20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Entertainments Tax Abolition Bill 1953.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1953.
– Whilst I realize that matters associated with family well-being are partly the responsibility of the State governments, many millions of pounds are being expended by the Australian Government on increasing Australia’s population by means of immigration, and I should like to know whether the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration will consider making a special grant in addition to the usual social services payments to the parents of the Gilgandra quadruplets who arrived in Australia yesterday. I understand that the family has been living in difficult circumstances, and I should like to know also whether the Minister for Immigration will, in his capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service, see that the father of the children, who is reported to be unemployed, is provided with a suitable job. I am fully aware of the responsibilities of. the State in connexion with this matter, but I bring it to the notice of the Minister because these newcomers are indeed new Australians.
– The question of making special grants in such circumstances is a matter for the Treasurer.I understand that in similar cases grants have been made in the past. However, I shall direct the attention of both the Treasurer and the Minister for Immigration to the honorable senator’s question.
– On the 30th September last, Senator McCallum asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate the purpose of the flimsy and unsightly building that is being erected on the National Circuit near the Kurrajong Hotel? Will the Minister direct that this ugly object be removed as soon as possible?
The Postmaster-General has advised me as under: -
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether there is any truth in a recent newspaper report that the Menzies-O’Sullivan Government does not propose to proceed with the appointment of the Australian Ambassador to Ireland and that the Government intends to close the Australian Mission in Dublin? Will the Minister also tell the Senate about the discussions he had with the Irish Government on this matter when he was in Ireland recently? Is not the Irish Government aware that the MenziesO’Sullivan Administration is not interested in Ireland and that it made only a token appointment because the Senate elections were approaching and the fate of the Minister’s colleagues was in the balance? Is it not also true that, because the general elections will not be held until next year, the Government has no further use for Mr. Paul McGuire ?
– The question asked by the honorable senator is distinctly offensive. If he thinks that by asking a question couched in such language he will do either Ireland or this country any good, I am afraid he is mistaken. This Government is oh the most cordial terms with the Government of Ireland. A great feeling of affection exists in Australia for the people of Ireland, and that feeling is, I am sure, reciprocated. I should be very sorry if the attitude of the honorable senator caused friction and disaffection between two friendly peoples.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Government appointed Mr. Paul McGuire ambassador to Ireland some time ago but that he has not yet taken up the appointment? Does the Government intend to cancel the appointment?
– The Prime Minister made a statement in the matter some days ago and indicated that negotiations were proceeding. I cannot give the honorable senator any more information.
-On the 23rd September, Senator Henty asked the following question : -
In view of the fact that recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Australian Navy is logging, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy endeavour to arrange periodical visits of aircraft-carriers to Tasmania in order to demonstrate the work of the Fleet Air Arm? I point out that Tasmania is «n island State and has always contributed a proportionately large percentage of the personnel of the Navy.
The Minister for the Navy has now furnished the following information: -
Periodical visits by Royal Australian naval aircraft-carriers to Tasmania in order to assist recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm are always, considered when programmes for naval ships are being planned. For example, H.M.A.S. Vengeance will be visiting Hobart from the 20th to the 23rd February.. 1954. Unfortunately, other more urgent commitments arose between H.M.A.S. Sydney’s visit to Tasmania in 1.050 and her visit which occurred in February this year. For instance, in 1951, Sydney began an operational tour in Korea. After her arrival in Australia in Mardi, 1953, H.M.A.S. ‘Vengeance underwent a refit and, on completion, the ship began training the naval air squadrons who will be embarked in H.M..A.S. Sydney during the forthcoming service away from Australia. In order that the maximum training by squadrons in a carrier can be achieved, it is generally necessary for the ship to carry out that training in northern waters during the winter months. Such a practice naturally restricts the time available for a carrier to be used for recruiting purposes. .Respite the fact that only two visits to Tasmania, have been made by aircraftcarriers to date, other steps have been and will be taken to bring the Fleet Air Arm to the notice of the public. For example, in August, 1953, a senior naval officer lectured in both Hobart and Launceston on the Fleet Air Arm.
– On the 16th September, Senator Mattner asked the following question: -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a reported statement of the Prime Minister of India to 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 lor Australian wheat?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now furnished the following information : -
Reports of increased rice production in Asia have been received, and world rice supplies this year are higher than they have been in recent years. The effect of increased rice supplies will naturally vary from year to year, increased rice, supplies would naturally limit the sales of wheat by Australia and other wheat exporting countries which arise from a substitution of wheat for rice in an attempt to make up a deficiency in rice supplies. However, there is normally only a limited degree of competition on world markets between wheat and rice, because of the decided preferences of different groups of consumers for either one or the other, and because of the steady rise in world population it seems that the long-term outlook For the export of wheat will remain sound.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether the Government would consider an approach to the major oil companies with a request that they arrange to charge a uniform price for petrol throughout each State, thus enabling consumers in rural communities to pay the same price for petrol as that paid by city dwellers?
– Though the question is of great importance, I do not believe that, the Australian Government could properly extend its activities into the commercial sphere concerned. Keen competition between the major oil companies in itself has some effect upon prices. I understand, also, that petrol and oil products are subject to control by the State prices control authorities. Generally, I would not be inclined to urge the Australian Government to intrude into this matter.
– I direct a ques-1 ion to the Attorney-General in relation to uniform divorce law. I do not desire my action in doing so to be interpreted as meaning that I advocate easier divorce laws. My purpose in asking this question is to ensure that no person in Australia shall be penalized merely because of geographical considerations in approaching an Australian court. Will the Attorney-General consult with the Prime Minister in order to bring before the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the necessity for introducing uniform divorce laws throughout Australia? Will ho also discuss the possibility of the introduction of legislation to liberalize the meaning of the term “ domicile “ in. matrimonial cases by applying it on an Australia-wide basis instead of allowing it to apply, as at present, only to State residence?
– The honorable senator may recall that the previous Government took action to relieve to some degree the difficulties associated with separate domicile in the different States. That legislation is now operating to relieve that position. The honorable senator’s suggestion that this matter might be brought before the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers is worthy of consideration, anil I shall discuss it with the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether there is any truth in the press report that the Menzies-O’Sullivan Government’s helpmate and “ fellow traveller “, Ernest Thornton, the Communist, whom the Government welcomed back from Peking recently and to whom it has given every help in organizing support for the World Federation of Trade Unions Congress in Vienna, has offered, and his offer has been accepted, to return to Australia to assist the Government’s campaign at the next general election? Has the Government promised to. facilitate his re-entry into Australia, and has it given an assurance to him that it will not attempt to depart him ?
– I do not share the honorable senator’s interest: in Mr. Thornton. I am sure that the honorable senator’s colleagues are just as thoroughly ashamed of him as are honorable senators on this side of the chamber, because in asking, his question he has grossly abused the procedures and privileges of the Senate. The honorable senator should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
– On the 23rd September, Senator Marriott asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral -
Will thi- Minister representing thu l’ostmasterGeneral consider issuing regulations to enable the- provision of rental-free telephone services to blind persons? I point out that this facility would improve immeasurably the living conditions of blind persons in the’ community and that as the cost of telephone calls would be paid in the usual way the revenue of the Telephone Branch would not be impaired by this provision.
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following reply : -
The policy which has also been followed by previous governments, is to apply the appropriate rental charges in all cases, and it is not practicable for the department to discriminate between one section of lbc community and another in this matter.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether the Government will give serious consideration to the adoption of a resolution of the International Labour . Organization at Geneva in 1951 to the effect that the Australian Government will seek means to apply the principle of the payment of equal remuneration to both male and female workers for work of equal value? Will the Minister take steps to include this item in the agenda of the next conference of Common wealth and State Ministers?
– The matter that lias been raised by the honorable senator falls peculiarly within the province of ibo Minister for Labour and National Service, with whom I shall discuss if. T will place before that Minister the suggestion that the honorable senator has made.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by pointing out that newspaper reports recently have disclosed what is happening at Woomera, and the action that is being taken by the Government of the United States of America to prepare the defences of that country to withstand attacks by atomic bombs. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Australian Government has any plan to defend, for instance, the Queensland cities of Townsville and Cairns, against such attacks? Is the Minister in a position to assure honorable senators and the people of this country that Australia has made satisfactory progress in the matter of defence against those particularly horrible weapons ?
– I have no hesitation at all in assuring the honorable senator that I, personally, am very confident that our military experts and advisers are fully conscious of the tremendous dangers inherent in atomic warfare. Proper steps are being taken, to the best of our ability, to protect this country and its people from that menace. Doubtless the honorable senator will agree with me that it would be unwise and very dangerous for the Government to broadcast details of what the Department of Defence has in hand and in train in connexion with this matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Senator AYLETT (through Senator
Critchley) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
How many persons are employed by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board at Hobart, and what are their salaries?
How many waterside workers are employed in the southern ports of Tasmania?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following reply: -
Senator WRIGHT (through Senator
AnnabelleRankin) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
In reference to cafeteria service? mentioned in the last report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board as costing something of the order of £33,000, will the Minister state where, in what places, in what circumstances, and on what terms are cafeteria services supplied by the board?
– I have received the following information from the Minister for Labour and National Service: -
The food services mentioned in the Board’s last report as costing £33,908 for the year 1951-52 are situated in the following places: -
New South Wales. - Snack bar, No. 7a Circular Quay, Sydney; cafeteria, Walsh Bay, Sydney; snack bar, No. 37
Darling Harbour, Sydney; snack bar, No. 3 Wharf, Woolloomooloo, Sydney; snack bar, No. 4a Darling Harbour, Sydney; cafeteria, Glebe Island, Sydney; snack bar, Sussex-street pick-up centre, Sydney; snack bar, Town’s Bond pick-up centre, Sydney; snack bar, No. ‘ 11 Walsh Bay, Sydney; cafeteria, Port Waratah, Newcastle.
Victoria. - Cafeteria, No. C Berth, Yarraville; snack bar, No. 20 South Wharf, Fisherman’s Bend.
South Australia. - Cafeteria, Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide; cafeteria, I.C.I. Wharf, Osborne; kitchen, 1 Finsbury; cafeteria, Birkenhead; cafeteria, No. 19 Berth, Port Adelaide; cafeteria, No. 11 Berth, Port Adelaide; cafeteria, No. 5 Berth, Port Adelaide.
Queensland. - Snack bar, Newstead Wharf, Brisbane; snack bar, Dalgety’s Wharf, Bulimba; cafeteria, Jetty Wharf, Outer Harbour, Townsville.
Western Australia.- Cafeteria, Victoria Quay, Fremantle
Early in 1943 the then Government decided on the establishment of food services for waterside workers. Also that these services be operated on behalf of the Department oi Supply and Shipping by the Food Services Branch of the Department of Labour and National Service, as this branch was already operating a large number of food services on behalf of other Commonwealth departments. Tit 1948, the Department of Supply and Shipping transferred its interest in waterside food services to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was later succeeded by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The circumstances which gave rise to the establishment of waterside food services were, and are, lack or inadequacy of facilities for waterside workers to obtain meals. They were not established at any point where private enterprise or the port authority had already provided adequate facilities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization -
– As Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization I now supply the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : - 1 and 3. On the 12th April, 1901, the Commonwealth Government, led by Sir Edmund Barton, decided that members of the House of Representatives should be designated M.P. and not M.H.R., and that members of the Senate should be styled senator. The designation “ senator “ appears, of course,in the Constitution itself.
The prefix “honorable” is granted, in the case of a senator, to -
– In accordance with the obligations of the Foreign Affairs Committee as defined by a resolution of the Houses appointing that committee, I bring up a statement advising the Parliament that the committee has forwarded to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs a report relating to the committee’sactivities and functions.
– I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the following subject: -
Fifth report - Department of Works.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now reada first time.
– I take this opportunity to speak about a matter of grave importance. I refer to the leak of budget information that occurred a few weeks ago during a court case in which. Mr. Reichenbach applied for an injunction against the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, and John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited. As most honorable senators are aware, Mr. Irish, a director of Associated Newspapers Proprietary Limited, and Mr. Angus McLachlan. General Manager of the Sydney Morning Herald, were received in Canberra and certain business was transacted. When, in the course of court proceedings, Mr. Irish was asked by Mr. Gordon Wallace. Q.C., how he had arrived at certain figures, he told the court he had learned while in Canberra that the company tax was to be reduced from 9s. to 7s. in the £1 . Such information of course would not only be of considerable advantage to Mr. Irish, but also could be used to great advantage on the stock exchanges of this country. The Government has attempted to brush the matter aside. It has ignored all protests. Would any other government in the world have treated such a matter so lightly? Are the prestige and honor of the Parliament to be disregarded because the Government is reluctant to institute an inquiry into the matter? If ever there was justification for an exhaustive investigation there is justification in this instance. Mr. Irish has admitted that he got the information in Canberra. What are we to assume from that admission ? Who gave him the information?
– When did he say that he got the information in Canberra ?
– He said it inthe court. Perhaps Mr. Irish got his information from the Minister for National
Development (Senator Spooner) on an earlier occasion and not when he visited Canberra at the time in question.
– He did not say what the honorable senator has attributed to him.
– I shall be able to show that he did. He was in Canberra not only on this particular Sunday when he received attention, in regard to company affairs, which no other person had ever before received, when he had the benefit of office accommodation and was also provided with a typewriter and everything else. The Government of this country has not appreciated the seriousness of the fact that apparently budget information was given out to certain people before the budget was presented in the Parliament. In the past, this Parliament has been guided by the practices of the parliaments of the United Kingdom and other democracies. We have tried t,o follow the traditional customs of those parliaments. Honorable senators no doubt remember that, when Dr. Hugh Dalton was Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, information concerning the budget, which had not then been presented to the Parliament, was handed out to the press. Although no advantage was sought thereby, and although the incident was an entirely casual one. Dr. Dalton was obliged to resign his office. The late Mr. J. H. Thomas was also forced to resign the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in similar circumstances. Yet this Government has treated this matter lightly and has attempted to brush it aside.
It should not be forgotten that Mr. Irish, is an accountant in a very big way. In fact, he is an officer of an organization which represents a. large number of accountants in Australia. Therefore, by acquiring that information, he was placed in a most advantageous position. It is admitted that he was in Canberra for only two hours on the Sunday when he did this important business on. behalf of Associated Newspaper Proprietary Limited and the Sydney Morning Herald. It has been said that only three persons, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and the Secretary. Department of the Treasury.
Dr. Ronald Wilson, were aware of the contents of the budget. Where, then, did Mr. Irish obtain his information? He was able to glean information which could vitally affect his company and be used toadvantage on the stock exchange.
The Minister for National Development has expressed doubt whether certain statements were made during the court hearing.In order to convince the honorable senator. I propose to refer to a portion of the transcript of the evidence. At pages 149 and 150 of the transcript of Wednesday, the 16th September last, the following questions and answers appear : -
Q.Astothe£130,000towhichyouhave deposed asbeing your estimate of the savings to be effected - naturally that would be before the payment of tax? - A. Yes.
Taking the tax as it then was at9s. in the pound;first of alla saving whichno doubt you included in the £130,000 would be, say,at5% on the £678,000by which you would reduce your overdraft? - A. Yes.
That equals £34,000 does it not? - A.Yes. Q. £34,000 from £130,000 equals £96,000the balance? - A.Yes.
Then. I suppose, you will readily agree that the tax on the £130,000 would be £58,500 at9s. in the £1? - A. Yes.
So that the savingsaftertax would be £71,500? - A. Yes.
And on a9s. in the £1. basis upon which you were no doubt working - correct? - A. Yes, and no.
You did not know the budget, didyou? - A. I had a good idea, I think,
You did not know it was going to be a 2s. reduction? - A. I happened to have certain discussions in Canberra about it which made me realise it would be close to that figure.
I suggest that this is a matter of grave importance. Although it has been stated in sworn evidence, the Minister for National Development denies that it was said. No doubt he would like to wave the matter aside, but I suggest that it is too serious for that to be permitted. The most exhaustive investigation by the Government is called for. The evidence proceeds -
Q.Areyousuggestingthatyou,Mr.Irish, couldhaveanydiscussionsatCanberrabefore theissueofthebudgetatwhichyouwould getanyreliableinformationastowhatthe provisionsofthebudgetonsuchanimportant matterwouldbe?-A.No,butIwasableto conclude-
How was he able to conclude, unless he spoke to somebody who knew something about the budget? The evidence continues -
Mr. Wallace. ; Q. I understood you told me that you worked on 9s. in the ?1? - A. Yes, and also ‘considered other figures.
We will come to the other figures in a moment. Let us adhere to the 9s. for the moment. So there you have net savings, after tax, of ?71,500. oi have agreed with that, have you not? - A. Yes.
His HONOUR - I do not follow that, Mr.
Mr. Wallace. ?130,000 the tax there at 9s. - that is the current rate - ?58,500. That leaves a balance of ?71,500 as the net savings after tax.
His Honour. - It depends on what you call net savings. You had already put it to Mr. Irish that they saved ?34,000* in interest.
Mr. Hardie. ; Q. Mr. Gray, in one of his affidavits, referred to the fact that in 1933 some substantial reduction in ordinary capital had been made. Was that a repayment of share capital? - A. From inquiries I have made, no.
The next question is important because it refers to a previous visit to Canberra. The transcript continues -
It is possible that he may have got the information at that time. I do not limit the period when he may have obtained it to the Sunday because he was in Canberra on that particular Sunday for only two hours. In that time apparently he was able to get close to some members of the Government or its supporters to discuss the matter. The record of the court proceedings continues -
That evidence, which was given in a court of law, suggests that Mr. Irish obtained the information in Canberra. He could have obtained it only from persons who knew the contents of the budget.
– Where does Mr. Irish state in the evidence that he obtained the information ?
– I wish that he had stated in so many words where he obtained it. The Minister for National Development could be implicated. It is the duty of the Government to discover where Mr. Irish obtained it.
– He did not say that . he obtained it.
– The Government should ask Mr. Irish where he obtained the information so that it can be cleared of the implication that it divulged important information concerning the budget proposals. If the Government did not give it to him, why did Mr. Irish state in sworn evidence that he obtained it in Canberra ? He did not go to Bourke or Broken Hill, but to Canberra, where he would find somebody who had knowledge of the budget’s contents. Moreover, he found the person who could give it to him. If a representative of the Government is not guilty of furnishing budget information to Mr. Irish, the Government should take action against him to clear it of the charge.
– There is no charge.
– Surely Senator Guy is not suggesting that Mr. Irish perjured himself in a court of law ? He has done irreparable harm to the Government and to the prestige of the Parliament by his allegations. I suggest that the Government should appreciate the seriousness of the position in which it has been placed and that it should initiate an inquiry to clear the reputation and prestige of the Government and the Parliament. Such an inquiry should be held as early as possible.
I wish to refer now to the medical health scheme that was incorporated in a measure presented to the Parliament on the last day of the previous sessional period. That measure was framed to provide for pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on the last day of the sessional period and was taken to the second reading stage. No opportunity was afforded honorable senators to discuss the measure. Since then, it has been put into effect by regulation.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to stifle discussion, but the honorable senator should know that the matter to which he has referred is on the notice-paper in another place. In such an event, it is out of order for him to discuss the matter at this stage. Senator Ashley will have an opportunity to discuss it when the measure is being debated in this chamber.
– Order ! I uphold the point of order.
– I suggest, Mr. President, that I am in order in discussing an order that has been put into operation by regulation. It is now operating.
– The honorable senator can discuss the matter when it comes before the Senate.
– I ask for a ruling, Mr. President.
– I have ruled that discussion at this stage is out of order.
– The measure has been put into operation by regulation, and it is already affecting a large number of persons.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing tha matter at this stage.
– I am astounded.
– I rise to order. I believe that there may be some misunderstanding. I agree completely, Mr. President, with your ruling that no reference may be made in this chamber to a debate that is taking place in another place or any legislation that is pending there. Unquestionably, that is correct, but I submit to you that many provisions of the health scheme are actually in operation. They have been put into force by regulations made under the National Health Act. Senator Ashley proposes to comment on a portion of the scheme that is in force under existing regulations. Perhaps you did not understand him on that point. I suggest that he is completely in order in discussing provisions of the measure that have been operating by regulation for many months and, in some cases, for years. I believe that your ruling was not directed against that portion of the health scheme.
– I wish to make my point of order clear. I agree with the submission that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I rose to order earlier because I understood that Senator Ashley was criticizing a bill that was on the notice-paper. I would not press the point of order if Senator Ashley’s comments have relation only to something that is an established fact.
– Order! In the circumstances, Senator Ashley may proceed.
– I do not propose to make any comment upon a measure that is to be discussed, but I direct attention to provisions that have been put into effect and are already operating. They include hospitalization, medical benefits and pharmaceutical benefits. Discussions have been held in connexion with the supply of medicines to certain persons, and disputes have followed deputations by chemists on the question of prices they are receiving for medicines that they supply to pensioners. Complaints have reached me in connexion with certain organizations that are associated with the health scheme. Yesterday a complaint waa referred to me by a person who joined the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, which has its head-quarters sit 7 Hamilton-street, Sydney. He claims that he is not a chronic sufferer. This patient was in hospital from the 10th May, 1953, until the 7th June, 1953. He was a patient for 28 days at 24s. a day, a total of £33 12s. From that amount there is to be deducted a government allowance of £.!t 4s. Although that man had been subscribing to the Hospital Contributions Fund of New South Wales, he received a bill for £22- Ss., after the Government allowance of £11 7s. had l,een deducted, and he was asked to remit that amount. That instance illustrates what is happening in respect of these benefits. I remind honorable senators I hut recently a spokesman for the friendly societies stated’ publicly that those societies were prepared to make up prescriptions for age and invalid pensioners ;it a cost of 4s. 6d. each. Officers of friendly societies have told me that the most lucrative part of their activities is the making up of prescriptions for pensioners at that rate. Yet, some weeks igo, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), when he was acting for the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in the absence of the latter abroad, and, subsequently, the Minister for Health himself, received deputations from, representatives of the chemists who stated that it would be unprofitable for chemists to make up prescriptions under the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme at ii fee of less than 10s. each. I should like to know how the chemists can justify that claim, when, as I have said, friendly societies find it profitable to make up proscriptions for pensioners at a fee “f 4s. 6d. each. Having regard to those facts, the Senate should demand a comprehensive explanation from the Government dealing with the operations of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. T have mentioned only one aspect of the scheme that is causing grave concern in the community. 1 appreciate the difficulties which confront’ the Government in fully implementing thi’’ scheme, because my colleagues and I recall only too well the difficulties which confronted the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when, as Minister for Social Services in the Chifley Government; he endeavoured to implement the health and medical services scheme which that Government evolved.
Dealing with, this Government’s health and medical services, I point out thai, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, which is an approved fund for purposes of the scheme, is controlled by doctors. I have noted some strange happenings in respect of that organization. For instance, whenever a. government; advertisement relating to the health scheme has been published in the press, almost invariably one has seen alongside it an advertisement for the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. Indeed, in the early stages of the scheme, advertisements on behalf of that organization were illustrated by a photograph of two healthy Australian girls emerging from the surf which bad originally appeared in a brochure published with th imprimatur of the Minister for Health. The advertisements of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia also contained a paragraph to the effect that the fund was sponsored by the medical profession. When I was challenged on this matter by the British Medical Association, I produced evidence to show that 19 of 23 directors of the fund in New South Wales, five out of six directors of the fund in Queensland, and all five directors of the fund in Tasmania, were doctors. Surely no honorable senator can justify on ethical grounds a position in which an approved organization under the Government’s national health scheme isoverwhelmingly controlled by doctors who in their capacity as officials of the fund will supervise the distribution of benefitsamounting to approximately £1,000,000’ from which the net benefit must ultimately be derived by doctors. Such a position is untenable, and the Government should rectify it as soon as possible.
– The doctors donot derive any benefit in their capacity as directors of an approved fund, becausethe fund is a. non-profit-making organization. °
– The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, like other similar approved organizations under the Government’s national health scheme, has been set up in competition with the friendly societies which for nearly 100 years have been the medium through which benefits of this kind have been made available to the community. In that sphere, those societies have rendered a wonderful service, and I can see no justification whatsoever for setting up other organizations to compete with them. Senator Kendall has said that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia is a nonprofitmaking organization. That fund will certainly not make much profit if it, continues to incur expenditure on publicity at the rate at which it has incurred it; up to date. On one day alone, the cost of advertisements inserted in the press on behalf of that, organization was £350. The Government should not condone a system whereby the distribution of subsidies which it rnakes available is coutrolled by a section of the community which, obviously, must derive most benefit from the provision of such financial assistance. For these reasons I trust that the Government will afford an early opportunity to the Parliament to discuss the measure that was introduced during the last sessional period, but upon which, n p to date, only the Minister for Health has made his second-reading speech. Members of the Opposition could make a valuable contribution to such a discussion as the result of the experience that was gained by the Chifley Government in its endeavours to implement its national health scheme.
– At this juncture, I do not intend to take any notice of the remarks which have just been made by Senator Ashley because the Senate will be afforded an opportunity at the proper time to deal with the matters that he discussed. Government supporters will then be able to answer any point that he raised that really calls for a reply. I intend to address myself to the problem of. the development of the National Capital. I have raised this matter on previous occasion?, somewhat sporadically, perhaps, in questions that I have addressed to the appropriate Minister. A reply that was supplied to me only this afternoon in answer to a question that I asked on this subject completely supports the thesis which I now intend to put forward, namely, that Canberra has not been developed at any time in the manner in which it should be developed. I hope that no honorable senator will interpret that remark as a criticism of anything that has been done by this Government or by previous governments. Indeed, I make it in criticism of the citizens of Australia as a whole and of members of the Parliament regardless of their party political colour. There has been towards this capital city an attitude of contempt, carefully cultivated in the press and by certain special interests. Therefore, I wish to go back to the beginning and remind the Senate why this city is here. It is here because of an obligation in the Constitution, Section 125 of which reads -
The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and shall be in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.
Honorable senators who have studied the history of the framing of the Constitution know that that provision was inserted in order to overcome certain jealousies and animosities, which unhappily existed at that time, between the colonies, particularly the two more populous colonies of New South Wales and Victoria. There was a clear obligation on the Parliament to honour that provision, and a good deal has been done to develop the very magnificent site that was chosen. Last year I had an opportunity to see some very beautiful country in other lands, including the Scottish highlands, parts of France, and the Rockies in North America. I know of no cities in other countries which can compare in pleasantness, picturesqueness, and absolute grandeur with Canberra. People who have been to Washington, the capital city of the United States of America, have said how marvellously better off is Canberra. It is a better place in every way, and I congratulate members of both Houses of the Parliament who, in the first decade of the Commonwealth, chose this site. The events of those days have been described fully in the reminiscences of the late Mr. W. M. Hughes. I shall not venture to say who deserves the greatest credit, but Mr. John Christian Watson, a former Prime Minister, who had a discerning eye for beauty, said that it was a magnificent site, and much has been made of it. We all should pay great tribute to the original plan, and certain modifications of it. I do not think that the plan was a perfect plan by any means, but it is not possible to evolve a perfect plan. Every plan should be capable of being altered and adapted, particularly in the initial stages, and it would probably be very good if this plan were modified a little further. However, I give credit to the people who accepted it, and particularly to people responsible for planting the trees which, next to the natural surroundings, the hill and valley and so forth, are the main attraction of the place. I do not think there is any other place in the world where there is such a marvellous collection of trees. We have our own native trees. People make the foolish complaint that this city is not distinctly Australian. What is distinctly Australian ? Australia will be what we make it. We started with, natural surroundings, but we could not be governed entirely by that consideration, and consequently there were planted various trees as distinctly Australian as any other, but we have also planted here trees of every othercontinent. The result is something very pleasing, and something that .makes a natural setting. But what people call the main part of a city has not yet appeared. Somebody has described. Canberra as a number of suburbs in search of a city, and London Punch, for once recovering some of its former humour, is reported to have stated that London was a city without a plan, but that Canberra was a plan without a city. There is a great deal in that comment. But Canberra is taking form much more quickly than many people realize. Since 1949, when I became a member of the Senate, a great many changes have taken place, and we shall see many more.
I now wish to make a specific complaint against the kind of thing that has happened in Canberra. I believe that it was the duty of successive governments to see that buildings erected here conformed in every way with the intentions of the founders. But what do we find?
The only building which in my opinion even approaches grandeur is the Australian War Memorial, about which I have no word of criticism. The building in which we are now sitting is quite a dignified structure, and this chamber, as well as the other House, is a very pleasant place in which to sit. The facade of the building is quite dignified, but I always feel, as I walk up the front steps, that its appearance is like a Scotsman’s change - right, but only just. I think that the Parliament of the Commonwealth deserves something finer and more magnificent than baa been given to it.
Partly because of the exigencies of war and the immediate post-war period, and partly also because a harassed department can always put up a plea for doing something in a hurry, an enormous number of unworthy buildings has been erected in Canberra. I remind honorable senators of an answer that was furnished to-day to a question that I had asked the Minister representing the Postmaster.General, upon notice, concerning a building, which I described as flimsy, unsightly and ugly, that is being erected near the Hotel Kurrajong. I inquired whether it would be removed as soon as possible. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper.) read to the Senate a perfectly honest and straightforward reply that had been supplied by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), to the effect that the building was an imported aluminium prefabricated structure, and that it would be a permanent building. The building is being placed right in front of what I believe to be the site for the permanent Parliament House, just below Capital Hill, where every visitor to Canberra, will see it, and it is to be a permanent building! Without apologizing for that fact,. but indicating that it needed apology, the Postmaster-General stated that the building would be painted, and that lawns and shrubs would be planted so that the surroundings would present a satisfactory appearance. That seems to them to be sufficient in the capital city of Australia. If it were something placed miles away from anywhere else I could understand that attitude, but I wish to say emphatically that a prefabricated aluminium building is not the type of building that should be a permanent building in this city. Many people will say, instinctively, that the authorities tried to hide it with shrubs; 1 hope that ^poplars will be planted, in order to hide it completely.
– What will it cost?
– We shall be able to ascertain the cost later. This is not an isolated instance. This sort of thing has been happening for years. Even before the war there was displayed an enormous lack of foresight in Canberra.
As a member of the Library Committee, I have been deeply concerned with the development of the National Library, which, as honorable senators know, is united with the Parliamentary Library.
– I hope the honorable senator did not agree to the design of the new archives building?
– I did, but I shall refer to that subject again. I am referring now to the little doll’s house near the Hotel Kurrajong. I have been told that it was erected during the depression to provide work - a perfectly worthy action - but that somebody was told to prepare a plan for it within a fortnight. When the Library Committee came to consider the inadequacies of the building, in order to see whether it could be fitted into any plan at all for a larger building, we found that it was virtually useless. It might be a decent library for a tiny village or some country town, but as a library in the National Capital it is absurd. ‘ The same thing is happening in every part of this city. In a magnificent site, between here and the Prime Minister’s Lodge, there is an unsightly collection of huts. They had to be put somewhere. As they were constructed during the war, I do not blame the Minister who was responsible for their construction, but surely he could have chosen a better position for them. They are a blot, not only on the immediate landscape, but on the whole landscape of the city.
It has been the policy to erect a rather cheap kind of prefabricated cottage of more or less uniform pattern in certain suburbs. I admit that immediately after the war the urgent problem was to find housing for people, but I do not admit that whole suburbs of this inferior type of building should have been erected. Either temporary accommodation should have been used or a better type of house erected. Comparative cheapness of construction does not necessarily result in sordidness of appearance. It is even possible to have prefabricated houses without dead, dull monotony. Prefabricated houses can be planned with imagination, but no imagination has been used in the planning of the houses to which I refer. I have asked the Ministers and architects connected with the construction of buildings in this city to use more imagination in the planning of the buildings. I have come to the sad conelusion that few people in this country, and possibly few people in the world, are really stirred by the sight of noble buildings and magnificent architecture. I happen to be one who is. In travelling through the world, the sights that remain as abiding memories are the great” buildings. Whether Canberra can be made a city of such buildings has yet to be proved. The Americans have erected some magnificent buildings in Washington which stands on a less noble site than this city. Even from photographs, one can tell that there is something inspiring in that city. Canberra should be built for the future, not for this generation.
Senator Vincent said by interjection that he hoped that I did not approve of the huts that had been erected for the library. I did. But I did so most reluctantly and for a good reason. We found that the archives of the Commonwealth which are precious documents, were scattered throughout many buildings, some of which were not fire-proof, waterproof, or vermin-proof. It was essential to place those archives in one building, and it was proposed that Nissen huts should be erected in order to house them. I urged that the structures to be erected should be so intolerable that people would not endure them. These huts which I inspected the other day are enormous. Efforts have been made to take away some of their repulsiveness. I know that when a proposal is made to remove them some one will say that they are wanted for another purpose. Such buildings are the result of what has been called bureaucratic government. In using that term I am not censuring the Public Service, which consists of people of great ability who are giving great service to the country. But each unit of the Public Service consists of people who are immersed in their own special duty. They see matters from the point of view of their immediate problem. If a public servant’s department is concerned in the housing of people he becomes determined to bouse people and concentrates on that objective.
There is another group of these wretched buildings in this city. On the other side of the Hotel .Kurrajong stands a whole series of government offices which are utterly unworthy to be the government offices of the smallest State. I understand that they were erected because the chairman of the Public Service Board said that he must have accommodation for a certain number of officers within a certain time or the government of the country could -not continue. I appreciate the difficulty that existed. I should not object if temporary buildings which would be taken down in a year or two had been erected. But does any honorable senator believe that those buildings will be removed unless a government is prepared to make their removal a firstpriority job? As soon as a permanent, building is made available for the officers who are now housed in those buildings somebody will ask for them to be used for another purpose. Instead of having the city of palaces that was. originally envisaged we shall have a city of huts and odds and ends of architecture. My first complaint is that even buildings which are designed to be permanent are seldom of the type that we should have in this city. They have been designed largely by men without imagination. My second complaint is that, instead of permanent buildings, so-called temporary buildings are being constructed which may remain for 100 years and damn this place as a collection of dull and unimaginative buildings for all time.
Even among the good type. of suburb in this city, the degree of foresight and imagination necessary to make them a harmonious whole has not been exercised. When the Parliament was first moved to its present location Canberra was not a city. It was a place to which the officers of the departments came reluctantly and to which many members of this Parliament came reluctantly. They came as late as they could and they left as early its they could. 1. am happy to say that that era has passed. Many officers now feel that this city is their home and some of our most distinguished public servants have lived here after their retirement. T am. happy to -say that a few members of the Parliament now live here, and when the housing shortage ceases I hope that more of us will be able to live here. This city should become a community. It should not consist merely of public servants. Such a settlement would be very lop-sided and might tend to grow out of touch with the ordinary people of the Commonwealth. I” think it is necessary that the various types of people to be found in Australia should be found in Canberra. It would be very difficult to bring them all here because certain industries flock to natural resources or to places with good communications or where they will be adjacent to allied industries. I do not think that it would be desirable to force Canberra to be a great industrial city or to make it a very large city. But some kind of light manufacturing industries and other industries might well be located in or pear Canberra in order to provide employment for those who are growing up here. It is not good that the young people of this city should feel that there is no future for them in the community, and that as soon as they grow up and want employment, they must go either to the cities or to other country centres. That is not good because it does nor allow families to live together. For that reason, I hope that a considered part of government policy will be to allow the establishment of a certain number of industries here in order to provide :i diversity of employment and prevent Canberra from being more or less out of touch with the rest of the Commonwealth.
One institution that has been established in Canberra promises a great deal for this city. I refer to the Australian
National University. I propose to speak at a later date about the value of the university itself; to-day I shall refer only to its value to this city and to the Government. It is good that we should have here people pursuing studies and interested in intellectual pursuits who can make personal acquaintance with the other inhabitants of the city, and who, in some instances at least, are available for consultation with members of this Parliament. It is good also that the head-quarters of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be in Canberra. Naturally we can have little more than, the head-quarters of that organization here because its work is distributed throughout the entire Commonwealth. It is good, too, that the National Library should be in Canberra, but it is most regrettable that it should be so inadequately accommodated as it is to-day. 1 hope that at an early date we shall have a big and worthy National Library building.
In regard to the costliness of Canberra, I am prepared to face all the criticism that can be levelled. Canberra has been costly; but, after all, that costliness has flowed from an obligation placed upon the Parliament .by the Constitution. 1” give great credit to the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) for the great effort he has made to reduce the costliness of this city and to see that value is received for the money that is expended. I give great credit also to the Public Accounts Committee which is pursuing a laborious investigation of Canberra accounts to ensure that money voted for the National Capital is expended properly. I am not making a plea for lavish expenditure on Canberra at the expense of the development of outlying parts of the Commonwealth. We owe a very great duty to the States that we represent in this legislature, and to the territories which have no representation at all in the National Parliament. On some future occasion, when one of those measures that present an opportunity for a fairly general debate is before us, I shall expound my own ideas about the development of the No rtb ern TArrritory .
I hope nobody will come to the conelusion that because I am advocating adequate .planning and adequate buildings for the National Capital X am wishing to rob any other place. I arn no believer in the policy that is called robbing Peter to pay Paul; but les any one should put forward the claim thai we have no right to spend any money on big buildings in Canberra while some other project is denied funds, I say now that arguments of that kind could be used to stifle almost any expenditure. 1. believe that governments must sometimes be a little arbitrary in their decisions. They must be prepared to say, “ We realize that this money could bc spent in other ways, but we have a definite obligation ‘under the Constitution to spend it on the National Capital”. If I may. without irreverence, call attention to a very famous instance of wealth which seemed to be misspent, and to the answer that was given, I shall refer honorable senators to the gospel of St. Matthew. Chapter 26, verses 6 to 11. I shall not read the verses because I assume that most honorable senators ‘are well acquainted with them. They refer to the incident when Mary Magdalene brough an alabaster box of precious ointment and annotated the feet of her Lord. The disciples rebuked her saying that, the ointment might have been sold for much and the money given to the poor. The answer was “Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me”.’ I say with all due humility that any government that undertakes the adequate development of this city is doing a good work. After all there is much pressure against it and the representative of the citizens of Canberra in the House of Representatives has no vote on national issues. Therefore, Canberra has no real representation in the National Parliament and it behoves the whole of the public of Australia to undertake the task of laying down a policy.
We should insist upon having the best kind of architecture in Canberra. Recently I was reported in a journal as having said I believed in the modern idiom. That was a misunderstanding. I did not say that. I said I believed it was not impossible for an architect expressing himself in the modern idiom to design something beautiful, because there were some beautiful buildings that were fully modern; but I say most definitely that few of them are in Canberra, and that many of the buildings designed by Canberra architects are bare, uninteresting and even positively ugly. In fact, if one were to get a couple of matchboxes and put two mousetraps in between them, one could make a reasonably accurate model of many of the cottages now being erected here.
