21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.When I was speaking on the budget last Thursday, several points of order were taken by Opposition senators in respect of one portion of my speech. A. condensed report of the speech that I delivered was published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on Friday, the 17th September. The report contained a misstatement. It stated -
Senator Maher, who was rebuked by the Senate President (Senator McMullin) . . .
Honorable senators will remember that the President was not in the chair at the relevant time. The chair was occupied by the Deputy President, Senator Reid. That is the first mistake made by the Courier-Mail. SenatorReid, in giving his rulings on the various points of order raised’ by Opposition senators, notably Senator Willesee, Senator Benn and SenatorFraser - there might have been one or two more - held that my remarks were in order. SenatorReid upheld me against those points of order.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Order ! Senator
Maher must be allowed to make his personal explanation in silence.
– Therefore, it is quite clear that no rebuke was administered to me either by your good self, Mr. President, as you were not in the chair then, or by the Deputy President, Senator Reid. I object to the use of the word, “ rebuke “. I do not mind if it is applied to me when I have been rebuked,’ but when I have not been rebuked I object to it. A rebuke means a severe reproof or a reprimand. The use of the word in this context implies that some stern action was taken against me by the President. It suggests that I was guilty of a rather serious breach of the Standing Orders, that I had violated the standards of the Senate, or that I had shown some defiance of the President and/or the Deputy President.
On my return to Brisbane last Friday, I wrote a brief letter to the editor of the Courier-Mail which, with the permission of the Senate, I shall read. The letter states -
In the Canberra report of my speech in the Senate on Thursday, it is incorrectly stated in the Courier-Mail this morning that I was “ rebuked “ by the President of the Senate, Senator McMullin. This is absolutely incorrect. Firstly, Senator McMullin was not in the Chair nt the time, which was occupied by the Chairman of Committees, Senator Reid. At no time did Senator Reid rebuke me. After four or five points of order by members of the Opposition, Senator Reid ruled each time that I was distinctly in order, but I finally decided, of my own volition, not to pursue the subject any further, in order to - create a better Opposition atmosphere to enable me to continue my speech on other subjects. It reads badly tn the Queensland public that I was rebuked. Nothing of the kind happened, and I would be “lad if you would make this public.
I regret that no correction was made by the Courier- Mail in response to that courteous letter. I am obliged, therefore, in order to do myself justice, to take this course and draw attention to what appears to me to have been very bad reporting. I wish to add that the CourierMail, in common with the press generally, supports the principle of freedom of the press, and I gladly concede this first principle of democracy.
– Order ! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the personal explanation.
– I only wish to add that the press, in exercising its obligations’ and responsibilities, should consider, as its first line of duty, that when it is obviously in error and injustice has been done to a person thereby, it should make proper amends. Freedom and fair play should be on a two-way basis.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yet in a position to make a statement to the Senate regarding the efforts that have been made by the Government to relieve the financial position of dried-fruit growers, not only in South Australia but also throughout the Commonwealth? If arrangements have not been completed, can the Minister state how long it will be before the negotiations, which I understand are at present proceeding and which will affect the welfare of these people, will be completed?
– That matter is still under very active consideration. It is one of the first topics that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will raise when he arrives in London. Negotiations have taken place already, but have not yet been completed. The real problem is a surplus of dried fruit on the market-
– Is that only in London ?
– I am speaking about London. Until agreement is reached, I am not in a position to divulge the nature of the negotiations. However, I assure the honorable senator that the Minister appreciates the seriousness of the matter to the dried-fruits industry and that everything possible is being done.
– Why does not the Government remove sales tax from dried fruits ?
– I appreciate the importance of that point, which has been brought to the notice of the Treasurer.
– On the 15th September, Senator Vincent asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether there is any truth in the report published in the Melbourne Herald on Friday, the 15th September, that Cabinet has approved a plan to build one national and two commercial television stations in Melbourne and Sydney respectively? If the report is correct, will the Minister say why the Government has approved a plan that will give three television stations each to Melbourne and Sydney and none to the other capital cities? Instead of establishing six television stations in those two cities will Cabinet consider a plan for the provision of one station in each of the six capital cities?
The Postmaster-General has furnished the following reply: -
Cabinet has decided that television should liu introduced into Australia on a gradual basis and that a commencement should be made by the establishment of one national and two commercial stations in Sydney and Melbourne. This procedure has been adopted in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television and having regard to considerations of finance and the availability of suitable programme material. As soon as practicable, the service will bc extended to other capita] cities and country « ieas.
– In April, and again last week, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport when it was intended to replace the antiquated vans of the “ tea-and-sugar “ train on the eastwest railway with modern refrigerator vans, something which was long overdue. I understand that the new vans -are at Port Augusta awaiting the installation of refrigerator equipment, and that they will not be ready for service until February, by which time the worst part of yet another summer will be over. Will the Minister endeavour to expedite their completion and placing in commission, in ‘ the interests of the people living along the transcontinental railway, who depend on the “tea-and-sugar” train for their supplies?
– I shall be very pleased to ask the Commonwealth Bailways Commissioner to investigate this matter and see whether the delivery of the new refrigerator vans can be expedited.
– As complaints have reached me through a member of the South Australian Parliament concerning pilfering on the north-south railway, I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether any reports have reached him concerning this matter. If they have reached him, what action has been taken in connexion with them ?
– I shall take that matter up with the Commonwealth rail ways and obtain a report for the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the Government will consider extending a cordial invitation to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, to be present at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Melbourne.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs is in another place preparing for an important mission, and as the question asked by the honorable senator concerns a matter of great importance and interest to all honorable senators, I suggest that he put in on the notice-paper and I shall have the matter referred to the Prime Minister.
– I hold in my hand an Australian Labour party bulletin, special election issue, a caption in which says, “ Labour’s positive policy on planned development and prosperity- “
– Order ! The honorable senator may not quote from a newspaper.
– During the last general election campaign, in the course of a speech which the Premier of Queensland made at the City Hall in Brisbane, he referred to the splendid development of Queensland by the Labour Government. In the course of his speech he said -
I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Government has any intention of changing its financial ways and helping in the development of Queensland. What projects are being carried out in Queensland by the Menzies Government and what projects are contemplated ?
– The honorable senator’s question has followed a familiar pattern. The Premier of Queensland came to Canberra and was most generously treated by being given a financial appropriation far in excess of that which he expected. He then went back to
Queensland and bit the hand of the friend who had fed him. No Australian government has ever treated the Queensland Government more generously than the Menzies Government has done. As to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, if the Queensland Government brings forward a developmental project that is sound and worthy of consideration and cannot be encompassed by the Queensland Government from the already generous financial resources that are made available to it by the Menzies Government, such a proposal will receive consideration.
– Having regard to the question that was asked by Senator Brown and the reply that was given by the Minister for National Development to the effect that if the Queensland Government had in mind any projects that were beyond its financial resources, the Australian Government would assist the State Government, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the same generous measure of assistance would also be extended -to Western Australia in similar circumstances? On many occasions I have asked in this chamber whether Commonwealth assistance would be given to the establishment of a medical school at the University of Western Australia. In answer to a recent question by me cm this subject,the Minister for Nacional Development said that the original offer made in 1947 by the Chifley Government Bad been rejected by the Government of Western Australia. Is the Minister aware that the Western Australian Government at the time the p’roposal was rejected was a Liberal government, and that, with the advent of a Labour governmnent in that State the matter has again becOme urgent,particularly in view Of the many devel’opin entail works now in progress? A-s the people df Western Austrafia are becoming restive’ about the lack of a me’dic’al school, the provision Of which is b’eyond the financial resources df the Sta:t’e, can the Minister say whether funds will be made available by the Australian Government to the Government of Western Australia for this important project?
