wide monetary movement. Travellers on returning from overseas agree that the Australian £1 - honorable senators opposite may call it the Menzies-Fadden £1 if they wish - will buy more in Australia than an equivalent sum will buy in the United States of America or Great Britain to-day. Therefore, it is useless for honorable senators opposite to tell Australians that they are worse off and are suffering a greater degree of inflation than is the case in other countries. Honorable senators opposite should be fair and reasonable, and should acknowledge that the Government is doing its best - and it is meeting with a measure of success - in combating inflation and restoring Australia to a position that compares more than favorably with that which exists in other countries.
Senator Armstrong growled about what he called a shortage of finance for home building, and blamed the Government on that score. I remind him that when the Chifley Government was in office, the supply of finance for home building was not so important a consideration because, at that time, all classes of building materials were in short supply. One of the triumphs achieved by this Government has been that it has helped to make available an adequate supply of building materials. When one speaks about the Government’s activities in respect of home building one needs only to refer to its record in respect of war service homes. Whereas during a period of three and a half years from 1946 to 1949 when the Labour Government was in office only 5,789 war service homes were constructed, during the three and a half years since this Government assumed office, that is, from the 1st January, 1950, to the 30th June of this year, 15,731 war service homes were constructed. That is further proof of the fact that this Government has done a man’s size job. I commend it in that respect. In conclusion, I remind honorable senators of the concluding sentence of the Treasurer’s budget speech. Presenting the budget, he said -
I do so with a profound faith that given the co-operation of the community it will yield rich fruits for Australia and its people.
I believe that that wish will come true. But the business community must cooperate with the Government by passing on to consumers, the ordinary Australian families, the benefit of the tax concessions made under this budget. With that co-operation and so long as the present Government continues in office, I believe that Australia will enjoy prosperity.
– I deduced from the remarks of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and Government supporters, that this Government cannot govern as it would wish to govern unless secondary industries in Australia are in a state of stagnation, unless no development whatever is being carried out throughout Australia, and unless there is a pool of unemployment in this country. I deduced that the Government desired such a set of circumstances to prevail in order that it might be able to govern, as it really desires to govern. I was astounded to hear the Attorney-General imply that the impact upon our economy of the wool cheque of £300,000,000 which we received in 1950-51 was a calamity. Let me consider that statement in reverse. What would be the reaction of the Attorney-General if Australia could not sell its wool? He bemoaned the fact that in 1950-51, Australia’s wool cheque amounted to £300,000,000. Did that not indicate a condition of prosperity? What he really meant to say was that the Government could not rise to such an occasion; it could not govern, as it wishes to govern, unless a condition of depression existed in this country. It could not govern during a period of prosperity, because although we are talking about inflation and the effects that the inflationary period has had on the economy of Australia, in the final analysis inflation is only prosperity. The Government should have recognized that and governed in such a manner that expenditure would have been devoted to the best possible purpose. Our pastoral lands require improving. Graziers could have expended their surplus funds on improving their holdings. They could have increased the carrying capacity of their lands considerably ; but the Government indulged in its “ skimming off “ campaign. It took the top off the incomes of graziers.
The Attorney-General told us that the budget provided for substantial reductions of income tax on individuals. 1 do not accept that statement at its face value, and I shall prove later in my speech that it is entirely wrong. Undoubtedly the Government has engaged in political gymnastics. It has increased taxes in one year only to reduce them in another and boast of its tax reductions. The AttorneyGeneral spoke of the great benefit which he claims the workers of this country will derive from receiving an extra 5s. a week in their pay envelopes at some future date. I shall show him later a way in which the Government could have really increased the earnings of workers. To soothe our feelings about the taxation antics of the Government over the last few years, the AttorneyGeneral asked us to compare the proposed tax rates in this country with those applying in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. What does it matter to us how much the people of Great Britain, New Zealand, China or Borneo have to pay? That is not the way to solve Australia’s economic problems. Then the Attorney-General made his startling statement about the benefits of the budget being spread over the whole population of Australia. The truth is that they are so widely spread that they are not even noticeable. They are like a light shower of rain falling on the Pacific Ocean. The honorable gentleman claimed credit for his Government’s action in abolishing land tax. But who benefited from the abolition of the land tax? Only wealthy people benefited. Certainly the wage-earner gained no advantage. The Attorney-General spoke also of the entertainments tax which, of course, is an indirect tax. It is also an unpopular tax, but the honorable gentleman knows quite well that the States are short of funds, and that they are saddled with the burden of carrying their transport systems. Almost every State is faced with a transport deficit this year, and will be faced with transport deficits for many years to come. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should take over all the railway systems in Australia and operate them as Commonwealth Government utilities.