Something should be done to coordinate the activities of the people of
Canberra with those of the people of the Commonwealth generally. We should find some way of making this city serve the needs of both. That might require a modification of the plan, or perhaps it could be achieved in some other way. Next I believe that we should somehow try to put mischief beyond the power of any individual Minister, cabinet, party or parliament.’ I have asked again and again why the statue of his late Majesty King George V., standing on that curious collection of masonry, was placed where it blocks the magnificent view from Parliament House towards the War Memorial. I shall not comment on the statue. It may be quite good. I think it is fairly good; but I can see little to admire in the masonry, and certainly the site is utterly absurd. I understand that the site was chosen by some committee. Possibly it was the choice of one member of the committee. We should put it beyond the power of any single person to do things like that. I am not seeking to impose my own fads upon the Canberra community. I merely protest against the things that are going on which most people agree are wrong.
Some form of self-government should be found for the residents of Canberra. I do not suggest that they should have a controlling voice in the development of Canberra, because .after all this city belongs not only to the citizens of Canberra, but to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. Nevertheless, Canberra, residents should have at least an effective voice in matters that concern them more than they concern outside people. There should also be some coordination of the efforts of the various departments. As I pointed out earlier this afternoon I received from the Minister for the Interior a perfectly satisfactory reply to a question. I found that he was pursuing a policy which I think should be pursued. However, immediately after that question was answered, I found that another department was apparently pursuing a totally different policy. That should not happen, and I trust that although I may have taken a little longer than I intended to take to express my views, everybody will realize this is a matter which transcends parties. It is not a matter about which
I am in conflict with honorable senators opposite. It is a matter that concerns the whole of the Commonwealth, and I should like all honorable senators to remember that we have a sacred trust to do our best for this city, not merely on behalf of the people who are living in Australia at present, but also on behalf of our descendants for centuries to come.
– This measure provides for the appropriation of a colossal Sum of money and it should be thoroughly examined before it leaves this chamber. One matter to which I propose to refer now relates to the Parliament itself. Earlier to-day, on behalf of the people whom I represent in this Parliament, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) a certain question. Whilst his reply may have satisfied his own supporters, I can assure him that it will not satisfy the people of Victoria who are very concerned about this Government’s attitude first to representations that are made in this Parliament, and secondly to the activities of one of this country’s arch enemies, Mr. Thornton. During the war we were forced to accept the Communists in this country because Russia was our ally, but immediately the war ended, the Government led by Mr. Chifley did everything possible to rid Australia of Communist influences. I have before me a resolution that was carried unanimously at a conference of the Australian Labour party. I realize, of course, that the parties to which honorable senators opposite .belong do not have conferences as we do. Their policy is dictated to them by the “ little few “. In 1937 a resolution was carried unanimously by 350 delegates who came from all parts of Victoria to the effect that, in no circumstances, must any branch or member of the party be associated with members of the Communist party or subsidiary thereof in the holding of general meetings, in advocacy of a united front, or any other matter. The resolution also provided that any branch of the party which contravened that instruction would be declared bogus.
– Were they allowed to defend. Communists in the courts ?
– I think the honorable senator will find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) also had something to do with defending certain organizations in the courts, lt should not be forgotten that when the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) defended certain unions, he was defending also organizations that were controlled by members of the Australian Labour party who were completely opposed to communism. The resolution concluded by saying that any member of the party who contravened the instruction would be automatically expelled from the movement. Unfortunately, during World War II., the Australian Labour party was forced to recognize Communist Russia. In the trade union movement in Australia there are many Communists who must be well known to honorable senators opposite. When it suited their purpose, the supporters of the present Government attacked the Communists. By doing so they hoped to bring about the defeat of the Labour Government. If Labour were in office to-day, do honorable senators imagine that Ernest Thornton, who has been conspiring with Communist China to murder Australian soldiers, would have been allowed to return to this country and remain here unmolested ?
– A Labour government probably would have appointed him as Minister for Defence.
– I do not know about that, but it seems to me that if he had returned to this country during the regime of a Labour government, the Melbourne Herald and the Sydney Morning Herald probably would have carried headlines to the effect that Labour was co-operating with a Communist leader. When I sought information on this matter in the Senate this afternoon, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) resorted to tactics which are usually adopted by a person who admits defeat. He told me that I should be ashamed of myself. I hope that the time never comes when I shall be ashamed of myself for trying to defeat communism in this country.
– The honorable senator did not try very hard to do so during the referendum campaign.
– Surely the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) does not contend that that referendum dealt with communism. This Government has never been prepared to accept the decision of the electors. In 1950, the people told the present Government parties in no uncertain terms that they did not want them. Indeed, the Government parties have been so informed at every election which has been held since that time. I have no doubt that when the general elections are held next year the electors of Australia will return a Labour government, because the Australian Labour party has a policy to place before the people.
I venture to suggest that if such an incident as that referred to by Senator Ashley this afternoon occurred during the term of office of a Labour government, every newspaper in the Commonwealth would headline the fact that something “ phoney “ was going on. In connexion with that matter, this Government has attempted to silence the press, and the Minister for National Development, who represents the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in this chamber, tried this afternoon to brush it aside when Senator Ashley raised it. I suggest that abuse by the members of the Government is of no avail. The people, not honorable senators, will decide the issues involved. They will give their decision next year in the same way as they have given it on each opportunity they have had to date.
Honorable senators will remember that, earlier this afternoon, I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) whether it is a fact that it is not now proposed to continue with the appointment of Mr. Paul McGuire as Ambassador to Ireland. It also will be remembered that the announcement of that appointment was used with good effect in Queensland during the recent Senate election campaign. Now that that election has been decided, apparently Mr. McGuire is to be turned away. No doubt t he Government has said to him, “ Apply again in March or April next year. We may be able to appoint you then”.
I do not believe that this Government has the right to commit the Commonwealth to the vast expenditure proposed by this bill. The electors have told the
Government time and again that it attained office by fraud and that they are tired of it. Although it is possible to fool some of the people some of the time it is not possible to fool all the people all the time. If I remember correctly, the latest budget presented by this Government has been called an incentive budget. It seems to me that that title is correct, because I have no doubt that it will give the people more incentive to work for the defeat of the Government. The budget proposals- do not provide for tax remissions for theworking people.
– Why does not thehonorable senator read the budget? Obviously he has not done so.
– There is a difference between reading it and understandingit.
– It would be impossible for certain honorable senators opposite to understand it, but I suggest they should take the trouble to read it. In the course of the budget speech, the Treasurer stated that the total collection from taxation last year amounted to approximately £988,000,000 and that this year it will be approximately £1,063,000,000. I should like honorable senators opposite to tell me who provides that money if it is not the ordinary men and women of Australia? How can it be suggested, if taxation collections last year were £988.000,000, and will be £1,063,000,000 this year, that tax reductions are being made ? The Government is employing a kind of three-card trick - now you see it, now you do not.
The horror budget of 1951 provided, for a surplus of £114,500,000. At that time we were told by the Treasurer that thatsurplus would be taken from the spendthrifts in order to stem inflation. Apparently, the Government claims that it is now giving money back to the people. Its attitude is like that of the farmer who said, “I shall have the cream, and you can have the skim milk or like the man on the track who got his lad to go and look after the horses in the morning. When the lad returned bo said. “I want mv breakfast “. The man said, “ I have had mine “, and when the lad asked what he had had, he replied. “I had boiled eggs.
You can have the broth “. The people who do the work will receive nothing from this budget. Those who support the Government parties and made their election to office possible will benefit by it, but the basic-wage earners will not. The Government proposes to extract from taxpayers an additional £65,000,000 this year. The only way in which that can be done is by means of increased taxes, whether those taxes take the form of indirect tax such as sales tax, or direct tax such as income tax. Last year, £70,000,000 was collected from customs duty. This year, it is estimated that £83,000,000 will be collected.
– More beer is being consumed to-day.
– I am delighted to hear it. Excise, which last year yielded £113,000,000, will yield £121,000,000 this year. Do not the taxpayers provide that huge sum?
– Cordial manufacturers do so, do they not?
– I pay my share of it. Seriously, although all the people pay these taxes, the Government proposes to give tire benefit of tax reductions to only some of them. Sales tax, which, last year returned £89,000,000, this year will’ return £96,000,000. Is that a tax reduction ?
– That indicates greater prosperity.
– Let us consider the interjection of the AttorneyGeneral. In 1951, the Treasurer told us that if there were greater prosperity tax reductions would be possible. The Government claims that there is now greater prosperity, but no remission of taxes is to be made as far as the working people are concerned.
In my opinion, it is entirely wrong for persons who enjoy a salary such as that of politicians to tell the people that a totally incapacitated ex-serviceman is properly compensated if he is paid a pension of £9 a week. If that attitude is adopted, how can we expect the men of this country to come forward in the future and be prepared to defend the country? Those who use the age pension as a political football should be severely castigated. I certainly do not propose to do so, nor have I ever found it. necessary to adopt that course. Whether a person receives an age pension or a. fixed income of some other kind, he has as much right to live as any other member of the community. It is useless for the Government to give pensioners 2s. 6d. a week and then try to convince them that they are better off. The Government proposes to reduce the sales tax on a number of articles including cordials, matches, hooks and buttons, slide fasteners and aeroplanes. Perhaps honorable senators can imagine the happiness of the people that I represent when they learned that the sales tax on some aeroplanes was to be reduced. Imagine then coming to me and saying. “ We are going to sell our old aeroplanes. Senator, and buy a new one”! Does the Government believe that everybody in Victoria flies to work in an aeroplane? It is ridiculous to expect the people to rejoice because the sales tax on aircraft has been reduced.
– It will permit a reduction of fares, perhaps.
– It will only help the wealthy people who own thousands of acres of land and fly around their properties. Sales tax was introduced in. 1930 as a temporary expedient.
– It was introduced by a Labour government.
– That is the kind of interjection that I expected. The Liberal Government in 1929, with its political friends and the daily press, decided that it must have some story that would put the Labour government into office in the lower House but give the Liberals control of the Senate. They announced that they would abolish the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. As a result, Mr. Scullin was returned with a big majority in the House of Representatives, but he was unable to enact any sound legislation to alleviate the shortcomings of the previous anti-Labour government because he did not have a majority in this chamber.
– The Labour government of the day was scared of a double dissolution.
– It was not so easy to get as the double dissolution that the Liberal-Australian Country party obtained in 1951. Honorable senators on the Government side make shameful allegations about the achievements of the Labour Government from 1929 to 1931. It did not have a majority in the Senate’ then as it did when it was returned to office in 1941. In that year, the Menzies Administration was prepared to sell the Australian nation to the Japanese. The Labour Government led Australia through the war. The late Mr. W. M. Hughes is recorded to have said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) could not lead a flock of pigeons borne. At that time the Prime Minister expected the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to stab him in the back at any time. The Labour Government led the nation through the war successfully.
– We won the war in spite of the Labour Government.
– At the’ end of the war in 1945, the Labour Government introduced a budget totalling £700,000,000. Australia was then at the top of its war effort, but by 1949, when the Chifley Government was defeated, it had reduced the budget by £200,000,000.
– The Chifley Government did not abolish the sales tax.
– It reduced taxation by £200,000,000. It had also reduced the sales tax, but it could not do everything overnight. The leaders and supporters of the present Government stated in 1949 during the election campaign that taxation was not being reduced quickly enough. They promised to reduce taxation if they were given the reins of office, but since 1949 budget expenditure has been increased from £500,000,000 to. £1,000,000,000. It lias been doubled. That money can be obtained only from the people by taxation. That is why the people are hostile to this Government. They know that it gained the treasury bench by means of a flood of misrepresentation. The people have shown their indignation at every by-election and at the Senate elections this year. The day of reckoning for the Government is not far distant. I direct the attention of the Senate now to the vote for defence. The Australian Labour party has a defence policy.
– I would not have thought so.
– The honorable senator does not need to go to a library or to the associated trading banks to read the Labour party’s policy on defence. It can be read in an issue of the Melbourne Herald that I have in my possession. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe firmly that the Government’s approach to defence is not the correct one. It is ridiculous to provide £200,000,000 for defence.
– Is it not enough?
– It might not be enough. I do not know. If this Government sabotages the country and the Labour party is given an opportunity to salvage it, we shall know more about the matter. What does the Government propose to do with the sum of £200,000,000? When a question of that nature is submitted by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber, either he receives an abusive answer or the question is evaded. A parliamentary committee should be appointed to supervise the expenditure of the vote for defence. The Labour party has a plan for the defence of Australia. It declares that essential factors in defence are water conservation and power for the production of essentials as well as armaments and aeroplanes. The Labour Government had initiated a plan to produce more power at Yallourn when this Government was returned to office in 1949. This Government was conversant with that programme, but the same quantity of power is not required to-day because many industries that would use it under a. Labour government are not working now. At Morwell, in Victoria, electrical equipment valued at from £11,000,000 to £12,000,000 is lying idle because the Victorian Government has not sufficient money to proceed with its construction programme. That equipment was bought with the consent of successive Liberal, Country party and Labour governments in Victoria, so it is obvious that the purchase was not political. Each of those governments from 1945 -onwards sanctioned the purchase of the equipment from Germany, but it is rusting because the tax-grabbers at Canberra have not made sufficient money available. As to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, those who were associated with the Parliament at the time will remember that the present Prime Minister and bis friends boycotted the opening of that project. They said it was not necessary. Now they claim the credit for the progress that has been made, miserable though it may be.
The Labour Government planned to make money available to provide houses for the people. If good citizens and good soldiers are required, they must be housed and fed properly and given good working conditions. A large proportion of the vote of £200,000,000 for defence should be withdrawn from the direction of the military brass hats who spend it flagrantly. It should be put to better use for the completion of works that will be necessary if the nation should be plunged into another war. When this Government was returned to office in 1949, its leaders told the people that war would be upon them again within eighteen months. They said anything to frighten the people. We have not had that threatened world war yet and I hope that we do not have one. The Government should make money available for the provision of power, water and housing to the degree that is necessary for defence. Honorable senators have been told from time to time that the Australian Loan Council makes money available to the States and fixes the rates of interest. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the State Premiers told the Prime Minister how much they required for their works, but the Canberra dictators told them that they could have a much smaller sum and they could take it or leave it.
– The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, was satisfied.
– The Premiers of the other five States were not satisfied. I have some sympathy for this Government because it cannot get the money that is required by the States.
Those who are in a position to lend money are not prepared to place it in the hands of this Government. During World War II., the Labour Government asked the people to lend it money at 3-J per cent., and the people put every penny they could afford into government bonds. The Labour administration maintained the value of the bonds at par or better, but when this Government was returned to office, it allowed the price of those bonds to fall to £82. Those who had lent their money patriotically and later needed to cash bonds because of sickness or accident, received only £82 for them instead of £100. That is one reason why the people will not make their money available to this Government now. They would lend it to a Labour government, however, just as they did during the war years. National projects should not be financed by direct taxation. Big projects such as the power, station at Yallourn should be financed from loan moneys and future generations should help to pay for it. This Government has no mandate from the people to bring down the budget that it has introduced. Honorable senators on the Government side should realize that and the Government should resign.
– I do not intend to reply to the remarks made by Senator Hendrickson. He said nothing; he merely indulged in one of his hysterical outbursts, and his arguments were as addled as his story of a diet of boiled eggs and broth. I propose to address myself to the operation of the Mental Institution Benefits Act, which was passed when the Chifley Government was in office and was piloted through this chamber by the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when he was Minister for Social Services in that Government. It is proposed to provide from the National Welfare Fund for this purpose the the sum of £495,000, which is £25,000 less than the amount that was voted under this heading last financial year. The Mental Institution Benefits Act was enacted as a result of an agreement that was made between the Australian Government, and the State governments, which was to be effective for five years as from the 1st July, 1949. Under that agreement the Australian Government agreed to pay to the Victorian Government - I take that State as an example - benefit at the rate of ls. 2d. a day for each person, or such other amount as was from time to time agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of persons receiving care and treatment in mental hospitals and similar institutions, provided that the State Government did not impose means tests or charge fees” as from the 1st November, 1948, to patients in such institutions. When that measure was being debated in the Parliament, honorable senators and honorable members generally submitted that patients in mental hospitals should be entitled to receive the amount of basic benefit payable in respect of patients in any other hospital or institution. At that time, the basic hospital benefit was 6s. a. day, and ir has since been increased to 8s. Since the 1st July, 1949, the basic wage has increased considerably and, at present, in Victoria it is now £11 16s. a week. In the interim, costs of maintenance of mental hospitals have increased substantially. That cost in Victoria has increased from £908,146 in 1947-48 in the succeeding years as follows, £1,092,891. ,314,522, £1,640,268. £2.263.807. and £3,700,000 for last year.
The average person in the community is becoming increasingly aware of the needs of the mentally ill. When a pensioner is admitted to a benevolent home or institution, the institution concerned receives a proportion of the pension paya bie to the pensioner, but no age or invalid pension is payable in respect of a patient in a mental hospital who is of pensionable age. Indeed, if a. person happens to be receiving a. pension when he, or she, is. admitted to such an institution payment of the pension immediately ceases. Official statistics show that over 26 per cent, of patients in mental hospitals in Victoria are of pensionable age. If such persons were in the care of private individuals or institutions of another type a pension would be payable in respect of them. As the Australian Government has accepted the principle that it will assist to maintain age pensioners who are inmates of benevolent homes or homes for the aged, I can sec no reason why it should not. agree to accept the greater responsibility in respect of persons who are inmates of mental hospitals. Many inmates of benevolent homes could more properly be cared for in mental hospitals and, conversely, many inmates of mental hospitals could more properly be looked after in benevolent homes. A person of pensionable age should not be penalized because he, or she, happens to be an inmate of a mental hospital. In addition, numbers of people who are now inmates of such hospitals would be receiving invalid pensions if they were at home or were in the care of other institutions. To-day. the basic hospital benefit is at the rate of Ss. :i day. Patients in an early treatment centre or a reception house should receive the same benefits as they would receive if they wore inmates of any other public or general hospital for the treatment of acute complaints. The outlook for victims of mental diseases, if they are treated by modern methods, is just as hopeful as is the outlook for victims of physical ill health; but the great majority of mental patients are obliged to remain inmates of mental hospitals for many years. The Government lias an added responsibility in respect of persons who are condemned to such a fate.
It is a terrifying fact that the number of bed patients in mental hospitals is greater than the number of bed patients in other hospitals, excluding maternity hospitals. I am now referring to the actual number of bet! patients; the turnover of such eases is not so great. On previous occasions, I have commended the Government for its appreciation of the need to encourage victims of tuberculosis to obtain early treatment, but I believe that the problem of mental health is of much greater magnitude than is that of tuberculosis. Whilst tuberculosis is a communicable disease, the number of bed patients in mental institutions is very much greater than is the case in respect of victims of other diseases. It is estimated that the number of beds needed for patients in mental hospitals is not fewer than four beds for every 1,000 of the population. In New South Wales and Victoria the number of beds available for mental patients is totally inadequate. Frequently, I visit the mental hospital at Kew; and I assure honorable senators that if they saw at first-hand conditions1 that exist in institutions of this kind the
Parliament as a whole would completely change its approach to this problem. In the mental hospital at Kew, beds are practically jammed together. In some wards it is impossible for a person to step out of a. bed and turn around. The early treatment of mental illness from the point of view of both the patient and the community cannot bc over-emphasized. The presence of a .mentally ill person or a mentally defec-1 i ve child disturbs the whole balance of normal home life, and the impact of the mentality of the afflicted person on the home is far greater than when a member of a family is afflicted by any other disease. The evidence available shows that schizophrenia, which is more commonly known as split personality, is responsible for the occupation, of most beds in our mental hospitals. The victims of this disease are frequently young persons, clever and artistically inclined, who if they were normal mentally would bc regarded as being brilliant. If such persons are unable to obtain special treatment, such as insulin coma treatment, which has been proved to be most successful if it is administered in the first year of illness, t hey are obliged in the great majority of eases to remain inmates of mental institutions for the remainder of their lives, in some cases up to 30 or 4.0 years. We should not regard, the present position as something that has been inherited from a previous government. I do not in any way criticize the benefit that was provided under the Mental Institution Benefits Act: 1948, or the intention at that time, but. as I have said, the community is increasingly anxious that patients in mental hospitals should be placed in exactly the same position as are patients in general hospitals as recipients of social services benefit. One of the great difficulties in mental institutions is to get inmates to occupy themselves at useful work I do not wonder at that. In order to ascertain whether the position with respect to the care and treatment of the mentally ill has improved or deteriorated in recent years I perused the relevant statistics which showthat the position has not changed in. either respect. Details published in the Commonwealth Year-Boole show that whereas in 1950 in public hospitals there were 32,805 patients who were being looked after by a medical staff of 6,382- that is, one doctor to every five patients - and a nursing staff of 22,935, patients in mental institutions in that year totalled 25,996 and they were being looked after by a medical staff of 138 - that is, only one doctor to every 185 patients - and a nursing staff of only 4,826. Unfortunately, much the same position exists to-day. Mental hospitals experience great difficulty in recruiting staff. Further, they are short of essential equipment, and facilities are lacking for research work with the object of enabling patients to make a complete recovery. In Victoria we are fortunate in having the services of Dr. Cunningham Dax us our mental hygiene authority. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) said recently that he would be prepared at any time to cancel the existing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for the provision of mental institution benefits because, as he said, it was a “ rotten “ agreement from the viewpoint of mental patients. I could not agree more under the existing conditions, but I hope that this Government and future governments will not continue to treat these people so badly. They have been treated as Cinderellas whenever benefits have been handed out. Probably for the reason that they were not entitled to vote and could not speak for themselves. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stated that the present benefit of .ls. 2d. a day will be cancelled, but, he has not told us whether another benefit will be substituted for it. I sincerely hope that this matter will not be pushed backwards and forwards between the Commonwealth and the States, because I consider that it is a Commonwealth responsibility to see that mental hospitals arc provided with the finance that they so badly need and which they so richly deserve. I emphasize what I said at the outset, that public opinion will be behind any move to assist the mentally afflicted members of the community. In Victoria recently a. heart-rending article by Mr. E. W. Tipping was published in the Melbourne Herald, and within a very short period of time a substantial amount of money was subscribed to the fund that was started by that newspaper. The money has been applied to good purpose. The cottages at Kew, which were a disgrace, have been painted voluntarily by publicspirited men, and now they represent the first ray of hope in Victoria as far as the mental institutions are concerned. However, additional finance is required urgently in order to carry out structural alterations and provide the many improvements that are needed. Due to the good offices of the Melbourne Herald and the men who worked voluntarily, the babies’ wards are now equipped with many of the things that are necessary. However, people who understand this problem know that many of the babies will never leave the institution, and when they grow older they will be transferred to other wards, where they will be condemned to the kind of life that has been endured by many inmates of the institution for many years. I regret that the proposed vote is so small, and I sincerely hope that the Treasurer and the Minister for Health will be able to grant a new deal to the mental hospitals, so that they will not remain a blot on the Australian nation.
– I first wish to direct the attention of the committee to the plight of the age pensioners in the community, many of whom worked hard throughout their lives until they reached pensionable age. In many instances they reared families, but the wages that the bread-winners received were sufficient only to pay for shelter, clothing and subsistence. All of the wealth that they created in excess of the amount necessary to meet those costs was appropriated by others. The age pension was introduced some years ago to alleviate the hardship and poverty that existed in this connexion, but to-day the purchasing power of the pension is much less than it was formerly, due to the effects of inflation of the currency and the operation of the means test. Both of these factors have penalized the age pensioners. The present Government has done absolutely nothing to endeavour to check inflation. As I have said before, it lacks the moral courage to do so, although the problem does not present an insuperable difficulty. The Government - proposes to increase the present rate of the age pension from £3 7s. 6d. to £3 10s. a week. In my opinion an amount of £3 10s. will not now purchase as much as £1 purchased in the ‘thirties. It is true that the amount of the age pension has been progressively increased, but the purchasing power of the pensioners has gradually decreased. Although the pension has been increased substantially, in terms of money, due to fraudulent inflation fewer commodities can now be purchased with the pension than formerly.
It has been stated by some learned gentlemen, that the discontinuance of the system of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage will result in an improved state of affairs. However, I am convinced that prices will rise further, and consequently the purchasing power of the pensioners will continue to decline. It is evident that this Government does not intend to abolish the means test. Whenever I have asked about its plans in this connexion the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has asked “ Where is the money coming from ? “ The Minister made this reply when I interjected recently and asked why the Government had not totally abolished pay-roll taxation.
In 1940, a very interesting booklet, entitled How to Pay for the War, was published by J ohn Maynard Keynes, who has since died. Lord Keynes was a leading British economist, and one of the British Government’s principal advisers. He advocated that fiat country should impose a capital levy in order to pay its way. I commend the booklet to honorable senators opposite, who apparently do not know how the abolition of the means test could be financed. The method that Lord Keynes advocated should be adopted in order to liquidate the public debt of Great Britain could also be utilized to enable the Australian Government to make suitable provision for the mentally afflicted members of our community, to whom Senator Wedgwood has referred, and abolish the means test. Referring to World War II., Lord Keynes stated in his booklet -
If the war continues for two years or longer, the National Debt will reach an unmanageable figure, which will hamper national finance for years to come. In such circumstances a Capital Levy will he advisable just as (in my opinion) it was at the end of the last war, if it could have been carried out before the postwar slump.
Lord Keynes then went on to state, in effect, that there existed in Great Britain a colossal accumulation of unearned capital, which was not taxed. He advocated the imposition of a capital levy in order to enable Great Britain to liquidate its debts. That was not a Communist proposition, or a proposition based on the philosophy of Karl Marx. It was expounded by a leading British economist. Lord Keynes continued -
If the Levy is to be paid in a lump sum. it should be discharged at the earliest possible date after the close of the war, especially if temporary boom conditions seem imminent. But it might be preferable, as facilitating collection and greatly lessening the disturbance, to collect it in a series of instalments over a period.
What does this Government propose to do?
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– It has been said that it would cost the Government between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 to abolish the means test in connexion with pensions. During two world wars the amount of privately owned capital has been increased by hundreds of millons of pounds. Lord Keynes, the most competent economist in the United Kingdom, said that a capital levy should have been imposed after the first world war. From the end of that war up to the time of his death he said, repeatedly, that the only way to establish a reasonably balanced’ economy in any country was to reduce the national debt by the imposition of a capital levy. I do not believe that honorable senators read anything about economics or they would not make the stupid statements that they make. At page 73 of his brochure, entitled How to Pay for the War, Lord Keynes made the following statement: -
And we ended up with a national debt vastly greater in terms of money than was necessary and very ill distributed through the community. A levy averaging 15 per cent, would have allowed the same relationship as before between money wage rates and the cost of living; so that the pressure of the former to chase the latter upwards would have been withdrawn.
Lord Keynes explained that the burden of taxation on the wage-earner would be lessened if a levy were imposed on capital. A capital levy would have enabled the Government of the United Kingdom to establish a sort of working economic equilibrium. Instead of reducing the national debt of Australia by means of a capital levy, the Government has placed the whole burden of the cost of the war of 1914-18 and the war of 1939-45 on the shoulders of the wageearners and pensioners whose standard of living has been reduced to the lowest possible level. Honorable senators opposite have claimed that wages and pensions were never higher than they are now. The fact is that purchasing power was never lower than it is now. That is why a serious economic position exists in Australia, in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. The. Australian national debt is now £3,500,000,000. The annual interest payable on that amount is approximately £95,000,000, £70,000,000 of which goes overseas. Because the national debt is increasing the Government has levied greater tribute on the wage-earners and it has reduced the purchasing power of wages and pensions to the lowest possible level. This matter may seem technical and involved to those who have never studied it. But the average man who applies himself intelligently and consistently to understanding the position can see that the whole process is a colossal racket. The enormous national debt is the reason for the existence of widespread poverty in the midst of plenty. This is the fundamental contradiction of the system that is advocated by honorable senators opposite.
The means test could easily be abolished without inflicting hardship on anybody provided that the Government had the brains and the courage to do the job. But the Government lacks both brains and courage. That is the reason why there is a housing shortage. The Government will not attack that problem. It has ignored the fact that capital which has been neither earned nor taxed is continually accumulating. The Government has the audacity to excuse itself by saying that costs are becoming prohibitive. Anybody with an elementary knowledge of economics knows perfectly well that costs in terms of the amount of labour time required has never been lower. But costs in terms of fraudulent inflationary currency have never been higher. The bodies principally responsible for inflation are the banks including the Commonwealth Bank, which acts in collaboration with the Government. The Government may think that it can escape the consequences of ite policy, but it cannot do so. Eventually a revulsion of feeling among the people will cause a resistance to Government policy similar to that which occurred recently in Prance and Italy. In those countries millions of people challenged the existing system, not because they understood the economic technique involved, but because they felt the physical effects of that system. Members of the Australian Government have posed as intellectuals and saviours of the country but they are doing more than amy one else to ruin the country. In one of my aggressive moments I would classify the members of the Government as educated ignoramuses or literate illiterates or glamourized paranoiacs Honorable senators opposite may think that I am being unnecessarily critical and unnecessarily personal. But I suggest that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) should have had his speech on the pay-roll tax set to music. It sounded so well but lt meant so little. Yet the man, who made the speech does not realize that» fact. But he will realize it. He will find that if the policy of the present Government is continued this country will have strikes and revolutions similar to those which occur in eastern countries. The Government should adopt an intelligent approach to economic matters and carry out the advice of Lord Keynes.
– Is he a friend of Karl Marx?
– No. He has been acknowledged as the leading economist of the United Kingdom. He negotiated the loan which was made by the United States of America to the United Kingdom in 1946. As a result of the humiliation to which he was subjected by stand-over financiers and the acquiescence of the Government of the United Kingdom he died of heart failure. He was acknowledged as one of the most famous economists by all authorities including the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the lini ted States of America. I confessthat his proposals do not go us far as .1 should have liked them to go. He emphasized that unless governments imposed a capital levy on the huge accumulations of money and materials, capital that had never been earned or taxed, they would continue to experience economic difficulties.
The Government has reduced the standard of living of the wage-earner to thu lowest possible level. Its policy has similarly affected those least able to help themselves - the aged and helpless folk who built up the wealth of this country. The Government has treated them as pariahs. It has given them a paltry increase of 2s. 6d. a week, subject to the means test. The Government should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. In all sincerity I advise it to make a more intelligent, sympathetic and honest approach to this subject. It will then agree with me that it should impose a capital levy and abolish the means test. It should take measures also to assist the hundreds of thousands of people who cannot obtain housing; and it could bring many more thousands of immigrants to this country. Immigrants are now being invited here under false pretences. Some confidence men find themselves in gaol, but others find themselves in Parliament.
– I am afraid I cannot agree entirely with Senator Cameron’s statements. We appreciate his good humour but wo cannot brush aside his utterances lightly as he is a respected member of the Labour party arid a former Minister of the Crown, and was the leader of the Victorian Labour team which contested the Senate election in 1951. Therefore, bis proposal for a capital levy cannot be taken with a grain of salt. It must be regarded as an expression of the policy of the party to which he belongs and I believe it to be one of the most reprehensible suggestions ever made in this chamber. Such a levy would be sheer plunder. It is the technique adopted by the dictators of ten or fifteen years ago. The honorable senator claimed that this Government had done nothing to arrest inflation. I take exception to that statement. I remind the Senate of something that was said in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court last month by Mr. Eggleston, Q.C., counsel for the Australian Council of Trades Unions in the wages and’ hours case. Mr. Eggleston’s submissions apparently were accepted by the court because the employers’ case was rejected. He said that inflationary pressures had virtually disappeared in this country, our exports were expanding, our overseas funds increasing, and employment rising. He also said that the current employment outlook was favorable and productivity was increasing. A comparison of the state of our economy in 1949-50, when Senator Cameron gave up his seals of office as Postmaster-General, with the state of the economy to-day reveals a striking improvement. Yet Senator Cameron would have us believe that the Government has done nothing to halt inflation ! The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Monk, said after the budget had been presented -
The budget clearly shows that in the opinion of the Government the Australian economy is stable.
That opinion, as I have pointed out, is shared by the trade unions. Senator Cameron said that he would impose a capital levy to provide funds to abolish the means test. Just imagine what a capital levy would mean to this country! Millions of people who have savings in the banks would have some of their money taken from them. The honorable senator did not explain fully his conception of a capital levy, but that is the nearest approach I can make to it. The people of South Australia would be particularly unfortunate because savings bank deposits in that State are higher per head of population than those of any other State. The average in South Australia is approximately £150 a head, which is about £40 a head higher than the average elsewhere. South Australians are very proud of their savings, and would be justifiably hostile to any proposal for a capital levy. The Government has already taken real steps towards the eventual abolition of the means test. Tinder the budget proposals, the permissible income of a single pensioner has been increased to £5 a week, and the permissible income of a pensioner couple to £11 a week. In addition, of course, pensioners are able to own their own homes. A married couple may have £2,500 worth of property and still receive a full pension. I point out, too, that this Government has conferred some real benefit on pensioners by providing free medical treatment and free medicines for them. That is something that the Labour Government failed to do. In addition, of course, life-saving drugs are available free of charge to everyone. In reply to a question that I asked in this chamber, I was informed that as the result of pension liberalizations, an additional 100,000 people will be eligible for pension payments this year. More important still, those people will also be eligible for free medical treatment and free medicines.
I have nothing more to say about Senator Cameron’s speech. I propose now to deal with some of the things that have happened since the Twentieth Parliament was elected. The first session of the’ Twentieth Parliament is to end in another two weeks, and I feel it is appropriate that I should review the progress that has been made during that session. The life of the Twentieth Parliament so far has been attended by considerable sadness. On the day after the opening of the first session, Mr. J. B. Chifley, a former Prime Minister, died. Since then, His Majesty King George ‘ VI., three members of this chamber, and eight members of the House of Representatives have died. The second session of the Twentieth Parliament will begin in the new era, which people have been pleased to designate the “ Elizabethan era “. Let us review the work of the Twentieth Parliament so far. This is an appropriate occasion to do so because the measure now before us contains the estimates of expenditure for the current financial year and it is the duty of this Parliament to vote money or to withhold it as it thinks fit. The then Governor-General said at the opening of this session, two years ago, that the major task of the Government was defence preparations. He said it was the intention of the Government to strengthen the armed forces and increase defence production. To that end, he said, an endeavour would be made to strengthen the national economy because that was the foundation of our defence effort. Obviously, if we cannot defend this country, any superstructure that we erect in the form of social services, education systems, and so on, can have no security. Does the Opposition consider that this year’s defence allocation of £200,000,000 is too much? Senator Hendrickson avoided that question when it was put to him by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). Senator Hendrickson said he was eager to see greater production of primary products. But what did the Labour Government do in that connexion? It continued to levy the land tax and other taxes on primary producers. When this Government removed the land tax; honorable senators opposite said that, if they were returned to office, they would reimpose it. Would a Labour government also introduce compulsory unionism in the Commonwealth sphere? Would compulsory unionism help to increase primary production? Those arc some of the questions that crop up in our minds, particularly in view of current actions by the New South Wales - Government. I believe that this Government’s defence preparations have been splendid. The outlook has been transformed. The permanent army and citizen forces have been doubled. Military equipment has been modernized and jet aircraft provided for the Royal Australian Air Force. Great progress has been made with the Woomera pro:ect and, in collaboration with the United Kingdom, Australia is playing an important part in atomic bomb research. Iri Labour’s last year of office, the defence vote was £50,000,000, and in Labour’s last three budgets, the total allocation for defence was £169,000,000. This year, the Government is setting aside £200,000.000 for defence, which will bring the total for the last three budgets to £550,000,000. The Senate will recall that the Opposition in thischamber at first opposed the introduction of national service training; in 1950, and that the relevant legislation was passed only after outside pressure had been brought to bear on Labour Senators. In matters of defence, this Government’s policy is to co-operate with the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The Twentieth Parliament has seen a remarkable improvement in our economy. In 1951-52 we had an adverse trade balance of £585,000,000. In the following year, because of the Government’s capable administration of import restrictions, there was a credit balance of £171,000,000. I do not suggest that governments, as such, produce anything, but I do suggest that they create the climate, as it were, in which private enterprise may flourish. This Government has created such a climate.
In the last year of the Chifley Government the national income was £1,958,000,000, whereas in 1952-53 it was £3,578,000,000, or nearly double. Senator Hendrickson complained this afternoon about the incidence of taxation at the present time, but he did not present the true position in that respect. When our national income was £1,958,000,000, the Chifley Government took £504,000,000 by means of taxation, which left only £1,454,000,000. Now, when our national income is £3,57S,000,000, this Government is taking only £S50,000,000 in taxes, which will leave £2,72S,000,000, or more than twice the amount left by the Chifley Government. I remind honorable senators that the important thing is thi amount that a government leaves in the hands of the taxpayers. I assure the Senate that the individual taxpayer can do much more with his money than can the Government. The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has left in the hands of the taxpayer considerably more than double the amount with which he was left by the previous LabourTreasurer.
During the life of this Parliament, the production of black coal in Australia has increased by 24 per cent., electricity generation by 35 per cent., and superphosphate by 11 per cent. In the field of primary production, beef production has risen by 35 per cent., processed milk by 35 per cent., wool products by 28 per cent., and wheat by approximately 20 per cent. I do not suggest, of course, that the Government has been directly responsible for any of that increased production, but it has provided the atmosphere, or climate, as I have said, in which such increased production has been possible. It has also given confidence to the farmers, businessmen and others, and has provided them with the incentive to go ahead and increase production.
Under this Government, controls of all kinds have been relaxed. When the Government came to office in 1949, petrol rationing was in operation. One of its first acts in 1950 was to de-ration petrol. Ar. that time, members of the Opposition said that that could not be done without severe damage to the national economy. That they were wrong is proved conclusively by events in my own State of South Australia. The de-rationing of petrol gave impetus to the motor-body industry, which is one of the most important industries of the State. Had petrol rationing not been removed, stagnation would have existed in that industry and in the allied industries. Every time this Government has removed or relaxed a control, economic activity has expanded. It is gratifying that no provision has been made in this budget for the payment of £1,000,000 in respect of prices control. The removal of that item of expenditure is an event of signal importance. In my opinion, this Government must be given credit for that action, because it stands to reason that where prices control operates black markets, restrictions, the filling in of forms and much waste of time also exist.