– I do not think that it should be alleged that even in all my enthusiasm I told Senator Brown that if Queensland made a request to the Commonwealth, it would be granted. I said that such a request would be considered and I give the same answer to> Senator Tangney. There is a properprocedure to be followed in these mattersThere is, for instance, an allocation to the States of loan funds. There is also consideration by the . Commonwealth of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on State finances, and there are special parliamentary appropriations. In addition, there is the procedureby which a State Premier approachesthe Prime Minister. I suggest toSenator Tangney that the first stepshould be, not to open this subject up by asking a question in this chamber, but to get the Premier of Western Australia to make representations to the Primer Minister.
– Has the Minister for National Development visited the ?20,000,000 oil refinery project at Kwinana, Western Australia? If the Minister and other Ministers have hot inspected the project, will he conside’r arranging a visit te Kwinana by & parliam’e’nta’ry delegation similar to’ that which visited Ruin Jungle?
– When theAngloIranian Oil Company Limited stated that ft proposed to establish a large- refinery in Australia, I suggested that’ its representatives should investigate conditions in Western Australia and recommended the select-ion of a site there. Recommendations made by the Menzie’s Government were a major influence in1 the selection of the’ Kwinana site as a result of which Western Australia will benefit considerably. Since work .on the Kwinana refinery was started; I havevisited the project twice and inspected it. The Department of National Development and other departments are doing all’ they can to help the company and its con: tractors and, partly as a result of theircooperation, very good progress has been made in the construction of the project. I doubt whether it would be proper forthe Government to organize a parliamentary delegation’ to’ visit Kwinana It. is not’ a’ governmental proj’e’ct. It is being carried out ‘by a private company and any invitation to visit the site would have to come, in the first place, from th’e company itself. I would not suggest that a parliamentary ‘delegation go to Kwinana with -anything like the enthusiasm that F would suggest that members of the Parliament should visit the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric project or some national work of that kind.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate when the report on Tasmanian shipping will be available from the special investigator, Mr. Strachan, who was appointed by the Minister? . It is important that the report should be before honorable senators in time for any appropriate action to be taken before the end of this sessional period.
– I hope to be able to present the report to which the honorable senator has referred before the end of this sessional period. In the meantime, suggestions that are being made from time to time in connexion with shipping are being acted upon where practicable.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply prepared to lay on the table of the Senate the report of the investigators who recently examined the administration of the Australian .Aluminium Production Commission in Tasmania? If he is not prepared to table this report, will he prepare a statement to allay certain foa rs that there have been .large-scale leakages of Commonwealth funds and defalcations in the administration qf the aluminium project at Bell Bay?
Senator COOPER.^* shall direct the attention of the Minister for Supply to the honorable Senator’s question
asked the Minister representing the Minister Acting for the Treasurer upon notice -
– The Minister Acting for the Treasurer has supplied the following ‘answers to the honorable senator’s questions :: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
If to, will the ‘Minister arrange to have these papers tabled in the Senate?
– The “following: answers have been “provided : -
Motion (by Senator Spices) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the government of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I moves -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to provide for an adequate and effective system of law in the Australian Antarctic Territory. This Territory forms part of the Antarctic continent and covers an area of between 2,00(^000 and 2,500,000 square miles. It comprises all that area of the continent which is immediately south of Australia, except the small strip known as Adelie Land, which is French territory. The Territory was accepted as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth by the Australian Antartic Acceptance Act of 1933.
At the present time, it is difficult to state with precision the laws which ase in force in the Territory. Last summer, however, as honorable senators are aware, a base was established at Mawson in the Territory, and the present prospect is that this base will be maintained as a permanent station. A more readily ascertainable system of law is required in the Territory, not only to govern the general relationships between the members of the base parties, but also to provide machinery for such matters as, for example, the registration of any deaths which may occur in the Territory, the appointment of a coroner, the registration of medical practitioners appointed to attend persons stationed in the Territory, the preservation of wild life and the control of mineral resources.
In the first place, the bill provides for the repeal of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933. This act has only two operative sections. The first of these sections defines the area of the Territory and declares it to be accepted by the Commonwealth as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth. The provisions of this section have, of course, been completely carried into effect. The second operative section of the 1933 act enables the making of ordinances having the force of law in the Territory. Therefore, there is already on the statute-book machinery to enable the introduction of laws into the Territory, and honorable senators may wonder why the bill is necessary. The reason for its introduction is that, since the 1933 act was passed, the Parliament has enacted the Heard Island and MacDonald Islands Act 1953, which provides, for the establishment of a system of law in those sub- Antarctic islands in a different way. It is considered desirable that the system of law in the Australian Antarctic Territory and in the sub-Antarctic Territory should, as far as possible, be similar, but there are doubts whether provisions similar to those of the Heard Island and MacDonald Islands Act could be applied to the Australian Antarctic Territory by the machinery provided in the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act of 1933. To put the question beyond doubt, the amendment of the 1933 act is considered necessary, but as that act contains only two substantive sections, one of which has, as already mentioned, run its course, the most satisfactory procedure is to repeal the whole of the 1933 act and confine the proposed new act solely to the establishment of a system of law in the Territory. The repeal of this act will, of course, in no way affect Australia’s title to the Territory.
The short effect of the bill is to provide for the application within the Territory of laws from time to time in force in the Australian Capital Territory, except Commonwealth acts. There is provision also for the making of ordinances in relation to the Territory. Generally speaking, the bill will enable the administration of the Territory to function through existing officers and instrumentalities, so that, for example, should it become necessary to register a death, this could be done with the Registrar for the Australian Capital Territory in the ordinary manner.
There is, however, one general exception to the principle that laws of the Australian Capital Territory will apply in the Australian Antarctic Territory. As honorable senators will see from the provisions of clauses 6 (2) and 8 of the bill, acts of this Parliament will not, unless expressly stated to extend to the Territory, apply of their own force or as part of the law of the Australian Capital Territory. The reason for these provisions is that it is considered desirable to make a selection of Commonwealth acts which shall apply to the Territory rather than to apply all of them indiscriminately. This is consistent with normal practice whereby Commonwealth acts do not apply to external territories of the Commonwealth, unless expressly so provided. Much of the volume of Commonwealth legislation would, in any case, be of no practical application in the Territory and might conceivably lead to anomalies and difficulties.
The remaining clauses of the bill make provision for a general power to amend or repeal adopted laws by ordinance and for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory to he exercised in respect of the Territory. The clause relating to the court is necessary because of the otherwise general provision that Commonwealth acts shall not, of their own force, apply in the Territory. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 429), on motion by SenatorCooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Amour had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “bill” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that -
1 ) ( a ) The totally and permanently disabled rate for war pensions be £12 10s. a week with proportionate increases for dependants.
Dependants of T.P.I, pensioners caring for such pensioners be granted sickness and hospital benefits similar to those extended to Age or Invalid pensioners.
The T.P.I, rate as set out here be applied to totally blind pensioners.
The pension of a partially blinded soldier who has lost an eye, or the sight of an eye or who is Buffering 50 per cent, loss of efficiency from an eye injury be classified as 75 per cent, to bring him on the same level as a limbless soldier who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee.
A Parliamentary Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under Section 47 of the Act ( onus of proof ) .