The Attorney-General boasted that the Commonwealth Government proposed to vacate the field of entertainments tax, but he knows quite well that the States will immediately enter that field,, and I shall not blame them for so doing. The Commonwealth Government has forced them to do everything imaginable to raise funds to carry on even their ordinary, services.
Another subject touched on by the Attorney-General was rationing and economic controls. Just imagine a member of this Government talking about controls! Has he forgotten the Defence Preparations Act which is so heavily laden with controls? And what about capital issues control? Is that not a form of rationing of finance? The Government’s sincerity may be tested, in several ways. We can take certain steps to ascertain for ourselves whether the budget is good or bad. The late Mr. Justice Piddington, after examining family incomes and the whole wagefixing structure throughout Australia, made a statement which I thought at the time, and which I still think to be very wise. He said -
What is wanted in Australia is … a strict and even handed canon of plain justice which will recognize that the children of those engaged in industry have a right to maintenance from industry, and that the mother who rears children for the future of industry and of the State has a right to receive the only wage she ever asks - enough to enable her as society’s trustee for nurture and education to discharge the duties of her trust.
Let us take that statement and, like a fossicker testing ore for uranium, pass it over the budget to see whether it will produce any response. What does tha budget contain for the Australian mother, the housewife? No one can convince me that the average Australian housewife is very much concerned with company dividends. It is true that we must look to private industry to provide employment for 70 per cent, of our working people; but the housewife has her burdens every day. She is not concerne’d with company dividends. This budget, far from being a family budget, is a big business budget. That is one of the most striking features of it. One company which had already declared a profit of £142,000 found after the budget had been presented that it could add £20,000 to that figure, making a total of £162,000. For that organization at least it is a big company budget. Another comparatively small company engaged in the clothing trade has been able to increase its profits by £10,000 because of the company tax reductions announced in the budget. The average housewife will not gain anything from chat, nor will she gain anything from the reduction of excise duty on spirits by 21s. a gallon. In fact, she probably will not know anything about that reduction. The Attorney-General may be a whisky drinker and his household may be different from that of the working man, but I am ‘ dealing with the family man and the Australian housewife. The housewife’s concern is her work for her husband and for her children who are going to school. She wants Australian industries to be sound so that there will be employment for her children when they leave school. She realizes that this Government has depressed certain industries. It is true that the depression has not been widespread. It was not possible for the Government to cause a widespread depression, but it has depressed some industries and caused unemployment deliberately. The Government was fully conscious of its power to create unemployment, and it did not hesitate to use that power deliberately. The average Australian housewife who has a growing family knows what the Government has done. She realizes that she will not benefit one iota from anything in the budget.