Approximately a year ago there were six categories of sales tax, whereas now there are only two. The proposal of the Government to relieve approximately 50,000 employers of the obligation to pay pay-roll tax and fill in the requisite forms is also most gratifying. In addition, land tax has been abolished, and entertainments tax will end when the budget proposals become, effective. In my opinion, those matters clearly indicate the policy of the Government towards taxation. One of the most signal events in the history of this Government was the action which it took to deal with Communists. T remember, as a new. member of this Senate approximately two years ago, when legislation was presented to provide for secret ballots in unions. Every honorable senator opposite opposed that legislation tooth and nail. Yet, it has been one of the most salutary actions of the Government because it has made the unions healthy.
I wish now to refer to the excellent work which has been done by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in negotiating dollar loans. Honorable senators opposite sneer when I say that, because they know that dollar loans come from America, a country which some of them hate. When Mr. W. Morrow was a member of this Senate, he traduced the American point of view whenever possible, and other honorable senators opposite have also done so. However, the late Mr. Chifley apparently did not agree with that attitude, because in the last speech lie made, on the day he died, he paid a very great tribute to the help which the United States of America had given to this country. He was speaking in the House of Representatives when certain honoured American guests were present in connexion with the Jubilee Celebrations. In 1951, this Government negotiated .a loan of .100,000,000 dollars in America, and, in 1952, it negotiated an additional loan of 50,000,000 dollars. Those loans were negotiated on the most advantageous terms to this country and have resulted in a great increase of production. As a result, heavy earth-moving equipment, electricity generating plant, and diesel.electric trains have been brought here. Honorable senators have only to travel between South Australia and Western Australia to appreciate the amazing difference which such trains have made to rail transportation between the east and west of Australia. The effect of such loans on the South Australian railways has also been most marked. The present rate of production of brown coal at Leigh Creek would not have been possible had such loans not been negotiated. The importation of agricultural machinery, including hay-baling and top-dressing equipment, has been made possible by this stroke of genius on the part of the Prime Minister.
I appreciate that a number of problems have yet to be solved during the life of this Parliament, but I hope that all of them will be solved by the time the Parliament is prorogued. It should be remembered that this Government will proceed progressively to eliminate the means test. In accordance with its past record, it is proceeding’ surely towards that end. The Public Accounts Committee, which has been established during the life of this Parliament, is going from strength to strength, and I expect that its work will prove to be of increasing significance. Perhaps the great success of the committee is due to the fact that it consists of members of all political parties in the Parliament and that it is fearless in its reports. It looks at affairs of state from a non-political party point of view.
The great problem which confronts the orderly internal working of this country is the need for governments to grasp the true idea of federation. That is a problem with which I fear we shall not get very far until something is done to make the States financially responsible for their own actions. Perhaps it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to return to them major taxing powers. The solution of the problem cannot long be delayed, because at the present time the States lack a sense of responsibility for raising the money which they desire to expend. I commend this bill to the Senate. I suggest that this Government should be allowed the money which it seeks because, during its period of office, it has had a very good record and has plans for a great future for Australia.
– We have an opportunity tonight to discuss, in the words of Lewis Carroll, many things, such as “ ships and shoes and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings “. I had intended to make remarks entirely different from those which I now propose to make. I have changed my mind because of the astonishing comment of Senator Laught concerning a capita] levy. Perhaps I should explain, for the benefit of the honorable senator, that a capital levy has nothing to do with money in the bank. If it had, then this Government would be guilty of imposing a very severe capital levy. If, eight or nine years ago a person had £500 in the bank, and the effect of inflation reduced the present purchasing power of that money to only £250, that would be a capital levy. It is a great pity that honorable senators opposite, who are supporters of bourgeois parties and who represent the nouveau riche in the community, have not read Keynes’s book, entitled
Economic Consequences of the PeaceThe peace referred to, of course, was that after World War I. When the Treaty of Versailles was being negotiated, Australia Was represented by a now deceased gentleman who never failed to refer to it as a very wonderful treaty. Keynes, however, has shown that it was a most stupid treaty because it imposed upon the Germans conditions with which it was impossible for them to comply. It was that treaty which plunged the world into the terrible position in which there were 6,000,000 unemployed persons in Germany, 13,000,000 in America and 3,000,000 in Great Britain. It permitted Adolf Hitler to rise to power, and it produced throughout the world governments of the same kind as that which honorable senators opposite support today. They backed the Communists to fight the fascists and now they are backing the fascists to fight the Communists. Senator Laught said that the Government , had succeeded in defeating the reds. It will be a bad day for the Government when it does so because then supporters of the Government will have nothing to talk about. This Government has a long’ string of stupid actions to its credit, but one’ of the most stupid was the prosecution of three Communists in Sydney. In that case the Government’s timing was as bad as it has always been. Just after Stalin died, long after his time, the Russians did not know which way to turn. They had built Stalin up to the standard of a god. Immediately after his death, they lifted their stranglehold upon East Berlin, because Stalin’s death had thrown the Communists all over the world into a flurry. They discovered that the Communist government in charge of East Berlin could not hold down the German workers. This Government then prosecuted the Communists in Sydney for an allegedly seditious article. The Sydney Morning Herald published the article almost verbatim when the case was before a magistrate, Mr. M. S. Meagher. Previously practically nobody had read it in the . Communist Review in which it was first published. Mr. Meagher ruled that the article was not seditious, and I could see nothing wrong with it from the point of view of truth. It may not have been in good taste as the magistrate commented. It dealt with the genealogy of the Royal family and the relationship of the Mountbatten family to the German-born banker, Sir Ernest Cassel, but fortunately the magistrate dismissed the case. The Communists were on the toboggan. In the Lang byelection they received 1,000 votes. In the previous election in Lang before the death of Mr. Daniel Mulcahy they received 1,900 votes. But the prosecution of the Communists to whom I have referred was manna from heaven for them and their supporters.
The people of Great Britain would be not so foolish as to prosecute in such a case. I shall give honorable senators one illustration to show how the British in one fell swoop did more to weaken the power of the Communists in Great Britain than this Government has done with all its stupid propaganda and actions. A well-known German Communist named Gerhardt Eisler was arrested in the United States of America. While on bail, he absconded and reached England. The United States Government asked for an extradition order against Eisler. He appeared in a Bowstreet court before a magistrate and the Communist paper in London, the Daily Worker, proclaimed under heavy headlines that it was a farce to pretend that Eisler would get a fair trial. That newspaper stated that Great Britain was in pawn to the United. States of America and was its tool. What happened? The magistrate said that he knew of no law of England that had been violated by Eisler and that would warrant him ordering Eisler’s extradition to the United States of America. Eisler himself then stated, “ I did not know that there was such freedom in the world “. The way to beat the Communists is to give them economic and political freedom and to abolish the bad conditions in which communism thrives.
An honorable senator opposite hypnotized himself into giving an impression that he believed Australia was a terrible country when the Labour Government was in office. He implied that everybody was worried to death in those days. The truth is that it was a lovely country then. A person could get full value for his money. According to honorable senators on the Government side the country has now been rehabilitated. They have suggested that nobody is worried. Senator McCallum has said that the best people in Australia are those who have saved a little money for their old age. Every supporter of the Australian Labour party will agree with that statement, but where are the people who have saved for their future ? What will happen to them if we have deflation?
– Their money will be worth more.
– If Senator Henty believes that, his opinion is not worth having. In 1949, before this Government was elected, the Labour party put forward a proposition. It expressed the belief that, prices must not be allowed to continue to rise and if they did rise, Australia would be costed out of its markets. It announced that it would control prices for some time if it were returned to office. Moreover, the Labour party promised that it would submit its proposals to a referendum and with the backing of the trade union movement it would fix wages. The Labour Government was defeated, and from 1949 ‘ until 1951 everybody complained that the situation had become worse. They asked when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intended to restore value to the £1 as he had promised to do. In 1951, the Prime Minister did not bring that rabbit out of the hat again. Instead, he produced the red rabbit - the Communist. Foolishly, the people forgot about the Government’s promise to put value back into the £1. Since then’ the economy has gone from bad to worse. The Prime Minister is a lovely talker, but his oratory is simply a facade. I have never heard him say anything that has shown definitely that he has a grip of the intricacies of the situation.
– The honorable senator has not listened to the right honorable gentleman properly.
– I have listened to Senator Maher, and, if he is a representative of the Prime Minister, I am convinced of the truth of my statement. In 1949, the Government abolished control of capital issues. Anybody who wanted to manufacture diamond-studded bracelets could do so. That was in contrast to the Labour party’s policy of putting first tilings first. After the war, hundreds of thousands of men were returning to civilian life from the armed services with plenty* of money to spend and the Labour government of the day believed that it must have time to maintain controls. Australia had a balance of £800,000,000 in Great Britain. But when this Government was elected, people who had never dabbled in the stock exchange before began to do so. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has said in this chamber that the progress of the nation can be judged by the way in which the people subscribe to government loans. This Government put up interest rates until they have now reached 4$ per cent. How can industry progress when those who can invest” in it can obtain an Assured return of 4$ per cent, from government loans? Why should they take the risk of investing in industry for a possible return of 6 per cent. ? Great Britain reduced interest rates last week but rates have risen. Everybody is frightened to death.
– Who fixes the rate of interest?
– I believe the rate of interest for the current loan was fixed by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden).
– The rates are fixed by the Australian Loan Council.
– Possibly it is a case of Jacob and Esau all over again. If it will please honorable senators on the Government side, I shall agree that the Australian Loan Council fixes the rates of interest. Does it matter who fixes them ? When the Government has to pay 4^ per cent, interest on loans that is dear proof that the country is not prosperous. The people have no confidence in the Government. I presume that whoever was responsible for fixing rates of interest in respect of loans raised since this Government came into office was also responsible for fixing rates of interest on war loans when the Chifley Government was in office, and, aa we know, every government loan that was floated during the regime of the Chifley Government was over-subscribed.
– That is not correct.
– Perhaps, the honorable senator will tell us what he knows about the matter when he speaks in this debate. I know something about conditions that existed at that time, not only in Australia, but also overseas. American soldiers who were in Australia in 1946 and 1947 could buy for the equivalent of a dollar twice as much in Australia as they could buy for a dollar in the United States of America, but a. few years later the position was reversed. When the Chifley Government was in office the cost of living in Great Britain was half as much again as it was in Australia; to-day the position is the reverse. When Government supporters claim that the Government has curbed intiation, they remind me of the burglar who. after robbing a mau, gives him a shilling for his tram fare and the victim is so pleased that he forgets that he has been robbed. In similar fashion, this Government, after having increased rates of sales tax to an unprecedented degree is now reducing those rates in the belief that the people will be prepared to forget that it taxed them so heavily two years ago.
I now refer to the matter that was raised by Senator Ashley regarding the leakage of budget information. That honorable senator dealt with the visit by Mr. Irish to Canberra on a Sunday to obtain consent to the issue of additional capital by Associated Newspapers Limited. Is it not a. terrible state of affairs when neither in this chamber nor in the House of Representatives, the Government’s spokesmen have given a satisfactory explanation of that episode in reply to numerous requests by members of the Opposition? When Senator Ashley was speaking on this matter the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) interjected, “That is not so. Mr. Irish did not say that”; but when the honorable senator read extracts from evidence given by Mr. Irish in court proceedings to substantiate his statement the Minister remained silent. The fact is that Mr. Irish obtained in advance information about the Government’s budget proposals and passed on that information to the interests that he represented, and those interests acted upon it. Senator Ashley also referred to the resignation of Dr. Hugh Dalton, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour government in Great Britain. Dr. Dalton, as he entered the House of Commons to deliver his budget speech, made a remark to a friend and inadvertently disclosed information about a proposal that was contained in his budget. His friend immediately contacted a newspaper office which published the information. Although Dr. Dalton had disclosed that information inadvertently his lapse was regarded as unpardonable and he resigned from his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Surely, the people of Australia are entitled to an explanation of the leakage of budget information to which Senator Ashley ieffered.
I have been endeavouring, of course in vain, to ascertain the foreign policy of this Government. Apparently, if one desires to know what the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is going to say next Sunday one needs only to read what Mr. Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State, said last Sunday. The charge has been made that members of the Opposition are anti-American. That charge is absolutely groundless. Incidentally, I should say that the persons responsible for the design of the Australian-American memorial, which is being constructed in Canberra, are antiAmerican. All Australians realize thai but for the assistance that the Americans gave to us in “World “War II. we would not now be in control of this country. Nevertheless, if the Americans say that two and two make six, must we agree with them? Likewise, when the United States of America says that Chiang Kai-shek is the real representative of the Government in China, I disagree with that claim. Similarly, I disagree with the statement made by Mr. Foster Dulles that Bao Dai is going to be the real representative of Indo-China. “We know that Bao Dai has no possible chance. During the last few days our Ambassador at “Washington, Sir Percy Spender, has been reported as saying that Indo-China is the key to the situation in Asia and that the rebel forces in Indo-China must be defeated. Incidentally, the rebels are always on the side that we are not on. A great national movement is on foot in Indo-China. Although the French are expending 75 per cent, of their military and naval budget in that country, their position there is worsening. I have spoken with conservatives in Great Britain who regard as nonsense the statement that Chiang Kai-shek represents China. Any Labour man in Scotland, who said that Chiang Kai-shek was the representative of China, would not be given a minute’s hearing. Can this Government say what the United States of America is really trying to do? Apparently, the Americans ignore the existence of 400,000,000 Chinese and the entire population of Indo-China. I have not the slightest doubt that.no Korean peace conference will over take place. The Government should tell the Parliament about the agreement that has been made on the side between Syngman Rhee and Mr. Foster Dulles. Can anysane person expect that a Korean peace conference will be held, if red Russia and red China are to be barred from such a conference?
The Government’s international policy is like its internal policy; it is a case of the blind leading the blind. My criticism has been rather trenchant, but I hope that when I conclude my remarks a spokesman for the Government will define the Government’s foreign policy. If it is a policy of blindly following the United States of America, we do not need to send representatives to conferences abroad. All necessary documents could be despatched to this country and could be signed here. The plain fact is that if we had followed old John Bull’s diplomacy we would be in a much stronger position that we are in to-day. I repeat that the Russian Communists have no chance whatsoever of dominating China. Australia and its allies should have made a deal with Mao-tse-tung. The Russian Communists have failed to dominate East Berlin. Instead of getting behind the Japanese we should be supporting the Chinese. To-day, the Japanese are rearming, and to-morrow they will be able to ask the United’ States of America, wlm’” that country intends to do for them.
With. Russian forces poised over Sakhalin the Japanese are scared to death; and they will turn that position to their own advantage by making greater demands upon the United States of America. If war should break out in the Pacific and an American vessel be sunk, Australia, as a signatory to the Anzus pact, will have to go to America’s assistance. Where will we get off then? Are we to fight the Asian peoples?
– Suppose red China sinks an Australian vessel, what then?
– So far as I know, red China has no navy at all. How can any one imagine that a handful of Australians would be able to conquer red China? I am completely antiCommunist, but, at the same time, I am a realist. Any one who believes that Australia would be capable of conquering red China is merely foolish. But if Australia becomes embroiled in a war with the teeming millions of Asia, history will repeat itself. During World War II., fewer than 1,000,000 Chinese pinned down far greater forces of Japanese. Japan failed to conquer China. In any event, strong ties exist between China and Australia. Many years ago, Chinese merchants established prominent businesses in this country. I give credit to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the brilliant way in which he handled Dr. Malan. The right honorable gentleman said that Australia would perhaps look at things differently if there were five times more coloured people than there are white people in this country. The right honorable gentleman handled that episode very cleverly. If we became involved in a war with China and the Americans bombed that country, such action would not solve any problem. It is useless for any one to say that a person who criticizes American foreign policy is necessarily anti-American. I criticize American foreign policy because I believe that it really benefits the Communists, just as the policy of this Government encourages the Communists. We should be well advised to placate the Asian people and to do all in our power to’ improve living conditions in Asian countries. Those people are not interested in our way of life, nor are they interested in what the Communists do. When the Communists talk about democracy they have in mind Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; and when we tali about democracy we have in mind Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. What do the Asian people care about democracy? All they want to know is what democracy means* in bowls of rice. If the United States of America had expended one-quarter of the money in rehabilitating China that it has expended in bombing Asian countries, the Asian people would be more favorably disposed towards us.
– What part of China did the Americans bomb?
– The Americans supplied Chiang Kai-shek’s army to the tune of millions of pounds in order to enable him to fight Mao Tse tung. I give credit to this Government for bringing Asian students to Australia. I am a soccer fan, and when the Chinese soccer team was recently in this country I went to see their matches. - I was pleased to observe the spirit of good-fellowship that was evidenced among the hundreds of Chinese spectators and Australian onlookers. I repeat that our primary purpose in our dealings with Asian countries should be to help those countries and to do all that we can to make up for the mistakes that we have made in the past in our dealings with them.
Senator Anderson interjecting,
– Senator Anderson was a prisoner of war of the Japanese. How does he justify support for the Japanese in view of the fact that he and other Australians were tortured by them as no prisoners have been tortured by an enemy during the last 100 years?
.- - Usually, I listen with interest to Senator Grant, but to-night he reminded me of the old saying, “You do not have to be mad to be a socialist, but it helps “. That comment aptly applies to his knowledge of finance. During the course of his Sydney Domain address he mentioned two matters to which I shall refer. He referred again to the fact that officials of the capital issues control performed official duties in Canberra on a Sunday. I am amazed at the short memory of members of the Opposition and their knack of remembering certain evidence and forgetting other evidence. The Chairman of the Capital Issues Board has made a statement, which has not yet been contradicted or challenged, that during the war’ period he was instructed by the Labour Government that was then in office to grant consent for a capital issue to the directors of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited on a Sunday. Yet honorable senators opposite persist in criticizing the chairman’s action on this occasion. It is obvious that they have a convenient memory. I do not intend to allow Senator Grant’s statement about the repayment of Commonwealth loans to pass without comment, because such loans are guaranteed by the Australian Government, and repayment has always been made at maturity. The honorable senator stated that during this Government’s term of office the market value of Commonwealth bonds has been as low as £82 for a £100 bond.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I remind the honorable senator that during the thirties, when a Labour government was in office, the market price of Commonwealth bonds fell to £65 for a £100 bond. Nobody has ever yet lost one penny as a result of investing in Commonwealth loans. It is a recognized principle that long-term loans carry a higher rate of interest than short-term loans. It is unreasonable for an investor to expect to be paid long-term interest rates on short-term loans. I point out that the market price of short-term loans bearing interest at the rate of 2£ per cent, and 2$ per cent, is at present £102 for a £100 bond. The honorable senator has attempted to undermine the confidence of the people of Australia in Commonwealth loans. His statements were factually untrue, and could cause a lot of damage. Honorable senators opposite are continually endeavouring to undermine the confidence of the investing public in Commonwealth loans, in the. hope of embarrassing this Government, which has made finance available from ‘revenue to the States for public works. This Go vernment had .to increase taxation in order to finance the States’ public works programmes. But what thanks have we received from the Opposition and the Premiers of the States? None! If the Commonwealth had not provided the States with money from revenue for that purpose, about 75 per cent, of State public works would have been closed down, due to the extravagance of the State governments. I shall deal fully with this matter at a later stage of my remarks.
I have before me the report of the Auditor-General of New South “Wales and the report of the Auditor-General of Tasmania, both for the year 1952-53, and I shall refer to them in a moment. Senator Laught has referred to this Government’s efforts to correct the state of aif airs that existed when it took office in 1 949. It has reconstituted the Public Accounts Committee, which is the watchdog of public expenditure. I pay tribute to the Public Accounts Committee, which is composed of members of all three political parties in the Parliament. It is doing a splendid job. I also pay tribute to the Government for reconstituting the committee. Although the accounts of only a few departments have so far been investigated already other departments have felt a cold blast on their back. Senior officers of those departments, realizing that their accounts will be scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee, are doing all possible to get everything in order before their turn arrives..
To a lesser extent, I believe that the Public Works Committee is earnestly endeavouring to ensure that the taxpayers shall receive full value for the money that is expended on new government buildings and other major public works. I deplore the fact that plans and estimates in relation to more projects are not referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation. In far too many instances there have been referred to the Public Works Committee details of projects that are a bit difficult, so that if subsequently anything goes wrong at least Ministers will be able to say that the Public Works Committee recommended the action taken. I contend that the plans of all proposed public works exceeding a certain value should be referred to the Public Works Committee, so that all aspects of the proposals can be thoroughly investigated before approval is given for work to commence.
As I am a Tasmanian representative, it is only natural that I follow closely public affairs in that State. I shall bring to the notice of honorable senators certain comments that have been made by’ the Tasmanian Auditor-General in his report for the financial year 1952-53, because I believe that it should be possible for the Commonwealth to exercise control in relation to the expenditure of money that it makes available to a State government, j.f the conditions revealed in this reportare typical of conditions in the other States, it is evident that public funds have not been expended wisely but have been poured down the drain. As the States are not responsible for collecting the money that they expend, they engage in reckless expenditure as fast as they can obtain money from the Commonwealth, without proper control. The AuditorGeneral of Tasmania, at page 108 of his report, dealing with railway services, stated -
Included as an Expenditure item in the Railway Trading Account is “ Loss on Disposal of Reinforcing Steel (imported), £14,55* Ss. 5d.”. This refers to 365 tons 8 cwt. 1 qi. of Japanese steel which the Commission had in stock-
That was the Transport Commission of Tasmania - and which had originally been purchased at an average price of £75 ls. Id. per ton, or a total purchase price of £27,343 7s. 2d. The Commission, having no use for it,-
Nobody has yet explained why the steel was bought - found that the only source of disposal was the Hydro-Electric Commission, which was propared to pay the Australian price of £35 per ton. The sale was effected at this figure, or a total sale of £12,789 8s. 9d. The resultant loss of £14,554 8s. 5d. to the Commission was written off as indicated above.
This is an instance of loan money and overseas credit having been used to import steel, which it was admitted the Commission had not use, for, and in respect of which it sustained a. loss of more than £14,000. On almost every page of the Auditor-General’s report dis-satisaction is expressed in relation to the Tasmanian administration. 1 shall now refer to a loan that was made by the Tasmanian Government to Furex Proprietary Limited. This matter is referred to at page 167 of the report of the Auditor-General of Tasmania, under the heading, “Loans on Mortgage “. The Tasmanian Government constructed a factory for Furex Proprietary Limited at a cost of £27,300. The company is renting the factory from the Tasmanian Government. I have no quarrel with that. In addition, however, the Tasmanian Government has lent the company £10,000 for five years at 4£ per cent, interest. Repayment of the loan was guaranteed by Grocery and General Merchants Limited, of Sydney. That was the only security that the Tasmanian Government obtained in respect of the loan. I point out to honorable senators that, according to the press, a bank in New South Wales recently stepped in and appointed three directors to control the activities of Grocery and General Merchants Limited, because of the huge losses that that company had incurred. I do not consider that the Tasmanian Government obtained adequate security for the money that if lent to Furex Proprietary Limited.
– Did Furex Proprietary Limited execute a bill of sale or mortgage?
– The only note made by the Tasmanian Auditor-General was -
Security - Guarantee from Grocery and General Merchants Limited. Sydney, New South Wales.
I shall now refer to the sale by the Tasmanian Government of the Devon Cannery, which was previously owned by the Commonwealth, for £87,833. The Tasmanian Auditor-General would not issue a. certificate for a sale at that price. However, the Tasmanian Government went ahead with the sale and the AuditorGeneral has pointed out that that figure was £1,764 less than the written down price. He stated in his conclusions, at page 201 of his report - :”>. That the alleged objection of the Company to a short delay in proceedings relative to the sale in order that the Auditor-General’s certificate might be obtained appears incompatible with the very considerable concession it gained in having passed on to it the rebate of £20,850 allowed by the Commonwealth Government in connection with its loan to the Tasmanian Government made in connection with the original construction of the Devon Cannery.
I point out that the Commonwealth granted a concession of £20,000 to the Tasmanian Government, but, as the Tasmanian Auditor-General has pointed out, the Government has passed on that benefit to the present owners of the factory. I emphasize that this is another instance of ba.d accounting and uncontrolled spending of public money by the Tasmanian Government. The Australian Government has had to stand a great many frontal attacks by State governments for imposing high taxation. Yet it has been collecting taxes in order to help the States to carry out their works. Therefore, the State governments should ensure that the money paid to them is used with a sense of responsibility. In his annual report for the financial year 1952-53 the Tasmanian Auditor-General made the following statement concerning the Hydroelectric Commission of Tasmania : -
Lists of deficiencies found and reported to the present date covering a considerable portion of the stock held at Hobart Store and seven other stores reveal a total net deficiency of £6,853. However, included in the gross discrepancies there is a deficiency of £10,137 relating to steel stock held at various compounds in Hobart and not subjected to verification for a number of years.
In dealing with the Housing Department the report of the Tasmanian Auditor-General reads like a romance. The Housing Department has a deficiency of one type E3 home. The amount of the deficiency in relation to the “War Service Land Settlement Department, however, is only £338 13s. 9d. The report states that in the Hobart store of the Housing Department there was a deficiency of 13,47S super, feet of 3-in. by 2-in. timber, 19,537 super, feet of 4-in. by li-in. timber, and 18,263 super, feet of 4-in. by 2-in. timber. Some system should be devised in order to make the States spend their money in a responsible manner. “While I was travelling on an aeroplane a little while ago a Canadian passenger told me of a visit that he paid to a project of the Victorian State Government. He said that in the course of his travels throughout the world he had endured all sorts of conditions in construction camps and would even sleep on a floor in order to get an order for his firm. Nowhere else in the world had he seen anything resembling what he saw in a. Victorian construction camp. There he was housed free of charge in one of the best hostels that he had ever seen. It had a hot water service and a considerable number of radiators. This is what is being done with the funds that are found for the State governments by the Australian Government. This type of expenditure must be stopped.
Honorable senators opposite have complained of the amount of money that the Government has taken from the people in the form of taxes. They have blithely ignored the amount that is left to the people. After giving a great deal of thought to this matter, I have come to the conclusion, that the sooner the major taxing rights are returned to the States the better it will be for the people of Australia. Irresponsibility in State governments cannot be permitted. State governments criticized the previous Labour Government just as much as they have criticized this Government. The late Mr. Chifley once told the Premiers that they could get more flies with a drop of honey than with a gallon of vinegar. There is also another saying that if you want to make love to a girl do not start by kicking her on the shins. That is what the State governments have been doing. The return of taxing rights to the States is an urgent matter. Every year the State Premiers attend the meeting of the Australian Loan Council and make demands on the national income of Australia which are considerably above the level of that income. They have received more money from this Government than from any other government. Yet, after returning home from meetings of the Australian Loan Council they invariably slate this Government. The federal system is a partnership of equal, responsible authorities. The Loan Council was devised on the assumption that the States were responsible bodies. It consists of the six State Premiers and two representatives of the Australian Government. It was formed in order to eliminate competition between the States in the raising of loan money. Before the establishment of the council one State would offer an interest rate of 4^ per cent, for a loan and another would then offer 4$ per cent. The Australian Loan Council was intended to co-ordinate the requirements of the States and fix rates of interest. Yet honorable senators opposite allege that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) fixes interest rates. He does not. They are fixed by the Australian Loan Council on which there are five Labour Premiers who have frequently outvoted the Commonwealth on these matters.
The Australian Loan Council assesses the amount of money that it can secure from the loan market and what rate of interest it will have to pay. It then asks the Australian Government to borrow a given amount on its behalf. The Australian Government only borrows on behalf of the Australian Loan Council. Y’et honorable senators opposite and irresponsible State governments have claimed that the Australian Government will not grant them loan funds. The Federal Government does not manufacture loan funds. Loans are raised from the savings of the people. The lower taxation that has been proposed in the budget and the lower cost of living that the budget will make possible will enable the people to invest increased savings in these loans. The more the people invest in these loans the greater the reduction in taxation will be. Between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000 of money raised by taxation is still spent each year on capital works. If government loans are filled a corresponding amount of taxation Can be remitted in future budgets because it will not be needed for capital works. I support this bill very strongly. When this bill is dealt with in committee it will provide considerable interest for honorable senators. Many departmental expenses will require close scrutiny. It is the duty of honorable senators thoroughly to scan every penny that the Government proposes to expend. Every reduction that can be made in expenditure will make further taxation reductions possible. The reduction of expenditure is the greatest duty of any government. Nothing will have a better influence on the inflationary position than the action of the Government in reducing expendi- ture and lessening the burden of taxation on individuals and on small and large companies. Such action would greatly help the cost structure. I commend to the Senate the task of closely examining the proposed expenditure.
– I was very pleased to bear Senator Henty say that it was necessary for honorable senators to discuss the Estimates in full detail. I hope that his statement may be taken as an indication of the change of policy on the part of the Government because in another place the “ guillotine “ was so ruthlessly applied to the Estimates that millions of pounds of expenditure were approved in a few minutes. Some departments, including the Department of Health, were not discussed by the members in that place. I hope that a similar state of affairs will not exist in the Senate. Senator Laught and other speakers on the Government side have drawn attention to the defence vote. They have all pointed out that this Government is spending £200,000,000 on defence this year, whereas the Labour Government did not spend half that amount. To talk of defence expenditure or any other form of government expenditure merely in terms of pounds shillings and pence does not give a true picture because the value of money is determined only by the goods and’ services that it will purchase. The value of our currency has deteriorated considerably in the past four or five years, and any comparison of expenditure to-day with expenditure four or five years ago must be made in the light of that deterioration of purchasing power. It is not true to say that as this Government is spending £200,000,000 on defence and the Labour Government spent only say £100,000,000 four or five years ago, this Administration is twice as cognizant of the need for adequate defence as its predecessor was. We all realize, regardless of our party affiliations, that our national safety is of primary importance. Labour governments have always shown themselves to be most concerned with the security of this country, and it ill behoves honorable senators opposite to try to convince the public that the Labour party is not interested in national defence. The people know from their own experience during the last decade that when the necessity arises the Labour party i3 willing and eager to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our shores. It is also a mistake to say that Labour is opposed to compulsory military training. We are not opposed to it. We were opposed to some clauses of the National Service Bill, but ultimately we voted for the bill. Much is being made by honorable senators opposite of the fact that the Government is providing £200,000,000 for defence this year. Although we believe that certain economies could be effected, particularly in regard to national service training, we should be loath to see any cheese-paring of expenditure on vital defence projects. It is our earnest wish that Australia should have the very best advice on military matters; that the very best defence plans should bc adopted and the very best materials used ; and that the members of our fighting forces should have the very best equipment that can be made available to thom. Members of the Labour party are wholeheartedly behind any sane proposal for the defence of A ustralia.
Mention has been made of the relaxation of rationing controls during the term of office of this Government. It is true that to-day petrol is not rationed in the sense that coupon tickets are required to purchase it. But petrol, like many other commodities, is rationed by price. To-day, the price of petrol varies from 3s. 6 1/2d a gallon in the capital cities to as much as 5s. or 6s. a gallon in outback areas. That is a very effective form of rationing. I am amazed that the oil companies can be granted price increases for petrol and other products when, instead of utilizing their profits to keep prices down, they are expending vast sums of money on the erection of one-brand petrol stations throughout our towns and cities and along our highways. The general public is not deriving very much benefit from the relaxation of controls because, in effect, controls still exist in the form of increasing prices.
I am sick and tired of hearing Government supporters say that the Opposition is anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are realists. We realize that our first duty is to the Mother Country, and to the British Commonwealth of Nations, but I remind the
Senate that in time of crisis in World War II. it was a Labour government that sought and obtained the assistance of America to keep Australia a free country. At that time British men and materials were fully committed in other fields. The Mother Country had, since the fall of Prance, been fighting alone against Nazi aggression in Europe. It was in those dark days that a Labour Prime Minister, John Curtin, took the unprecedented step of calling upon America for assistance. On that occasion the very people who to-day are accusing the Labour party of being un-American were accusing us of being pro-American. Apparently honorable senators opposite change their views on these matters as often as they change the names of their parties. Labour’s policy does not change. We called upon the might of America not because we were pro-American or anti-British. We were both pro-British and pro-Australian, but Britain was unable to assist Australia, willing though it may have been to do so. We believed that our chief responsibility to the Mother Country was to keep Australia f.ee.
We are told that one of the merits of the present Government is its ability to raise overseas loans. I point out that Labour governments under both Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley were able to raise all the money necessary for the prosecution of the war without obtaining one dollar from overseas. That was possible because the Australian people had confidence in their own country. And what better security is there than the Commonwealth itself, and all that this nation and its assets represent? What I should like to know, and what many thousands of my fellow Australians would like to know, is how the 100,000,000-dollar loan from America has been expended. Some Australian industries were brought to the brink of extinction because this country was flooded with imported goods purchased by borrowed dollars. For instance, farming implements of various types which could be produced in Australia were brought in from the United States of America in large quantities. The same is true of tyres. Honorable senators will recall that Senator Ashley spoke in this chamber last- year about thousands of Australian workers being thrown out of work in rubber factories in Sydney while imported tyres purchased out of the 100,000,000-dollar loan were rotting on the wharfs. Before loans are raised overseas, we should make certain that the money required is not available in Australia, and once having borrowed dollars, we have a duty to the Australian people who have to meet capital and interest repayments on overseas loans, to ensure that borrowed money shall not be frittered away on the purchase of overseas goods that can be manufactured in this country. About eighteen months or two years ago we had the spectacle of Australians being thrown out of employment because of the influx of imports for which we have not yet paid and shall not be able to pay for years to come.
One honorable senator opposite made a jibe about compulsory unionism. When the people of this country are being forced to join medical benefit societies in order to take full advantage of the Government’s health scheme, what else is it but compulsion ? It is economic compulsion, which is compulsion in its worst form. The organizations which people are being forced to join have no responsibility to the people as a whole or to the Government. The Government merely says, “ You must join a benefit society if you want this extra 4s. a day “. The cost of hospital accommodation and treatment has become so high in the last few years that it is necessary for people to have all the help they can be given; yet this Government, which has the huge National Welfare Fund on which to draw, is compelling people to pay levies to hospital benefits societies ‘ in order to receive the full assistance to which they are entitled. If that is not a form of compulsion I do not know what is.
There has been a great deal of talk about the permissible income of pensioners. I do not suggest that anything that the Government has done for pensioners should be laughed at. Every little helps, even though some of it is very little indeed; but when honorable senators opposite talk about the improved conditions of pensioners, they are assum-ing that every pensioner can work to supplement his pension. The fact is that 85 per cent, of invalid and age pensioners are unable to work and have no property. So, desirable though the alleviation of the means test may be, and desirable though it may be to liberalize property qualifications, those concessions do not in any way ameliorate the conditions of pensioners who have no other income. Those are the .people with whom we should be concerned. In the past week. I have been told by Government supporters that I have made irresponsible statements about social services. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that my claims were irresponsible exaggerations and various other things. Such remarks are not in keeping with the dignity of a Minister. I can prove every statement I have made. I say deliberately to the Minister and to Senator Robertson who said last week that I had allowed my heart to control my head, that there are people in this country who are not getting enough to eat, and are not adequately clothed and housed. I could, take honorable senators to places where they would see these things for themselves. Widows are taking their children to second-hand shops to clothe them in somebody else’s cast-off garments. Some households have been without butter for months. I make those statements positively because, in the last three weeks I have been, in places where those conditions exist.’ Some families have only margarine. That is a shocking state of affairs in a rich dairying country such as Australia. This afternoon, Senator Wedgwood asked how Australian butter compared with New Zealand butter and she was told that Australian butter was equal to any in the world. It is, for those who can afford to buy it, but a widow who receives only £3 10s. a week and child endowment cannot afford many pounds of butter at 4s. 2d. per lb. I should like all members of the Senate to co-operate in an effort to provide for the introduction of a domestic allowance for civilian widows who have the care of children under the age of sixteen- years, in much the same way as it is provided for war widows. To do so would not cost a great deal. The housing of such people is also a most important matter. Originally, when the Commonwealth and State Housing agreement was introduced, it was decided that a proportion of the nouses built by the Commonwealth should be, after consultation with the States, reserved for the use of pensioners and Others, such as war widows and civilian widows. The rental of those houses was to be, on an economic basis, one-fifth of the weekly income. I should like to bo informed how many houses in the States are being made available to war widows and civilian widows on that basis, which would result in rentals of between 12s. 6d. and 15s. a week. I do not think that a single house has been made available at such rentals, because it would not be economically possible for the Government to do so.
Fortunately, in Western Australia, we h.’ive the McNess housing scheme under which houses are provided for the needy at very small rentals. But, of course,there are not nearly sufficient houses of that kind. Until recently, the construction of such houses had practically ceased, and those that are likely to bc built during the next few years are already bespoken for aged couples. I should like to see aged people housed in their own homes instead of in institutions. To my mind, nothing is more tragic than the separation of elderly men and women, in the eventide of life, who have reared their families. In so many cases the men are placed in an institution for males and the women in an institution for females, so that there is no possibility of spending their last days together. In my opinion, that is a pagan approach to this question. The Australian Government, and also the State governments and. municipalities, should endeavour to house aged couples as they are in England. They should not be obliged to spend their last days in the sorry plight which we see so frequently to-day.
I wish now to refer to proposed vote for the Australian National University, on the council of which I have the privilege to represent this Senate. A good deal of misconception exists in the community regarding that university. Because students in caps and gowns are not to be seen wandering between lecture rooms in Canberra, some people appear to think that no educational activity is being undertaken by the university. The whole conception of thi* university in Canberra is a unique one. When its establishment was mooted- in 1946 its object, as it is now, was a twofold one. First, it was to be a university at post-graduate level for the pursuit of research, and secondly, it was to provide for the training of graduate students in research. That was a conception completely foreign to Australian authorities and also to many such authorities in other countries. The need for a university of that kind is obvious. Those of us who have had anything to do with universities know that one of the main problems associated with Australian universities and their administration has been the difficulty of retaining in Australia many of our brilliant graduates who are obliged to go overseas to study. They go to America, Europe and the United Kingdom and, after completing their researches, decide that their particular field is limited in Australia. Consequently, they stay abroad and are lost t<> Australia.
That was a problem which those who helped to frame the original concept of the Australian National University studied very carefully. The result has been that, in the few years since the relevant legislation came before the Parliament in 1946, great progress has been made. The university here will not become merely an isolated unit, but will work in conjunction with the other Australian universities. Already it has provided a great deal of practical assistance to those universities. It has granted scholarships and research allowances to students from other universities and has interchanged staff with them. As Senator McCallum has said, it would be pleasing to see Canberra become known not only as the home of the National Parliament, but also as the home of national learning. Therefore, we should not be niggardly in providing finance for this institution.