(a) All ex-service men and women shall be entitled to treatment in Repatriation Hospitals for disabilities whether war caused or not.
A similar right to treatment in Repatriation or other hospitals shall be given to war widows.
There shall be automatic entitlement to repatriation benefits for mental or nervous disorders of an ex-member of the Forces.
Benefits shall be provided for the progressive deterioration of one of dual organs where the other suffered war-caused injury “.
– in reply - Yesterday, an amendment was moved by
Senator Amour in relation to the bill which is now before the Senate. I have no apologies to make regarding this hill. In fact I, and I think my colleagues on this side of the chamber, are very proud of the repatriation legislation which has been introduced by this Government, during the last four years. The amendment which has been proposed consists of various recommendations which would have the effect of an overall revision of the act in relation to pensions, allowances, hospital treatment and matters of that kind. Upon examination,, it is clear that this amendment has been taken from the policy speech enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) prior to the last general election. I remand honorable senators that that policy was rejected by the electors. At that time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when dealing with repatriation benefits in his policy speech, made no promises at all hut merely gave details of the achievements of the Government during its term of office. He concluded by saying: -
Ex-servicemen may be assured that our policy will be continued and that, as in the past, we will co-operate with their organizations in the closest possible way.
On that, and the other aspects of its policy, the Menzies Government was returned to office. It seems to me that Senator Amour’s amendment has been put forward for purely party political reasons. If the record of Labour, when it was in office, is any indication, a Labour government would not have presented such proposals to the Parliament knowing that it would be responsible for putting them into operation. During the debate yesterday, the attitude of honorable senators opposite was to belittle what had been done by the Menzies Government throughout its term of office.
The amendment proposes that the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should be increased to £12 10s. a week. As far as I can see, that amount bears no relation to any plan of repatriation benefits.
– Except to restore them to previous levels.
– Since the honorable, senator has raised that matter, it may be as well if I state the exact posi tion of repatriation benefits when this Government came to office. The. only increase of the general rate pension made by the previous Labour Government between 1946 and 1949- was 5s. a week. The special rate pension was increased by only 10s. a week, whilst the increase in the allowance for wives was only 2s.. a week. The allowance for children was not increased at all. The pension of widows was- increased by 10s. a. week, but the allowances for children of widows, orphans and double orphans were not increased.
For the benefit of Senator O’Byrne, I point out that, during the last four years, increases- of the general rate of pension, including the increase proposed by the bill before the- Senate, will amount to £1 15s. a week, against an increase of 5s. a week by Labour. The increase in the special rate of pension has been £3 19s: a week, against Labour’s- increase of 10s. a week. The pension for wives has been, increased by lis. 6d. a week, against 2s.,. whilst the allowance for children has been increased by 4s. 9d. a week, against no increase at all by Labour. The pension for widows has been increased by £1 a week, against an increase of 10s. by Labour. In relation to allowances for children, this Government has increased the allowance for the first child by 9s. a week, or from 17s. 6d. to 26s. 6d. a week. The allowance for the second child has been increased by 6s. a week, whilst that for double orphans has been increased, during the last four years, to 28s. a week.
It is obvious that this amendment is not genuine. I am certain that the previous Labour Government, on its record during its eight years of office, particularly the last four years, would not have given effect to such proposals. I remind the Opposition that some of the proposals contained in the amendments could well have been implemented during the eight years that the previous Labour Government was in office. For instance, some honorable senators opposite devoted a great deal of time to the proposal contained in paragraph 4 -
That all ex-service men and women shall be entitled to treatment in Repatriation Hospitals for disabilities whether war-caused or not.
Of course, that proposal is not new, and it should oe aimed at. However, I point out that if honorable senators opposite were genuine in this matter, they could have implemented the proposal when they formed the government of this country. I remind Senator Sandford that, in 1948, when representatives of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia, the Federated Tubercular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia, and the Limbless Soldiers Association- came to Canberra, they were granted an interview by Mr.. Barnard, the then Minister for Repatriation, and Mr. Chifley, the then Prime Minister. They presented a petition to Mr. Chifley, who’ told them that he was not prepared to do anything at that stage,, because an election was pending at the end of the year,, but that if they renewed their petition, after Labour had been returned to office> it would receive consideration. However, Labour was not returned to office. During- the first year of office of this Government,, there were granted the greatest increases of repatriation pensions and benefits in the history of repatriation- in this country. I emphasize that the previous Labour Government, in 1949, refused the request -of ex-servicemen’s organizations for increases of pensions and benefits. Since 1950, we have progressively overhauled the repatriation machinery. In every budget that has been introduced into the Parliament during the last four years, increases have been granted to some sections - not every section, I admit - of ex-servicemen. Quite rightly, the greatest increases have been granted to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, because this Government realizes that those persons are dependant almost entirely on their pensions for a living. The act provides that totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen may earn only a measurable amount -of a living wage. That’ amount is elastic ; it has never been expressly defined by the Repatriation Department, either- while I have been Minister for Repatriation or previously. We believe that it is better for a man to be engaged even in light employment, which keeps his mind occupied, than to remain idle. But if he could work day in and day out, he could not be regarded as totally and permanently, incapacitated.
Some members of the Opposition have asked why the Government has not, by this bill, increased the pensions payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. In 1951, when the cost of living was rising at an alarming rate., the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was increased - by £1 15s. - from £7 to £8 15s. a week. At that time, I was told by the representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations that they had not expected an increase of anything like £1 15s. a week. I warned them that that big lift was intended to cover, not only 1951, but also the period necessary for us to check the rising cost of living. In 1952,. the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen’s pensions were again increased - by 10s. - from £8 15s. to £9 5s. a week. Last year the general rate pension - the one with which this bill deals - was increased by 2s. 6d. a week. This bill proposes a further increase of that pension - .by 7s. 6d. - to £4 10s. a week. If honorable senators will reflect on what has happened over the years, they will’ see that, with the exception of 1947, the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was less than, double- the general rate pension. It was increased to double the general rate pension in 1950-, in which year the general rate pension was increased to £3 10s. a week and the special rate pension to £7 a week. In 1951, .the special rate pension was increased to £8 15s. a week, which- was more than double the general rate. Even after the proposed increase of the general rate pension to £4 10s. a week, the special rate pension will be 5s. more than double the general rate pension.
Senator O’Byrne spoke at length about the purchasing power of repatriation pensions. Over the years, the returned servicemen’s organizations have always resisted the linking of war pensions with the basic wage. It is only within the last twelve or eighteen months that such a. linking has been suggested. I am sure that those honorable senators who are returned ex-servicemen will recall that, as far back as 1920, the linking of wan pensions with the basic wage has been resisted by the ex-servicemen’s organizations. However, increase of war pensions have borne some relation to decreased purchasing power as a result of the rising cost of living. The pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen in 1920, when the, pension rates were overhauled, was £4 a week. The cost of living index figure for 1920 was 1,022. It is now 3,324. On the basis of the cost of living index figures, the present equivalent of £4 a week in 1920 would be £9 2s. a week. These pensioners are receiving 3s. more than that amount.
– What about 194S?
– I shall cite the figures for 1949 in which year the Labour Government concluded its term of office. The figures for 1948 would enable me to make a comparison even more in favour of my argument than the figures for 1949. In 1949, the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen was £5 6s. a week. On the basis of the cost of living index figures, an equivalent amount for the present time would be £S 15s. 6d. a week, whereas it is actually £9 5s. a week. Consequently, the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are 9s. 6d. in pocket on the basis of that comparison. Yet Opposition senators have made wild statements concerning what they call the niggardly pension that is being dealt out to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
The Government has shown practical sympathy with those ex-servicemen who are almost entirely dependent on the pension for their income. I have only quoted the basic rate for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen so far. The least amount that a man can receive is £9 5s. a week. If he has a wife he is entitled to receive £1 15s. 6d. extra, which brings his total -pension to £11 0s. 6d. a week.