AVe are told that sales tax will be reduced ; but will a reduction of the sales tax on motor cars put more bread or meat on the table of the average Australian family? Obviously it is nonsense to suggest that it will. The community is dissatisfied with this Government. There is a great cleavage between this Government and the people. That has been shown in every election that has taken place throughout the Common.wealth in the last year or so. Why does this estrangement exist? The first reason is that the Government has failed to implement its solemn promises given to the people in 1949. The second reason is the Government’s performance since it was elected, and the third reason is the
Government’s blindness to the serious problems now confronting Australia. Bankruptcies throughout the Commonwealth are increasing day by day, yet the Government remains complacent. Apparently it is unaware of the dangers. 1 foregive it for that because one cannot expect a government to be enlightened about everything. The Government is sheltering behind the high prices that are now being received for primary products. Honorable senators opposite believe themselves to be fairly secure, but I shall shatter that belief in a few moments. I have no doubt that I shall be told by Government supporters that a dairy-farmer to-day can do very well with a herd of 30 cows. He can enjoy a rather handsome income. I shall also be informed that a wheat-farmer who is cropping 300 acres can enjoy a substantial income; that a wool-grower with a small flock of 1,000 sheep has a good return; that a poultry-farmer who gets 5s. a dozen for his eggs is well off; that a pig-farmer has only to sell 100 pigs a year to enjoy an income equal to that of honorable senators, and that a cattleraiser has only to sell 50 head of cattle a year to make a good living. I shall be told that as Australian primary industries are in a sound condition, and are the backbone of the Australian economy, there is nothing to fear. But is there an alternative to the present, situation in which those engaged in farming pursuits receive high, incomes ? Apparently the Government has not given consideration to any possible alternative, I should like to draw attention to the dangers that are confronting Australian primary industries to-day. The United States of America has 1,000,000,000 bushels of excess wheat that it cannot sell, and harvesting of this season’s crop will soon begin in that country. Great Britain’s cold stores are full, and it is necessary for clearances to be made from them before further consignments can be admitted from Australia and other countries. What will happen when we reach the stage of a surplus economy for which we are heading? As I have pointed out previously, this Government is not prepared to meet such a situation. As a result, the average housewife is apprehensive of the future, because she has had tv6 previous experiences of this Government’s lack of foresight in connexion with economic problems. When I referred to the incomes of primary producers a few minutes ago I heard some chatter in the chamber. Therefore I shall refer to a survey that was made recently of the incomes of various groups of farmers in Victoria. It revealed startling facts. In 193S-39, of a total of 316,000 farmers in that State, 305,000 received incomes of less than £501 a year. In 1951-52, out of a total of 301,000 farmers in that State, 164,000 received incomes of less than £1,000 a year, and 100,000 received incomes of between £1,000 and £4,000 a year. Only 16,000 received incomes of from £4,000 to £6,000 a year, and 2,000 had incomes in excess of £6,000 a year. The incomes of persons engaged in farming pursuits has increased during recent years, but the number of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits has dwindled and primary production has decreased. I have no doubt that what I have said will be distorted by subsequent speakers from the Government side of the chamber, and I shall be pleased to inform any honorable senator of the source of the figures that I have cited. The Government must realize that there are only two markets for our primary products, namely, the local market and the overseas market, but the Government is not doing sufficient to preserve the local market. Indeed, by its actions, this Government is seeking to destroy the local market, which is our best market.
Let us consider the attitude of housewives to the present high prices of household requirements. Prior to the general election of 1949, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated -
Perhaps our greatest charge ‘ against the financial and economic policy of the present Labour Government is that while it has paid a good deal of attention to increasing the volume and circulation of money, it has largely neglected the problem of what and how much that money will buy. Every housewife knows how grievous this problem is. The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is, to get prices down.