Certain criticism has appeared in the press concerning the building to be known as University House. Many people consider that that building is long before its time. Surely we have seen, in Canberra ‘ and in most of our cities, enough of the temporary type of building. We all know that such buildings tend to become permanent. Even this Parliament House is a temporary building, but I suppose it will outlast most of us. The original plans for the university have been considerably modified, but I suggest that if we are to bring to this country the most learned men that it is possible to obtain - and no one will deny that we need brilliant men to direct research- we mustbe able to offer them decent housing and living conditions. Surely it is better to build one decent building than to have a number of prefabricated buildings of a temporary nature, which will remain for perhaps 40 or 50 years. The Australian National University has gone ahead with the building of University House. Although I am not able to agree that all of the expenditure in connexion with the university is proper, I wish to point out that the houses which were acquired by the university authorities at inflated prices, due to the scarcity of materials and labour, are returning in rentals 4.875 per cent, of their cost compared with 5 per cent, for government-owned homes in Canberra generally. I suggest that that is a reasonable comparison when it is remembered that those homes were -bought at high prices during the peak years of the inflation.
During the recent parliamentary recess, in company with Senator Laught and some members of the House of Representatives, I had the very happy experience of a visit to the Territory of Nauru, which is one of our less-known territories. I would like to pay a tribute to Senator Laught for his leadership on that occasion. If problems of national importance could he approached by members of the Parliament in the same friendly spirit of co-operation as is usually evinced on visits of that kind, I do not think that the Australian people would need to worry very much about the political future of this country. It amazes me that we are able to get together on these extra-curricular activities of parliamentarians, as they might perhaps be termed, and do a good job, without friction or squabbling.
Those of us who visited Nauru found that we have a great deal to learn about the administration of our other territories. I do not know whether it is generally appreciated that the phosphate industry of Nauru is really a socialized industry. Indeed, I do not even know whether that thought has occurred to Senator Laught. However, it is a fact that that industry is controlled jointly by the Governments of Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The British Phosphate Commissioners are pursuing a policy of fair play towards the native people. We found the Nauruans to be very happy, as are the Chinese who work there as indentured labour. The Gilbert and Ellice islanders, sometimes referred to as the Gilbert and Sullivan islanders, helped us to enjoy ourselves while we were there. We were able to see five groups of people - Australians, New Zealanders and English, native Nauruans, Chinese, and Gilbert and Ellice islanders - all with their own national characteristics and way of life, living and working together in perfect harmony. We should do well to attempt to emulate their example. I was most impressed by the high living standards of the native peoples. They are not exploited. Instead, they are decently housed in little cottages, and have a regular income. Their land has not been taken from them, and they are not regarded as social outcasts, as are the Australian aborigines. They still own the land and are paid royalties for every ton of phosphate which is mined from that land. In addition, they are paid rent for their land, and if they wish .to work on the leases, they are paid for their labour. There is a good hospital and there are also schools which have been provided by the three governments responsible for the administration of the island, but more particularly by Australia, which is the delegate of the United Nations organization.
What is being done for the natives in Nauru should also be done for the Australian aborigines. Yet one looks in vain in the Estimates for a worthwhile contribution to native welfare. In the proposed vote for the Northern Territory, which is the main part of the Commonwealth administered by this Federal Parliament in which. there are natives, the total proposed expenditure is not as much as will be the rebate to some of the people of Australia when entertainments tax is abolished. If the north-west of Western Australia and the north of Queensland are taken in conjunction with the Northern Territory, half of the area of the
Commonwealth will be accounted for. Yet that vast area is almost completely undeveloped and is populated by only a few thousand people. In both the Senate and the House of Representatives members of the Parliament have paid lip service to the development of those vast areas of the north which are important not only from the point of view of the security of the nation but also from that of the pioneering people who went there in the past and those who are still working there against overwhelming odds. The Estimates contain no provision for the building of even one schoolroom in the Northern Territory. The amount of money to be provided for educational facilities in the territories for which the Commonwealth is responsible is totally inadequate, particularly when it is remembered that the Estimates provide for a total expenditure of more than £1,000,000,000.
The Opposition joins issue with the Government not so much on the question whether the amount’ being expended on defence is too great, but whether that money is being spent to the best advantage of the people. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber regard defence as of No. 1 priority. We are of the opinion that one of the most important aspects of defence is the national development of Australia. Yet, in the Estimates, it is found that the proposed expenditure on national developmental works throughout the Commonwealth has been reduced. We believe that such works are definitely a part of the defence policy of the nation and should not be cut down. We also find that the proposed vote for the Northern Territory has been reduced. Nothing has been said on behalf of those people who live north of the 28th parallel of south latitude.
I direct the attention of the Senate now to the need for uniform divorce laws throughout Australia. Some years ago when I referred to this matter, I received a number of letters. Some were from persons who thought that the idea was a good one. Principally, they were people who had suffered handicaps in their matrimonial problems because of geographical difficulties. I also received letters of abuse from some women’s organizations because - they claimed that I was trying to break up family life and make divorce easier. That is not my intention. When the States were given charge of matrimonial matters, travel was slow and a person would take a fortnight to travel across Australia. Time and space have been almost annihilated by aircraft but many women are still in difficulties in . many cases because they are unable to travel from place to place to get their freedom or to sue for maintenance through the courts in their matrimonial jurisdiction. Iri most cases a man can easily board an aeroplane and travel to another State within a few hours. When a woman has a family, she has not the time or the money or the ability to follow her husband. The laws regarding maintenance cannot be enforced legally in a State other than that in which the original order was made.
Many anomalies should be brought to the light of day, not so that divorce can be made easier or to break up homes. Nothing could be further from my thoughts. Divorce is against my religious convictions but if divorce is recognized on the statute-book, no man or woman should be at a disadvantage in matrimonial matters simply because of geographical difficulties. Therefore, I hope that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will start an investigation of some kind towards completing the work of inquiry into this social problem that was begun in 1949. I am not speaking so much for the sake of the women or the men concerned. I speak for the children of the broken homes who will suffer most if economic circumstances are such that they are 110t given their birthright. Every child is entitled to a decent upbringing. Parents should not be able to escape their responsibilities by skipping from one State to another. I shall refer to the matter later when the Estimates are being considered in detail. in summing up may I emphasize again the importance of the Australian National University in the community life of Australia. I believe that we should not be too critical of the expenditure by the. university upon research or the buildings that are being erected. I believe also that we should try to devise a new deal ‘for the aboriginal people of Australia. We have done much for the people of Nauru and we should do something to improve the housing, education and hospitalization of the Australian aborigines. More time could be spent profitably in this Parliament in discussing the problems of the Northern Territory, the north-western section of Australia, and the northern parts of Queensland. I suggest to’ the Minister that an all-party committee should be formed with that object in view. It should not be a Kathleen Mavourneen committee travelling from place to place on little trips. It should bring forward constructive suggestions from time to time to improve the services that are available to the people in the outback. I also ask the Attorney-General to try to give justice to many people in Australia who are faced with matrimonial problems because of the lack of uniform divorce laws.
– I propose to spend most of the time that is available to me in. a discussion of the activities of the Department of Externa] Affairs and of the problems that come within its purview. I shall discuss also the means by which the department and its Minister are attempting to grapple with those problems and to guide Australia in its relations with other countries. External affairs are of overriding importance to Australia as they are to every other country, particularly in present world conditions. The way in which world problems are tackled will determine whether we can snatch foi- the people of the world the glittering prize of peace that is still within reach, or whether we shall see brought upon mankind the dire punishment that will follow inability to secure peace. On that, in turn, depends not only the lives of many of our people, but also conditions of trade with other countries, the result of that trade upon our economy, and decisions as to how rauch of our resources can be diverted from unproductive defence to productive development. ‘I’he second reason I wish to discuss external affairs is that they are not party matters, but truly non-party and bipartisan. Honorable senators have heard from
– the ebullient speech that they expected from him. I was impressed by his statement that he had spoken to conservatives about certain problems, and that those conservatives had agreed with him. I am glad that that should be so. I am a conservative, and I am sure that I could speak with Labour men, as I have done, and that those Labour men would agree with my views on certain matters. There will, of course be differing answers to any problem that is posed, but the answers can and should be given not on party lines, but on divisions which are as it were vertical rather than horizontal. Let us leave it to the Communists to follow a rigid, dictated party line on these matters. L suggest that the ultimate object of Australia from its foreign policy is to secure a peaceful world, and, if we cannot do that, to secure at least a world in. equilibrium in which there is no actual armed conflict. One of the fundamental factors to which Australia clings in seeking that result is its firm, irrevocable and eternal position as an integral part of tho British Commonwealth of Nations. But. it is a part of that British Commonwealth situated in Asia and in the Pacific. Because Australia is so situated, it will inevitably have to follow its own policy from time to time. That policy may differ from that followed by the United Kingdom. A study of history reveals that the prime matter with which the United Kingdom is concerned is the continent of Europe. It always has been so and it must continue to be so, because of the situation of Great Britain. In the great struggles that have convulsed the world from time’ to time, including the Napoleonic and Germanic wars, great battles have been decided outside Europe, but always they have been directed by Great Britain around the periphery of Europe for the purpose of closing in so that the final decision can be made in Europe.
Great Britain’s secondary sphere of interest has always been the Mediterranean and the Middle East where the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia, join in the strategic centre of that part of the world. Great Britain’s third interest has been India and only after all those matters have been dealt with has it been able to give its interest to th: Pacific and the Far East. I would prefer that nobody should attack me for advancing those facts, hut I am sure that somebody will. So let me defend myself in advance by saying that there is nothing derogatory to Great Britain because it adopts that attitude. It has been forced upon Great Britain by historical and military reasons. Great Britain has to acf accordingly but we do not. Our urgent and immediate interests lie in the Pacific and the countries of Asia that are contiguous to us. Inevitably from time to time there must be a difference between Australia and the United Kingdom on matters of policy, emphasis on policy or priority of policy. That has occurred in the past and it will occur again if Australia is to follow its own foreign policy as it should. It will not weaken the ties between Australia and the United Kingdom. It has not done so in the past and I am. sure that it, will not do so in the future.
The United States of America is a power whose traditional interests also lie not in Europe, but in the Far East. As long as the United States of America has had a foreign policy, and that is not very long, its interests have been directed towards the Philippines and China, and not towards Europe. They will continue to bc -*o directed. .Honorable senators will remember that during World War II. the United States of America gave to the Pacific a precedence and importance equal at least to that given to Europe and greater than that which any other country could give to it. Now as we are interested primarily in what happens in Asia and as the United States of- America also has interests in that sphere, there will again be occasions when our policy will run concurrently with that of the United States of America. I am sorry to think that when that happens some people will say that we are being dragged at the heels of the United States of America. If that statement can be proved, let those who make it produce the proof; but the fact that our policies run concurrently on occasions is not in itself proof that either one or the other is leading in any way at all.
As an illustration of that, I shall consider some points that were raised by
Senator Grant. He commenced his remarks by saying that if one desires to know what the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is going to say next Sunday one needs only to read what Mr. Foster .Dulles, the American Secretary of State, said last Sunday. In endeavouring to prove the truth of that statement, the honorable senator referred to various countries and implied that the policy being followed there showed that what he said was true. He referred to IndoChina. He said “they”, by which he implied the United States of America and Australia, desired to hand over IndoChina to Bao Dai. He implied that that was purely American policy and that it was wrong for Australia to oppose Vietminh control of a portion of Indo-China. That is American policy, and also the policy of Great Britain and France. I shall refer to various statements made on this matter in the British House of Commons. On the 11th May last, the
British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, said -
During the last few weeks we have watched with much anxiety the deterioration of the position in Indo-China. I am glad to say that, so far as my information goes, it is less serious than was at one time assumed and that the measures taken by the French, together with the arrival of the rainy season, Will probably give a lull of several months.
The British Foreign Minister, Mr. Anthony Eden, said -
If Indo-China were invaded it would create a situation no less menacing than that which the United Nations met and faced in Korea.
The Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the United States of America and France issued a joint statement in July last as follows : -
The three Foreign Ministers agreed that the struggle in defence of the independence of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos against aggressive communism is essential to the free world.
Those statements show that the policy being followed in Indo-China by Australia is not a policy of merely being dragged at the heels of the United States of America, but is also the policy of the British Empire, the United States of America and France. Consequently. Senator Grant’s remarks in respect of Indo-China will not hold water.
It would be very strange if we did not follow our present policy. If one of the three States of Indo-China, Vietnam, were to be overrun by the Vietminh, there would be no bulwark at all between the borders of India and the China Sea. If a satellite Communist government, as distinct from a Titoist Communist government, were to be established in Indo-China, Thailand could fall overnight, and a Communist government would be established on the borders of Burma where already Chinese Communists are penetrating. A Communist government would be established on the borders of Malaya and it would control all the bases from which the Japanese launched their Pacific adventure against Malaya Indonesia and the Philippines during WorldWar II. It would control the only areas in Asia which grow a surplus of rice for export and, consequently, it would be able to hold a pistol at the head of the other consuming countries of Asia. If Indo-China were to fall, the consequent accretion of strength to the Communist bloc would probably be of decisive importance not only in Asia but also throughout the world. India would then be ringed completely by Communist nations dominated by China. China has already taken over Tibet, and Chinese armed patrols are now established along India’s northern frontier. India would be isolated. That is one reason why it is essential for the British Empire to endeavour to prevent such a position from arising. That is one of the policies which, I believe, this Government has adopted, and which I believe the Parliament itself would readily support.
Senator Grant also dealt with the recognition of red China. He implied that this matter was so simple that anybody who did not see at once that the obvious solution of the problem was to recognize red China was little better than a homicidal maniac. But the matter is not so simple. Not only questions of fact and substance must be considered before such a step could be taken but also all sorts of imponderables must be assessed before a firm judgment can be arrived at. It is all very well for an honorable senator to make a sweeping statement that the mainland China and the people of mainland China are controlled by Communists, and, therefore, it is ridiculous not to recognize the existing government in that country even if it is Communist. But what actual benefit could we expect to derive from recognizing the present government of China? What actual harm could result from such action ? Those two things need to be weighed carefully before any decision can be made in the matter. What advantage in the cause of world peace can we hope to get from recognition of red China?
– The evidence does not support that view. Great Britain recognized red China and was treated with the utmost contempt. It got no goodwill whatsoever from China. I am simply stating the facts. Sir Lionel Lamb, after he was appointed British Ambassador to China, was not even received by the Chinese Government. He was not allowed to make contact with representatives of the Chinese Government, and the Chinese intellectuals were kept at arms length from him. Furthermore, the Chinese Government, did not establish reciprocal diplomatic relations with Great Britain. There was no meeting of minds, no proper diplomatic contact, and no goodwill between the two countries. That is not the only instance. Surely, if goodwill were to be gained from the Communist bloc, it should havebeen gained at Yalta when concession after concession - quite unnecessary at the time because the military balance was in favour of the Allieswas made to Stalin for the sake of gaining goodwill. We have tried to gain goodwill, but it would be unwise to go on giving away position after position in the hope of gaining a goodwill which, so far, has not been forthcoming. On the other hand, such a policycould cause grave disadvantages to the free world; recognition involves admission to the United Nations and, consequently, we should have on the Security Council of the United Nations not one country but two countries exercising the veto against any action that might be taken by the United Nations. The United Nations Charter provides that if a country is involved in any dispute it should not use the veto. That provision would make things a little difficult under present conditions. But if Russia were involved in a dispute in Europe, how handy it would be for it if China vetoed action proposed to be taken to counter Russian aggression. And how handy it would be for China, if Russia vetoed action proposed to be taken against Chinese aggression in Asia.
– What does the honorable senator propose that we should do?
– It is not wise to make concession after concession and get nothing in return. If China is to be recognized, such action should be taken only as a part of an overall settlement. At present, the Chinese are engaged in aggression in Indo-China and in Burma, and pressure is being exerted all through the area of South-East Asia. It would be perhaps a different matter if red China were to be recognized as a part of an overall settlement. But it is completely unreal and silly to suggest that we should continue to make concessions without getting’ something in return. In the limited time at my disposal, I have not ‘been able to deal fully with the various aspects of our foreign policy. J have endeavoured briefly to show that this country is not being dragged at the heels of either the United States of America or Great Britain. I have also tried to explain with, I fear, ‘oversimplification, the basis of the policy of this country and of the United States of America in Indo-China, and to show why I do not believe red China should be recognized if, by doing so, we throw away oar own position for no gain whatsoever.
– Under this measure we are asked to appropriate something over £400,000,000 for the current financial year, and the debate on a measure of this kind affords to honorable senators the opportunity to deal with any matters that they desire to raise. Although Senator Gorton traced the history of events in Indo-China and China, he did not tell us of the Australian Government’s policy in relation to those countries. All he said was that Australia should follow the lead of Great Britain, France and the United States of America in one instance, but that in the other instance - the recognition of China - we should follow the United States of America. We have nothing to lose by recognizing the present
Government of China. The Opposition is still waiting for the Government to announce its foreign affairs policy. I suppose that honorable senators on this side of the chamber will go on asking questions about that policy, without receiving satisfactory answers. As Senator Grant has pointed out, immediately after Mr. Foster Dulles has announced the policy of the United States of America in relation to a certain matter, our Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) states that that is also Australia’s policy. The plain fact is that, in relation to our foreign policy, we are being dragged at the heels of America. Australia is tied to American foreign policy because the present Government sold out to America in order to negotiate dollar loans, and in that way it has exploited the people of this country.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– It is not nonsense, but absolute fact. This Government gave to representatives of the United States of America certain, rights and conditions that it was not prepared to give to our own people.
– The honorable senator did not speak in that manner when the Coral Sea battle was in progress.
– Senator Maher is always getting back to the Coral Sea battle or something else. Everything that Australia has received from the United States of America has been paid for in good solid sterling converted into dollars. I am not, of course, referring to the members of the American armed forces who were killed during World War II. in the South-West Pacific area, but . to goods. Supporters of the Government should not think for a moment that the United States of America sent its armed forces to Australia for the sole purpose of saving this country. It did not. America used Australia as a jumping-off ground.. However, I am concerned not with past history but with our foreign policy. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber would like to be informed precisely what is our foreign policy.
Provision is made in the bill for a proposed vote for the security service, the members of which go around hounding people and making all sorts of inquiries, as is done in the United States of America. Even a person who tries to disseminate the gospel of peace is aware that a security officer is not far away and will soon question him about his activities from the time that he commenced to take an interest in politics or the economy of this country. The purpose of such interrogation is to instill th fear of God into the people of this country, so that the present Government will be able to continue to exploit them and engage in further confidence tricks on them.
I shall now refer to the manner in which the War Service Homes Act has been administered in South Australia. At East Payneham, 98 war service homes have been constructed. As a result of the complicated system of administration, responsibility for the construction of those homes passed from the War Service Homes Division to the Department of Works. After the inspectors and architects employed by that department had carried out preliminary work, and probably the department had provided certain materials, a contract by Moore and Son for the construction of the homes was accepted’. While the homes were in course of construction ex-servicemen who were to occupy them on completion complained continually to an inspector of the War Service Homes Division about the rotten materials that were being used, and faulty workmanship. Within 90 days after the ex-servicemen entered into the occupation of the homes numerous complaints were received by the division about constructional defects. In company with Senator Critchley I inspected some of the homes recently. In one instance I was able to insert the whole of my hand in a crack in a wall.
– One crack was big enough for me to climb through.
– It is no exaggeration to say that in some instances the roof prevents the walls from falling over. The ex-servicemen were unable to obtain any redress from the division. I have before me a letter by an ex-serviceman complaining that the verandah roof of his home had the fall the wrong way; rain water drained towards the wall of the house instead of from it to the outside. When he complained to the division he was informed that in view of the length of time that had elapsed since the contractor finished the work, it was now the ex-serviceman’s responsibility to make good the defect. This is a shameful state of affairs. When I inspected some of the homes I found many defects in connexion with the walls, particularly where the inside walls abut the outside walls. In some instances no wal! ties have been used, while in other cases wire ties were used. Furthermore, in many instances the walls are not staggerjointed, and although the mortar is suimposed to be cement compost, it can be picked out of the joints with one’s finger. In some cases not only the inside walls but also the outside walls are bulging because of the rotten materials that have been used in their construction. That work was passed by inspectors of both the War Service Homes Division and the Department of Works. In a letter that I received from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) it is stated that although the work was the responsibility of the. War Service Homes Division, it was performed on a. contract basis for the Department of Works. Therefore it is very difficult to ascertain where the responsibility rests. These homes are built on soil that is known locally as Bay of Biscay soil. It was evident from the specifications that the officers of the War Service Homes Division and the Department of Works knew very little about the nature of that soil. The specifications provided that the houses were to be built on piles. As a matter of fact not all of the homes were built on piles, and in some instances those that were built on piles are sliding off them because they were not tied securely.
– Who was responsible for that neglect?
– That is what I am trying to ascertain. Senator Critchley and I wrote to the Minister and told him. that we were of the opinion that it was the responsibility of the department to make the homes habitable. We asked him to give the matter his personal attention. I have never been so insulted in my life as I was by the reply thatI received from the Minister. He stated that he had asked the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), in whose district the houses are situated, to convey certain suggestions to the occupants of the homes, which they rejected. He then went on to say that it was not the fault of the Department of Works. Of course the department would not admit any fault on its part. The Minister then stated that as the houses had been erected for a considerable time it had not been possible to call upon thecon tractor to make good the deficiencies. I understand that the contractor has since become bankrupt, or at least he has gone out of business. The Minister states that it is not the division’s responsibility or the department’s responsibility, but the responsibility of the ex-servicemen themselves to make good the defects. A part of the Minister’s replyreads -
On the other hand, whilstfrom a purely business point of view the Division has no further responsibility, it has offered the applicants three alternatives.The first is that they should sell the homes and discharge their liability to the Division, when they would be granted second assistance. This would enable them to obtain the benefit of any increase of values since the homes were built.
First the occupier of a home must sell it to some other poor beggar, probably another ex-serviceman, although the home is falling down over his ears, and the Minister says that he may obtain the benefit of some extra value. How can there be any extra value?
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Special Undertakings) Act - Order in relation to a Restricted Area (dated 1st September, 1953).
Ex plosives Act - Regulations - Orders of general application Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1953 -
No. 1 - Dentists’ Registration.
No. 2 -Prisons.
No. 3 - Landlord and Tenant (Control of Rents).
No. 4 - Crown Lands.
No. 5 - Minerals (Acquisition).
No. 6 - Mining.
No. 7 - Aboriginals.
No. 8 - Control of Roads.
No. 9 - Aboriginals (No. 2).
No. 10 - Licensing.
Regulations - 1 953 -
No. 1 (Supply of Services Ordinance).
No. 2 (Brands Ordinance).
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department -
Health-F. E. Rose.
Supply- T. F. C. Lawrence, F. F. McKnight, J. V. Ramsay, L. H. Winter.
Services Trust Funds Act - Services Canteens Trust Fund - Report for year 1952.
Whaling Industry Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Whaling Commission, for year ended 31st March, 1953.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that the United Kingdom Government has introduced most comprehensive health hazard regulations regarding the handling, transport and disposal of radio-active materials? If that is so, will the Minister consider the advisability of introducing similar precautions in the Commonwealth with a view to safeguarding the health of those in close touch with such material?
– I shall communicate with my colleague, the Minister for Health, and ask him for a considered reply to the honorable senator’s question.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply by stating that honorable senators have been privileged to see a splendid documentary film concerning the atomic tests which were carried out in the Monte Bello Islands last year. Because I am of the opinion that all Australians should share that privilege, will the Minister consider the possibility of releasing the film for public presentation ?
– I had prior knowledge of this question from the honorable senator and I took the opportunity to refer the matter to the Minister for Supply. He informed me that he would be happy to release for exhibition the film to which the honorable senator lias referred.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inquire whether the sacking of linemen employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department has been responsible for that department being obliged to negotiate contracts for the laying of cables? Is it a fact that the department now appreciates the folly of its action in dismissing thousands of competent linemen without consideration for the future welfare of the department?
– I shall refer to the Postmaster-General the relevant part of the honorable senator’s question and let him have a reply as soon as possible.
– On the 17th March I prefaced a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by stating -
I invite attention to the fact that under our existing system of parliamentary procedure, Ministers in one house act as the representatives of Ministers in another house of the Parliament. Ministers who act in a representative capacity are called upon to pilot bills through the House of which the responsible Minister is not a member. Such a representative Minister cannot, and cannot be expected to give all the information that is sought by honorable senators or honorable members of another place, and this circumstance is not conducive to the efficient conduct of the business of the Parliament. Will the Minister cause earnest consideration to bc given to a proposal for the business of the Parliament to be facilitated and conducted in a more efficient way by the adoption of a system whereby the responsible Minister could take charge of his bills in either House of the Parliament and give honorable senators and honorable members a full elucidation of legis lation and supply any information which may be sought at the committee stage of the bill : On such an occasion, a Minister need have tut. voting power unless he were a member of the House in which he was introducing the bill. Is it a fact that a similar system is in operation in some other countries?
Is the Minister in a position to make a statement upon the matter?
– The proposition that the honorable senator has outlined is not without merit. In fact, I believe that some years ago the Senatepassed a resolution along similar lines,, but honorable members in another place- did not consider that the proposal was practicable. It is true that there arepractical difficulties in the way, regardless of the merits of the proposal. It would be quite impracticable for a Minister who was a member of the Senate to be standing, by at the precise time that he might berequired to pilot a bill through or explain it in another place. Similarly, it would be impracticable for Ministers who aremembers of another House to stand by in the Senate when their presence might be required elsewhere. The Estimates- provide an apt illustration of the difficulties. Senior public servants sometimes wait in: the Senate for days because we donot know the precise time when the Estimates with which they are directlyconcerned will be brought before honorable senators for consideration. Likewise, it would be impracticable for Ministers to be out of their places in their respective chambers. The proposition stated by the honorable senator has been given consideration. Effect has not beengiven to it, not because it lacks merit, but because of its impracticability.
– Will the Minister for National Development supply tothe Senate particulars of sales of plant, machinery and stores by the Joint Coal Board for the last four financial years? As those sales now exceed £1,000,000 annually, it is important that the Parliament should be supplied with this information.
– Information of the kind that he has mentioned is supplied to me regularly because the arrangement that the Government has made with respect to the sale of plant by the Joint Coal
Board provides, first, that any proposal for the sale of plant shall be approved by an inter-departmental committee of officers before it reaches the ministerial level; and, secondly, the Joint Coal Board must supply to me each quarter a summary of such transactions. Consequently, information in respect of sales that have been effected in recent years is readily available. I cannot speak in respect of sales effected in earlier years, but I should imagine that details in respect of that period also- can be made available promptly. I shall be pleased to obtain the information that the honorable senator has requested, and I ask him to put his question on the notice-paper.
– In view of the fact that miners on the southern coalfields have re-opened their books whilst, at the same time, miners on the northern coal-fields contend that the current stockpiling of coal will stave off unemployment for only a few months, is the Minister for National Development in a position to indicate whether the Government has in mind any plan in respect of opencut mining on the northern coal-fields?
– Although I have refrained from making public statements about this matter, because I desire not to be unduly provocative, I think that the question that the honorable senator has asked merits a fair answer. The southern miners have not decided to reopen their books, except to permit the employment in mines on the south coast of ex-members of the federation. There has not been a general opening of the books. This will not make employment available for all persons who may be suitable. It will be a qualified opening only, to permit the employment of exmembers of the federation, or ex-mine workers.
– Does not the Minister believe that that is the right thing to do?
– No. If I did, I would say so. For very many months past there have been more than 300 vacancies on the south coast coal-fields, which, in the light of experience, could not be filled by ex-mine workers who are available in the south coast district. I think that that is a fair statement of the position, and, as I have said, I do not want to be provocative. Whilst I want to help to overcome the present situation, I believe that the action of the south coast branch of the federation is provocative. It has not tried to be co-operative. At present we have all the coal that we want, and. possibly some surplus coal. However, that is not good enough. We want to get coa] of the right kind at the most economical rates. It would be foolish to continue to freight coal from Newcastle and the western fields to the south coast, particularly as that coal is not exactly the kind of coal that is required there. I have already stated, with the authority of the Government, that we will not stockpile coal in Newcastle until the position on the south coast has been rectified. I think that that was a fair decision to make, in the national interest. It has not yet been proved that stockpiling is necessary, but, on present indications, between now and Christmas we may have to stockpile from 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons a week - a relatively small quantity compared with the overall production in Newcastle. There may be variations in demand which will either obviate the necessity to stockpile, or, on the other hand, make -necessary the stockpiling of bigger quantities than I have mentioned. The main thing is to ensure that we will get all the coal that we want. These other matters, which are vexatious, are of no consequence by comparison with the principal factor, which is that we are no longer starved for coal.
The third matter raised by the honorable senator is a difficult one. On behalf of the northern miners he has asked, in effect, “ What can th e Government do about open cuts?” I want to make it quite plain that I am not unmindful of that problem. If we can do something about open cuts which will ease the position we will do so, but we do not want to do something that ‘will put ‘this nation back in the grip of the miners’ federation. That is not going to happen. We do not intend to allow a position to develop whereby the federation could, in the future - whilst we are in government - hold the country to ransom. That is not going to happen. I have no complaint about the way that the northern. branch of the federation has approached the problem. If I could find ways and means to ease the production of open-cut coal I would do so. The Government has already decided not to proceed with the development of the Pike’s Gidley open cut which has great potentialities. I have been advised that other open cuts cannot be closed down because each one of them supplies a particular type of coal which could not be otherwise supplied. If either the coal-mine proprietors or the miners’ federation can tell me of an open cut which can be closed without detriment to the general supply of coal I shall consider closing it although I do not undertake to close it. This is a complicated matter. Contracts have been signed and funds have been invested heavily in open cut operations. Consequently, each case would have to he examined on its merits. I regret that I have taken so long to answer the honorable senator’s question but it related to a matter of some importance.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the eighteenth security loan of £50,000,000 is being so solidly supported by all sections of the community in every State that already 355 towns have filled their quotas compared with less than half that number at the corresponding stage of the last previous loan? Does he consider that this success is due to the fact that the community generally approves of the budget and its effect in further stabilizing the Australian economy?
– I do not pretend to have a detailed knowledge of the progress that is being made in respect of the current loan to which the honorable senator has referred. However, I have read press reports to the effect that quotas are being filled and I have noted comment in financial journals which shows that the loan is meeting with widespread approval among investors. Apparently, subscriptions are being’ attracted because of the importance of the loan and the favorable rate of interest and terms and conditions of the loan. I think that what the honorable senator has implied in the last part of her question goes without saying, although members of the Opposition have endeavoured to prove that the contrary is the case. As the -reports of public companies and of governmental and semigovernmental institutions come to hand, more and more tributes are being paid to the skilful manner in which my colleague, the Treasurer, has handled the economic difficulties which recently confronted this country.
– <I should like to preface u question which I shall address to the Minister for National Development by reminding honorable senators that yesterday an honorable senator opposite said that because the Government was favorably regarded in the United States of America it had been able to obtain huge dollar loans in order to import heavy earth-moving equipment. I ask the Minister how7 much of this equipment, now held by the Joint Coal Board and private enterprise, is lying idle.
– There is no secret about the Joint Coal Board equipment. I think that the board has about £3,000,000 worth of equipment which -is not being used and is available for sale, because the demand for coal was overestimated. But if ever a small insurance premium was paid to get good national results it is the amount that was paid for that surplus equipment. Subject to correction, I should say that Australia was paying an amount equivalent to that invested in the surplus plant every twelve oi” eighteen months as a subsidy on imported coal.
– How much plant held by private contractors is not being used?
– I do not think that much plant held by private contractors i3 lying idle. One of the great difficulties was that private contractors only came into the scheme on the basis that the Government had to buy the plant for them. The next stage was that we were able to sell some plant to private contractors, but I do not think that much is held by them now.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister who has jurisdiction over the war service homes scheme. Many members of this Parliament are constantly receiving letters complaining about the inordinate delay in the provision of loans for war service bornes. What is the reason for that delay? Is it a shortage of funds, a shortage of material, or a. shortage of labour?
– The Government has allocated £28,000,000 for war service homes this year. During this Government’s term of office, more’ funds have been provided for war service homes than were provided in all the previous years. In addition, ex-servicemen are entitled to 50 per cent, of the houses available for renting under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and, in fact, they are obtaining 60 per cent, of such houses. In general, therefore, the position is that the housing needs of ex-servicemen are being cared for now as they were never cared for by any other government. That is a statement of fact. Because war service homes are ma.de available for a small deposit and at a’ low rate of interest, there is a great demand for them, and the Minister has the task of regulating that demand within the limits of the £28,000,000 that is available.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service noted the resolution passed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Tasmania calling for the abolition of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, or, as an alternative, the Implementation of the Basten report with respect to the board? Will the Minister inform the Senate when a decision is to be made on this matter?
– I’ have seen a notice concerning that resolution. I know that the future of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is under active consideration by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, but I shall bring to his notice the question asked by the honorable senator and obtain from him a reply concerning the action that is proposed to be taken.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport able toinform me of the average number of hours worked each week and the average weekly wage earned by waterside workers in any four Australian ports during the year which ended on the 30th June last, and could he include in those figures statistics relating to a Tasmanian port?
– I shall cause inquiries to be made with a view to ascertaining the information that the honorable senator desires. A report concerning the reason for the high cost of freights which I had the opportunity to study recently indicates that it is obvious that wages are now higher, loading slower and working periods shorter. The effect of that state of affairs can be gauged from statistics relating to the port of Darwin, which is under my control. For the year 1952-53, the average hours worked at that port were 29^ a week, and the average weekly wage earned was £20 15s. Sd.
– What is the Minister doing about it?
– A little more than the honorable senator did when he was responsible for losing about £7,000,000 on the Commonwealth line of ships.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me of the action that has been taken to give effect to the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that the Government should give close attention to the activities of the Department, of National Development? Will the Government refer .to the committee for inquiry the cost of the plant and equipment purchased by the Joint Coal Board which is still in crates, and the number of prefabricated houses which are still in crates, with a view to ascertaining their cost and location? What does the Government propose to do with the oil-drilling plant which cost £320,000, and also the £50,000 worth of submarine engines which are still in crates, other than to have them greased and oiled occasionally to prevent them from deteriorating?
– I consider that the appointment of the Public Accounts Committee was a very wise move on the part of the Government. I think that the committee is doing splendid work. It is a matter of great regret that a similar body was not appointed during the Labour regime. Had that been so, a great deal of money might have been saved.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer able to say whether any responsible governments in the world at the present time, on this side of the Iron Curtain at least, raise their revenues, or any substantial part of them, by means of a capital levy, a method that was strongly advocated from the Opposition side of the Senate last night by an honorable senator from Victoria, who was a former senior Labour Cabinet Minister, and supported by an Opposition senator from New South Wales? If there are any such governments, can the Minister name them’ and also state the rates which are levied and the period for which that technique has been in operation?
– I am afraid that 1 am not a sufficiently good student of political history to be able to answer the question whether a capital levy has been made-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is not in order in asking a question based on a bill which is still before the Senate.
– The point of order is upheld.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiry concerning hog casings ? If so, can he say when the report will be available ?
– On the 27th February last I referred to the Tariff Board, for inquiry and report, the question of the Australian demand for sausage casings, the proportion which can be made available from local production and non-dollar countries, and the likely effect that a serious curtailment of dollars might have on the exportation of Australian casings to the dollar area, together with certain other aspects of the sausage casing question. The Tariff Board Las heard evidence on this question, but has not yet submitted its report. When the report is received, it will be given urgent consideration and will be tabled in the Parliament’ as expeditiously as possible.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service know whether provision has been made recently, in certain industrial awards in Victoria, for the introduction of what has been called a “cooling off” period in regard to industrial disputes? Does he support such am innovation? If he does, what action does he suggest should be taken to ensure that in all future awards similar provisionsshall be inserted?
– The honorable senator was good enough to let meknow that he proposed to ask that question, and I have obtained the following answer from the Minister for Labour and? National Service: -
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been drawn to the fact that one of the magnificent new diesel engines, known as the Robert Gordon Menzies, used on the Trans-Australian railway line has, for the second time, been involved in an accident, apparently because it overshot the points? Will the Minister inquire into this, matter?
– Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral say whether there is any justification for the claim that since the Australian Broadcasting Commission has widened its activities by entering into the concert management field, private enterprise has almost completely withdrawn from that field? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the cost of the concert department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the losses that have been incurred during the past two years on solo recitals by visiting artists?
– I shall bring to the notice of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, the question asked by the honorable senator in order that she may receive a reply as early as possible.
– On the 30th September Senator Tangney asked the following question : -
In view of the high level- of telephone rentals and the high price of calls, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider enabling payment of telephone accounts to be made by means of a stamp system such as that which operates in relation to the payments of radio licence fees. This would relieve people in the lower income groups of the burden of paying heavy telephone ‘accounts at the time that they fall due.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
On a number of occasions consideration has been given to the introduction of a system of payment of telephone accounts by means of stamps, but the proposal has always been rejected because its adoption would involve an appreciable amount of additional expense and labour in accounting for the charges by this method. It would also ‘ increase the cost of printing and distribution of the additional volume of stamps which would be required for this purpose. The average amount of the halfyearly telephone account of even the smallest users in the metropolitan areas would be at least £8 10s. and if those subscribers took advantage of this arrangement to any appreciable extent, it would add to the difficulties which the note printing branch now experiences in providing the quantity of postage stamps necessary for day-to-day requirements. It is suggested that the facilities offered by tb* Commonwealth Savings Bank provide a subscriber with a safer and just as readily accessible means for setting aside small sums towards the payment of a telephone account as that of purchasing and holding the stamps which might easily he lost or accidentally destroyed before the account is received.