– The Minister should deal with the case of the single man.
– I shall cite figures for the single man but it is only fair to state the total income received by the family. I know that Senator Ashley will not like these facts because he cites the figures that suit him best. A pen sioner with a wife and one child, fifteen years of age, receives £12 14s. 3d.’ a week. A pensioner with a wife and two children, thirteen and fifteen years of age, both attending school, receives £14 9s. 6d. a week. That is the net amount that he receives, it being free of income tax.
Some ex-servicemen are so incapacitated that they have difficulty . in travelling. In addition to the base rate, those men receive a transport recreation allowance of £10 a month or £2 6s. a week. When this Government came to office the regulations provided that this allowance should be paid only to pensioners who were confined to a wheel chair or cot. I realized the great difficulties under which these men were living and so did the Government. Consequently, the Government liberalized the regulations so as to extend this allowance to those who could move only short distances with the aid of crutches or a stick. That enabled quite a large number of these unfortunate men and women to become eligible for the transport allowance. Those pensioners who are totally disabled may also be entitled to an attendant allowance of £1 15s. a week. This allowance brings the total amount of pension receivable by a single man who is totally and permanently incapacitated up to £13 6s. a week. A man with a dependent wife who receives a transport allowance and an attendant, allowance receives a total of £15 ls. 6d. a week. A married man with one child, fifteen years of age and attending school, receives a total of £16 15s. 3d. a week.
– Not a bit too much.
– Then why did not the government of which Senator Ashley was a member increase the pension in 1949? It did increase war service pensions after 1948 when the special rate pension was increased to £5 6s. a week. No other pension was ‘increased. When speaking in this debate, Senator Ashley said that the Government should provide certain amenities for these people. What amenities did the previous government provide? I remember a delegation coming from Sydney to plead the case for some extra allowance for those ex-servicemen who had had both limbs amputated above the knees and those suffering from paraplegia or paralysis from the waist downward. It was asked whether they could be supplied with transportation in order to enable them to visit their families and better enjoy the amenities of life. Those people were given nothing. When the Menzies Government came to office in 1949, it asked me to make a submission in regard to the provision of transport for these people. As a result, we gave all ex-servicemen classified in that group a free Hillman Minx motor car so that they could move about. They were entitled to and were receiving a transport allowance of £120 a year, and the Government did not take that away from them after it had provided them with motor cars. They retained the allowance of £120 each a year to assist them to run the motor car.
– They deserved it.
– I agree, but the Labour Government had the opportunity to do what we have done and it did not do so.
– It refused.
– That is true. Representatives of those men were conveyed from ‘Sydney and interviewed the Labour Prime Minister of the day and they were refused any concessions. They were not given an increase of the transport allowance. I am merely trying to emphasize that this Government has given practical evidence of its sympathy with men and women who have been badly disabled in war service. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have accused this Government of having done nothing for ex-service men and women.
– The Government had not done anything wonderful.
– If all that we have done for ex-servicemen can be described as “ nothing wonderful all that the Labour governments did for them can be described as a disgrace that will stand for all time. Honorable senators on the Opposition side made extensive references yesterday to the partially blinded ex-servicemen. The Government and its supporters have shown much mere practical sympathy with those men than have honorable senators on the Opposition side.
– That is not true. We are all agreed on the justice of their claims.
– Well, I agree, and I withdraw that statement.
– The Minister for Repatriation is playing a pretty low game.
– Yesterday an honorable senator on the Opposition side described supporters of the Government as “yellow “. I have not referred to that statement previously and I am trying to avoid making the matters under discussion a political issue, but I have been forced by honorable senators opposite to compare the benefits that this Government has given to ex-servicemen with the record of the previous Labour Administration. An honorable senator on the Opposition side stated yesterday that partially blinded ex-servicemen received only a 50 per cent, rate pension. That, was compared with the 75 per cent, rate pension that is granted to ex-servicemen who have lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee. Senator Cooke and Senator O’Byrne both referred to this matter. I have met members of the Executive Committee of the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association of Australia and I realize, as I have told them, that in asking for a 75 per cent, rate pension, they are simply putting their case as they see it. Some persons may know what it is to have lost an arm, but they have no practical appreciation of the effects of the loss of a leg. In my opinion Senator Cooke and Senator O’Byrne can have no conception of either. I do not know what it is like to have lost an eye, but I know what it is to have lost a leg. I am trying to convey to honorable senators that all the prescribed rates of pension for physical disabilities are not the result of a stab in the dark, nor are they based simply on medical data. All available information is obtained before a decision is reached.
Honorable senators who referred to this matter yesterday did not inform the Senate that although partially blinded ex-servicemen get a 50 . per cent, rate pension, they are entitled to and receive a higher rate of pension up to 100 per cent, as the good eye deteriorates. The maximum is equal to the pension o’f a totally Wind serviceman. I understood Senator Cooke to state that no pension was given for a worsening of the sight of a good eye. That is -wrong. I am quoting from “ Administrative Instruction - Paired Organs and Paired Limbs “.
– I want that provision in the Repatriation Act.
– It is in the act. This instruction states-
Where a ‘. - .. has lost 1,1, A vision of an eye as the result of war service and the other eye -becomes defective, but hot as the result of war service, the pension payable is to .be increased by the degree of incapacity in ‘the non-war caused ‘defective eye, but the increase in assessment is *tb be Based on “the degree of incapacity after correction -by -glasses or other methods’ of treatment.
A scale is laid down to cover -specified degrees of -sight as the good “eye deteriorates The scale ranges from practically normal to 100 , Der cent. -and then to blind. That is one of the few instances in which the age of an ex-serviceman is taken into account in a pension. Dimness of vision normally comes with age, but -in the case of a man who is incapacitated by the loss of ah eye, deterioration of his ‘sight ‘as he grows older and his vision becomes dimmer is covered by -ah increase of pension. So instead of giving these men a raw deal, we -are providing reasonable and generous ‘treatment.
– What are the progressive assessments ?
– With one eye blind and the sight of the other eye designated technically 6/9- -that is, practically normal - a pension of 55 per cent. Other provisions are: 6/12, from 60 per cent.; o/l’8, ‘from ‘70 per cent.; 6/24, from ‘80 per cent.; ‘6/86, from 90 per cent. ; 6/60, ‘from l’OO per cent, to blind. Similar provision is made ‘for all -paired organs. If a paired organ has a disability that has not been caused by war service, ‘it becomes .pensionable as it deteriorates if the other organ “was lost ‘iis a result of war -service. The ‘fifth schedule to the principal act “relates ‘to ‘all those dis.abilities. A man who ‘has ‘ lost an ‘eye receives ’13s. ‘a ‘week in ‘addition to ‘the normal pension . A m a’u who has lost -a leg below the’ knee or an arm below the elbow only receives 8s. 6d., so the man who has lost ah eye has a financial advantage there.