But this Government has not been successful in keeping prices down. According to a statistical report that was published in 1949, the price of bread in that year was Sd. a loaf; to-day it is ls. a loaf. Tea
Was then 2s. 8d. per lb., compared with 4s. Sd. per lb. to-day. Butter was then 2s. 2d. per lb., but to-day it costs 4s. 2d. per lb. Eggs were then 3s. Id. a dozen, compared with 4s. 9d. or 5s. a dozen to-day. Bacon rashers were then 2s. 9d. per lb., but today are 5s. per lb. Sirloin beef sold in 1949 for ls. 6d. per lb., compared with. 2s. lid. to-day, while rump steak wasls. lid. per lb., compared with 3s. 2d. per lb. to-day. The average housewife is concerned not with estimatesof the value of the £1, but with the quantity of foodstuffs that £1 will buy when she goes shopping. I shall not endeavour to compare therelative values of the Menzies £1 and the Chifley £1, but shall point out what a housewife can purchase with £1 to-day in Brisbane. She can buy a loaf of bread, for ls. ; 1 lb. of butter for 4s. 2d. ; 1 lb. of bacon rashers for 5s.; a dozen of eggsfor 5s.; and 1 lb. of tea for 4s. 8d. She then has 2d. left out of her £1. Since this Government took office the basic wage in Queensland has risen from £6 9s. a week to £10 19s. a week. It ha3 been increased by only £4 10s. a week despite the steep increase of costs. Now the “ C “’ series index has been abolished. This is a matter for regret when we consider the reasons why the index was introduced in 1920. It has been of great assistance to the workers during the inflationary period. Although honorable senators orr the Government side of the chamber have complained from time to time duringrecent years about the operation of the “ C “ series index, there were no complaints by supporters of the anti-Labour parties in 1931 when the basic wage dropped to £3 14s. a week. The reasons for the introduction of the “ C “ series index are to be found in a policy speech that was delivered by an anti-Labour Prime Minister in 1919. He was not a Liberal Prime Minister, because the Liberal party is of comparatively recent origin. That party was known previously as the United Australia party and the Nationalist party. The right honorable gentleman stated -
The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of Bolshevism and direct action, arises with the real wage of the worker - that is to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives. This real wage decreases with an increase in the cost of living.
Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the communitythat such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children in decent, wholesome conditions - and that point has been settled long ago - it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for ensuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means must be found which will insure that the minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically, or almost automatically, with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life.
It will be seen, therefore, that the C series index was introduced to prevent industrial unrest and the growth of holshevism, which we now call communism. The arguments in favour of the C series index are as sound to-day as they were in 1919, and its abolition could give rise to considerable industrial unrest and a spread of communism.
The budget makes no provision for the welfare of the people. The Australian Labour party is concerned at all times with the maintenance of the standard of living of the people, of which housing is a major factor. But what does the Government do about housing? [ have no doubt that it will continue to pass the buck by making advances to the States for the provision of housing. Although I have no quarrel with the Government’s immigration policy as such, I consider that it shouldhave made greater provision for the. housing of our people. “We want housing, good food, goodclothing, adequate educational facilities, and the other things that are necessary in order to maintain a satisfactory standard of living. This “ big business “ budget will not save the Government from defeat at the general election next year, because it will not inspire the majority of the people to greater efforts, although [ have no doubt that some managing directors ofpublic companies will derive incentive from its provisions. This Go- vernment has failed to retain the goodwill of the people of Australia, and I believe that at the next general election it will be vapourized. Thereafter, the Liberal and Country parties will be in the form of sludge.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearson) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Lands Acquisition Act-
Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes - Northcote, Victoria.
Department of Civil Aviation purpose - Tooraweanah, New South Wales.
Land disposed of under Section 63 -
Returns (2) showing manner of disposal.
Papua and New Guinea Act - First Annual Report of the Papua and New Guinea Superannuation Board, for period 29th September, 1951, to 30th June, 1952.
Postmster-General’s Department- Fortysecond Annual Report, for year 1951-52.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - J. V. Doubleday, A. W. Garner, W. W. Hammond, R. 0. Hart, N. H. O’Neill, P. Swift, G. B. Wharton.
Defence Production - J. D. McLauchlan.
Health - E. D. Docherty, J.R. Meyers, A. J, Mooney.
Postmaster-General’s - E. Dowling, M. Fardouly, T. W. Fox, D. S. Fulton, G. T. Jansen, A. Letizia, K. H. Nicholls, A. J. Ralston, E. J. RamsayMatthews, D. Savage. G. B. Sharps, R. J. Shinkfleld, G. W. Taylor, J.E. Thornett, A. P. Vorpagel.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19530916_senate_20_s1/>.