– On the 29th September, Senator Marriott asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether an advisory committee, composed of a representative of each State except Tasmania, has been established to advise the Minister for Health on matters relating to negotiations between medical benefits funds, industrial organizations, and the Department of Health, pursuant to the Government’s national health scheme? If so, will action he taken to include a representative of Tasmania ou the committee?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
The Federal Advisory Council on Medical Benefits was established under the National Health Service Act on the loth July, 1953, to advise on matters relating to the Commonwealth medical benefits scheme. The council consists of the Director-General of Health as chairman and the following members: - Two members . representing the friendly society group of registered organizations; two members representing the Blue Cross Association group; one member representing the industrial and miscellaneous organizations; one member representing contributors of registered organizations; and one medical practitioner representing the medical profession. In determining the constitution of the council, the aim was to ensure proper representation of each of the different interests principally concerned in the effective operation of the scheme. There is, therefore, no State representation as such on the Council and, as the medical benefits scheme operates on a Commonwealth-wide basis, it is considered that no good purpose would be served by providing for such representation.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer examine the circumstances of poliomyelitis victims, subject to insurance cover, and consider amending the income Tax Assessment Act to set up within the act a “ human ‘ repair “ clause, to enable participants to claim concessional deductions of all expenses associated in the after-care convalescing periods, similar to that provided to manufacturers and farmers for machinery repairs?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
The Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act already provides concessional allowances for a wide range of expenses incurred by taxpayers in connexion with illnesses suffered by themselves and their dependants. Expenses which may bc deducted, for income tax purposes, include- Payments to a legally qualified medical practitioner, nurse or chemist; payments to a public or private hospital; cost of massage or other therapeutic treatment administered by direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner; cost of medical or surgical appliances prescribed by a legally qualified medical practitioner; and wages of an attendant of a person permanently confined to a bed or invalid chair. In the bill amending the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act which will shortly come before this chamber, it is proposed to increase to £150 the present maximum amount of £100 allowable in respect of each person for these expenses. The honorable senator’s suggestion lias received very careful examination but important considerations which arise are, firstly, the difficulty of specifying the expenses associated with the aftercare convalescing period for which the concessional allowance may be made, and, secondly, the impracticability of limiting any such allowance to victims of poliomyelitis. It is considered that the increased provision which is to be made for the allowance of medical expenses as indicated above meets all reasonable requirements.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator : -
The following private premises are occupied by the Commonwealth departments and authorities in Perth. It is not possible to give definite particulars as to the possible duration of tenancies but it is hoped to vacate some of the accommodation in the near future: -
A.N . A. House (44 St. George’s-terrace). - Trans- Australia Airlines; Interior; Loans Organization; Senator Fraser; Gordon Freeth, M.P.; Legal Service Bureau.
Commonwealth Bank premises (Forrestplace ) . - Federal Members’ and Senators; visiting Commissions; SubTreasury; Audit; Public Service Inspector; Supply; Attorney-General; Electoral.
C.M:.L. Buildings (St. George’s-terrace) . - Commerce and Agriculture; Senator Tangney.
Yorkshire House (St. George’s-terrace). - Branch of Repatriation ; Branch of Social Services; War Memorial (Interior) : Minister for Territories; Branch of Health; Australian Meat Board; War Service Lands Settlement (Interior).
Skipper Bailey’s Basement (900 Haystreet). - Taxation records.
Midland Railway Company’s Building (Newcastle-street). - Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics; Australian Whaling Commission.
Atlas Buildings (Esplanade). - Deputy Crown Solicitor.
Lawson Buildings (Esplanade). - Official Receiver in Bankruptcy.
Cecil Buildings (Sherwood Court). - Official Receiver in Bankruptcy.
Supreme Court (two rooms). - AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
Economic Chambers ( Hay -street ) . - Attorney-General’s Department.
Perth Meteorological Building (Observatory) . - Meteorological Branch. 37 King-street. - Department of Health (Free Medicine Scheme). “The Cloisters” (St. George’s-terrace). - Health (Accoustics Laboratory). “Adda House” (Stirling-street). - Immigration (Good Neighbour Council).
McNeil Chambers (Barrack-street). - Labour and National Service.
Arundel Hall ( James-street) . - C.S.I.R.O. (Fisheries) .
Padbury Buildings (Forrest-place). - Navy; Qantas. 90 Beaufort-street. - Army (Provost Corps) .
Holman House (Stirling-street). - R.A.A.F. (Area Finance).
Liberty Garage (Wellington-street). - Supply (Stores and Transport). 34 King-street. - Recruiting Centre.
National House (William-street). - T.A.A.
Mounts Bay-road. - Industrial Training (Repatriation ) . 108 Murray-street. - Repatriation.
George-street.- Repatriation (Limb Factory ) .
Riverside-drive. - Repatriation.
Commercial Travellers’ Club (St. George’sterrace) . - P.M.G. Branch Post Office.
Metropolitan Markets Trust (Marquisstreet). - P.M.G. Branch Post Office.
Perth Public Hospital. - P.M.G. Branch Post Office.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spoon er) read a first time.
111.53].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1953-54 Estimates of Expenditure on Capital Works and Services is £101,543,000, made up of £94,998,000 from annual votes and £6,550,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Bill 1953-54 provides for the necessary parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure under annual votes as follows: -
Details of the proposed expenditure will be found on pages 214 to 227 of the printed Estimates and in the schedule to this bill. The total provision of £101,548,000 is £2,000,000 less than the actual expenditure last year. The major proportion of the provision for 1953-54 is required in order to continue works that are in progress and to meet other outstanding capital commitments. New works included are restricted to those of an especially urgent and essential nature.
The bill provides for expenditure of £28,000,000 on war service homes. This substantial provision is renewed evidence of the determination of the Government to make the maximum possible provision of homes for ex-servicemen. The sum of £26,910,000 is sought for postal buildings and equipment. In addition, supplies and equipment costing £1,500,000 will be provided from stocks held in the departmental stores and transport trust account. The provision this financial year to cover expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme is the same as in 1952-53, namely, £13,600,000. The amount of £5,600,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation includes £3,600,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes as well as £2,000,000 for the purchase and installation of modern technical equipment. Included in the Department of Health estimates is an amount of £1,500,000 for reimbursement to State governments of capital expenditure incurred under the Tuberculosis Act 1948. The sum of £1,900,000 is being provided for the Commonwealth railways mainly for the purchase of locomotives and other rollingstock. In addition, £750,000 is included for expenditure in South Australia under the agreement in respect of the standardization of railway gauges.
Under the Department of Shipping and Transport the sum of £4,000,000 is being provided for ship construction in Australian dockyards, but against this is offset an amount of £900,000 estimated to be received by the Australian Shipbuilding Board in respect of vessels which are under construction for sale to private shipowners. The continued development of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to cost £1,967,000 and £3,501,000 respectively in the current financial year. The provision for the Australian Capital Territory is mainly in order to continue the housing programmes and for associated engineering works. Further details which may be desired regarding specific works will be supplied in committee by the appropriate Ministers.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed wholly to grant relief from sales tax. The closest consideration has been given by the Government not only to the extent to which sales tax relief may be granted, but also the manner in which such relief may be best applied. In the review of this matter for the purposes of the budget, consideration has been given to the many requests which have been made from time to time for exemption or reduction of the rate of tax in relation to numerous classes of goods, or in relation to goods for use for particular purposes. It was concluded by the Government that the principal avenue of relief should be by way of eliminating the higher rates of sales tax which have been in force since the 1951-52 budget. I t was decided that on and from the 10th September, 1953, there should be only two rates of tax in force, namely, the general rate of 12^- per cent., and a rate of 16$ per cent, to apply to all goods specified in the Second Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill. Previously, sales tax was payable at four different rates - 12^ per cent., 20 per cent.,, 33;V per cent, and 50 per cent. The rates of 20 per cent., 33-J per cent, and ~>0 per cent, now go out of operation. The rate of 20 per cent, was payable on a considerable range of goods, including motor cars, confectionery, ice cream, sports equipment, toys, wireless receiving sets, gramophones and gramophone records, and musical instruments. Goods which were subject to the rate of 33-J per cent, included watches and clocks, fountain pens, travelling bags, handbags and other bags arid cases, baskets, cameras, photographs and photographic materials, and toilet preparations and accessories. The maximum rate of 50 per cent, was applied to jewellery and fancy goods, plated ware, cut glass ware, artificial flowers and fur garments.
The new rate of 16f per cent, now a pplies to most of the goods which were subject to the higher rates of 20 per cent., 33* per cent, and 50 per cent. The remainder have been reduced even below that rate, or exempted completely. Sales tax on sports equipment, including boats, which was hitherto taxed at the rate of 20 per cent., has been reduced to the general rate of 12-J per cent. Table mats, other than cloth or paper table mats, were subject to tax at the rate of 50 per cent., and these are now taxed at the general rate of 12-J per cent. Picnic hampers and picnic outfits, including crockery and cutlery packed therein, were subject to tax at the rate of 33^ per cent. Action is now being taken to ensure that the crockery and cutlery sold in these hampers shall bear tax at the general rate only, as it would if sold separately. The rate, of 16§ per cent, which applies to other baskets will apply only to the sale value of baskets or hampers as such. Tax has been payable at the rate of 33-& per cent, in respect of goods similar to handbags, purses, wallets and other goods covered by item 8 in the Third Schedule. The word “ similar “ is vague in meaning, and has given rise to considerable difficulty of interpretation. The provision has therefore been amended to omit the reference to “ similar “ goods, and goods which formerly came within that category now bear tax at the general rate only.
Apart from the foregoing reductions, a number of new exemptions has been provided for. These include the exemption of matches, previously taxed at the general rate of 12^ per cent. These goods are subject to a substantial rate of excise duty. It was represented to the Government that sales of matches have been adversely affected because of the effect on prices of the burden of sales tax and excise duty. There are, of course, other economic factors which are, to a great degree, responsible for the difficulties which are being encountered by manufacturers of matches. However, the proposed exemption of matches from sales tax should be of material assistance to the industry.
Numerous requests have been received recently for exemption of electric generators and welding sets for use in the agricultural industry in the repair of agricultural implements and machinery. The Government recognizes that the use of this equipment by persons in outback areas, who have no ready access to the services of repairing engineers, enables the work of primary production to proceed with a minimum of interruption on account of breakdowns. It is proposed, therefore, to allow exemption of generators and welding sets for such use, as well as electrodes for ‘use with those goods.
The existing exemption of clothing and household drapery does not cover certain materials or articles used to form a part of such goods. These materials or articles include buttons, buckles, hooks and eyes, slide fasteners, press studs, lacing cord and pieces of material for use in the repair of * garments. Manufacturers of clothing have been able to obtain such goods free of tax, in accordance with the general principle that manufacturers do not bear tax on their raw materials. Exemption of these goods will now be available to all.
Cordials consisting principally of Australian fruit juices have hitherto been exempt from sales tax. Complaints were received that this provision was largely ineffective because very few cordials are made of sufficient strength to fall within its terms. With a view to assisting the disposal of fruits used in the making of cordials, it has been decided to widen the exemption so as to apply it to cordials which consist of not less than 25 per cent, by volume of juices of Australian fruits.
Preparations and materials for use in the destruction of insect pests are being exempted. At present, insecticides are free of tax, if they are used in the destruction of insect pests on plants, live-stock and poultry. There has been considerable practical difficulty in enforcing the conditions of exemption and it is now proposed that goods of this kind shall be exempt regardless of the circumstances of their use. Household insecticides, as well as those used in primary production, will therefore be free of tax.
Exemption is being authorized in respect of aeroplanes and parts and accessories, with the exception of those which are for use, exclusively or principally, in the transport of persons or prods for hire or reward, or for other commercial purposes. The exemption, will thus benefit aero clubs and persons who purchase aircraft for private purposes. The exemption will apply to gliders, and so will assist clubs whose activities serve a useful purpose in building up a recruiting field for air force personnel.
The exemption of books has, in recent times, given, rise to some administrative difficulty. Item 51 (1) in the First Schedule specifically excludes from the exemption books for sketching, drawing, colouring or painting. This has been interpreted as excluding children’s books containing printed designs to be coloured or painted within the lines provided for that purpose. Following upon a recent judgment of the High Court, some doubt has arisen as to the correct interpretation of Item 51 (1). It has been decided to resolve the difficulty by providing specifically that the exemption shall apply to children’s books containing printed illustrations for copying or colouring or for copying and colouring.
Further exemptions include national flags, wireless transceivers for use in connexion with flying doctor services, and water softeners in the form of fixtures installed in hard water areas to render water more suitable for use.
An explanatory statement has been circulated for the information of honorable senators, setting out full details of the concessions; the cost of which in a full year is estimated at £11,700,000. and for the financial year 1953-54, £8,700,000.
The amendments are deemed to have come into operation on the 10th September, 1953, which is the day following that on which the budget speech was delivered. It is clear that the amendments have provided substantial benefits to the purchasing public by way of reduced prices. It is believed that they will also serve to stimulate the manufacture and sale of goods, and to maintain employment. The reduction of the number of rates from four to two will also be appreciated in commercial circles as this will considerably facilitate the classification of goods for the purposes of invoicing and simplify the compilation of sales tax returns by those merchants who deal in numerous classes of goods. The hill will bring widespread benefits, and I commend Nit to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1953.
Bills received from the House of Representatives
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 0) being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such bills together in committee of the whole.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bills be now read a second time.
These bills are merely machinery measures which are complementary to the Sales Tax (Exemptions . and Classifications) Bill, which has just received the attention of honorable senators. The purpose of the bills is to fix the rates of tax. to operate, on and from the 10th September, 1953, under the Sales Tax Acts Nos., 1 to 9.
As previously indicated, the former rates of 20 per cent., 33 per cent. and 50 per cent. are being discontinued, and the number of rates is being reduced from four to two. Subject to a few exceptions, which have been explained by me already, goods which were subject to tax at the rates of 20 per cent., 33 per cent. and 50 per cent. are now to bear tax at the new maximum rate of 16 per cent. The general rate of12½ per cent., which applies to all other taxable goods, remains unchanged. A full explanation of the proposals has already been given in connexion with the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill. I commend the bills to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th September (vide page 3.10).
Clause 6 -
Section two hundred and seventy-one of the Principal Act is repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead: - “271. Where-
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved, by way of amendment -
That, after proposed new section 273f, the following section be inserted: - “ 273g.Norefund of duty under a by-law or determination shall be made unless the Minister is satisfied that in the case of goods imported for resale, the benefit of the refund shall be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods.”.
– The committee did not have the advantage of the presence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) when it last discussed this bill. That fact was due to the regrettable illness of the Minister and I am sure that honorable senators are pleased to see that he has recovered and is now back in his place. May I remind honorable senators that I moved an amendment to the bill to provide that no rebate of duty under a by-law or determination should be made unless the Minister was satisfied that, in the case of goods imported for resale, the benefit of the refund would be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods. I presume that the Minister has had an opportunity to peruse the report of the debates and that I need not cover that ground again. The committee had reached a stage at which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) had indicated that there was no need for this amendment because its subject-matter was already covered by the principal act. Later the Minister corrected that statement and claimed that the subject-matter was included’ in the bill. The Opposition was contesting that claim when the debate was adjourned. I shall not develop any further argument at this stage.
.- I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for his kindly reference to me. Although I did not have the advantage of listening to the debate on this bill I have read the Hansard proofs of the debate. I might be able to clarify this matter by explaining briefly the practice in regard to bylaws. By-laws apply chiefly to two types of commodities. Capital goods constitute one of those two types. The objection to the bill that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition would not apply to capital goods because they are generally imported by a merchant for a particular end use and end user. The contract between the parties usually provides that if duty is payable on the goods the ultimate user shall pay it and that if the goods are free of duty the ultimate user shall have the advantage of that circumstance. Honorable senators will agree that with capital goods such as machinery and heavy equipment, there would be no difficulty in ensuring that the advantages of duty-free admission would be passed on to the ultimate user. With consumer goods, however, the problem is not nearly so easy, because the goods may pass through many hands before reaching the user, and it would bt quite impracticable for the department . to trace those transactions. An attempt was made to deal with such cases some years ago. A by-law made. in 1950. specified amongst other things that the goods shall be shipped to Australia by a certain time, that a declaration shall be made, on the face of the entries, that the goods were original equipment, and that the collector shall be satisfied that the fur benefit of any duty remitted would be passed on to the users. Departmental officers, . although widely experienced in handling such matters, found it impossible to police that final provision. Even if the staff of the department were increased for this purpose, we should still have to rely on the word of the person who obtained the benefit of duty-free admission that the advantage had been passed on to the consumers.
The purport of the suggested amendment is that the Minister shall be satisfied that in fact the benefit has been passed on. For such a provision to have any real force, it would not be sufficient for the Minister to accept the say-so of the importer. I am happy to say that the vast bulk of traders are men of the highest integrity who can be relied upon to discharge their obligations to the public, but there are few unscrupulous people who would not hesitate to deceive the department, knowing that officials would have the greatest difficulty in tracing the transactions. A wide variety of commodities are imported under bylaw concession and, to keep records of all the transactions involved would impose a heavy expense on commercial interests. No matter how vigilant the department was, it could not effectively police such a. pro vision. As I have said the principle was tried in the past and found to be completely impracticable. There is a very good .reason why we may feel reasonably sure that the advantages of by-law concessions will reach the consumers. Duty-free entry is never sanctioned in respect of goods the selling price of which, as the result of freedom from customs duty, will be less than that of comparable articles produced and available in Australia. The by-law concession is granted only in respect of commodities that are scarce or not available at all in Australia. The Minister has not absolute discretion in the granting of applications for duty-free entry. He must be satisfied that the commodities in respect of which by-law concession is sought are of a class or kind not commercially manufactured or produced in Australia. That provision has to bp sensibly interpreted. If a commodity is of a class or kind commercially available from Australian sources, the Minister has no authority to sanction duty-free entry.
I need not elaborate my explanation any further; but I emphasize again the circumstances in which this concession is available. There is first the overriding condition that duty-free entry shall be permitted only in respect of a class or kind of commodities not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia. In connexion with capital equipment there can be no argument; but, in connexion with consumer goods, although in practice the advantage of the by-law concession does in some circumstances go to the ultimate user, there are other circumstances in which it does not. The advantage of the by-law concession is sometimes given to the importer, merchant on entrepreneur to enable bini, to keep going, hut generally speaking commercial competition, and to some degree the activities of the price fixing authorities, ensure that the commodities shall reach the market at reasonable prices. I do not know of any instance in which importation of a commodity under by-law concession is in the hands of a monopoly. The concession generally applies to goods that are in urgent demand, and the beneficiaries of the concessions are the multitudinous merchants who handle the goods. Probably the best guarantee we have that the advantage of duty free entry shall be passed on to the consumer is keen competition. I regret that I cannot see my way clear to accept the amendment. In theory it is highly commendable but the principle has been tried and found impracticable. However, I am pleased to have been able, in discussions with the Leader of the Opposition, to accept other amendments referred to earlier in the debate.
– I am obliged to the Minister for. Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) for his explanation. He has no objection to the proposed amendment as it applies to capital goods. He admits that it could be policed quite readily in respect of those goods. The difference between the Opposition and the Government is in respect of consumable goods admitted duty free under customs by-law. Whilst we recognize that practical difficulties would exist in tracing transactions from importers, through wholesalers, retailers, and perhaps other intermediaries to consumers, the evil at which the amendment is aimed is this: As I understand the position, when an application is made for a by-law concession, inquiries are made in Australia and very often in Great Britain. A very long period elapses before the Minister is in a position to determine whether he will grant a tariff concession. In the meantime, perhaps the importer has placed his order, the goods have arrived, and have actually gone into circulation. Duty has been paid at the time of the arrival of the goods. With the great bulk of consumable goods, my belief is that, in many instances, those goods go into circulation before the Minister decides to grant a by-law concession. If that happens, it is certain that the importer who has paid duty will paS, it on to the wholesaler who, in turn, will pass it on to the retailer, who, in turn will pass it on to the con sumer, each adding his margin of profit to the amount of duty that has been paid. If, at the end of all those transactions, the Minister decides to grant a by-law concession, the benefit, unless policed, will go solely to the importer who, in those circumstances, will receive a double refund. The amount of duty will be refunded by the Government, and the amount will be refunded to him again, at the time of sale, by the various wholesalers and persons to whom he disposes of the goods. The Minister obviously recognizes the need for some precaution to be taken against that position, because in 1950, apparently under by-law regulations, the Government introduced legislation to achieve the same purpose.
– That was a matter of government interpretation.
– I should be alarmed if the situation could arise in which an importer might be paid twice. That needs to be guarded against. The Minister does not have to argue to me the practical difficulties involved in tracing the goods along the line and endeavouring to ensure that the benefit of the rebate of duty will go to all concerned.
– In most instances, it would be impossible to make a rebate to the thousands of consumers concerned.
– In some cases it would be impossible, such as in the case of clothing, which was referred to by the Minister. I agree that it would be impossible to trace the transaction to the back of the wearer and to give him the benefit of the refund. The whole process would be far too tortuous. Where it is clearly impossible to allow the refund to run down the line, I suggest that the best possible reason exists for the Minister to refuse to grant a refund.
– In practice, that is what we do.
– If that is so, what can be the objection to an amendment which means that no refund of duty under a by-law determination shall be made unless the Minister is satisfied that, in the case of goods imported for resale, the benefit of the refund will be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of those goods ? There must he other classes of importations in respect of which it would not be very difficult to pass the benefit of a remission of duty down along the line. I do not think that it is necessary for the Minister and his officers to be obliged to track down the end of all the goods that are imported. The Minister apparently acknowledges, and I agree, that the majority of persons concerned in commercial affairs are honorable people. I’ believe that in commerce, as in every other sphere of life, there is only an odd rogue. One should be entitled to rely upon that as a general principle. However, I am suggesting to the Minister that the making of an affidavit or statutory declaration by importers of goods which can be traced might meet the position. Of course, those who made false declarations would be liable to prosecution and imprisonment. lt seems to me that, from the discussion between us, the Minister and I have arrived at two distinct points. He ‘ has acknowledged that there would be no embarrassment to the department if the amendment applied only to capital goods. He says that where it is not possible to trace goods to their end result, he does not grant a by-law concession anyway. Therefore, those two matters have been thrown out of the ring. Those are two grounds on which the Minister could not possibly object to the amendment. I suggest that the matter then comes down to the relatively small category of consumer goods that do not have a very long distance to travel to a multiplicity of consumers. If the Minister does not wish to add to administrative costs and difficulties, he should agree to ray suggestion that a statutory declaration should be made by an importer who seeks a refund, declaring that he has not charged duty on the goods or, if he is granted a refund, that he undertakes to pass it on. If he failed to honour those undertakings he could be charged with obtaining money by false pretences or with swearing a false declaration. If that is all that is involved in relation to that very small class of goods, there should be no objection to the acceptance of the amendment.
When the Minister was asked for information concerning the total number of by-law concessions of this kind in recent years, and the total amount of refunds of duty involved, he said that he did not have the information. I should like him to convey to the committee’ some idea of those matters. I should think that the almost absolute discretion which is given to him should be buttressed at every point.- I understand that importations of goods by municipalities alone run into many millions of pounds annually. I should like the Minister to give the committee a general idea of the total amount of duty remitted during the twelve months which ended on the 30th June last. By doing so, he may’ help honorable senators to see this matter in proper perspective.
It is all very well for the Minister to claim that competition imposes a check in this connexion. I suggest that there is such a thing as collusion to obtain better prices. In my opinion, the competition aspect does not represent a very sure staff upon which to lean. This amendment aims primarily at ensuring that an importer sholl not receive a refund of duty from two sources - from t-he people with whom he deals and also from the Government. Its secondary aim “is to buttress , the power of the Minister, so far as that can be done, in the exercise of a discretion which involves millions of pounds in the course of the year.
– I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to consider a case in which an importer receives a shipment of goods, disposes of 75 per cent, of them to wholesalers and retailers throughout the country, and, at the time a decision regarding the making of a by-law is being considered, still holds 25 per cent, of them in stock. Is it the practice to make the by-law applicable only to the goods which are held in stock ?
– That is, to apply the refund only to such goods?
– Yes. , On the other hand, let us suppose that all of the goods have been dispersed to wholesalers and others. Is it the practice of the department to say that, as the importer appears to be established in that line of business and will probably import many more goods of a similar kind, the by-law should be granted in respect of future imports? If that is in fact the practice I can understand the great difficulties that must arise. I support the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the onus should be placed on importers to prove that the benefit of a refund of duty has been passed on and that they have not merely received a rake-off.
– In my opinion, the amendment should be accepted by the Government. I suggest that in many instances in which by-law admission is granted, the only person who benefits is the importer. It is surely not the intention of the Government to grant a by-law solely, for the purpose of assisting the importer concerned. Is not the purpose of the by-law to place that person in a position where he can compete on favorable terms with other dealers in the same kind of goods? I suggest that if an importer applies for by-law admission of certain goods and is obliged to wait for six months before the by-law is granted, he will have disposed of perhaps a. half of the goods before a decision is made. In that instance, obviously, the by-law would not be necessary to enable him to compete with other importers. It seems to me that it would be anomalous, at that stage, to grant by-law admission. The Opposition believes that the transaction should be traced to its end in order to make a refund of duty to the people who purchased the goods before the by-law was granted. The Minister’s power in this respect is very great. He has the right to give to importers the benefit of concessions which may amount to many thousands of pounds. Whilst we have been very fortunate in Australia in that the various Ministers for Trade and Customs have exercised their discretion with an excellent sense of responsibility, improper motives could be imputed to the Minister in deciding to grant by-law admission to certain goods. Jealousy on the part of an importer could perhaps lead to such a position. In’ my. opinion, this discretion should, as far as possible, be removed from the shoulders of the Minister. The matter has been considered on a high plane. It has been discussed without desire for political advantage and with the object of making this aspect of government function in the best interests of both the Minister and the people concerned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I thank honorable senators who have spoken for their contribution to the debate. The difficulties that they have posed are more theoretical than actual. Senator Willesee and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked what assurance the Government could give that a person who obtained a by-law would not benefit twice - first by charging the duty to the user and then by obtaining a refund from the Government. In practice the concession does not work out that way. I have here forms which show the information that is required by the Department in considering an application for a by-law. I shall not have it included in Hansard, but the forms are available for inspection by honorable. - senators.
– Would the Minister give honorable senators an indication of the contents of the form ?
– Some of the questions to be answered in the by-law application read -
Have tenders been called or have any other inquiries been made to ascertain whether goods similar to or capable of performing the same functions are or can be mime in Australia? If so, furnish full results of such action (use attachment if necessary) including the price and delivery quoted for goods manufactured in Australia and attach copies of correspondence addressed to and the original replies received from Australian manufacturers.
Those items refer to the by-law, about which I spoke earlier, which restricts the discretion of the Minister in the granting of aby-law only to a class or kind of goods not commercially manufactured in Australia. The applicant must also answer the following questions: -
If the order has been placed abroad, state -
If the order has not been placed abroad, state delivery quoted by the overseas supplier.
Some of the by-laws that have been granted applied to cement, galvanized iron, wire netting and commodities of that sort. Although they were produced in Australia at the time that the by-law entry was granted, they were not being produced in sufficient quantities to meet Australian requirements. The department made a thorough investigation of the industries handling those commodities and, as a result of its inquiries, was able to ascertain approximately the quantity of stocks on hand. If the department found that two months’ stock was held, the by-law would be pre-dated two months so that the materials entering Australia under the by-law would be sold at the same price as those sold from existing stock. The by-law would then show whether the goods were shipped to Australia before the date given and whether they were brought in for consumption not later than a specified date. The by-law would operate during the period specified. It would be made retrospective, not to cover commodities already sold, but only those which, after careful examination, were deemed to be a reasonable quantity then in stock. That would apply to all commodities.
In practice the possible evil that has been mentioned by several honorable senators is provided for adequately by the department in the issue and promulgation of by-laws. As I stated earlier before the sitting was suspended, the Minister still has power to impose conditions administratively on the granting of the by-law. In practice, it has been found to be impracticable to ensure that the benefit of the concession is enjoyed by the ultimate user. It may be quite true that the initial importer passes the benefit of the concession on to an intermediate purchaser. That purchaser, who cannot be traced, may pass it on to subsequent purchasers. After considerable experience, the officers handling this section of the Department of Trade and Customs have found it not only inadvisable but impracticable to include terms such as those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition in his amendment in the conditions applying to all by-laws. In the circumstances and for the reasons that I have given, the committee can be satisfied that in practice the by-law provisions are administered with the welfare of the Australian economy at heart, and in the best interests of the ultimate consumer of the goods.
.- The committee is obliged to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) for his comments upon the measure. As to the forms that he has put before the committee, I believe that all questions in them are directed to another matter. That is, whether the goods can be obtained in Australia. The form contains no reference to anything that would lead to an assurance that the benefit of refund of duties should be passed on. The form does not touch the point with which the Opposition is concerned. The Minister has informed the committee that the Minister’s discretion is limited to goods that are not commercially manufactured in Australia. I have examined the measure that deals with the power to make by-laws and determinations that is vested in the Minister and I can see no such limitation there.
– It is in the bylaw.
– Does that cover all categories of goods?
– They come under one or another of the categories.
– In both of them, the Minister’s discretion is limited to goods that cannot be made in Australia. That would not apply to the goods that’ have been instanced by the Minister such as galvanized iron.
– They are not in adequate supply.
– The Minister referred to galvanized iron and wirenetting, which was admitted to Australia when it could be manufactured in this country but was in short supply. I said that that did not enter into the definition “ not commercially manufactured in Australia “. The Minister’s answer is that the words “ not commercially manufactured “ are interpreted by the department to cover a case where they are in fact manufactured but at the time that the by-1; w was issued they were in short supply. That appears to me to be rather a strain-.id interpretation of the words. Some importance, must be given to the word “ commercially “. I think that the term should apply to the manufacture of the goods in some reasonable quantity.
– It is a question of inadequate supply.
– I suggest that that is a matter for debate. In the light of the debate that has taken place in the committee and the Minister’s assurance that adequate precautions are taken either by the imposition of conditions or by surveying the field to ensure that the importer does not get the benefit of the duty twice, I cannot understand why the amendment should not be accepted. Nothing that the Minister has said has convinced me that the proposed resolution would not be practicable. Several honorable senators have asked the Minister to give some idea of the total amount that is involved in a year in the refunds. I do not expect the Minister to have the exact statistics but I should like him to give an indication whether the amount is £5,000,000, £10,000,000 or £20,000,000. The Opposition has no knowledge of any such detail. In the absence of exact information, I ask the Minister to give the committee a general idea of the sum involved without being held to complete accuracy. If I am correct in believing that the refunds of duty run into many millions of pounds a year, there is every reason why honorable senators should seek to provide every possible safeguard.
– When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) is replying to honorable senators, I should like him to clarify a proposition that he himself has posed. He has pointed out that wire-netting was imported under by-law. As I understand the procedure, an order might be placed for 10,000 rolls of wire-netting and an application would be made for its importation under by-law. Let us suppose that the order was made in December and the rolls arrived in January. Sometimes a period of six months or more elapses before the by-law admission is granted. If 8,000 rolls of the importation had been sold, why should the Government at that’ stage determine that the by-law should apply and that a concessional rate should be given to the importer on the goods that had been sold? Presumably the importer in such a hypothetical case had made a profit on the 8,000 rolls that he had sold. He would sell it at a profit to himself.
– At a price inclusive of the duty.
– That is so. At that stage, the Government would give him a rebate on the duty that he had paid and which had already been added to the selling price. The only person who would benefit in such a case, would be the importer. He could easily cut his price then on the balance of the stock that he had imported and pass on the benefit to those who bought it from him. If the power is to be retrospective, the concession applies after goods have been sold and at some period subsequently there is a retrospective payment of the duty paid by the importer. I cannot see any reason why that importer should be enabled to make an additional profit. That is the point about which the Opposition is concerned. If the determination that- duty should not be paid could be made when the goods arrive, it would enable the concession to be passed on to the consumers; but if such a determination is made some months after the goods have been sold at a price which included the amount of duty an unfair advantage is thereby given to the trader.
– In the past, the practice has been that recommendations of the Tariff Board operated as from the date on which the board’s recommendation was approved by the Parliament. I should like to know whether that system still operates, or whether a recommendation of the Tariff Board becomes operative immediately it is approved by the Cabinet.
– In reply to the point raised by Senator Hendrickson I point out that duties are not altered until a report by the Tariff Board is tabled in the House of Representatives. That has been the practice ever since the board was established. The Minister for Trade and Customs has not power to alter duties. His only power in respect of duties relates to bylaw determinations whereby he can waive a duty completely but not modify a duty. A duty can be altered only in the form of a tariff proposal which must be tabled in the House of Representatives The practice has been, and still is, that the alteration shall take effect as from 9 a.m. on the day following the day on which the proposal is tabled in the House of Representatives
I think that Senator Arnold misunderstood what I said earlier. A- bylaw concession is not made retrospective in every . instance, but only in instances in which the department has reason to believe that certain stocks of a commodity, although the commodity is in short supply, are held in store. It is not difficult for the department to maintain knowledge of firms holding such stocks. The reason for the cancellation of duty is to treat stocks remaining unsold on the, same footing as new stocks in order to -avoid articles in the same class being sold, at different prices. As a rule, applications for by-law concessions, say, for instance, in respect of cement, galvanized iron, fencing wire, barbed wire and the like,. .are initiated not by individual merchants -but by the industry concerned as a- whole. In the first instance, graziers’ associations, farmers’ unions and other representative bodies, make representations to the Government that their industries are not able to obtain adequate supplies of a commodity from Australian manufacturers. The duties applying to such commodities are not revenue duties but protective duties, and the point is raised that if the Australian manufacturing industry, although it is working at full capacity, is unable to meet the local demand, no injustice will be done to the manufacturing industry if supplies of the commodity are allowed entry duty free.
The representatives of the consuming industries concerned submit that they should not be saddled with a protective duty when the local manufacturing industry is unable to meet the demand. In such instances it is contended that the duty is not, in fact, having the effect of protecting the manufacturing industry. 1 cannot visualize an instance arising in actual practice in which after a merchant had sold goods on which duty had been paid, the Government would go along to him and say, in effect, “You are a good citizen. We will waive the duty on the goods that you have imported and give you a few thousand pounds “. Such an instance cannot conceivably arise in practice. A by-law concesssion i? made retrospective only in instances in which the department is satisfied that old stocks are held and it is necessary to equate the price of the old stock with that of the new stock. ‘Generally, by-law concessions are granted in respect of goods which have not actually been landed. For instance, an application may be’ made to-day for the remission of duty on goods which are scheduled to arrive some weeks hence. Furthermore, by-law concessions are applied in respect of, not individual traders, but. a range of - commodities. Investigations to determine whether bylaw remissions of duty should be granted in respect of capital equipment are not prolonged because the department knows whether the supply of such equipment is adequate, or, inadequate. In respect of goods that are not made in Australia and supplies of which are not sufficient to meet normal demands, by-law 449 (a) (1) is applied to enable the goods entry free of the United Kingdom preference duty of 12£ per cent. But certain commodities may be imported from France, Germany or the United States of America. In such instances, we must satisfy ourselves that the item concerned is not commercially produced, or manufactured, not only in Australia but also in the United Kingdom, and if those two conditions are satisfied, the goods are allowed entry free of duty under by-law 449 (a) (2). Considerable time is involved in obtaining satisfactory evidence of non-availability of goods in commercial quantities from the United Kingdom. Such inquiries are made through the British Board of Trade, which is able to say immediately whether such goods are available in the United Kingdom and also whether the United Kingdom has any objection to waiving of the British preferential duty of 12J per cent. In instances in which the report is unfavorable, the applicant may produce evidence to prove that he has made inquiries and found that supplies of particular goods are not available in the United Kingdom. In those instances, the applicant may ask the department to take up the matter again with the British Board of Trade, and such investigations may take months to complete. Under by-law 449 (a) (1), a determination can frequently be made forthwith because the department has knowledge of the particular manufacturers in Australia who are engaged exclusively in the manufacture of n particular commodity.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales)
– That formal adjournment motion was moved in another place.
– The discussion that took place on that occasion left the impression in the minds of honorable members and honorable senators that it was possible for an importer to import goods and after selling them to obtain a remission of duty. Will the Minister assure me that such a position cannot arise?
– For the reasons that I stated previously, the amount that might be refunded in an instance of the kind that Senator Arnold has mentioned would be infinitesimal compared with the total amount of duty involved. The department knows which merchants are concerned and can promptly take stock of the position at a given date. I repeat that refunds are made only in respect of stocks that are unsold and not in respect of stocks that .have been sold. That could conceivably amount to a considerable sum, but in such instances the remission would be made on the basis that it would be passed on to consumers. The remission would not apply to timber that had already been sold but only to stocks still in hand at the date from which the by-law became effective. The departmental officers aTe experienced in taking stock in such circumstances. They know which traders are involved.
– This debate has taken a turn which to my mind fully justifies the amendment that has been proposed. Earlier, it was said that there was little doubt that the consumers would get the benefit of remissions under by-law, which gave a concession to the importer, because competition would be the basis on which the goods would be retailed and, therefore, would determine the basis on which merchants would import commodities. As a result of the discussion that has taken place, the information has now been elicited that capital imports are easily traceable and in respect of them the Minister would have no difficulty iri satisfying himself that the rebate of duty under by-law is passed on to the. economy. But the Minister now says that, consumer goods that are affected are, in’ the main, goods not commercially manufactured in Australia. Commercially manufactured means that the goods shall be manufactured in such quantities as will meet the demand in accordance with reports by departmental officers and also in the light of submissions made by the applicant for rebate. At that stage, when consumer goods are in short supply, competition is no longer the determining factor. I recall that in the past in Western Australia quantities of fencing wire, barbed wire and cement from Japan had been stacked on the wharfs. In those circumstances, those goods would have been snapped up immediately.
– If the Minister is convinced that the benefit is passed °on to consumers, why does he object to the amendment, which seeks to write that protection into the bill? The Minister lias the proof. He is convinced that the people are protected, and that the law means what it says.
– -There are instances in which we could not police it.
– “We may be getting to the core of the matter. We have been assured that the cases in which proof is r.ot forthcoming are very limited. Why could not the Minister instruct his department to pay into a suspense account the amount of money involved in probable rebates of customs duty on the understanding that it would not be paid to the importers until they produced proof that the concession had been passed on? It is obvious from what the Minister has said that it would be ‘relatively simple to ensure that the right thing was done. It would be easy for the Minister to certify that the conditions of the amendment had been complied with, and this provision would not he hard to administer. I point out that in other fields moneys are held in suspense until applicants can justify their claims. For instance, proposed refunds are held in suspense by railway authorities until proof of entitlement is forthcoming. Why should proposed remissions of customs duty be treated differently? It should be a relatively simple matter to introduce such a system if the Minister has the will to do so. I believe that the amendment is thoroughly justified and would improve the present position. Tho Minister says that he. has received assuranees-
– In some instances.
– -Then why should not the law be amended so that the departmental officers could say to an importer who has submitted a claim, “It will be necessary for you to furnish proof that you are entitled to a refund of customs
– During the second-reading debate I referred to the payment of customs duty on heavy equipment that is imported into this country. After such equipment has been distributed it is very difficult to trace particular items. However, I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to inform me of the procedure that is adopted in a case such as the one that I have mentioned. Of course, I realize that the system under which import licences are issued does not provide protection for the Australian community. It has not done so during the last twenty years. Let us suppose that a person contracts to carry out certain work, and that in computing the contract price he takes into account the full amount of duty that will bc payable on heavy equipment that will have to be imported because it cannot be manufactured in this country He then obtains an import licence, imports the machinery, and pays full customs duty on it. I should like the Minister to inform me whether any check is made to see that the benefit of any remission of customs duty subsequently to the contractor is deducted from the contract price. As the Minister knows, 1 have been very active in connexion with such matters on behalf of certain municipalities in Western Australia.