Mention has ‘been made by honorable senators opposite o’f delays in the hearing o’f appeal’s. I point out that within the last “four “years one additional entitlement ‘tribunal and two additional assessment tribunals have been appointed. Thework of the tribunals is constantly under the notice of the Repatriation Department, and, if necessary, more tribunalswill ‘be appointed so that ex-servicemen will not have to wait for unduly long: periods. My aim has always been to have cases heard as soon as possiblebecause I realize that a long waiting period is most irksome to a man who is suffering from a disability.
– It -is much harder for widows to have to wait a -long time.
– Very few of them have to wait for long. If the honorable senator knows of any particular instance in which -she considers a wait to have been unduly long I should be glad to hear of it. In the larger States of New South Wale’s and Victoria, ‘there may occasionally ‘be a pile-up of -this work, but in Western Australia, South Australia, an’d the other less-populous States, ‘the work is kept pretty well Up ‘to date. 1 main-tain th’a’t this Government has established a creditable ‘record over the past four years. I iiia prou’d to ‘be a member of the Go’vernmen’t and ‘to have, held office as Minister for Repatriation. In conclusion, I shall read to ‘the Senate an opinion’ that has been expressed about our repatriation services ‘by .Dame -Leslie Whateley, who has a wide ‘knowledge of what is being done fo’r ex-servicemen “and their dependants throughout the’ -world. The letter Ms written “to me .by Senator Henty after Dame Leslie Whateley’s visit to Tasmania -
During -a discussion with Dame Leslie Whateley in -Launceston this morning, she was loud in her praise of -the Government’s treatment of ex-servicemen in Australia
As you know Dame -Leslie-has -had -long and varied experience with .-Army and Government -Departments in Great Britain and .she speaks with some -authority on this subject. She ‘has recently visited some ‘23 countries of the ‘World - And states, emphatically, that Australia. leads in,her treatment ‘-of -ex-servicemen.
I thought ‘this may -be -of some -interest to you, as I know how devotedly you have .given of your time in this regard.
That is an unsolicited tribute from this much-travelled visitor, and. I appreciate it very much. The Opposition’s amendment is, in substance, the repatriation policy proposed by Dr. Evatt at the last election campaign. Therefore, I have had ample opportunity to, study the Opposition’s proposals. The Government is unable to accept them.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Amour’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. ( The President - -Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved’ in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative..
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the. 15th September (vide page 284), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– A bill to amend the Seamen’sWar Pensions and Allowances Act. is introduced almost annually. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) indicated in his second-reading speech, the object of this bill is to make the amendments necessary to bring payments made under that act into line with the increased payments that will be made under the Repatriation Act and similar legislation. The Opposition does not propose to discuss the bill at length. I shall comment, adversely, of course, on the paucity of the pensions and. allowances proposed to be paid to seamen, and at the conclusion of my remarks I shall move an amendment. I trust that, in future, legislation introduced on behalf of exservicemen and others who. have served their country in war will not, be treated as a political football. I hope we have seen the end of that sort of thing. Surely to goodness; we have not reached the stage when ex-servicemen must parade the history of their services to this country and pit their records against the records of others. Honorable senators have commented on what this Government and other governments have done in. this field. I have a clear conscience in this matter, because since 1 have been a member of the Senate I have fought bitterly all legislation in this category, irrespective of. the government which has introduced it, that did not seek to improve the lot of all exservicemen. “What Government senators have said in. comparing the pensions paid by this Government and- the last Labour Government is obviously true. We admit that, in- terms of money, this Government has doubled the pension that was paid by the Labour Government. But I say without fear of contradiction that the real object of measures of this kind is to provide the beneficiaries with an income sufficient to enable them to secure the necessities of life. It is idle to argue that the value of the pensions paid now, assessed in terms of purchasing power, is as great as in days gone by.
Thebill makes provision for increases of the pensions and allowances paid to seamen whose duties took them into various theatres of war and who suffered injury as a result of their service in those theatres. The Opposition will comment adversely on the smallness of the proposed increases, but it will not oppose the bill. I hope the Minister will he able to give me some information that I am seeking. Although I have studied the principle act, I can find no indication in it that some very important sections of ex-seamen are covered by it. I refer to men suffering from tuberculosis, men who are temporarily and permanently incapacitated, and others. I presume that they can make application for pensions under the Repatriation Act. The Senate should not lose sight of the fact that this legislation, particularly in the States, is implemented very largely under the direction of the Repatriation Commission. Section 26 of the act states that a claimant for a pension shall forward the claim in accordance with the prescribed form, or a form approved by the commission, to the Registrar for Seamen’s Pensions in, or the Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation for, the State in which the claimant resides. If the Repatriation Act does not cover seamen who are not covered by the various schedules to this legislation, the Government should have a look at the position.
I repeat that the Opposition does not propose to debate this measure at length, although it is somewhat perturbed by the smallness of the increases proposed. I repeat also that it is idle for members of any political party in the Parliament to argue that any government has done more than other governments to increase the real value of these pensions. The only test of the value of a pension is what can be purchased with it. I trust we have heard the last of arguments of that kind. In my opinion, they get us nowhere. The Senate must be fully conscious of the fact that economic conditions during the occupancy of the treasury bench by the Labour party were totally different from the economic conditions of to-day. I notice that the principal act was amended in 1952 and 1953. This is the third successive year in which the Government has seen fit to amend it. It has done the right thing by attempting to ease the burdens of people who are beneficiaries under the legislation.
There is another matter to which I want to direct the attention of the Senate before I move my amendment. It is the length and complexity of the amendment proposed to section 55a of the principal act. Section 55a states -
Where the Commission is satisfied that a sum is payable to the Commonwealth by a person to or in- respect of whom a pension, allowance or gratuity is payable under this Act, or that an over-payment has been made to or in respect of such a person by the Commonwealth, the Commission may deduct from payments of the pension, allowance or gratuity such amounts as it thinks fit in respect of that sum or over-payment, and may apply the amounts so deducted in or towards paying or repaying the sum or over-payment.
It is proposed to amend that section by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - (2.) Where
Surely to Heaven, all that jargon is not necessary. I do not think I can describe it as other than jargon. Section 55a, in its present form, is comparatively clear, although I admit it is somewhat lengthy. It is proposed to add to it a lengthy sub-section about how a man should do this or that, where he should do it and so on. It is nothing but jargon.
I think it will give rise to a lot of confusion and it may be the cause of delay. I trust that the Minister, in replying to the debate, will inform me of the reason for proposing to amend the act in that way. Bte might also say whether he considers it necessary to examine the act with a view to seeing whether that provision could be shortened and stated in more precise terms. I hope that the Government will view, at least with sincerity and sympathy, the efforts which the Opposition is making to include in the ambit of the act, persons who, because of an omission in the past, are not entitled to receive benefits. I move -
That all words after “ bill “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “be withdrawn and redrafted to provide benefits on a just and more generous basis “.
– I second the motion. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act was introduced in 1940 to provide for payments to mariners who do not come strictly within the terms of the Repatriation Act. The general complaint that we on this side of the Senate have against the Government in this connexion concerns the inadequacy of the increases that are being granted in respect of pensions for ex-servicemen, whether they were members of the armed forces or the merchant navy. I suggest that such pensions should be closely examined in the light of the prosperity which the country is enjoying. If one can believe the words of the members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies, this country is at the moment enjoying a measure of prosperity which it has not known for some years. The answer given in past years to claims by bodies representing incapacitated exservicemen for increased pensions was that the economy could not stand such increases. When Labour was in office, that was a valid excuse, because certain economic pressures were operating at that time, but at no time did the previous Labour Government claim, as has the Menzies Government, that great prosperity was achieved as the result of its efforts. If this Government has achieved prosperity, how does it justify its attitude to war pensions, which has resulted in such pensions having a value below that which they previously had? Incapacitated ex-servicemen are not able to purchase sufficient quantities of commodities to which they should be entitled, such as food and clothing, nor can they afford high rentals and medical expenses. In many instances, an ex-serviceman’s disability precludes him from going out and earning enough to provide those necessaries, as the civilian is able to do. It is the responsibility of this Government to provide such things for disabled exservicemen.
We seem to have reached the stage when we attempt to justify meagre pension increases by saying, “ Compared with the rate of pension in 1900, or some other year, the present rate is higher, so that pensioners must be better off than they were previously “. But, of course, the increase is only on the surface. We all hope for and expect a high standard of living, and if most members of the community are able to enjoy such a standard, I cannot see why provision should not be made for a prosperity loading, as it were, for permanently and totally incapacitated ex-servicemen. Honorable senators will recollect that, some years ago, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in its wisdom, decided that a prosperity loading should apply in respect of the basic wage, and that industry could afford such a loading. At a time when great concessions in the way of tax rebates and customs and excise reductions are being made to certain sections of the community, surely the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen and seamen are entitled to share in the current prosperity.
The present rates of pension for disabled ex-servicemen are completely out of proportion to present-day costs. In Tasmania, a pound of steak costs 4s. 6d. The price of sugar has risen to 9d. per lb., and it costs 8d. to buy an orange. War pensions are quickly swallowed by such prices, and no margin at all is left. The Government should regard itself, in relation to such pensions, as akin to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In the case of repatriation payments, the Repatriation Department performs functions similar to those performed by the court in relation to the basic wage. The Government should not work on a rule-of-thumb basis, nor should it adopt the attitude that the “man who did it last time cannot do it now”.In my opinion, we should not content ourselves by saying that, although ex-servicemen received pensions at such-and-such a rate in 1948, they are receiving more to-day, and that, therefore, their demands have been met. I do not think that that is thecorrect attitude to adopt towards totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The whole range of pension payments to disabled exservicemen should be reviewed by an all-party parliamentary select committee in order to see whether, in this time of economic prosperity, money could not be found to meet our debt to such a deserving section of the community. In addition, I believe that the various pension tribunals could adopt a much more sympathetic approach tothe appeals that aremade to them. Although the expectation of life of ordinary men in the community is65 years or 70 years, it is not nearly so high in respect ofburnt-out “diggers” and merchant seamen. In many instances, the hazards and rigours of war service have reduced their expectationof life. For that reason they should receive special consideration from the Government.
– in reply - This bill is complementary to the repatriation legislation with which the Senate dealt a short while ago. The act has been amended on five occasions since 1940, and the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment moved by SenatorCritchley. I suggest to thehonorable senator that it would be more appropriate to discuss, at the committee stage,the points raised by him, particularly that in relation to clause 3 of the bill.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Critchley’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Billread a second time.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) stated in his very brief second-reading speech? - he always hurries in an attempt to get away with these things, although the cooperation of the Opposition is always forthcoming - that the effect of the proposed additions to section 55a of the principal act could be considered at the committee stage. The seamen’s war pensions and allowances legislation is fast becoming unwieldy and cumbersome. The addition of proposed new sub-section (2.) will include unnecessary jargon. I can see no reason why two lengthy paragraphs should be added to section 55a. I hope that the Minister will explain the necessity for them.
.. - The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) can gain nothing by the use of the gag. The pension rates, which are set out in the First Schedule to the bill, are inadequate. Although, as Senator O’Byrne said during the second-reading debate, we are living in an era of prosperity, conditions are not prosperous for every one. How would those honorable senators who are laughing like to have to live on the pensions provided for disabled seamen? The Government has failed to check the inflation of the currency. For all practical purposes, the proposed increase of 15s. a fortnight will be only an increase on paper. In terms of practical assistance, there will be no increase to disabled seamen of the essentials of life. The Government has made a fraudulent approach to this subject. As I said during tie second-reading debate, the present ‘state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. Sooner or later, the Government will be confronted with a formidable challenge to its policy. I should not like any one to think that I acquiesce in the Government’s fraudulent approach to the repatriation of men and women who are, perhaps, more deserving than some members of this chamber. Many men who risked their lives in the defence of this country, are now either too old to -work, or are not allowed to work. It is tragic that some employers will not employ men who, during World War II., played a more useful part than did some honorable senators. I consider that the ‘Government’s proposal is sheer hypocrisy and humbug.
– Senator Critchley has referred to the proposed additions to section 5’5a ‘of the principal act. Section 26 (3.) of the act provides -
A pension in respect of the death or incapacity of an Australian mariner shall not be paid hi respect of any period prior to the date of the commencement of .the period of >three months immediately preceding .the date on which the claim for the pension ,is made.
It could happen that, during that period of three months, an applicant for a disabled seaman’s pension could be paid a pension or benefit under the social services legislation. The whole, or a part of that pension or benefit may not have been paid to him had he been in receipt of a pension under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. Proposed new sub-section (2.) of section 55a -provides ‘that such an amount of social services pension or benefit paid in respect of a period for which a disabled seaman’s pension or allowance is subsequently approved, shall be recovered by deductions from the pension or allowance. By section 26, a disabled seaman’s pension may be paid from a date three months before application was made, sothat if a disabled mariner or seaman appeals against the rate of pension granted, a considerable retrospective payment may be necessary. This issatisfied by a lump sum payment. .But the excess amount of social services pensions and allowances that he has received in the meantime - not due to any departmental laxity - must be repaid. In some instances difficulty has been experienced in recovering the amounts of social services pensions or allowances that have been so paid to disabled seamen pending the grant to them of a .seaman’s pension. Disabled seamen will lose nothing by the -proposed .additions to section 55a, because if they were receiving seamen’s pensions they -would not be eligible for the whole or part of the social services benefits .or pensions, which are designed to assist them pending consideration ‘of their applications for seamen’s pensions. I assure Senator Critchley that the proposed procedure will facilitate the recovery of public money that has been wrongfully paid out. The difficulty has arisen because of the generous legislation which enables seamen’s pensions to be paid from a date three months before the date of application. All that the proposed new subsection does is to make provision for the repayment of .the social .services payments that I have mentioned, not in a lump sum, T).ut by Instalments.
Senator (CRITCHLEY (South Australia) [-5.15]. - I thank .the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for his information. I want to assure him that I am just as versed in the objects of this act and its many ramifications as he is. However, my point concerned the growing length of this legislation and particularly of the section it is now proposed to amend. In order to ascertain what the legislation provides, it is necessary to study it very carefully. I am perturbed that the act has become so large through the constant addition of amendments. However, experience might have indicated that those amendments were necessary. I wished to obtain advice from the Minister whether the same objectives could not be achieved by shorter provisions. I hope that, before further lengthy amendments to the principal act are proposed consideration will be given “to keeping the legislation as short as possible.
Senator WEIGHT (Tasmania) [5.17 j. - Am I to understand that the pension which the Government proposes to payto applicants retrospectively will result in the recipient of a seaman’s war pension or his spouse being disqualified from eligibility to receive a social services pension? Furthermore, if a man becomes eligible for a seaman’s war pension retrospectively will he be liable to repay in a lump sum any amount that he may have received as a social services pension during the retrospective period ? I want to make sure that no pensioner will be denied a social services pension to which he would have been lawfully entitled but for the proposed amendment to the act. It seems to me to be possible that, because he receives a small increase in his pension, a seaman may be made liable to repay a social services pension that he has been lawfully entitled to in respect of a period of three months.