– The intention of the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition’ (Senator McKenna) is to bring about a state of affairs which will make it almost impossible for abuse to creep into the administration of the bylaw. I do not know whether the amendment could be incorporated in the law. However, I shall outline how this by-law operated when I was Minister for Trade and Customs in a former government. I found that whenever the by-law was applied in connexion with the importation of certain goods their ultimate price was dearer th an the price of similar com modities produced in this country. One honorable senator has mentioned imported galvanized iron and wire netting. Due to the high cost of production in other countries, and high shipping freights, the price of those commodities is frequently 1.00 per cent, more than the price of locally manufactured materials. Even when the duty has been waived, imported galvanized iron has been more costly than the locally produced galvanized iron. When the previous Labour government was in office it considered that it would be inequitable for builders to. have to pay higher prices for imported materials than for ‘ locally produced materials.. Even after duty had been waived it was frequently found that imported commodities were dearer than the Australian made goods. There was no need for us to protect the consumer because the purchaser of imported goods had to pay more than for the local article. In many instances the previous government was obliged to buy the more costly items in order to keep business people on an even keel. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has been asked the total amount that may be involved. I point out that the by-law might not be applied on one occasion in a period of twelve months, because it is not the practice to waive duty on a lot of commodities that are consumed in this country. The previous government had plenty of revenue, and I think that the present Government is in a similar position. In some cases it benefits the economy of the country and suits industry generally better to waive duty and so bring about a more equal basis of competition. I am quite sure that the present Minister does not abuse the application of the by-law, but as Senator Arnold has pointed out, industry has had to pay more for galvanized iron and rolling stock that has been imported into Australia, even after the waiving of duty, than for Australian produced articles. I am quite in accord with the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to insert a provision in the Customs Act in order to protect the people, if that could be done. However, it has been my experience that successive governments endeavoured to serve the economy of the country and to ensure that no individual has received an undue profit from rebates of customs duty. I know that consumers of timber have had to pay more for imported timber, even after the waiving of duty, than for Australian timber. If it were necessary foaa contractor to use all imported timber in a building, it is obvious that he could not exploit the people in the way that they were exploited during the war period and immediately after the war. Whenever the payment of duty was waived during the term of office of the previous Labour government, the result was always to the advantage of the country’s economy.
– The amount involved is important. It may be that this discussion could be likened to the Shakespearian play Much Ado About Nothing. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) able to inform me whether the amount of duty that would be repaid in one year would exceed £20,000,000?
– It would be most unlikely. The amount involved depends largely on the movement of capital equipment. On consumer goods the amount involved is comparatively small-
– On consumer goods?
– Yes, the amount is not kept separate, but I shall obtain the figures for the honorable senator up to the 30th June last. It is very difficult to say what it would amount to in one year. If we imported a lot of heavy equipment, rolling stock, and expensive capital plant of a kind that is not made commercially in Australia, the remission of duty would be colossal. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was interested in one case in which the amount involved was about £10,000.
– That was machinery imported for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited.
– In some years the amount involved would run into millions of pounds, but on consumer goods it may be only a few hundred thousand pounds. It is difficult to furnish the honorable senator with an average figure. However, as I have said, I shall be pleased to obtain for him the total figure for capital equipment and consumer goods up to the 30th June last.
. - I wish to make a very brief summary of the position as I see it, and then I shall not pursue the matter further. I should be happier if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) could state a general idea of the amount that was involved last year. At the moment we do not know whether £1,000,000, £10,000,000, or £15,000,000 was involved. I know that it fluctuates according to the importation of capital goods. A vast discretion and great power is exercised by one man, who ought to have some idea of the amount involved. At the moment we have none. Either the Minister does not know the answer to this question or, for some reason best known to himself, he is not prepared to disclose it. I would ask him to be as specific as he can in relation to that matter. Senator Courtice, who was previously a Minister for Trade and Customs, has said that consumable goods admitted under by-law were always on the market at a price higher than the price of the locally manufactured product. If that position still obtains it is another strong argument in support of the contention that the Government should ensure that the benefit of any refund of duty should be passed on to the consumer. The Minister has acknowledged that the provisions of the proposed amendment could be implemented so far as capital goods are concerned. But he thinks that it would be difficult to apply the provisions to consumable goods. I think that the Minister said that if consumable goods have been sold at the time that the refund of duty is being considered then no refund of duty is made unless he is completely satisfied that the refund can be passed on to the consumer. In reply to Senator Arnold, the Minister also said that if consumable imported goods are sold and some still remain in stock, duty is refunded only in respect of the goods in stock. Do I correctly understand that to be the position ?
– Then the Opposition only asks that the very action that the Minister takes be made obligatory under this legislation. How can that embarrass the Minister?
– The proposition would not be practicable in the case of all commodities.
– But consumable goods may be classified according to whether their movement can be traced or not. If the movement of the goods cannot be traced the Minister has acknowledged that no refund of duty would be made. Therefore, that case presents no problem. In another case, where part of a consignment of imported goods have been sold and part has not, the Minister will only grant a refund on the goods that have not been sold so as to ensure that the benefit of the refund shall be passed on with the goods. That is the exact procedure that the Opposition wishes to provide for in the legislation.
– Suppose that the Government grants a refund of duty on articles that have been sold to 6,000 people. We could not trace all of those goods. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is over-simplifying the position.
– Earlier, Senator Arnold referred to a case in which 10,000 rolls of wire netting were imported; 8,000 rolls were sold with the duty added to their price and 2,000 rolls remained unsold in stock. In that case I understood the Minister to say that a refund of duty would be made in respect of 2,000 rolls only?
– Senator Arnold then mentioned another case in which the ultimate purchaser of none of the 10,000 rolls of netting could be traced.
– And additional rolls may be coming into the country.
– Of course, the Department of Trade and Customs must be aware of every article that arrives in the country. Nothing can pass through the customs barrier without being considered for purposes of duty. In the case of many goods such as cement, galvanized iron and wire netting, it is possible to determine stocks on hand quite readily.
Let me read the amendment again - No refund of duty under a by-law or determination shall be made unless the Minister is satisfied that in the case of goods imported for resale the benefit of the refund will be passed on to the purchaser or purchasers of such goods.
The amendment is not rigid in its provisions. It provides that the Minister has to be satisfied that the refund will be passed on. That leaves flexibility. I have already suggested a way in which the Minister could be satisfied on this point when there are practical difficulties in the way of his department tracing an article. In such cases the Minister could accept a bond or take a statutory declaration or an affidavit from the individual importer concerned. The onus would then be on the importer to comply with the terms qf his bond or statutory declaration or affidavit. If these documents are found to be false in any respect the penalty arising from the falsity could be enforced against the person who has made the declaration- or affidavit. I do not see any great complication in that proposal.
It seems to me that, whilst agreeing that he already takes the course proposed by the Opposition, the Minister is not prepared to incorporate in the legislation a provision requiring him to take that course. ‘flip amendment is not rigid. It is elastic. The Minister could please himself what method he adopted in order to be satisfied that the benefit of the refund was passed on to the purchaser. The Opposition does not feel satisfied with the existing state of affairs.
Senator ERASER (Western Australia) “3.8]. - I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to furnish information on the important point that I raised. When a refund of duty is made on a machine that has been imported from the United Kingdom, after a contract has been completed and the machine has been sold at the invoiced price plus the duty, is that refund passed on to the purchaser?
– That possibility is rather remote. In the case of a- building, tenders would be called for its erection and it would be quite competent for the tenderers to include a condition in their tender to the effect that the price would be reduced in the event of certain materials being admitted to Australia free of duty. However, that would be a matter between the tenderer and the person for whom the work was to be done. I cannot envisage any way in which the Government could ensure that the person for whom a building was being erected would receive the advantage of any refund of duty.
– That would be possible under the amendment.
– I do not think that it would. In such a case, the material on which the concession was granted would have been used for certain purposes but it would not have been resold. As I understand the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), he wants the bill to include a provision that the Minister must be satisfied that any rebate of duty will go to the consumer. That position is not identical with the one mentioned by Senator Fraser. In the case that Senator Fraser mentioned the importer would use the imported material himself. In such a case other circumstances would have to be taken into account, such as the basis on which the builder had costed his tender. I repeat that it would be quite impracticable to give complete effect to the proposed amendment. A tremendous addition to the staff of the department would be required in order to police it. It would be extremely difficult to decide who was the ultimate user of a commodity. The department considers that it would be an embarrassment to have such a provision incorporated in the bill because the department would never be in a position to police it thoroughly. Unfortunately, far too many restrictive laws exist which are incapable of being policed and are openly violated. This breeds a general contempt for laws which should be enforced.
The Leader of the Opposition has recommended that a.n affidavit should be obtained from the importer. But a person who was sufficiently unscrupulous to withhold a refund of duty from a purchaser would not baulk at signing a false affidavit. By requiring the signing of affidavits the Government would only penalize good, honest traders by providing a Roman holiday for those who were not very particular about taking their oath. I say with regret that I must reject the proposed amendment. I shall ascertain the amount involved in by-law concessions up to the 30th June and have that information made available to honorable senators in my office. But the total figure would not give any indication of how much related to capital goods and how much to consumer goods.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. A. McCallum.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th October (vide page 407), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I was speaking about a group of war service homes that had been constructed in South Australia under contracts let through the Department ofWorks. I said that those houses were a disgrace and that it was shameful that the department should be taking down working people because of inefficient inspection by incompetent men. I said also that shoddy materials had been used in the houses, andI had mentioned a letter which Senator Critchley and I wrote to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), under whose administration the War Service Homes Division comes. To give a clear picture, I propose to read that letter. It was written after Senator Critchley and I had inspected the homes about which complaints had been made. This is what wewrote -
My dear Minister,
Owing to the fact that very severe fracturing of walls has occurred of houses built under the war service homes group scheme at East Payneham Extension, in South Australia, and having inspected a number of these houses and perused a copy of a report on the fractured houses in the above district from the Deputy Director of War Service Homes, Adelaide, we are of the opinion that there has been one of two things happened in connexion with the building of these houses -
That a very serious -mistake has been made by the department in building the houses in this area; or
That there has been gross negligence in the inspection during the erection of the houses.
We are inclined to the belief that there could be a little of both 1 and 2. Consequently we are requesting that -
A sum of money be made available by your department to be used to put these houses in a habitable condition.
The workbe undertaken by your department without cost to the returned soldiers and/or returned soldiers’ widows occupying them.
We feel that it is the duty of the War Service Homes Department to provide houses that present a substantial building, that will not cause considerable expenditure for structural additions to make the houses decently habitable, at least within such a few years.
In making these requests we ask that yon give tile matter your urgent personal attention.
L” shall alao put the Minister’s reply on record because it shows the different ideas that the authorities have in connexion with the provision of war service homes. The Minister wrote -
Dear Senator O’Flaherty,
I refer to your representations in the communication of the 24th August, 1953, concerning homes built under the War Service Homes Group Scheme at East Payneham Extension.
The fractures in these homes have been the subject of considerable correspondence with the applicants on whose behalf K.. C. Wilson, Esq., M.P., submitted all the details which the applicants desired to be taken into consideration.
The position was investigate;! by competent and responsible Technical Officers and it is quite clear from the reports that there was m> negligence either in the design of the foundations or in the supervision of construction.
Your suggestion that there has been negligence is presumably because of the fractures which have occurred as whilst you state that you have perused a copy of a report by the Deputy Director of War Service Homes, there is nothing in that report or in the facts ascertained by the Technical Officers which would support your views.
The suggestion that a mistake was made in building the houses in this area ignores the fact that there are many houses in the locality and some thousands of houses built in South Australia on what is known , as “ Bay of Biscay “ soil.
It has been a recognized feature of South Australian building that houses erected in a particular locality would develop fractures but persons desirous of living in those localities were prepared to meet their obligations in connexion with those fractures.
What the applicants are doing and what you are suggesting is that the War Service Homes Division should give a guarantee against fracturing when so far no one has been able to devise a means to prevent it. I feel that you will recognize that any such request is unreasonable.
The fact remains that the Department designed foundations which incorporated th-j most up to date recommendations available at the time and it saw that the foundations were constructed in accordance with the designs and specifications. The Division cannot accept responsibility where no negligence has occurred
On the other hand, whilst from a purely business point of view, the Division has no further responsibility, it has offered the applicants three alternatives, viz. :-
Here is the part I am incensed about. I am ashamed to have to read it -
The Minister suggests that we should go to these unfortunate people and press upon them a proposition which apparently has already been made by him unofficially through the honorable member for Sturt. The idea is that the present occupants of the homes should be induced to sell them to other exservicemen, although the houses are already falling down around their ears. If they can succeed in doing that, the department will relieve them of their responsibility for the present dwellings, and issue second permits for war service homes, apparently under exactly the same conditions as exist at present. I think it is an abominable thing to ask exservicemen to take down other ex-servicemen.
The Minister has said that if exservicemen do not care to avail themselves of the opportunity that has been given to them, the division will release them from their contracts and treat them as tenants from the inception, at the same time offering to grant them second assistance. Who is to repair the homes if the occupants arn to be treated as tenants? The tenants will not do so. Is it suggested that these ex-servicemen should patch up the awful cracks, both horizontal and vertical, with a little plaster or something of that kind, and that the division will then sell the houses to other returned soldiers? In my opinion, this matter is rotten to the core. The Minister says that the division is not sure of the reason for the cracks, but that if two houses are selected two kinds of material will be supplied for the paving. That, however, will not get over the fact that inferior materials and wrong construction methods were used in the first place. The eaves of these houses are sitting on a three-inch brick wall, because the bricks have not been laid on the fiat. The bricks have not even been bound together with a cement composition. It is possible to pull out with a finger the material that has been
U3ed. The whole weight of the roof rests on that three-inch wall, which is not tied at the top to the outer wall. It seems to me that the method adopted was an experimental one. It is impossible for a wall that is not tied to take the weight, and thrust of wind, rain and weather generally.
These ex-servicemen and their families occupied the houses on the understanding that they would be their homes. They had no desire to sell the houses or to take anybody else down and make money from them, nor had they any desire to move out of the houses. Yet the War Service. Homes Division has told them that they should clear out of the places and let somebody else have them. All that they ask ‘is that the homes should be repaired and the foundations rendered unaffected bv the vagaries of the climate. Of course, that action should not be necessary, because it should have been taken in the first instance.
The officer who referred to Bay of Biscay soil obviously did not know his subject, because all round Adelaide, with the exception of a part of Colonel Light Gardens, Bay of Biscay soil is to be found. Yet the walls of houses do. not crack in the same way as they are cracking in the houses to which I have referred. In the Adelaide suburbs, pillars are pu down to take the weight of the building, and the walls are tied to the foundations, so that there is no possibility of movement. If the Minister personally inquires into this matter he will find that the walls nf these houses are not even tied to the foundations. The War Service Homes Division should be ashamed of itself for having erected such a block of homes, and also for having told the occupants that nothing can be done about the situation. The fact that at the time those homes’ were built it was difficult to obtain accommodation does not excuse shoddy work on the part of the division. I hope that the two Ministers concerned in this matter will ascertain who is responsible for this calamity. The total cost of putting in the aprons and other structural improvements to which reference has been made would be approximately £20,000. Surely it is not too much to ask the Government to provide that sum. I remind the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that the Public Accounts Committee recently disclosed that his department had acquired an oil-drilling plant for the benefit of certain big Australian industrial interests. That plant cost approximately £340,000 and is lying idle, because the people for whom it was acquired do not now require it. If large sums can be spent for the benefit of big interests in the country, I suggest that it is not too much to ask that £20,000 be spent in order to put these homes into the condition in which they should have been left originally. I understand also that this Government at one time purchased in England some pumping engines for £10,000. By the time that equip ment had been reconditioned and brought back to Australia it had cost approximately £65,000. The engines are now going to rack and ruin because the people for whom they were acquired do not want them. I am pleading for the expenditure of approximately £20,000 to help 98 families of ex-servicemen who have been taken down by War Service Homes Division contractors.
Recently, when I asked the Minister for National Development a question in the Senate concerning the latest report of the Commonwealth Bank, he replied that he had no recollection of any reference in that report to the withdrawal of overseas capital from this country. In order to clear up any ambiguity on this matter, I refer the Minister to page 16 of the report, where he will see a heading, “ The Volume of Money”. The bank’s report states under that heading -
The volume of money in Australia at the 30th June, 1933, as a percentage of gross national product for the year to that date was 03 compared with 62 a year earlier and 68 two yeaTs earlier. It was somewhat less than the 1939 figure of about 67 per cent, and very substantially less than the figures of the early post-war years.
The report discloses, therefore, that there has been a fall in the volume of money in Australia in the past three years. As I have said previously in this chamber, the Government scared people who were previously prepared to invest in war loans. The report of the Commonwealth Bank states at page IS -
The amount of new share capital issued by public companies was lower than in the previous year but this appears to have been due more to the unwillingness of. investors to provide funds for equity issues than to restrictions imposed under the Capital Issues Regulations. On tile other hand, the amount raised publicly at fixed rates of interest against securities or on deposit was higher than in the previous year and companies are showing increasing preference for this type of finance.
That indicates that companies are departing from the -system that the Governmenhas advocated. They are trying other methods. This Government has not the confidence of the investors. The) Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that he did not know of any outflow of money. The report of the bank to which I have already referred states at page 20 -
On capital account, Australia purchased :!(! million dollars (£A.]3 million) from the International Monetary Fund in August, 1.952, and drawings under loane from the International Bank totalled 37 million dollars (£A.17 million). There was an apparent net outflow nl private capital during the year, reversing the pattern to which we have become accustomed over the past two years. This probably reflects a reversal both of the speculative inflow in earlier years and of the apparent inflow in 1951-52 arising from delayed payments or imports.
– What is wrong with that?
– It proves conclusively that this Government has put the investing public to flight. Yet honorable senators on the Government side continue to claim that they want to see more overseas investment. At page 26 the report states -
A significant feature of the activities of the banking system as a whole during the last two years has been the support which it has provided for public investment programmes al a time when investors generally were showing reduced interest in this field.
That proves that the people have lost confidence in this Government. The banks were trying to get back control and so they were helping the Government out of its dilemma. The report continues -
In 1951-52 the banking system increased its holdings of Commonwealth Government securities (including Treasury Bills) by £120 million and in 1952-53 by £125 million.
Further examination of the report shows that in 1951-52 the Commonwealth Bankwas the standby, but in the following year all the government securities and treasury-bills held by institutions, except £13,500,000 worth, were held by the private banking institutions. I warn honorable senators on the Government side that before long the private banking institutions will hold that fact over their heads and will direct the Government to do as it is told, or be destroyed. The report of the bank continues -
In 1951-52 the increase was largely in the Commonwealth Bank but, partly as a result of the changes in Special Account policy outlined above, the greater part of the increase during the past year has been in the holdings of the private banks. As a consequence public investment expenditure has been sustained at reasonable levels during a period of financial difficulty.
Who had ‘the difficulty? Apparently it was suffered only by the Government.
The report stated previously that industries were finding other methods of finance. The Government has had to turn from the public in its search for financial assistance and go to the bank. I am not condemning the supporters of the Government for their policy because they are sincere in believing in it, but it will destroy the Government. Unfortunately it will destroy also the economy and well-being of the nation. A warning is given in the report of the Commonwealth Bank which states further -
As economic conditions improve and money is more readily available from the market, it should be possible to reduce this reliance on the banking system.
The Government should not have relied upon the banking institutions. The previous Labour Government would not allow the banks to get control of government finance. Through the Commonwealth Bank, the Labour Government guaranteed the full amount of subscriptions to war loans less the actual cost of transfer. This Government, by its actions, has reduced the value of Commonwealth bonds. Honorable senators know that war bonds that cost £100 have been sold for £S2. Because of inflation that has raged under this Government, the actual value of those bonds in purchasing power is now only £5.1 . That result has followed .the operation of the Government’s policy since 1950. In conclusion I ask the Minister to consider seriously the matter of war service homes. I hope that action will be taken to improve the quality of the houses without extra cost to the tenants.
– When I was listening to the concluding remarks of Senator O’Flaherty, I wondered what his attitude would he if he were the manager of a financial institution. Supposing that he had accepted deposits for eighteen or twenty years and the depositors applied to withdraw their money two years later. Would he he prepared to give them the full amount and the interest that was paid while the money was at his disposal ‘’. I remind the honorable senator also tha! the private banks have done splendid work in helping to develop Australia. I ask him to consider what would have happened to the primary industries long before the Commonwealth Bank was1 formed hut for the financial assistance that was given by the private banks. I know that they made some mistakes, but they were one of the major factors in developing Australia. If large sums of money are lying in the private banks now, il is probably because the banks have received back the money that was previously taken from them by the Commonwealth Bank. That was money upon which they had made advances. 1 am glad that the money is in their hands if it is strengthening those advances.
I was induced to enter this debate partly by the references that have been made to “ those finance grabbers, the States “. It is said that the States are trying to bleed the Commonwealth financially. I propose to speak in defence of Western Australia as one State which has not sought more finance than it has actually required. Indeed, it is not getting as much finance as it. is entitled to receive.
I have spoken on this subject on previous occasions in this chamber. I make it clear that I am speaking in respect of Western Australia only. I have no knowledge of the requirements of other States. Indeed, I am. hardly entitled to speak for them when their own representatives are capable of doing so. The time has long since passed when the present method of distributing revenue between the Commonwealth and the States should have been replaced by a much more equitable method. I shall probably be told that in recent years the States have received revenues much in excess of those that they received in previous years. That is true. Whereas in 1949-50 tax reimbursements to Western Australia amounted to £5,833,000, this year that State will receive £11,297,000. However, would any one suggest that costs have only doubled during that period? Costs in Western Australia, as in the other States, have at least trebled during that period. Therefore, it is only natural that States should seek greater .revenue from the Commonwealth. An examination of the various applications made by the States to the Australian Loan Council will show that the amount sought by Western Australia has been reduced less proportionately than has been the ease in respect of the other States. That fact proves that Western Australia has not asked for more money than it has actually needed or was entitled to receive from the Commonwealth. For the most part, Labour governments have been in office in Western Australia during the last twenty years, and as a general rule they have carefully controlled expenditure and ensured that they received value for all money that they expended. I am pleased to note that Western Australia has established a reputation . in the Australian Loan Council for asking for only as much money as it is entitled to seek from the Commonwealth. The repeated wranglings that occur at the Australian Loan Council are discreditable to Australia and to those who are responsible for them. Surely, our leaders should be able to meet in conference and apportion available revenue between the States without indulging in such wrangling. In these circumstances, we must devise better means of distributing the available revenue among the States.
Recently, in Perth, I met a politician who was on holidays from the eastern States, and when I expressed the hope that he would take the opportunity to see Western Australia he replied, “ Yes, I am going to Rockingham to-morrow “. Rockingham is practically a suburb of Perth ; hut that was that gentleman’s idea of getting to know Western Australia. Western Australia’s problems are entirely different from those that confront the eastern States. Agricultural development in Western Australia followed in the wake of the gold rushes, and when gold petered out the people turned to agriculture and, in more recent years, have branched out into secondary industry. In that sense, Western Australia can be described as one of the newer States. It is behind the other States from the viewpoint of development; and having regard to the high costs to-day, it urgently requires additional revenue to enable it to prosper. Although the State is one-third of the area of Australia, its population is only one-fifteenth of the total population of this country. Nevertheless, huge developmental projects have already been undertaken in Western Australia. I cannot help envying the eastern States when I see the numerous fresh-water rivers flowing through them. In Western Australia most of the rivers - they are practically creeks because we have practically no ranges - are salt-water streams. One of the great difficulties confronting Western Australia is lack of water. As honorable senators are aware, water is supplied to Kalgoorlie by pipe line from the Mundaring reservoir, a distance of 320 miles. Geraldton, which is a flourishing seaport, has so far found it impossible to establish an adequate water supply. At the Perth show last Saturday, some residents from Geraldton informed me that the latest project was to bring water a distance of 600 miles to Geraldton.
– From what area ?
– From Millstream, near Carnarvon. Practically every large town in Western Australia lacks an adequate water supply. The Collie project will involve the construc tion of a pipe line for a distance of over 300 miles. In 1947, the Western Australian Government entered into an agreement with the Australian Government for the construction of water schemes at an estimated cost of £4,000,000 of which each party undertook to provide half. In 1947, a pipe line was laid for a distance of only 47 miles, and that pipe line still runs from nowhere to nowhere. Up to date, the Australian Government has actually provided only £247,000 under the agreement to which I have referred, whilst under thi? measure it proposes to provide a similar sum for that purpose this year. Tha! is another important project for which Western Australia requires financial assistance. The State Government could have gone ahead with it in 1948 but for the fact that the Australian government of the day refused to authorize it ti purchase steel at a cost of £90 a ton from overseas. When the agreement was entered into, the cost of steel was only £25 a ton - as it would not agree to bear the additional expenditure. At that time, Western Australia could have obtained 8,000 tons of steel from Japan. Eventually, the United States of America took 7,000 tons and Western Australia, on its own responsibility, purchased the remaining 1,000 tons. The extension of our present water supply system is one of the most urgent, projects that Western Australia must undertake.
Difficulties have arisen in respect of the development of the State generally. Trouble has occurred, for instance, in the dairying industry. Certain areas have a rainfall of from 40 inches to 60 inches annually, but those areas are in the ja rr ah and karri timber country, the cost of clearing which is as high as £25 an acre. The State Government requires finance in order to assist people to clear that country for settlement. During World War II., the State’s railways were practically run to a standstill. A royal commission which inquired into the railway system reported that no railways in the world had been run down to so serious a degree as the Western Australian railways. The reason for that was that those railways were placed at the service of the defence forces.
During the war, of course, steel was unobtainable for maintenance and repairs; and now that steel is available, the State has not sufficient funds to finance the rehabilitation of the railways. It is an alarming fact that during the current year more derailments have occurred on the Western Australian railways than occurred on them during the previous quarter of a century. Obviously, the tracks are fast becoming unsafe. Western Australia is also seriously handicapped, by a shortage of funds for the erection of schools. In my view, the schools that have been erected in that State during the last four or five years compare more than favorably with those in the eastern States. That is a heartening fact. However, the State Minister for Education recently announced that this year the Government would be able to erect only 30 new classrooms whereas 300 are required. It -should be remembered that in recent years Western Australia’s population including immigrants, has increased proportionately to a- greater degree than has that of any other State. The establishment of the proposed oil refinery at Kwinana will involve the State Government in an expenditure of £2,000,000 in the provision of schools, roads, water supplies and other services. Western Australia applied to the Australian Government for additional funds for that purpose, but without success.
When I consider the position in which Western Australia now finds itself financially owing to shortage of funds, and bear in mind the evidence that has been given to the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, I can only deplore the utter disregard which some departments seem to have for the value of money; it is simply astounding. In that respect, I do not blame any particular government. Reports that have already been made by the committee reveal that many projects have been undertaken and abandoned after considerable expenditure has been incurred on them. Such a practice cannot, be permitted to continue. I repeat that steps should be taken immediately with a view to devising a better method of distribution of revenue and loans funds between the Commonwealth and the States. I do not suggest that uniform income tax should be abolished and that taxing powers should be returned to the States. This is one of the most difficult problems that confronts Australia to-day. Obviously, the Australian Government will not willingly surrender revenue unless it is absolutely obliged to do so. I suggest that for the purpose of considering this problem a conference should be arranged not of the State Premiers but of, representatives of all parties in this Parliament and in each of the State parliaments. Such a conference, which could be presided over by an independent chairman, would accomplish much good. I do not condemn uniform income tax. It has much to commend it. On the other hand, the principle that State governments should bear the responsibility of raising the revenue that they expend has something to commend it also. Under such a system the States would exercise stricter control over their expenditure. However, it is wrong that one authority -should collect all the revenue and expend what it desires to expend and leave what is left to the States. We must devise a better distribution of revenue between the Commonwealth and the States. In earlier days of federation, the Commonwealth made certain revenue available to the States at the rate of 25s. per head of population. We should devise a method of distribution of revenue and loan moneys according to the needs of the Commonwealth and the States, so that both would be dependent on the loan market. Senator Hendrickson has stated that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council that the States could have only £200.000,000. The right honorable gentleman said nothing of the kind. He said that that was all that it was expected that the loan market could supply. If loan money were correctly apportioned to the different instrumentalities a more equitable distribution would be obtained. However, it is *not our business to tell the suggested conference what it should do, but I believe that a conference should be convened to devise means whereby adequate finance will be provided to enable Western Australia to be properly developed. That State is capable of very great agricultural development. Dr. Clunies Ross of th
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization stated recently that by the proper development of its pastures Australia would be able to market an additional 1,000,000 bales of wool each year. That was a conservative estimate. The production of wool in the agricultural areas of Western Australia could be doubled irrespective of the pastoral areas. The introduction of nitrogen into the soil by means of superphosphate would enable Western Australia to also double its production of cereals. I could say quite a lot about this subject of superphosphate, because the condition is becoming alarming in Western Australia. Recently some very interesting experiments were conducted in that State with trace elements. A good deal of the land is of relatively light texture compared with the heavy soils of the eastern States. Land in Western Australia which formerly produced about 8 bushels of oats to the acre has, since the introduction of trace elements, produced 20 bushels to the acre. As far as agricultural production is concerned, Western Australia is as dependent on superphosphate as a fish is on water, but it is getting beyond the capacity of our farmers to buy the quantities of superphosphate that they require. The area of the north-western part of Western Australia is almost as vast as that of Queensland. The small population of the north-west is widely dispersed, and it is beyond their capacity to develop that part of the State adequately. To do so would involve the expenditure of large sums of money. In conclusion, I urge the Government to convene a conference to consider the equitable distribution of revenue and loan money between the States. Unless adequate finance is made available to Western Australia that State cannot be developed adequately.
– I shall not be able to deal with all of the items that I should like to bring to the notice of honorable senators at present.
– Hear, hear !
– The lusty, “ Hear, hear ! “ of my friend from South Australia is typical of the way of life in the part of that State in which he lives. I shall mention only one or two matters, and offer constructive criticism without political bias. Several matters that have been mentioned by honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not to the credit of the present Australian Government or its predecessors. I do not blame the present Government for some of the existing laws. As honorable senators are aware I possess a shy disposition and, in view of recent happenings in this chamber, I thought that a long period of time would elapse before Senator McCallum. and I would be able to agree again on anything. However, I agree entirely with his remarks yesterday about the development of the National Capital. There was an excuse during the war period for the erection of temporary premises and facilities in Canberra but, like the everlasting daisies, they continue to be with us. I compliment the honorable senator on the stand that he has taken in this matter, and I thoroughly endorse his contention that the National Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that buildings erected in the national capital shall accord with the intention of the founding fathers. In this respect I am glad to say that Senator McCallum and I are in perfect harmony. I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is not present in the chamber, because I have made representations to him many’ times about unfortunate ex-servicemen who are suffering from an awful complaint known as war neurosis. I am not satisfied that the best possible is being done for those unfortunate members of the community.
– Hear, hear!
– I shall reiterate what I said five years ago, and repeated four years ago, about this matter. I am sure that the people at large would revolt if they knew that ex-servicemen who are suffering from mental sickness as a result of their service in the armed forces of this country are incarcerated in civilian mental asylums. I have been astounded that there has not been a big outburst against the treatment of our ex-servicemen who have suffered so greatly as a result of the ravages of war. The Minister for Repatriation, as well as his predecessor in the former Labour Government, persuaded outstanding scientists and doctors to come to this country to treat the ex-servicemen to whom- 1 have referred. I believe that the chief repatriation medical officer is one of the cleverest doctors in the world. As honorable senators are aware, in some instances the treatment of persons who are suffering from neurosis extends over lengthy periods. When ex-servicemen who are suffering from war neurosis show any sign of being off-balance, or perhaps become a little violent, they are placed in mental asylums and similar institutions in the States. I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. I believe that the State authorities are doing the best that they can in the present circumstances. However, the care and treatment of ex-servicemen who are suffering from war neurosis is a national responsibility. Over the years I have repeatedly urged successive governments to provide national institutions for them, but very little progress lias been made in that direction. I understand that the Commonwealth has provided an appropriate institution in Queensland, and that steps have been taken to establish one in another State. In common with other members of the Opposition, I could quote many instances of unfortunate happenings in connexion with these men. Due to the necessity for them to be kept under observation for lengthy periods, they are separated from their wives and families for weeks at a time. I again urge the Government to provide additional repatriation hospitals for the care and treatment of exservicemen who are suffering from war neurosis, so that they will no longer have to remain in institutions with persons who are suffering from other complaints not attributable to war service. As many of the ex-service patients are normal during perhaps three-quarters of the week, they would be much happier in repatriation hospitals than in the institutions that I have mentioned. I notice that the Minister for Repatriation has entered the chamber. I should like to say that I appreciate very much the courtesy that he has always extended to me when I have made representations to him about the treatment of our mentally sick exservicemen. I am sure that he is not pleased with the present state of affairs, and that he will do all in his power to see that proper hospitalization will be provided for men who offered their lives in the service of their country.
I wish to associate myself with the remarks that were made by Senator O’Flaherty last night in connexion with the war service homes at East Payneham, in South Australia. The honorable senator was very mild in his criticism of their construction. I should like to say that I am very pleased with the manner in which the ex-servicemen are looking after the homes. The lawns and gardens surrounding the homes are a credit to them. Many of the occupants ‘of the homes, who are school teachers and members of various professions, declined promotion in order to take up residence at East Payneham. I pay tribute to the manner in which their wives have looked after the homes. Without exception, the homes are very pleasing in every respect, except from a constructional point of view. In some instances they are being maintained by widows of exservicemen who have died since entering into occupation. I found it difficult to believe that new houses could deteriorate so quickly, as a result of faulty workmanship in construction. I did not exaggerate when 1. interjected last night, during Senator O’Flaherty’s speech, that I could climb through a crack in one of the walls. As a matter of fact, I think that Senator George Rankin could get through with me. Every avenue has been explored to have the appalling defects rectified. Senator O’Flaherty and I have approached the Minister . for Social Services (Mr. Townley), and, to use the honorable senator’s own words, we have been fobbed off by statements that everything possible has been done. That i.« pure piffle.
When Senator O’Flaherty was speaking, an honorable senator opposite asked by interjection whether Senator O’Flaherty would expect somebody else to repair his home if it developed a fault. Of course not. If the building contractors were not responsible for a fault in my house I would not expect them to repair it. But I refuse to believe that the building contractors and the officers who inspected the house referred to did riot know that something was wrong with it.- This
Parliament owes some measure of compensation to people who have been deceived and wronged inthis way. The department has told this man that if he can get rid of the house it will make him a second advance and that he may keep any amount that he receives above his indebtedness to the department. I did not think that a responsible department would make such a suggestion.
I now wish to deal with a decided injustice which has been done to an unfortunate lad who answered the call of his country, joined the national training force, and went into camp at Woodside, South Australia. South Australian senators will recall that last year several of the trainees at Woodside camp contracted a malady which baffled the best medical authorities. The victims of this illness had all the symptoms of typhoid fever. Several of the parents of the boys who were affected interviewed me. I contacted the General Officer Commanding, Headquarters Central Command, Keswick, Major-General Kendall, and he told me that the illness was similar to gastric influenza. He said that the sickness was not typhoid or typhus and that the youths were not isolated at Dawes-road Hospital, but were segregated at the end of a big ward. Honorable senators who have seen that hospital will realize that MajorGeneral Kendall did not tell an untruth but I must say that his ideas of segregation are different from mine. Of the boys whose parents have contacted me on this matter one was from Croydon, one was from Ovingham, one was from Allandale and one was from North Yelta. The parents of these boys found that they had been placed in isolation in the Dawes-road hospital. When I asked the officers at Woodside camp why the parents had not been officially notified of their sons’ illness they said that it was not the custom to advise parents that their sons were ill unless the illness was serious. Subsequently the pa rents were advised officially. I contend that the military authorities should advise parents when their sons become ill.
These lads were placed in isolation on the 19th June, 1952. On the 28th July, 1952, the camp terminated. Every one of the boys who were in the Dawes-road hospital received his trainee’s pay until the camp terminated. Shortly after the 28 th July one of them had recovered sufficiently to leave the camp. He was discharged and received certain compensation. Two or three of the other lads including one in whom I am particularly interested made every endeavour to obtain compensation but without success. The lad with whom I am particularly concerned placed his case in my hands and told me to handle it as I wished. During the course of my fairly long connexion with politics I have never approached a Minister over the heads of the officers of his department. I have always approached the officers of the department first and listened to their explanation.I adopted that course onthis occasion. This lad’s name isLuxton and he comes from North Yelta. He remained in hospital from the 19th Juneuntil the 22nd October, 1952. He was not discharged from that hospital for 88 days after the 28th July which was the date on which the camp terminated. On the advice of his officers, he filed a claim for compensation. By June of this year he had received no reply to his claim.
At the request of his parentsI approached the Commanding Officer of Woodside camp, who informed me that the matter had been referred to headquarters at Keswick. At head-quarters I was informed that the matter had been referred to Melbourne, and the Melbourne office informed me that it had been sent back to Adelaide. In the meantime this lad, who had been in hospital for 88 days after his camp had terminated, bad received neither compensation nor acknowledgment of his claim. I then received a notification dated 12th August. 1953, signed by H. J. H. Collings, Command Secretary of the Head-quarters Central Command, Keswick, Adelaide, which read as follows: -
Subject: 4/701016 PrivateF. S. LuxtonCompensation Claim.
Reference: Your memorandum of 10th June. 1953.
I wish to advise that the Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation has determined that Private Frederick Steven Luxton did not suffer from disease due to the nature of his employment by the Commonwealth and his claim of the 24th July, 1952, was therefore disallowed.
Private Luxton has been informed accordingly.
I was not satisfied with that letter. On my arrival in Canberra a few weeks ago I approached the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis). The reply that he gave me was practically identical with that which was contained in the letter of the 12th August. I asked why this lad had been treated differently from his mates who had been affected with the same sickness.
– What was the matter with them?
– That is still not known. I have memorandums from the medical officer at Woodside stating that these lads had been isolated. I do not think that this Parliament expects boys who carry out their obligations without quibble to be treated in this way. One of these boys was discharged from hospital a few days after having been admitted. A second lad has forwarded me a letter through Private Luxton saying that he received compensation. He was brought to Adelaide in the same ambulance as the other boys.