– The proposed amendment was merely designed to clarify cases in which a war pension is granted to some one who has been in receipt of a social services pension. Suppose that a man is in receipt of a social services pension of £3 10s. a week and has applied for a seaman’s war pension. Suppose that this man eventually is awarded a 100 per cent, pension. Under the proposed amendment, he will be eligible to receive that pension in respect of a period of three months prior to the date of his application. A month may elapse from the time he lodges his application to the time it is granted. Consequently, he will have received social services benefit for a period of four months in respect of which he will be entitled to the war pension. Under present legislation, no one is entitled to receive both full social services benefit and a full war or seaman’s pension for the same period. However, a single man is entitled to receive a full war pension of £4 2s. 6d. a week plus a portion of the social services pension to bring his total pension to £5 12s. 6d. a week. If that man is granted a war pension of £4 2s. 6d. a week in respect of a period of four months during which he has received social services payments of £3 10s. a week, he will have received a total of £7 32s. 6d. a week and would have to refund the difference between £7 12s. 6d. and £5 12s. 6d. a week. He would not b? entitled to draw £7 12s. 6d. a week under existing legislation nor the amended legislation and he knows that when he applies for his war pension. The pensioner who is affected by this amendment will not receive any less than he is entitled to receive now. If a man is paid more than he is entitled to under the act, he will not have to pay the excess amount in a lump sum as the legislation provides that an overpayment may be repaid by instalments. If a man elects to repay an amount by instalments a deduction is made from his weekly pension until that amount is repaid.
– Perhaps Senator Wright’s question may be answered by quoting section 55a, which was inserted in the principal act in 1952 and which reads as follows : -
Where the Commission is satisfied that a sum is payable to the Commonwealth by a person to or in respect of whom a pension, allowance or gratuity is payable under thi.* Act, or that an overpayment has been made to or in respect of such a person by the Commonwealth, the Commission may deduct from payments of the pension, allowance or gratuity such amounts as it thinks fit in respect of that sum or overpayment, and may apply the amounts so deducted in or towardpaying or repaying the sum or overpayment.
Apparently, if a pensioner has received an overpayment of money from some Commonwealth source, then the commissioner has complete discretion to decide whether he shall require the pensioner to repay any of the amount so over-received in whole or in part. I presume that, if the position instanced by Senator Wright did arise, the commissioner would exercise his discretionary powers in accordance with the pecuniary position of the person concerned. Possibly, in a case of hardship, no repayment would be required. If section 55a is applicable to the circumstances, it seems to me to provide the answer to Senator “Wright’s question.
SenatorCritchley. - In the event of an overpayment being made to a pensioner, which body would be the final authority to deal with the matter?
– If an amount was overpaid to a seaman the matter would come under the Repatriation Act and therefore, the Repatriation Department would deal with it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th September (vide page 386), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1055.
The Budget, 1954-55- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden on the occasion of the budget of 1954-55.
[5.28). - The motion that the Senate is now considering deals with the tabling of certain budget papers by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The motion is “that the papers be printed “. “When I began to speak on this motion last week, it was my intention to compliment Senator Kendall for the very thoughtful, constructive and objective speech that he made on the subject of defence. I am sure that many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber agree with what I say in that regard.
It was not my intention originally to speak in this debate and I should not now do so but for some remarks made by Senator Maher during the course of his contribution to the debate. In relation to one matter I want to correct Senator Maher. On another and more important matter I want to take him seriously to task. The minor matter concerns his reference to what he called the abdication of authority on the part of Senator Armstrong, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and myself, as Leader of the Opposition, in failing to state the Opposition’s view-point on the budget. Itis quite clear that Senator Maher has a complete misconception of the nature of the motion that is now before the chamber. He ought to know that no money bill - and the budget provides for the appropriation of money - can originate in the Senate. This motion has so originated. The budget itself can only come to this chamber from another place on the transmission of a bill from that place. The honorable senator has a complete misconception of the situation when he refers to this debate as a budget debate. Let us examine the terms of the motion. Actually, they mean nothing. The motion is “ That the papers be printed “ - that is the budget papers. In actual fact, they are printed already and so, nothing happens, whether the motion is carried or not. In other words, this motion is a mere device that has been adopted by governments - Labour administrations in their time and by the present Government on this occasion - to enable senators to discourse on general matters at a time when there is little business for the Government to put before this chamber. To use a colloquial term, this motion is no more than a pot boiler, and I approach it with no more respect than it deserves.
I repeat, for Senator Maher’s benefit in particular, as he has just entered the chamber, that the debate on this motion is not a budget debate. Neither Senator Armstrong nor I have abdicated our authority, and we shall not do so when the budget debate proper is conducted in the Senate. At this point, I wish to convey one thought to the Senate and particularly to honorable senators on the Government side. I regard it as one of the duties of leadership to give opportunities and experience to those who support the leaders of a political party. Senator Maher’s observations may have been, born of- jealousy arising from his; observation of the many opportunities that are given to rank and file supporters of the Opposition. We regard it as an excellent thing to train understudies, and to give them opportunities to assume responsibility, and I can well understand the. jealousy of honorable senators who occupy the back benches on the Government side. They have not. selected their Ministers and in fact they did not have any say whatever in the selection of Ministers. Then they are denied opportunities to shine because the Ministers do not want too many aspirants near the throne. That is patently clear. Having put Senator Maher right regarding the comparative insignificance of the motion as a pot boiler to enable the Government to fill up gaps when the Senate would otherwise have business to occupy it, I ask- him not to be jealous of honorable senators on this side of the chamber’ who, from time to time, have an opportunity to lead debates on measures that are sometimes important and at others not so important.-
– The honorable senator’s: supporters run him to a deadheat at times.
– That is right. They have the opportunity. I shall refer now to other remarks that were made by Senator Maher, and I propose to take him seriously to task.
– Rebuke him?
– I believe that to-day he has been very improperly rebuked by the press, but I trust that when I conclude, I shall have convinced the Senate that he deserves some rebuke. It has never been my practice; during the time that I have been in the Senate, to rake over the dead ashes of an election campaign.
– Not much!
– I would not have embarked upon it on this occasion but for the remarks of Senator Maher, because the electors, in my view,, have the right t0’ elect or reject governments for any or no reason-. I. should have con- tented myself simply with saying- to the Government and its supporters; that I congratulate them formally upon their continued responsibility and privilege of governing this country. I should like to leave, it at that.
– Give us the figures again.
– I shall certainly do that, and I venture to suggest that the honorable senator will not be too happy when I do so. Senator Maher1 had something to say about figures. He said that tha Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) had made it clear that £372,000,000 represented only immediate extra annual expenditure that he proposed and that there was no ceiling to his requirements. According to Senator Maher, if £372,000,000 was not enough, Dr. Evatt would have been prepared to issue a further directive to the Commonwealth Bank along the same lines. In reply to Senator Maher, I say that his statement that Dr. Evatt intimated that £372,000,000 was’ the cost of the Labour party’s proposals was a complete misrepresentation.
– It was a. calculation bv the Treasury, experts.
- Dr. Evatt and every other member of the Australian Labour party repudiated that throughout the election campaign. Senator- Maher’s statement is quite wrong. Everybody on the Labour side repudiated it. as fantastic, and I propose to show just how fantastic the charges were. I say to Senator Maher that Dr. Evatt did not say that the cost- would be £372,000,000. Dr. Evatt has- been misrepresented on that point:
– No doubt Dr. Evatt meant to finance the proposal from- bank credit.