I want the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to find out why Private Luxton .has been refused compensation whilst other boys who became ill at the same time as he did have received compensation in respect of the period that they spent in hospital. This boy has very decent and respectable parents. They are not affluent but they are very honest. He was told by the Minister for the Army that he could take proceedings in a civil court in connexion with his compensation claim. Do honorable senators expect boys to be denied justice and to be told that they can take action in a civil court? The financial position of the parents of this lad prevents them from taking court action except by making a great sacrifice. This boy has willingly undertaken national training for the defence of this country. He was overtaken by a malady and kept in hospital for 88 days after his camp terminated. Yet his claim for compensation has been rejected and he has been told that, if he wishes, he can appeal to a civil court. I am certain that nothing will be found in the National Service Act which will justify the Government in denying adequate compensa tion to a young man who has fulfilled his obligation to his country under that legislation and has been stricken with illness while undergoing military training. The treatment of this lad is disgraceful and unworthy of the National Parliament and I am sure that the people of Australia will take the greatest umbrage at it. I sincerely trust that the matters to which I have referred will be given early attention by the Minister for the Army.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Senate a serious problem which deserves immedate attention. I refer to the. plight of berry-growers in southern Tasmania. On Monday of this week the Hobart Mercury published an article under the heading, “ Only federal help will save the berrygrower “. The threatened extinction of the berry-fruit industry in southern, Tasmania is a matter of vital concern not only to the growers but also to the Austraiian economy, and to show honorable senators how serious the position is I shall quote from that article certain statements made by the chairman of the Stone and Berry Fruits Board, Mr. C. V. Hughes. The report stated -
Mr. Hughes said the reduced prices, announced in “ The Mercury “ yesterday, were less than two-thirds of the cost of production last year.
They would mean the end of the berry fruit industry in Tasmania unless Government assistance were given.
Mr. Hughes said unless help were given it was likely that many towns and villages in Southern Tasmania would be abandoned because berry fruit growers would have no other means of earning a living.
The article also quotes the following statement by a member of the Stone and Berry Fruits Board: -
Growers might as well walk off their properties and apply for the dole, as the game is definitely finished and this is the end of the industry.
I shall outline to the Senate very briefly the history of the industry and its importance in our economy. The small fruits industry in Tasmania began before World War I. and during that war it played an important part in supplying the forces. During the 1920’s the industry expanded considerably and found export outlets, particularly for jams. The industry continued to expand and to-day the capital value involved in production and processing is approximately £5,000,000. There are about 1,300 holdings and 4,200 acres of plantations. Rural production has a capital value of about £3,250,000, and factory investment is -approximately £2,000,000. It will be seen therefore that this is quite a big industry. Berry fruits including raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries and so on are produced mainly in the Huon River and Derwent River Valleys, and the industry means a great deal to the people of those districts. The Commonwealth should do everything possible to ensure that it does not go out of existence entirely. During World War II. the apple and pear industry in Tasmania, and to a lesser degree in other States, was saved by the Australian Government. Now, it is stronger than ever. We want similar action in respect of small fruits. Years ago, the founders of the small fruits industry in Tasmania went into the valleys of the various rivers and creeks and’ carved out their holdings. Those holdings a.re not large, but their development has been a long and expensive process. Children have grown up in the industry, and some properties have been in the hands of the same family for several generations. The lot of the producer has not been easy. His initial costs are high and he has to wait some time for a. return. Maintenance costs “also are high, and harvesting labour is expensive because it is seasonal labour. Labour costs in the industry amount to about £200,000 a year. Then of course, there are subsidiary industries such as transport. Now the industry is threatened with extinction. Last year, the Australian Government generously gave £100,000 to help the industry through. That assistance was most welcome, but isolated gestures such as that cannot save the industry. Something more must be done. There are many difficulties too on the processing side. One of them is the price of sugar which has risen tremendously over the last three or four years. That is a serious matter because overseas trade is most important to the industry, and our canned goods are finding the greatest difficulty in competing with, the products of other countries such as South Africa in which labour costs are lower. In 1951, the price of sugar was £40 12s. a ton. In 1953 it is £72 a ton, an increase of 77 per cent. Since 1949, wages have risen by 72 per cent. Cans for processed fruits cost 40s. Sd. a gross in 1950. Now they cost 58s. 5d. a gross. The result of these increases is a shrinkage of markets and fruit is being allowed to fall on the ground. In a world in which 75 per cent, of the people are underfed it is diabolical that this food should be wasted. Even for the Australian market most of the fruit must be processed because, owing to the vast distances between centres of population in this country, the marketing of fresh fruits- is a difficult problem. Shipping costs too should be investigated. During the apple exporting season shipping difficulties are not so great, and continuous shipments can be made, but in the off season, the processed fruit has to be transhipped in the ports of other States to vessels bound for the United Kingdom. That transhipment costs 40s. a cubic ton thus adding still further to the ultimate market price. In 1939, the freight rate between Tasmania and the mainland was £1 a ton, whereas to-day it is £6 9s. a ton, or an increase of 545 per cent. The overseas rate has risen from £3 2s. 6d. a ton in 1939 to £6 Ils. 6d. to-day, or an increase of 110.4 per cent. It can therefore be seen that we have priced ourselves out of yet another market. This Government must bear the major sharp of the blame for that state of affairs, because it has allowed inflation to continue. Its inaction has been responsible, for the languishing of an industry which employs approximately 1,300 people and has a capital value of about £5,000,00’!.
A subsidy, or some other form of financial assistance, must be granted by the Australian Government because of the high freight rates which apply between Tasmania and the rest of the world. That matter has been referred to in this Parliament on many occasions, and there is no need for me to deal furthewith it at the moment. Honorable senators may not be aware that the Queensland sugar industry is vitally concerned with the Tasmanian berry fruit, industry, because many thousands of tons of sugar are used in processing the fruit. That means that the industry has interstate implications. That fact, of course, strengthens the case for Commonwealth assistance. In addition, it is well known that jam is an important item of food in the defence services. During World War II. Tasmanian fruit juices were regarded as a “ must “ for the troops because of their vitamin C content. Another ground on which the provision of Commonwealth assistance can be justified is the fact that the Commonwealth subsidizes butter by 10$d. a pound. The Tasmanian berry growers do nol contend that that subsidy should not be given, but it should not he forgotten that butter seriously competes with jam on the tables of many homes. If the Government is prepared to subsidize butter, it should do as it ha3 done in relation to Trans-Australia. Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and subsidize both. . As I have already said, it is diabolical that good food should be allowed to rot on the ground while millions of people, especially in Asian countries, are suffering from malnutrition. Surely it would he possible to make the fruits available to those people under the Colombo Plan.
The committee to which I have referred has made certain recommendations, tho first ‘ of which is that the Australian Government should guarantee growers the cost of production of the 1953-54 berry fruit crop, plus a reasonable margin of profit. I have already mentioned the great shock which the growers received only last Monday when it was announced that the prices for the fruits would be fixed on the basis of two-thirds of cost of production. The second recommendation is that the Australian Government should guarantee the factory organizations the cost of processing the 1953-54 crop, plus a reasonable margin of profit. It is also recommended that, for the above purposes, the berry fruit crop shall be deemed to consist of raspberries, loganberries, black currants, red currants, and gooseberries. The final recommendation is that the industry should have a stabilization plan for five years and that this Government should establish such a plan after investigation by trained officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, in conjunction with representa tives of the industry. That would be a long range plan, the first two stages being designed to keep the growers in production this year. Once they go out of production the industry will be finished. Such a plan is necessary if these people are to retain their livelihood and not be thrown on the scrap heap.
I hope that this Government,” with the help of the Tasmanian Government, will consider these recommendations seriously and endeavour to ensure that these people, amongst whom I lived for many years, are permitted to retain the holdings they have pioneered. In order to do so, they have gone without many of the amenities and necessaries of life. It is a, shame that now that they have attained a certain standard of living, their livelihood should be rudely taken away from them. If this Government and the Tasmanian. Government are able to take action to stabilize the industry and place it on a proper footing, I am sure that they will earn the gratitude of those concerned. It is essential that this hitherto prosperous industry in the southern part of Tasmania should be preserved.
– I rise for one main purpose which I shall deal . with towards the end of my speech. First, I wish briefly to touch upon some incidental matters. On several occasions recently, critical comments have been made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber concerning the belated introduction of the budget this year, after a parliamentary recess of- approximately six months and despite the fact that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced, when introducing the budget on the 6th August last year, that he hoped to make a practice of early budgets.
– Another broken promise !
– That is correct. It is no excuse to say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) were attending the Coronation ceremony. There were other Ministers in Australia, and there was ample time in which to prepare the budget. Indeed, there was far more time than is usually the case. I should like to hear some honorable senator opposite explain the reason for this exceedingly belated presentation of the budget. More than three months of the financial year have already elapsed. Yet the Senate is only now considering the appropriations for the year. It is idle to say that the Parliament granted supply for four months.
– The budget was introduced over a month ago.
– It only reached the .Senate during the last few days.
– It was introduced in the Parliament on the 8th September.
– That was more than a month later than the budget was introduced last year, despite what the Treasurer said on that occasion. At all events, more than three months of the financial year have elapsed, and we are only just debating the budget in this chamber. I think that the Parliament is entitled to an explanation of the delay.
The second matter to which no answer has been made by the Government, and about which frequent attacks have been made from this side of the chamber, concerns the proposed increase of pensions. In my opinion the necessary legislation should have been introduced in this Parliament as a matter of high priority. Instead, legislation has been introduced to amend the pay-roll tax law and to abolish the entertainments tax, as from particular dates. I do not think there would be any practical difficulty, from the point of view of the Department of Social Services, in putting into effect very promptly the proposals that the Government has made for the relief of pensioners. It cannot be denied that such people are the most needy in the community. They are certainly far more needy than those who will benefit from the amendment of the pay-roll tax legislation and the abolition of entertainments tax. The Government has been contemptuous of the pensioners, having regard to the increases that it proposes to give them. In addition, it has been rather heartless in not accepting the proposition that I nut on behalf of the Opposition in this chamber in the first speech I made after the Parliament re-assembled. At that time I offered to facilitate the passage of such legislation.- Many pensioners will not receive more than an additional 2s. 6d. a week under the budget proposals. Some, of course, will receive as much as 10s. because of the relaxation of the means test, but at least 80 per cent, of the pensioners, including all of those who have no income apart from their pensions, will receive no more than 2s. 6d. Yet the Government has done nothing to speed up the granting of the increase.
The third matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the audacity of this Government’s claim that the economy of Australia is completely sound and. that it has brought about that position. Some time ago I reviewed the history of the Government’s actions in the economic field. I do not propose to traverse that history again, but I then gave instance after .instance of complete lack of leadership in economic matters. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of this bill and who represents the Treasurer in this chamber, provided two classic examples in that connexion. When honorable senators on thi-, aide of the chamber said that the Government had done nothing to halt inflation there were loud laughs from the Government side, but the truth is that the Government did nothing until inflation was fully under way. Its first action was taken with the budget of 1951-52, nearly two years after it had been returned to office. The basic wage had grown in those two years by £2 a week as a result of the cost-of-living adjustments.
The fact that the Government had been guilty of deliberate inaction was proved by a statement that was made by the Minister for National Development in this chamber. When a bill providing for a referendum on prices controls was before the Senate, the Minister said,, in effect, that the problem of inflation was not one for governments. He said that if it could be solved at all, it had to be solved by the people of Australia themselves. That was the attitude of mind of the Government as enunciated by the Minister who represented the Treasurer (Sit Arthur Fadden). Accordingly, we may assume that he was expressing the attitude of mind of the government of the day. This Government did nothing to control inflation until it was completely beyond control. When the horror budget was presented in 1951, the Government budgeted for a surplus of ?114,500,000. It indicated that its economic policy was to halt inflation by taking purchasing power away from the people. In the words of the Treasurer, the Government proposed to put the surplus spending power of the people where it could do least harm. The Minister for National Development announced that not one penny of the surplus would be spent unless it were over his dead body. He was a member of the Cabinet, and his statement indicated that the money was to be put away as a nest-egg for the purpose of draining off ‘ surplus spending power. Three weeks later the same Minister entered this chamber and presented a bill to authorize expenditure of the whole of the budget surplus. In due course, when the actual surplus turned out to be not ?114,500,000 but ?98,500,000, the whole of it was spent in addition to ?106,500,000, which included ?45,000,000 of central bank credit that the Government had professed to abhor.
It is idle for Government supporters to scoff when honorable senators on the Opposition side state that nothing has been done by the- Government to cure inflation. I direct their attention to the mismanagement of capital issues and the flood of imports that contributed to inflation. The Government was responsible also for the delay in protecting the balance of payments. It showed lack of leadership and incompetence. The country has been placed in a situation that has caused Senator Cole to rise in this debate pleading for an industry in Tasmania that is on the point of being put out of existence because of inflation. The Government has sinned against the nation. It has adopted a policy of leaving things alone in the hope that they will settle themselves. That is a blind and outdated philosophy and has brought more troubles in its train.
I rose principally to refer to a matter to which Senator Ashley has directed attention. That is the evidence that was given by a witness in a court in New South Wales to the effect that he had some knowledge of the probable contents of the budget. I have in my possession, what purports to be a copy of an extract from a copy of the court transcript. I hope that a copy is available also to the Minis- tei so that he may correct me if necessary as I read from it. The proceedings took place in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in its equity jurisdiction. The. witness to whom I have referred was Mr. Irish, a prominent accountant and director of companies and a man with a wide business connexion and clientele. The relevant section of the transcript reads -
The witness was referring in that answer to company taxation.
– With whom did he have the discussions?
– I shall comment upon the evidence in a moment. I arn laying a foundation for my comments. I shall refer honorable senators first to the transcript which continues -
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is putting a lawyer’s interpretation upon the evidence. “
– If Senator Guy will be quiet I shall explain the matter. At this stage I am merely reading what is in the transcript and I am not putting any interpretation upon it. I shall do so later and the honorable senator will then have an opportunity to comment. The reply that Mr. Irish gave was - “ No, but
I was able to conclude- “ and then he was interrupted. The transcript then continued -
Mr. Hardie. Let him finish his answer.
Witness. - But enough to make me believe that there would be a reduction.
– That was published in every newspaper in Australia.
– The honorable senator read something different in the newspapers. Let me comment upon the evidence and I shall take honorable senators a stage further. At least three points are clear. Mr. Irish, with his wide clientele and business connexions, had a good idea of the contents of the budget. That is incontrovertible, according to the transcript. He said so on oath. He also indicated that he had had certain discussions in Canberra about the budget which made him realize that the reduction of company tax would be close to 2s., to use his own expression. What did he mean by “ close to that figure “ ? He was not thinking of ls. 11 1/2d. He knew that the amount would be a round figure. He was not thinking of 2s. Id. His statement in evidence was his way of saying, “ I knew that it was 2s.”. He said that he had enough information to make him believe that there would be a reduction of that order.
– Every newspaper in Australia announced that there would be a reduction of company tax.
– I refer honorable senators to the report that appeared in one newspaper, the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 17th September last.
– The Daily Telegraph was an interested party.
– I concede that it was an interested party in the dispute between newspapers out of which this evidence arose. Although the report that appeared in the Daily Telegraph purported to be a verbatim report of what happened in the court, it is not, in fact, a verbatim report. However, it is one of the reports that was given out to the people of Australia. They did not see the official transcript. Accordingly, they believe that the pres3 told them what had happened. I shall read an extract from the Daily Telegraph. It is the impression that was made on the mind of a reporter. Broadly, it represents a fair inference from the evidence and fair paraphrasing of what appeared in the transcript. The newspaper report stated - :
You calculated tax at 9s. in the £1? - Yes, but not only on that basis. I had discussions at Canberra and I had an idea of the reduction to 7s.
You say you had reliable information on a reduction in the company tax before the budget? - No, but I knew enough to make mc’ believe that there would be a reduction and that it would be about what it was.
– He did not have reliable information.
– I am giving honorable senators the statement that appeared in the Daily Telegraph. I have read also extracts from the court transcript. The people of Australia read the newspaper reports. They were led to believe that there had been a disclosure of budget information to Mr. Irish.
I say at once, so that nobody will be nervous, that I do not lay any charge directly or indirectly against any member of the Government, against any of their staff or any member of the Commonwealth Public Service, first because I do not know anything upon which I can lay a charge and, secondly, I have had grievous experience of leakages of cabinet information. When the Labour Government of which I was a member was in office, we had the unfortunate experience of having leakages of cabinet submissions published in the press, not once but many times. There was grievous heart-burning in the Cabinet and among public servants and others. At that time I was Acting Attorney-General. We began an investigation from the first day that a leakage occurred. It took six months to discover the source of the leakage and on each day of that six months, I had a. report upon the progress of the investigations. In the end we found that no responsibility for the leakage rested upon a Cabinet Minister or his staff, or any member of the Public Service, but that a person outside those bodies was a thief and had been stealingdocuments. That may well be the position in this instance. When that evidence, as it appears in the press, goes but to the people of Australia, a government is absolutely insensitive to its duty if it does not do what we did when we were in office; and, that is, set up an inquiry and prosecute it with vigour. In this instance, an individual has sworn on oath that he had a conversation with Canberra out of which he got a good idea of the budget. How many people have read the official transcript of the court proceedings? But the newspaper story has gone all round Australia. The Government is completely deficient in its duty if it does not follow up that lead given by Mr. Irish. It is known when he was in Canberra. He should he put on inquiry : whom did he see ? With whom did he have discussions? That leakage must be traced, regardless of where it leads. It is a serious matter. I repeat that I do not blame the Government. 1 have had too much experience to blame anybody in this matter, and I would not blame any one until I had proof. But it behoves the Government to take this matter seriously and not merely sneer when it is raised.
– The Prime Minister invited the Leader of the Opposition in another place to make a charge.
– My leader is in exactly the same position as I am. I am not in a position to make a charge, and I do not even hint at one. The Government has sworn testimony, but it is sitting back complacently and doing nothing about it.
– The honorable senator wants the Government to go witch hunting.
– I want the Government to do its duty and to find out where this budget leakage came from. Surely, the Government does not need to be told by the Opposition that it is its duty to do that. The answer may be that the Government is making inquiries and is pursuing the matter with the utmost rigour and vigour. If that is so, I should be happy to be given an assurance to that effect; but my colleagues and I would not be doing our duty if we did not prod the Government in order to make sure that it is taking this matter seriously. From what I have noted and having regard to what interjectors opposite have had to say, Government supporters seem to be deprecating this matter and endeavouring to write it down. That is a completely wrong attitude for them to adopt. If I were in a position of responsibility in the Government, I should not rest for one moment until I had done everything in my power to track down the information. It is the duty of the Government to ascertain whether the leakage came from its own ranks or from a member of the Public Service. It owes a duty to the Public
Service and to the public to follow up that sworn piece of testimony.
– Does the honorable senator think that a royal commission of inquiry is called for?
– The Government should prosecute its own inquiries first.
– The honorable senator does not think that a royal commission is called for?
– I have not said that. I have no information that would warrant me asking the Government to appoint a royal commission. The Government is in a position to prosecute its inquiries. I know very well what it can do. All I say at this stage is that in spite of the misgivings of the people and of the Parliament the Government is sitting back complacently and ignoring what the Opposition regards as a most serious matter which, in the interests of the Parliament, the people and the Public Service itself, must be followed up. 1 only wish that when leakages of the kind to which I have referred were taking place during the term of office of the Labour Government I had got a lead like this. I would not have waited one moment before following it up. Senator Ashley has not raised this matter lightly, and I have not come into it lightly. I repeat that I do not lay a charge against anybody. All I ask is: What is the Government doing? Has’ it done anything yet? If not, will it start now and recognize that it has a perfect opportunity to ascertain the facts? Above all, it has a duty to trace the source of a budget leakage. I do not have to argue the importance of its doing that. In fact, a large amount of money can be made out of advance knowledge of this kind. I am not saying that anybody made money out of it; I do not know.
– The honorabe senator has not yet even established that a leakage occurred.
– The Government has this sworn piece of testimony by a man of great responsibility, in Sydney, who said, on oath, “ I had discussions at Canberra “ - I pinpoint the two points, “ discussions “ and “ Canberra “- as a result of which he got a good idea of the contents of the budget. In fact, he went away and worked out figures for his clientele on the basis that company tas would be reduced to 7s. in the £1. He said that he got enough information to make him realize that the reduction of tax was going to be about what it turned out to be.
– Why not go the whole way and call for a royal commission?
– The Government will be condemned in the eyes of all right-thinking people if it regards a matter of this kind with complacency. It is a shameful state of affairs when the Opposition has to urge a government into activity on such a matter.
– A crying shame!
– The moment honorable senators opposite begin to shed tears, I shall begin to have some hope for them. To that degree, I agree that it is a crying shame.
– Why not call for a royal commission?
– The honorable senator knows that if the Opposition called for a royal commission of inquiry into this matter, it would, in effect, place itself in the position of a Crown Prosecutor levelling a charge and accepting the onus of proving it. Frankly, I confess that I have no idea who the culprit is. It is completely unreasonable, in those circumstances, for the honorable senator to ask me or the Opposition to level a charge. If I knew who the culprit was, I would follow that course; but the Government should be out to find him without prodding from the Opposition. If I were a member of the Government I should not feel safe for one second. No government can feel safe if budget leakages can occur, because in such circumstances there can be leakages in respect of matters of all kinds, including security. Can the Minister assure me that the Government is taking this matter as seriously as the Opposition regards it and is doing something about it? If it is taking suchaction, I should be grateful if the exigencies of the situation would permit him to tell the Senate what the Government has done, and how far it has got.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the method which the Government has followed in introducing measures arising out of the budget. That matter calls for serious comment. Government supporters have said that any delay in the passage of this measure will hold up the passage of measures dealing with social services benefits. Under this measure, the Senate is asked to approve of the appropriation of a sum of £276,000,000. In view of the magnitude of the amount involved, the Parliament should carefully consider this measure. Recently, the Public Accounts Committee investigated the administration of various departments and in reports that it has already furnished it has commented caustically upon the methods that have been adopted by some departments in expending money that is made available under the measures of this kind. During recent years there has been a tendency on the part of the Government to resent any discussion of the Estimates. The House of Representatives, when it was dealing with these Estimates, was obliged to adhere to a restricted time-table. Comment has been published in the press, and it has been echoed by persons interested in public affairs, about the rapidity with which the Parliament considers expenditure of huge sums of money. To a large degree, the position which the Public Accounts Committee has criticized has been due to the growing tendency on the part of the Government parties simply to discourage discussions of proposals for expenditure of such sums. If the Parliament were given sufficient time to consider the Estimates, honorable members and honorable senators would readily accept the opportunity to analyse thoroughly the proposed votes for the various departments and, as a result, the officers who are to be entrusted with the expenditure of this money would naturally exercise greater care in the carrying out of their duties. Revenue from taxation has grown to colossal proportions in recent years. When I was elected to the Senate, I was amazed to find that the total expenditure of the Government in 1939-40 amounted to £100,000,000.
Sitting suspended from 5.U5 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I said that 1 did not consider that this bill should have been introduced into this chamber before important measures to give effect to the budgetary proposals had been dealt with. A bill to amend the social services legislation should have been introduced immediately after the Estimates, and budget papers had been dealt with by the Senate. The Government should be utterly ashamed of itself for the meagre increases that it proposes to make in social services payments, and I hope that at an early date it will repair the wrong that it has done. Despite the reductions of taxation that the Government intends to grant, the expected revenue from taxation in this financial year will be greater than that of last year. Therefore, I consider that the Government should treat the pensioners and other recipients of social services benefits more liberally than is proposed. Disappointed though I am with the Government’s proposed increases of pensions and allowances, hope that it will introduce legislation to give effect to them as soon as possible.
I shall now refer to the development of the States. Honorable senators opposite take to themselves great credit for the development that has occurred in the States in recent years. To listen to their speeches one would think that World War II. had not occurred, and that the previous Labour Government did nothing to assist the development of this country. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in answer to a question that was asked in this chamber this morning, stated that great development had taken place in the black coal industry. Why should the black coal resources of one State be developed and the brown coal resources of another State be neglected ? The National Parliament should approach the subject of development on an Australia-wide basis. I point out that the deposits of brown coal in Victoria are as important to that State as are the black coal deposits to New South Wales. It is regrettable that great projects to increase the supply of electricity in Victoria have been discontinued. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to assert that the Victorian Government has been responsible for work on those projects coming to a halt. The press has criticized the Government for leaving idle much expensive machinery that was imported from dollar countries. Whenever I have referred previously to State works closing down, the Minister for National Development has asked what the States are doing about the matter, in view of the financial assistance that they have received from the Commonwealth. 1 might answer that question by asking why the Commonwealth entered into an agreement with New South Wales to develop the black coal resources of that State, but took no action to develop the brown coal resources of Victoria. 1 point out that our export trade could be increased enormously by developing Victoria. Unfortunately the development of the State has been declining due to lack of fuel and lack of power. Our dairying industry and many other industries are not producing to their fullest capacity, and they will not be able to do so until our power and fuel resources have been developed. If the Government is sincere in its promise to strengthen the economy of this country, it should assist the States to develop their primary industries.
The Commonwealth has adopted a very parsimonious attitude towards local governing authorities. It is futile for supporters of the Government to contend that the State governments should assist the local governing bodies out of the hand-outs that they receive from the Commonwealth. Although more money was supplied to the States in the last financial year than in the previous year, the money that they received last year did not purchase the quantity of goods that the previous year’s grants purchased, due to the inflation of the currency. When the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1953 was before the Senate last week I was very disappointed that the Government refused to accept an amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), acceptance of which would have benefited the municipalities and enabled them to carry out additional improvements in their areas. The Municipal Association of Victoria, at its conference this week, decided to again ask the Government to abolish the pay-roll tax completely.
However, as the debate on the Estimates and budget papers has been concluded, I suppose a considerable time will elapse before consideration will be given to the association’s request. In the meantime, I urge the Government to provide financial assistance to the municipalities. The opinion has been expressed that when a petrol and oil refinery that is at present being constructed in Australia has been completed, one of the main sources of revenue from which the Government has been able to assist the States to develop and maintain their country roads will disappear. I hope that the Commonwealth will endeavour to fill the void that will be caused when the new undertaking commences operations. I remind honorable senators opposite that the municipalities perform valuable services to the community by establishing baby health centres and providing the citizens with information in relation to public health, which save the Commonwealth considerable expenditure in the payment of sickness benefits. Therefore, I hope that future requests by the municipalities for financial assistance will be received more sympathetically by the Government than was the amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition last week, to which I have referred.
Many questions have been asked in this chamber recently about the development of our deposits of uranium. I am greatly concerned about the manner in which the Government intends to dispose of the residue after the uranium has been extracted from the ore. Shortly after I became a member of the Senate in 1938, the anti-Labour government of the day proposed to hand over to Japan the iron ore deposits of this country. Japan had been an ally of Great Britain in “World War I. If ever the Senate passed legislation or took one action to justify its continued existence it was when, on that occasion, it saved the iron ore resources of this country for Australians. The government of the day, by regulation, proposed to allow Japan to develop those resources.
– It was the Wilcox Labour Government that did that.
– The Australian Government had to finalize arrangements in the matter. I know that the Western
Australian Government thought that it would be a good thing if our iron ore deposits were developed by a foreign power. Fortunately the members of the then Opposition and government senators acted in unison on that occasion. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is probably the only senator on the other side of the chamber who, would remember the debate which took place at that time. The Senate disallowed the regulation. So the iron ore deposits which are now being used to develop Australia were saved. I hope honorable senators opposite who have the interests of Australia at heart will adopt a. similar attitude to the preservation of our uranium deposits. Those deposits are more vital than the iron ore deposits were in 1939. When the iron ore deposits were discovered it was suggested that they were of very little value. It was suggested that they were of poor quality. Yet, in the shipbuilding yards of Whyalla ships are being built, not from inferior ore, but from iron .ore which is as good as any in the world.
I look upon the discovery of uranium in Australia as being as important as the discovery of oil was to the United States of America. Uranium has great potentialities. We are approaching the atomic age. We are leaving the oil age. Australia is one of the countries that is rich in. uranium. I do not want the Government to disclose any security secrets, but I suggest that this Parliament should know the intentions of the Government in regard to uranium. Is the Government looking to the future? Has it visualized the great potentialities of Australian uranium deposits ? Does it realize that this country can only be preserved for future generations of Australians by developing these great deposits? I want the Government to take the Parliament and the people into its confidence and announce its intentions for the future of this industry. Does the Government intend to use the uranium deposits for the development of Australia or does it intend to allow it to be exported to other countries so that those industries which should be developed in Australia may be developed in other countries? This is one of the most important matters that requires discussion in this Parliament.
It. is vital to the future of Australia. A hush-hush policy has been adopted by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). His failure to answer questions on this subject could lead people to believe that our resources are being sold to the detriment of this country. I hope that before this Parliament is prorogued the Government will take the people into its confidence and that we shall at least learn that it is proposed to save this mineral for the development of Australia. Surely the Government does not intend to place Australia in the position of some of the more backward countries which have had their oil resources exploited by other countries. I condemn the attitude that the Government has adopted in regard to this valuable mineral.
The attitude of the .Government in relation to uranium deposits reminds us of another important matter which was raised by Senator Ashley and which was also mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) . I refer to the budget leakage. The Government has evidenced the same desire to keep things quiet in relation to this most important subject. If the Government is to remove the stigma that has been cast upon many of our public servants it must make every endeavour to clarify this matter. Honorable senators opposite have said that we should not engage in a witch hunt. Whatever the Opposition might say, the fact remains that a man who is interested in the companies of this country was able to make a very shrewd and a very correct guess as a result of his talks with somebody in this capital city. I wonder if any of those people who are active on the stock and share markets also discussed the budget with some people in Canberra and, as a result, knew the proposals likely to be made on company taxation. It has been suggested that other persons in addition to this man knew something of the proposals on company taxation and were able to turn that information to their advantage because a considerable number of shares changed hands about that time. The Government must abandon its conspiracy of silence in relation to uranium and the budget leakage, and it must lift the atmosphere of suspicion which surrounds certain people. The Go. vernment will do a great service to the community if it will inform the Senate of its intentions in relation to uranium and the budget leakage.
– I rise at this very late stage of this debate only to stress the importance of Opposition senators and the public and a great many Government senators of the absolute silence of Ministers concerning the sworn evidence that was given in a Sydney court. That evidence was to the effect that a certain gentleman received information of such a definite character in Canberra that he went back to the city of Sydney and recast the taxation figures of his company. He worked them out on the basis of a tax of 7s. in the £1, although even the most hopeful financial commentators had not anticipated a greater reduction of company tax than ls. 6d. in the £1. This is not a matter which concerns only the Opposition. It is a matter which concerns the whole Parliament. It affects important aspects of our democratic system. When a government comes under suspicion in relation to such a matter the government itself must dispel that suspicion. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that if charges are made he will appoint a royal commission to investigate them. That is the wrong approach to this subject. There is a certain doubt about this matter and the Government should dispel it if it can. A fortnight before the budget was presented to Parliament the Prime Minister made a broadcast in which he stressed the absolute importance of a cast iron system of secrecy which would prevent any intimation from leaking out which would help people to form what might be called “ intelligent guesses “ at the contents of the budget. In the course of this broadcast, on the 19th August, the Prime Minister said -
Every one of us in Cabinet is responsible for the budget and every one of us is perfectly willing to accept his share of the criticism or of the approval.
Some criticism is being made now but no member of the Government seems to be prepared to accept any share of the responsibility for what has happened. The Prime Minister continued1 -
The Budget is the most secret of all domestic political documents until it is. disclosed in
Parliament. In. Britain, they carry secrecy to the point that normally even the Cabinet (except the Prime Minister) doesn’t know the Budget’s contents until the morning of the day of its delivery. Why all this secrecy 1 The answer is fairly obvious. Anybody who knew in advance about tax changes, for instance, could easily speculate on the market and make great profits. Take sales tax. Someone who pretends to know may claim in advance that the Budget will alter sales tax on various goods. The result is that people hold off buying. They say: “I read the other day that the sales tax on Box is going down. So I won’t buy any new sox until after the Budget! “ We all know how such statements damage legitimate business. And the fact that the Budget is a completely secret document, and that it is discussed only behind closed doors among honorable men, bound to disclose nothing prematurely to outsiders, is the best reason why you should ignore what people tell you about Budget details until the Treasurer himself tells you on the appointed day.
I shall not repeat the statements Mr. Trish made under oath in court. But we must recall that he said he discussed this matter with a couple of people in Canberra and that,, as a result, he recast the taxation figures of his company when he returned’ to his office. Perhaps the Government might be conducting some investigation into this matter at the moment. I hope so. But if an investigation is being conducted the Government should inform the Senate of that fact because this matter, in my opinion, can be cleared up very quickly. In the course of his broadcast the Prime Minister said -
I have an acute and abiding sense of responsibility 011 this subject.
Surely sufficient public demand has been made in relation to this matter. The reaction of the judge to this disclosure and the react ion of the mass of the people lias made it evident that there is at least a prima facie case for the Government to answer. At this stage I shall not criticize other “ intelligent guesses “. But a year ago budget information leaked out to the press to such a degree that an honorable member in another place wrote to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) pleading that no such further disclosures should be made on the occasion of this budget. Of course, the Treasurer assured us that every precaution was taken to ensure that information about the budget did not get into the hands of persons not authorized to have it. Undoubtedly the press items shows a very high sense of intelligent anticipation. Lord knows how these things happen, but they can happen. Apparently an individual who has no obvious contact with the Government can visit Canberra and return to Sydney with important information that he did not have before he visited the National Capital. That has been established. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are provided in the Estimates for our security service. Surely it would be a simple matter for the Government to. have two or three investigators spend a week or a fortnight inquiring into this matter. There might be a logical and fair explanation of everything. Nobody knows exactly what happened unless some honorable senators opposite are in possession of facts that they do not want to disclose. My primary purpose in rising to-night was to stress the importance of this matter in the public eye, not as a member of the Opposition, but as a member of this Parliament. I am sure that if I had been in the Ministry and charges such as this had been made, I should very quickly have tried to get to the root of the matter for the satisfaction of the Government and in the interests of the democratic system that we are trying so hard to uphold. I appeal to the Minister not to sneer at the Opposition’s request or to resort to heavy sarcasm. The Opposition wants an assurance that the matter will be examined. I do not say that a. royal commission is necessary, unless of course certain things come to light as the- result of an investigation, but at the very least a thorough examination should be made and the matter cleared up once and for all.
1_S.33], - in reply - T did not intend to reply to the general debate on this measure, not because I wished to be discourteous to the Senate, but because the debate has ranged far and wide and has touched upon such a diversity of matters that it would be impossible for. one Minister to make an adequate reply.. I intended rather to bring those matters to the notice of the Ministers concerned. However, I have risen because of the entry into the debate of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and his deputy, Senator
Armstrong, both of whom have spoken about the alleged leakage of budget information. I shall deal first with Senator Armstrong’s remarks because they are fresh in my mind, and I have noted some of his statements. He said first, that Ministers had been silent on this matter. That is not correct. The charges were made first by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in the House of Representatives, and they were refuted by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Later, the honorable member for East Sydney asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question, in the course of which he alleged that information had been made available to unauthorized persons. The Prime Minister replied that the honorable member’s allegation was untrue. I, too, have dealt with the matter in answer to questions in this chamber. Therefore, Senator Armstrong’s claim that Ministers have been silent on. the subject is not correct.
My next point is that Senator Armstrong has proceeded throughout upon the assumption that budget information was in fact made available to unauthorized persons. I hope to establish to the satisfaction of the Senate that there is no truth in that statement, either. In my opinion, there was nothing in the evidence read by the Leader of the Opposition to substantiate the view that the gentleman concerned had prior knowledge of the contents of the budget. I do not need to be reminded of the need to keep the contents of the budget secret until the document has been tabled in the Parliament. I do not need to be reminded of the need for some action when a serious allegation is made. But there must be an allegation that can be taken seriously before an inquisition or heresy hunt is instituted. Obviously, if there is no justification for the allegation, the words “ heresy hunt “ and “ inquisition “ can fairly be substituted for the ordinary words “examination” or “inquiry”. If the facts, prima facie, warrant an inquiry, an inquiry is justified. If they do not warrant an inquiry, any investigation can only be a heresy hunt and no responsible government would indulge in such a procedure.
What exactly is the Opposition’s allegation? The Leader of the Opposition covered himself well by saying that he made no charge that anybody made money out of obtaining this information or that any Minister betrayed his trust in passing on information. He made no charge that any public servant acted wrongly. In other words, he covered himself carefully so that he would not offend anybody; but then he proceeded to make the utmost political advantage out of a newspaper report and a particular set of circumstances. The Leader of the Opposition did not have the courage to go about the matter as the former Leader of the Opposition, Senator Ashley, did. Senator Ashley is the old-time exponent of the political art and he made allegations. He alleged indirectly that the budget proposals were discussed with Mr. Balmford, and that Mr. Balmford passed the information on. In reply to that charge, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) read in the House of Representatives a report by Mr. Balmford, whose reputation surely is beyond reproach, stating that, in his conversations with Mr. Irish, taxation was not mentioned. So, the first allegation has been refuted by a gentleman who, in spite of our political differences, all honorable senators hold in the highest respect. Senator Ashley’s second allegation was that, only three men knew the contents of the budget - the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Secretary to the Treasury. He said the only inference that could be drawn from that fact was that a representative of the Government was directly involved in the matter. Therefore, we have members of the Opposition making dissimilar accusations, and that, of course, is not an unusual occurrence in this chamber. As I have said, the Leader of the Opposition covered himself in every possible way so that, although nobody could pin him down, he could seek to obtain the utmost party political advantage from the charges. Senator Ashley, on the other hand, came in boots and all and made a. series of wild accusations which apparently, although they have been refuted over and over again, he has no hesitation in repeating ad nauseam.
The Leader of the Opposition and Senator Armstrong tried to convince us that they had put the whole matter on a high moral plane. They said, in effect, that this was a great national issue and that any government worthy of its salt would not hesitate to carry out an investigation. Let us look at the background of those claims. The first question that has to be answered is whether in our own minds we think that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the ex-Leader of the Opposition really believe this to be a matter of moment; whether they are just running a hare which they hope will perform well and will in some way discredit the Government; or whether they are merely proceeding on the basis that they have a good political story which, if repeated often enough with suitable embellishment, may harm the Government. There is no doubt in my mind about the Opposition’s true motive. The whole matter has been raised, not in the interests of good government or of the prestige of cabinets and parliaments, but in an endeavour to make party political capital. The real situation in which the Opposition finds itself is that the Government has brought down such a good budget that there is nothing in it to criticize. Therefore, the Opposition is doing its best to drag red herrings across the trail to divert public attention from the merits of the budget.
Let us look at the facts of the situation. The information that we have before us, so far as I am aware, consists of five questions and answers. “We must again pay attention to atmosphere, background and circumstances. The witness in this case is the vice-president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in New South Wales. I suggest that a man who reaches that position would be one whose every instinct, professional and otherwise, would deter him from acting improperly in the way that it has been said he acted. No man whose principles were suspect could rise to a leading position in the Institute of Chartered Accountants in New South Wales. I ask honorable senators to consider that matter.
The accusation has been made that Mr. Irish came to Canberra and approached some one here in order to obtain information which he knew he had no right to obtain. It seems to me that that, in itself, makes the story most improbable. However, I shall go further than the suggestion that Mr. Irish was the type of person to obtain information from some one and then betray the giver of the information. I know his professional standing and reputation, and I believe that he is incapable of doing such a thing. But even if he obtained the information, surely the position he holds indicates that he has sufficient intelligence not to betray himself. Let us take this skeleton completely out of the cupboard. Honorable senators opposite have made allegations which are entirely irresponsible and not borne out by the questions and answers given in evidence. It seems to me that any reasonable person who reads these questions and answers can come to only one conclusion, which is that this gentleman made a guess at the contents of the budget. Indeed, he acknowledged that he did so when he gave evidence. Honorable senators may remember the following questions and answers : -
– Perhaps the Minister will read the question and answer which appear before those.
– Let me deal with this question first. The important part of the answer to that question is, “ No “. There is a subsequent qualification, which is, “ But enough to make me believe and so on. That links up with the answer, “ I happened to have certain discussions in Canberra “ that has been referred to previously. Does any honorable senator deny that one of the principal features of Canberra is the holding of such discussions?
– But not on Sundays.
– A great deal of time in Canberra is spent in trying to predict the nature of legislation before it is presented to the Parliament. I can place no other interpretation on this matter than that this gentleman made a guess. As I have said, in the course of the evidence he acknowledged that that was what he did. That the court accepted that position, is obvious. Could any one imagine the matter being restricted to five questions and answers if a leading Sydney personality stated, in Supreme Court proceedings, that he had obtained budget secrets ? When those five questions and answers were given in the course of the litigation they did not make a ripple on the waters of the proceedings. No significance was attached to them, and little significance was given to them in the newspaper reports of the proceedings. Indeed, they had little importance until members of the Opposition in this Parliament endeavoured to make party political capital out of them. In doing so, they paid no heed to the fact that they were besmirching the reputation of the witness concerned, as well as the reputations of members of the Cabinet and the Public Service.
This matter was not regarded as being of any importance until it reached Canberra. It had no influence on the transaction upon which the proceedings were based. Nobody could believe that the completion of that transaction was influenced by the rate of tax applicable.
– Why does not the Minister read the other question and answer ?
– -I think I have made a reasonable survey of the matter. The evidence was read previously, and I have endeavoured merely to summarize it fairly.
I am not trying to brush aside the suggestion that information which is made available before the budget is presented is not a serious matter. I maintain, however, that there is no evidence which shows that, in this instance, any such information became available. That contention is supported by the fact that nothing was said during the litigation to warrant the allegations which have been made by honorable senators opposite or the heresy hunt which they have attempted to institute. I speak for’ myself on this matter, not for the government. I should not be’ a party to the holding of an inquiry on such flimsy information, having regard to the political back-ground. I am of the opinion that such an inquiry would merely result in a further series of allegations by members of .the Opposition for the purpose of gaining as much .party political advantage from them as possible.
The only other matter with which I wish to deal is the statement by the Leader of the Opposition, which I thought was particularly unfair, that the Government has delayed the introduction of legislation dealing with pension increases. In connexion with this matter, I took the trouble to make a comparison. I point out, for the benefit of honorable senators opposite, that this year the pensioners will receive an increase of pensions, as indeed they have done in each year that this Government has been in office. Honorable senators may remember that when Labour was in office in 1949, the pensions were not increased at all. On the last occasion on which a Labour government increased pension rates, which was in 1948, the budget was presented on the 8th September, and it was not until 43 days later that the pensioners actually received the increased payments which had been contemplated by the budget. It therefore, ill-behoves the Leader of the Opposition to criticize this Government on that ground, particularly as all the signs and portents are that the proposed increases this year will be paid in a considerably shorter period than 43 days from the date of presentation of the budget.
– I rise to order. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) either misunderstood me or has deliberately misrepresented me. In the course of his remarks, he stated that I had made a charge against Mr. Irish to the effect that he had come to Canberra and had sought to negotiate or had in fact negotiated certain discussions. I wish to make it very clear that I said nothing of the kind. I was very careful to do no more than read the words of Mr. Irish himself. At no time did I make any charge against him. Insofar as the Minister has conveyed the impression or made the statement that I did so, he is completely mistaken. Honorable senators may remember that I read the following extract from the sworn evidence : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move-
That the billbe now read a second time.
This measure authorizes the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments. The bill provides for an appropriation of £276,606,000 for the services of the year 1953-54, to which should be added the amount already granted under Supply Act No. 26 of 1953, namely £151,654,000, making the total amount £428,260,000. This is the estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1953-54, as set out in the second schedule to the bill.
The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget speech, and it is not intended to deal now with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may be desired by honorable senators will be furnished at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to give effect to the increases of war pension and service pension which are included in the budget for this year, and to other alterations for the benefit of members within the scope of the act and to their dependants. Each budget pre sented by this Government since 1949 has included increases of pensions. Over the three years 1950, 1951 and 1952, all classes of pensioners have received increases, and I shall give examples of the alterations in the war pensions of the main classes. The rates in the act are fortnightly, as pensions are paid fortnightly, but as weekly rates are more readily understood, I shall refer in this speech to weekly rates.
War pensions were first provided under the War Pensions Act 1914, and were administered by the Department of the Treasury. In 1920, they were incorporated in the Repatriation Act and administered by the Repatriation Commission, but before this was effected, they were thoroughly examined by the then Minister for Repatriation, Senator the Honorable E. D. Millen, and were considerably revised in the light of experience over the previous six years. It is, therefore, appropriate that the year 1920 should be regarded as the base or foundation year in making comparisons of rates of pension in relation to factors such as cost of living figures. That indicator is preferred by ex-servicemen’s organizations, rather than, say, the basic wage; they do not wish that rates of pension be linked with the basic wage.
The C series index figure - weighted average of six capital cities - for 1920 was 1166. For the June quarter, 1953, it was 2,293. For simplicity, the base year could be indicated by the figure 100, and on this basis the relative figure for 1953 would be 197, a little less than 100 per cent. advance on the year 1920. War pension rates have not been exactly related to the index figures over the years. Had that practice been followed, it would have involved reduction of rates of pension over a long period from soon after 1920 until about 1947. However, it is apparent from the alterations to the rates at various times that all governments have had regard to the index I have mentioned. Therefore, there has been an approximate relationship, and from the figures I shall give it will be seen that the rates in the bill work out very well on such a comparison.
Naturally, the classes which firstcome to mind are those comprising pensioners who are dependent mainly upon war pension, for example, members who are blinded or totally and permanently incapacitated. They receive the special rate provided under the Second Schedule, which was instituted in 1920. lt was then £4 a week. The new rate in the bill is £9 5s.,*about 130 per cent, advance on the original rate. The general rate for members under the First Schedule is for members not so seriously incapacitated. For a member classed as 100 per cent, incapacitated, the rate was £2 2s. in 1920. The proposed new rate of £4 2s. 6d. is almost double the rate in 1920.
The bill also provides for increases of the amounts under the Fifth Schedule to the act - amounts which are paid in addition to general rate pension to fifteen classes of members suffering loss of a limb or limbs, or a limb and loss of vision in one eye. For the first six items, which relate to very serious amputation disabilities, the amount has always been the difference between the 100 per cent, general rate and the special rate, and therefore is necessarily adjusted each time that the special rate is altered. On this basis it will be £5 2s. 6d. The amounts for the remaining nine items are determined separately from time to time. The Fifth Schedule was introduced in 1922, and the amounts for the items other than the first six originally ranged from 3s. 6d. to 28s. The range in the bill is from 8s. 6d. to 56s., and here again they are either double the original amounts or even greater than double.
The pension of a widow in 1920 ranged, according to rank of the member, from £1 3s. 6d. to £3 but where the rate was below £2 2s., it could be increased to that rate if the widow had dependent children, or her circumstances justified the higher rate. In 1943, a new basis was instituted, and a rate of £2 10s. was provided for all widows where the rank of the member was captain - Army - or under. Thi? was increased to £2 15s. in 1947, but. it was found necessary to grant something further for a widow with one child or two children, and a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. was provided. Thus, the principle of additional payments to widows with children was again introduced. The rate of pension was increased to £3 in 1948. In 1950, it was increased to £3 10s. and the domestic allowance was increased to 10s. Moreover, it was made available to all widows with children and to widows who had attained the age of 50 years. In 1951, the domeste ‘ allowance was increased to £1 12s., and extended to include a widow who is permanently unemployable. Ordinarily, domestic allowance payable to a widow with children is cancelled when the the youngest child reaches sixteen years of age, but in April last it was decided to continue the allowance so long as the child, or one of the children, is not earning the adult wage and is undergoing education.
I shall summarize now the payments to widows. Taking the case of a widow with children, the rate in .1.920 was £2 2s. The rate provided in the bill is £3 12s. 6d. and the domestic allowance will be increased to £1 14s. 6d., making a total of £5 7s., an increase of about 155 per cent.
I believe that I have given sufficient inform.ation to show that with the increases to these classes of pensioners granted during 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953, the result is either equal to or well in advance of the changes that have taken place in the C series index figures.
I now turn to service pensions, which are really invalid or age pensions for members similar to the civil scheme, but with certain advantages in favour of members and dependants when compared with the civil scheme. However, as regards rates of pension and the conditions attaching to income and property in the assessment of pension, there must be close adherence, to the same factors of the civil scheme. The alterations to these factors under the bill to .amend the Social Services Consolidation Act will be applied to service pensions. For example, the maximum rate for the member will be increased from £3 7s. 6d. to £3 10s., and the income which he may have apart from pension will be increased from £1 10s. to £2, or from £3 to £4 in the case of member and wife. The new provision regarding property will also apply, that is, accumulated property up to £1,250 will be allowed, instead of £1,000 as at present. For a member and wife, the new property limit will be £2,500. The amount of property a member may have without any reduction of pension has been increased from £100 to £150, and in the case of a member and wife from £200 to £300. The value of the pensioner’s home is excluded from the above amounts.
Where .a pension at present is reduced because of other income, it will be possible for members to receive increases up to 12s. 6d., or, in the case of a member and wife, up to £1 5s. If the pensions are reduced in pursuance of the property provisions also, it will be possible for increases to be even higher than 12s. 6d. or £1 5s.
If the income other than service pension should be war pension, it will be possible for a member and wife in receipt of war pension at 60 per cent, of the general rate to receive service pensions each at the maximum rate. In addition, they may have income from some other source to an amount of £2 4s., giving a total for both of £11 a week before reduction of service pension would be involved. The position in this connexion is a substantial advance in favour of service pensioners.
If the member served in World War I., his wife might - not necessarily, of course - be eligible for an age pension in her own right, instead of service pension as a wife of a member, in which case the maximum rate would be twice that of the latter. She would be eligible for the maximum age pension, and her husband would be eligible for the maximum service pension if they were in receipt of war pension at 30 per cent, of the general rate, and they could have other income of £2 5s., a total of £11, without reduction of her age pension or his service pension. The last example is of special interest in that the rate of war pension, viz., 30 per cent., is close to the average percentage of the pensions of those in the main group of war pensioners - that is, members and dependants in receipt of the general rate ranging from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent. The average rate is 35 per cent. The great majority comprises members on a rate 30 per cent, or less, and these, subject to qualification as to eligibility for service pension, and to the amount of private income or property, could receive the maximum rate of service pension.
The liberalizing of the means test will have a beneficial effect also upon certain classes of dependants of members whose war pensions are subject to the standard means test. For example, the maximum amounts parents will now be able to receive by way of combined war and age or invalid pensions are: For one parent only,. £4 17 s. 6d.; for two parents, £8 17s. 6d. Other benefits in the bill apart from rates of pension are considerable. Up till now there have been time limits in respect of eligibility of stepchildren and adopted children of a member. In respect of World War I., such a child is not eligible for pension or other benefits unless dependent upon the member before the 2nd July, 1931, or, in respect of World War II. or Korea and Malaya operations, dependent upon the member within seven years after the date of his discharge. Clauses 6, 18 and 20 of the bill operate to remove these limits on eligibility of step-children and adopted children.
In 1942, in respect of certain new claims for pension, provision was made for pension to be granted from a date up to three months before the date of the claim. It relates only to claims arising from the 1939-45 war, or Korea and Malaya operations. It has now been decided to extend the concession to claims in respect of the 1914-18 war also. As I have stated, it relates to original claims. In the case of a grant of pension, as the result of a re-application or an appeal against rejection of the original claims, provision already exists in the act for arrears of pension to be granted prior to the date of the successful re-application or appeal.
The Government has considered the provision in section 43 whereby the pension of a dependant may be terminated if the determining authority is satisfied that continuance of pension is undesirable. In some instances, action under the provision has evoked criticism, particularly in the case of a widow of a member ; but I make it clear that for many years now it has not been used for the purpose which gave rise to such complaints. Even for many years before that, -action under the provision was taken only in cases in which the circumstances were undoubtedly within the purpose of the provision. In reading the section, it must be kept in mind that another provision of the act stipulates that a pension of a female dependant shall not be continued after her marriage, or re-marriage. The authorities under the act considered that they were justified in applying the same principle where a dependant entered into a de facto relationship, but did not go through the form of marriage. However, the War Widows Guild has made strong representations that section 43 be withdrawn. It has now been reconstructed to limit its application to a case in which a member or dependant requests cancellation of pension, and to give power to the commission or a board to cancel pension in a type of case which gives the administration much difficulty, that is, a case in which a dependant fails to draw pension for a long period. The department makes every effort to get in touch with such a dependant, but in some instances no evidence is forthcoming as to the whereabouts of the pensioner. The department is thus unable to determine whether qualification for pension still continues, or even whether the dependant is still alive. The commission must have power to protect public funds in such cases.
At present, section 64, which deals with the right of a member to appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, imposes time limits within which the member may exercise his rights of appeal. These limitations appear in sub-sections (1.), (7.) and (7aa), and in each case the period fixed is twelve months. The proposed amendment to section 64 seeks to abolish those time limits. An amendment is also being made to section 119 of the act for the purpose of amplifying the scope of its operation. Originally, this section provided for an arrangement to be made with the Government of another part of the Queen’s Dominions for reciprocity of certain repatriation benefits, other than pensions, and for the Repatriation Commission to act as agent of a dominion in the granting of assistance, benefits and pensions. In 1950, the section -was amended to enable an existing arrangement to be continued after a country had ceased to be a. member of the Queen’s Dominions, and this amendment will enable an arrangement to be instituted with such a ‘ country, for instance India. The other matters dealt with in the bill are machinery provisions, and will be explained in detail at the committee stage. Other benefits apart from those proposed in the bill have also been decided upon. Sustenance rates payable while a member is undergoing medical treatment will be increased to conform to the new general rate and to the new special rate of pension. Subsistence allowance while a member is travelling for purposes connected with medical treatment or pension will be increased from 25s. to 30s. a day, and the allowance for a member who loses wages or salary while attending for treatment or pension purposes for a period of less than one day will be increased from 3s. to 4s. an hour.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’BYRNE) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment : -
Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Bill
Forestry and Timber Bureau Bill 1953.
Debate resumed (vide page 457).
– At this juncture, I desire simply to make two suggestions to the Government. The general debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers afforded ample opportunity to honorable senators to deal with controversial matters and I do not now propose, unless I am provoked, to open up any more matters of that kind. I refer to the Second Schedule which appears on page 3 of the bill and in which is listed the various departments and services for which provision is proposed to be made. Then, is thrown at the Senate some 193 pages of material. First, I suggest that in presenting this schedule the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) might have given a reference to the pages as they relate to the different departments. I trust that that will be done on future occasions. There is a trap in this for new senators. The numbering of the pages of the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure is similar to that of the Second Schedule to this bill, but honorable senators who take the trouble to cross-index that all the way through will find that their work will be wasted because the pages run. differently in the Second Schedule. On previous occasions, I have seen many honorable senators hopelessly confused at the committee stage when referring to items published in the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, the pages of which are similarly numbered at the beginning but subsequently diverge. I mention that point so that honorable senators who have not so far been trapped in that way may avoid that pitfall.
– We get trapped every year.
– The Treasurer should concern himself to supply to the Senate in each case an index to the pages dealing with the various departments. That method would be of great convenience to every honorable senator.
The second point I make is that this measure seeks to appropriate primarily a sum of £276,606,000, and it also ropes in a further amount of £151,654,000 already appropriated for Supply. When one looks at the total of £428,260,000 of those two sums, one immediately sees that it is not the whole amount to be appropriated under the budget which, in fact, is the sum of £986,542,000. Anticipating our trouble, the Treasurer has been good enough to prepare a reconciliation of the total analysis of the appropriations to be made under the various bills with the total expenditure. I am referring now not to the second schedule to the bill but to its counterpart, the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure. On page 3 of that paper, honorable senators will find the reconciliation. Any one who ventures to follow that reconciliation will have to spend from two to three hours in reconciling the reconciliation. Included in that reconciliation is the sum of £428,260,000 which is dealt with at the moment in two sums in the First Schedule to this bill. There is nothing in the reconciliation to indicate how that amount has been broken up into amounts of £276,606,000 and £151,654,000. Then in the next column, Special Appropriations, a sum of £292,115,000 is shown in respect of the first item, Departments and Services. That sum will be found in three amounts that are spread right through the Estimates. Details of the first of those three sums, the sum of £192,591,000 will be found on page xix., and details of the second of those amounts, a sum of £1,665,000, will be found on page 90, and the balance, a sum of £97j859,000, is detailed on page 92. The total sum of £292,115,000 is simply thrown at honorable senators who, then, with great diligence, have to fossick through hundreds of pages. They will be fortunate if they discover as rapidly as I did that that sum is comprised of the three amounts that I have mentioned. The sum of £4,721,000 shown in the reconciliation in respect of Business Undertakings is made up of two sums, one of which appears on page 103 and the other on page 106; and so. on with the rest of the Special Appropriations. Whilst I appreciate the Treasurer’s desire to supply a reconciliation statement, that statement is helpful only to those who are completely familiar with every detail of the budget. He should facilitate the work of the Parliament by breaking up the amounts in greater detail and indicating in the reconciliation statement where tie details are located. I do. not blush to confess that it took me a long time to discover, first, where the amounts that are scattered through the reconciliation statement come from; and, secondly, where they are allocated to the different measures. I ask the Minister for National Development ( Senator Spooner) to assure me that if fate is unkind and the present Government provides a Treasurer next year, it will at least see that these various amounts are broken up and appropriately referenced. It is all very well for Treasury officials and others who are completely familiar with the present method of setting them out, but honorable senators who really want to address themselves to the problems associated with a consideration of the proposed votes have difficulty in understanding them. If I am so placed next year that I can influence the method of presentation of the Estimates I shall do so, having in mind the plight of honorable senators. I shall make only one more observation in relation to the figures. It is rather startling to observe that, out of a total amount of £986,542,000 that is to be expended in this financial year, this Parliament will in fact deal with bills appropriating less than half of that amount, that is, £489,258,000. In other words, the other £497,284,000 has been already appropriated.
– And agreed to by the Parliament.
– Yes. I am not criticizing that aspect of the matter. I am only commenting on the fact that the Parliament, in considering this bill, will deal with only £489,258,000 out of a total estimated expenditure of £986,542,000. I am merely drawing attention to that fact. The Parliament is already committed to the extent of £497,284.000.
– Is that not the usual procedure?
– Yes, but I am commenting on the fact that the Parliament has pre-determined a whole lot of expenditure. One qualification that I make in relation to the £497,284,000 is that it takes into account amounts that will be appropriated by a few bills that will come to us, including amounts to be paid to the applicant States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania by means of special grants. They are shown as special appropriations.
– They have to be approved by the Parliament.
– Yes, each year special appropriation bills are brought forward. I invite the Minister to take note of the suggestions that I have made, if he is concerned about the matter, and to endeavour to facilitate the work of honorable senators in connexion with what is an exceedingly difficult and complex matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
That consideration of the proposed votes for the following departments be postponed: -
Prime Minister’s Department.
Department of External Affairs.
Department of the Treasury.
Department of theInterior.
Department of Works.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1,281,000.
– Although the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has told the people that the Government intends to introduce a national health scheme, there is little evidence in the Estimates of the Government’s earnestness in this matter. Apparently, all that the Minister intends to do is to meet the payment of doctors by a form of taxation different from the present form of taxation. Most people expected that the Government would introduce to this country benefits that are provided in other countries. However, the main items included in the proposed vote are a paltry amount to provide for the nutrition of children, a small amount for assistance to sufferers from tuberculosis, and a relatively small amount for national fitness. I must confess that I am very disappointed to realize from the details of the proposed vote that we cannot look forward to the Department of Health assuming its rightful place in the Australian nation by becoming one of the most important departments. I visualize that one day there will be a complete liaison between this department and all avenues appertaining to health and the care of our people. One should be able to hope that, from this national centre, there will be provided for the people of Australia the best medical attention, preventive medicine, hospitalization, a flow of knowledge and research and all other things that should be associated with sound government of a modern state. We cannot consider the proposed vote for the Department of Health as we did at the time that Labour relinquished office four years ago. Having been told of the great improvements that the Government intends to effect in. relation to public health, one would expect to find in the schedule evidence that the Minister will give the citizens of this country a better deal in relation to health matters.
I shall deal with the item “ Nutrition of Children - Payments to States “, under Division No. 81 - B., the proposed vote for which is £7,100. I assume that this item refers to the provision of milk free to school children. That scheme had an emotional appeal in its early stages, but I consider that the Parliament should be informed of the value of the benefit that has been derived from the provision of that kind of nutrition to our school children; whether the .scheme has been worthwhile; whether it should be extended; whether other commodities ought to be supplied to the children; and what has been the result of the investigations that presumably have been carried out by the Department of Health. There is no evidence before the committee to enable it to form a judgment on whether it should agree to this item. I contend that when we enter a new field such as this there should be submitted subsequently to the Parliament a report of the result of investigations and experiments that have been conducted. Although this matter may have been mentioned in the annual report of the Department of Health, we have not been informed whether there has been a skilled investigation into the effects of this new service to the childern of Australia. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to state his view of the value of the benefits that have flowed from the innovation.
Although the Commonwealth has made grants to the States for the prevention and cure of tuberculosis, I do not consider that the Department of Health has made a determined effort to stamp out that disease. It is well known that, by proper treatment, care, and attention, it can be eradicated. By doing only a partial job we cannot hope to attain our objective. I point out that unless the disease is eradicated completely it will spread readily from one section of the community to other sections, and the value pf the work that has been done will be lessened.
I consider that the Department of Health should have undertaken the important function of caring for the teeth of school children. It is true that the States have already carried out valuable work in this field, but this function should receive greater attention by the Commonwealth. I realize that there are difficulties associated with attending to the teeth of school children, but in our sister dominion of New Zealand a very excellent scheme is in operation. I urge the Minister to examine that scheme with a view to introducing a similar scheme in this country.
I should like information concerning the Government’s contribution to the World Health Organization. What are the functions of this organization? What value does this country receive in return for its contribution? Presumably, certain knowledge is gained as a result of membership of the organization. I should like to know how that knowledge is disseminated to those people who want to use it.
I want to protest against the Government’s proposal to give the National Fitness Organization only £72,500. That amount was allocated to this organization six or seven years ago and since then the value of the £1 has decreased, possibly by 50 per cent. The same joh cannot’ still be done with £72,500. When this grant was originally made it was made for the purpose of commencing a national fitness campaign throughout Australia. I thought that as the organization grew the amount allocated to it would be increased. Even if the £1 had retained its value I should have expected the grant to the Commonwealth Council for Fitness Organization to have been increased to more than £100,000. But this organization is now being stifled because it is not able to obtain sufficient funds to carry out its functions. A few years ago it was spreading throughout every town in Australia. A tremendous amount of work was being done for it in a voluntary capacity. One of our greatest problems is the care of our youth, who need to be assisted in the utilization of their leisure so that they will direct their energies into channels which will enable them to develop healthy bodies.
When this organization began its activities, one problem with which it was confronted was that of persuading citizens to volunteer to develop the activities of national fitness. There was a magnificent response. Committees were set up all over Australia. Now that many young people have been brought into this scheme it is being stifled for lack of funds. The Government has again limited the grant to £72,500. The Government should make up its mind whether it wants this organization to continue. It is quite clear that unless more funds are made available the organization must collapse. It is now performing about a third of the work that it used to perform. As time goes on it will not be able to do as much as it is doing now. The Government should be clear in its policy towards this type of activity. Does the Government desire to encourage national fitness ? Does it want to utilize the efforts of those who have volunteered to develop the bodies of young people who have been gathered together in this organization? If the Government wants to promote this activity it will be necessary for it to supply the organization with enough money to exist. If the Government does not want to promote this activity why should it stifle the enthusiasm of those who have assisted the movement? Why should it slowly discredit the organization by strangling it out of existence year after year? It would be better for the Government to declare that the organization was performing no useful function and that it was determined to put an end to it and that, consequently, it would not supply any more funds. Then we should know the intentions of the Government and the organization could cease to exist or be taken over by the States.
When the national fitness scheme began it had the possibility of developing into a wonderful organization. The amount of leisure that the Australian people have is fairly considerable, but little is done to direct it into healthy, useful channels. We complain a. lot about young people standing around street corners and going to picture shows. This scheme was conceived in order to encourage citizens who wished to help young people to engage in healthy, physical activity. In its early days the scheme gave, magnificent’ promise. I believe that the National Parliament should encourage the healthydevelopment of our young people aud provide them with facilities for the utilization of their leisure time. I have been most discouraged to find that the National Parliament no longer has the conception of its duty in this respect that it had some years ago. I hope that the Government will announce its policy on this subject. Is the Government lukewarm towards the activities of the national fitness organization? Is the Government prepared to let the organization die, or does it still intend that the organization shall serve a useful purpose ? If it does have that intention will it provide in next year’s budget if not in this one, for an increased grant to the national fitness organization which will compensate it for the smallness of previous grants? Then the members of this organization will know whether they should attempt to continue their activity or go out of existence.
– I wish to refer to the Division No. 84 - Serum Laboratories. I understand that this body is now a very large trading and manufacturing organization. The appropriation for the current financial year amounts to £651,000 for salaries and payments in the nature of salary, and £604,000 for general expenses, making a total appropriation of £1,255,000. Honorable senators will notice that both the amounts I have mentioned are chargeable to Serum Laboratories Trust Account. Reference to the trust account on page 104 of the budgetpapers gives a further indication of the magnitude of the business done by this organization, which commenced its activities at the beginning of the last financial year with a balance of £83,295. Its expenditure for the year ended the 30th lune, 1953, amounted to over £1,103,015. Its receipts amounted to £1,150,355 and the balance remaining at the 30th June was £130,636. The nature of the business in which this organization engages is not readily apparent from an examination of these accounts. It is a trading organization. Apparently the Treasury has set out in the trust account section of the budget-papers what it considers will be of most interest to honorable senators. Honorable senators will notice that particulars of the Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Fund and the War Service Homes Insurance Account and other trust accounts are given there. But I do not notice any detail of the trust account relating to this trading organization. I suggest that by carrying the funds of this organization into a trust account the Treasuryhas failed to reveal sufficient details of this organization’s operations to Parliament. I suggest that, as a trading organization with such a large turnover, it should be subject to audit and details of its accounts should be readily available. Are the accounts of the organization subject to audit? Would it not be wise to indicate in the budget-papers or the Appropriation Bill or the Estimates where honorable senators can examine particulars of the trading activities of this organization? I should like the Government to make this information more readily available.
I now wish to refer to the presentation of the accounts of the Department of Health as they appear in the Appropriation Bill, but my remarks apply to the accounts of all other departments. In the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure there is a note at the bottom of the summary relating to the Department of Health which reads, “For total cost of Department of Works see budgetpapers 1953-1954 “. I appreciate that an appropriation bill can show only the amounts of money that are being appropriated, but I believe that, in order to give honorable senators a proper picture of the scope and activities of the department, some reference should be readily available to indicate just what part of its total expenditure is represented by the appropriation in the bill which is made in this bill and, I repeat, to give, some idea of the overall functions and costs of the department. I should like to know whether it would be possible to include in the bill the same reference - not an amount because that would be confusing - as appears in the Estimates, namely, “ For total cost of Department see budgetpapers “.
There is only one other point I wish to make. I refer to the vote in Division 82 for quarantine services. Item 4, under “ General Expenses “, is “ Allowances for services of State Officers and others “, and the sum to be appropriated this year is £79,000 compared with an actual expenditure of £46,653 last year. I should like some explanation of that steep rise.
– I wish to refer to two of the matters with which Senator Arnold has dealt. The first is the free milk scheme. Senator Arnold asked whether that scheme has been a success. The answer to that is to be found in the fact that the vote this year under the heading “Administrative Nutrition of Children . . Payments to States “ is £7,000 compared with an actual expenditure of £2,710 last year. It is true that certain difficulties arose initially in the distribution of free milk through the schools. Some education officers, apparently believing that if they did not take their quota of milk they might lose it, tended to try to force the milk down the throats of children who did not want it. Such troubles, however, were only initial troubles. From my own observation in New South Wales, as one who has been very actively associated with various parents and citizens organizations and with schools, I say that the scheme has been most successful, at least in the metropolitan areas where the demand is the greatest. Obviously, in country districts the demand for free milk at the schools is not so great. As I have said, there have been difficulties but they have been largely difficulties of initial planning, and they will work out as time goes on. I am in the happy position to know just how important the distribution of milk is. I am proud to say that I am vice-president of a food for babies fund which operates in Sydney. It is a wonderful organization. Through the voluntary effort of worthwhile citizens in the community, a considerable amount of money is raised to provide milk for children. In addition, amenities are provided for mothers before and after childbirth, but probably the most important phase of the work of the fund is the provision of milk. At the moment I am unable to state the exact quantity of milk that is supplied, but I can say with complete certainty that our organization provides gratuitously many thousands of gallons of milk for children, mostly in the period before they start school. Our activities are centred largely in industrial suburbs where many parents are enduring some degree of economic stress.
I have been asked by the committee which administers the fund to make representations to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) that, in view of the work we are doing, we should be placed on the same basis as the States in regard to Commonwealth assistance. As the Commonwealth has accepted responsibility for national health and as the organization to which I belong is voluntary, we are eager if possible to get some Commonwealth assistance. I will, of course, make written representations to the Minister for Health on that matter. I raise it now merely to give an answer to Senator Arnold who asked, quite reasonably, whether the scheme was successful and sought an assurance that the distribution of free milk was worthwhile.
I come now to another matter touched on by Senator Arnold. I refer to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States relating to tuberculosis. I have already asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health on this subject. Under the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill which will shortly come before this chamber, the sum of £1,500,000 is provided for capital expenditure, but I propose now to make some reference to the provision of £50,000 this year under division 81, which relate to administrative expenses. I think we should be aware of the history of this matter. The present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was responsible as Minister for Health for introducing the bill which provided for the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. I concur with what has been said by Senator Arnold about the need for the Commonwealth and the States to attack this very important problem in collaboration. Medically, there is no reason why we should not, within a measurable number of years, completely wipe out tuberculosis as a killer of our people. I think it is true to say that more people in New South Wales die from tuberculosis each year than as a result of motor accidents. That, emphasizes the alarming death rate from this disease. If £50,000 is considered to be a low figure, it is simply because some of the States are not doing their job. While I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament I moved a private member’s motion severely criticizing the State Government for its failure to fully implement the anti-tuberculosis campaign. Virtually, the Commonwealth has given the States a blank cheque to do whatever is necessary to eradicate tuberculosis. The States may, if they wish, build hospitals. They are entitled to be recouped for any expenditure that they incur in connexion with tuberculosis and it is regrettable, indeed, that the Commonwealth finds it necessary to allocate only £50,000 this year. I know that the New South Wales Government is not giving this problem the emphasis it deserves. There is a tendency to leave the work to the Antituberculosis Association. In Martinplace, Sydney, people are lining up for X-rays at a caravan. That work should have been properly planned so that every person in the State and certainly every person, in the metropolitan area would have had X-ray examinations and other tests before now. When the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is before the Senate, I shall be more trenchant in my criticism of what is being done. At this stage I merely express my regret that only £50,000 is being provided this year. That is not a reflection on the Commonwealth or on the Department of Health. It merely indicates that New South Wales is not making full use of this glorious opportunity to banish this deadly killer. I hope that my remarks, and perhaps those of other honorable senators, will stir the New South Wales authorities to more vigorous efforts in the future.
– Senator Arnold complained of a lack of information about expenditure by the Department of Health. I point out that the money provided in the Estimates is only to cover the administrative expenses of the various branches of the Department of Health. The main expenditure of the department comes from the National Welfare Fund, the figures of which are shown in the budget. “Undoubtedly the Department of Health lias made tremendous strides during tie last four years, and I have much pleasure in citing figures which will show just what progress has been made. Expenditure this year on hospital benefits alone will be £8,500,000. That represents an increase of £1,267,760 over the previous year. Total expenditure since the introduction of the hospital benefits scheme by the previous Labour Government in 1946 exceeds £42,000,000. Of course, that scheme has been amended in the meantime. When it was first introduced, a benefit of 8s. a day was payable in respect of each person occupying a bed in the public ward of a public hospital. The benefit has since been increased to 12s. a day in the case of pensioners who are enrolled in the pensioners medical service. In addition patients in non-public wards of approved private and public hospitals are also entitled to benefit under the scheme. Persons who are contributors to medical benefits organizations are entitled to an additional 4s. a day.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which is based on a formulary and which also was instituted by the Labour Government in 1948, last year cost £6,486,651. This year it is estimated that it will cost £7,830,000. The original scheme has been replaced by one based on a list of lifesaving and disease-prevention drugs which was introduced on the 4th September, 1950. Payments in connexion with these benefits have been made to approved chemists, medical practitioners and hospitals, the flying doctor service, bush nursing centres, mission stations, and so on. Since the scheme came into operation, the Commonwealth has expended more than £17,000,000 in respect of pharmaceutical benefits.
I was interested to hear the remarks of Senator Anderson concerning tuberculosis and the action which is being taken in New South Wales to eradicate that disease. The estimated expenditure for the Commonwealth in that connexion this year is £5,673,000 for maintenance and allowances which does not include £1,500,000 for capital expenditure under Division 20.
– That amount includes reimbursements to the States.
– Yes. This Government has instituted a system of benefits which is probably the most liberal of any country in the world. Under the budget proposals, a married tuberculosis sufferer will receive £9 2s. 6d. a week. In addition, each dependent child will receive 10s. a week. A single sufferer without dependants receiving free treatment in an approved institution will be entitled to £3 10s. a week and those receiving approved domiciliary treatment will receive £5 12s. 6d. a week. The details of payments to the States in this connexion are most illuminating. In respect of New South Wales, where there are 2,247 sufferers from this disease, expenditure last year on account of tuberculosis allowances was £766,625, and the estimated expenditure this year will be £800,420. Maintenance in that State will cost £1,200,000. The total expenditure for all States will be £5,723,000 for allowances and maintenance, less the amount of £50,000 to which Senator Anderson referred, which applies to administration expenses in connexion with tuberculosis and has nothing to do with the amount actually paid out to sufferers from tuberculosis.
In respect of mental institutions in the States, £522,552 was paid by the Commonwealth last year, and it is estimated that £495,000 will be paid on that account this year. The estimated cost of the medical benefits scheme this year is £3,500,000. Last year, it was nil, because the scheme only came into operation on the 1st July last. It is based on a system of voluntary medical insurance, which is the outcome of long and careful planning, and is designed to strengthen voluntary medical insurance by the provision of financial assistance by the Commonwealth.
Medical benefits for pensioners have also been provided by this Government. In 1952-53 the cost of such benefits was £1,739,952, and the estimated cost this year is £2,035,000. The pensioners medical scheme, which has operated since the 21st February, 1951, provides a general practitioner medical service for age, invalid, widow and service pensioners, as well as for sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants.
Senator Arnold referred to the subject of nutrition of children. In my opinion, this Government has done a wonderful job in that connexion. The cost of providing free milk for school children last year was £1,521,394, and the estimated cost this year is £2,100,000. The honorable senator inquired whether the children are showing beneficial effects as a result of receiving that milk. The scheme commenced in New South Wales on the 2nd April, 1951, so that it has been in operation for approximately two and a half years. Whilst that is insufficient time in which to arrive at definite conclusions, there is no doubt that the children have benefited greatly. Senator Anderson spoke of the way in which the scheme is working in New South Wales. I have estimated that approximately 8,000,000 gallons ofmilk are supplied annually in this way. That estimate is made having regard to the total amount expended and taking the cost of a gallon of milk as 5s. Approximately one-third of a pint of milk is made available to each child daily, although in some instances the children receive half a pint. Senator Arnold asked whether provision could be made to supply substitutes for milk. I understand that at the present it is not possible to do so because the legislation provides only for the distribution of milk. However, I have no doubt that if the health of the children could be better served bygiving them something else the matter would be considered seriously.
Commonwealth authorities do not attend to the dental health of children. That is a matter for the States, and I know that in Queensland excellent work has been done in that direction. Of course, the fact that school children are being provided with at least one-third of a pint of milk each day ensures the intake of a certain amount of calcium, which must have a beneficial effect on their teeth.
Senator Arnold also referred to the national fitness fund. At one time, the honorable senator and I were very interested in this matter, and I think I can rightly say that at that time much good work was being done in this connexion. If I remember correctly, the sum of £100,000 was made available on the under standing that it was to be used in the States to build up the national fitness movement. That movement has been very successful, and at the present time the people of the States are keenly interested in the subject. The purpose of the fund has been achieved. This year’s grant is £72,500, which, I consider, indicates that reasonable expenditure has occurred over the years. I know that in Queensland a great deal of voluntary effort is put forward in connexion with national fitness because the people have become used to the idea and are interested in it. A donation is made to the World Health Organization,and last year it amounted to £103,203, which includedsix months retrospective contribution for the previous year.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate,I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers werepresented : -
Overseas Telecommunications Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) for year ended 31st March, 1953, together with financial accounts.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Repatriation - T. A. O’Donnell.
Territories - H. C. Haskew.
War Service Homes Act - Report of Director of War Service Homes for year 1952-53, together with statements and balance-sheet.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19531007_senate_20_s1/>.