– Senator Maher did. not put it, that way previously; and he must stand by his words. Dr. Evatt did not, at. any stage; suggest the. use of central, bank, credit to meet ordinary annual expenditure through the. Commonwealth Bank.
– Then what was- the meaning of the> directive to thee Commonwealth Bank.?
– I shall come to
That in .due ‘Course. I repeat that Dr. Evatt did not make that statement at any time and on both points, Senator Maher lias completely misrepresented Dr. Evatt and the Australian Labour party. He went much further. He made a statement -that has provoked me to enter this debate, .because it was an insult to every member of the Australian Labour party. It is also .an insult to the many hundreds of thousands of electors who supported the Australian Labour party and its members at the recent general election. Senator Maher said that if Labour’s policy had been put into effect, it would have been in accordance with the Communist line. He said it would have destroyed the economy. I .am not using the exact words of Senator Maher,, hut I am paraphrasing his statement. I repeat “that I, :and every one of nay colleagues, regard Senator Maher’s statement as an .insult to the Australian Labour party and its millions of supporters, because Senator Maher must remember that more than half the electors who voted at the general election voted in favour , ot .the Australian Labour party’s proposals. .Senator Maher may have been speaking in heat .and anger, but he must realize the .serious implications .of his statement. On mature consideration I believe that he will regret having suggested that the Australian Labour party, in putting forward its proposals, was furthering the cause of communism. That is a base .smear and a base accusation. It is wholly untrue and honorable senators on this side of the chamber regard it as most insulting.
Having laid at Senator Maher’s door the charge of misrepresentation in connexion with two matters associated with Dr. Evatt’s statement on costs and the use of central bank credit, I propose to make this further charge. Misrepresentation, .suppression, distortion and deceit are the distinguishing marks of the Communists, but they are not theirs exclusively. Before I conclude, I propose to prove that all those practices are to be found at the highest level in government circles. First. I shall take the statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), on the 25th May, during the last week of the general election campaign. The statement wa3 published in the press of Australia on the 2,6th .May. I propose .to refer to the right honorable gentleman’s statement under several headings because .that will enable me to deal with the matter that was raised by Senator Maher in his speech and by Senator Wright by way of interjection. I propose to .show gross misrepresentation, .gross deception and suppression. I shall read from a copy of a statement that was supplied to me ‘by the Prime Minister’s Department at the time. The Prime Minister stated -
Senator McKenna, to whom the task was assigned .by Dr. Evatt, has revealed .the bestkept .secret of the election campaign - how Labour will finance the £3SO,000,0u0 its promises will cost.
Let us examine the figure .of £380,000,000. In actual fact the Prime Minister’s first estimate, made the day that Labour’s policy speech was announced, was .£357,000,000. Within n matter of days, it jumped to £372,000,000. In his .statement on the 2.5th May, the figure was £380,000,000. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) set the cost at £340,000,000. I ask honorable senators which one of those vastly .different estimates was the Treasury estimate? I say emphatically that I do not believe even a messenger in the Treasury would have submitted such fantastic figures, and I repudiate and deny that all those estimates of ordinary annual expenditure were based upon the advice of any Treasury officer. The members of the Government were completely confused. They selected capital items of expenditure that will be incurred once and never repeated, and treated them as ordinary annual recurring expenditure. They were completely incorrect. I do not believe that .any Treasury officer, even if he had an attack of dementia, would have put forward such a proposition. They would not be so foolish.
– What was meant hy the statement that there would be no financial ceiling to the amount of bank credit that Dr. Evatt would use?
– I shall deal first with the £380,000,000, and I undertake to deal very thoroughly with the point that the honorable senator has mentioned before I conclude. The Prime Minister estimated that £57,000,000 more would be needed for child endowment. He said that Labour’s proposals would increase annual expenditure upon child endowment by that amount. The total amount that was spent last year on child endowment was £51,000,000. In his estimate, the Prime Minister more than doubled that amount. What was the justification for his estimate? It was merely the statement that child endowment payments would be increased. Even if the Labour party were to treble the 5s. a week that is allowed for the first child, and even if it added 50 per cent, to the current payment of 10s. a week each for all other children, the total cost of child endowment would still fall short of £57,000,000. The Prime Minister made that fantastic estimate without any actual ground for assuming what the increase would be. I am generous when I say that what the Labour party had in mind would have cost far less than half the Prime Minister’s estimate.
I leave the matter there for the purpose of this argument, and direct my attention to taxation allowances. The Prime Minister assessed the cost of the Labour party’s taxation proposals at £67,000,000. He made that total up from the proposed removal of sales tax from home furnishings and the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance that Labour proposed to make to industry. Let us examine the initial depreciation allowance proposal. That meant no loss of revenue at all. It merely meant deferring the payment of tax.
Silting suspended from 5.k& to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment I dealt with statements made by Senator Maher and the Prime Minister, first of all in relation to the cost of Labour’s election proposals. I said that our taxation concessions were twofold. The first proposal was to abolish sales tax on home furnishings and equipment, and the second was to restore to industry the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance. Mr. Menzies said that the total cost of these concessions would be £67,000,000, which would be a recurring reduction of revenue. I have pointed out to the Senate that the initial depreciation allowance would mean no loss of revenue at all because any loss that occurred in the first year would be recouped in the years immediately following. The whole purpose of such a concession is, in fact, to stimulate production and so to add to federal revenue. These two results would necessarily flow from a provision of that kind. When I put it to the Senate that the cost of the sales tax concessions that Labour contemplated would not exceed £10,000,000, it is perfectly clear that the Prime Minister’s estimate was wrong to the tune of £57,000,000 on that one item alone. 1 come now to the third item. The right honorable gentleman estimated that the additional annual cost of Labour’s proposals in relation to war service homes would be £36,000,000. Having regard to the fact that, in the then current year, expenditure totalled only £27,000,000, apparently what the Prime Minister did was to double that and then add another £9,000,000. His estimate was absolutely fantastic and, in any case, expenditure on war service homes is outside the budget altogether, and ought to be outside of it. The erection of war service homes should be financed from loans, or, if sufficient loan money is not available, then surely it is pre-eminently a matter for Commonwealth Bank finance. Not only is such expenditure non-recurring, but also it becomes immediately reproductive. This estimated expenditure, therefore, was most improperly included by the Prime Minister in his calculation of annually-recurring expenditure, and under this heading, there is a misrepresentation to the tune of £36,000,000.
I come now to the fourth point, and this is an even more obvious case of misrepresentation. The Prime Minister included in his estimate of annuallyrecurring expenditure under Labour’s proposals the sum of £30,000,000 to be paid to re-acquire an interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and to acquire a half interest in the big Kwinana refinery from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. That, too, has nothing whatever to do with annually-recurring expenditure. It would be spent only once and as soon as it was spent, it would become revenue producing. I am quite certain that the Prime Minister understood that thoroughly, but that did not stop him from including that money, too, in his estimate of annually-recurring expenditure under Labour’s proposals. The Prime Minister put the total expenditure under those four headings at £190,000,000, but the truth is that only £37,000,000 of that £190,000,000 could properly be charged to revenue at all. In short, in those four items alone, the Prime Minister put an incorrect picture to the people of Australia to the tune of £153,000,000. That was his misrepresentation of the cost of our proposals. But, it was not his only misrepresentation.
I come now to a matter that affects the vast bulk of the people of this country. One of the proposals that Dr. Evatt put on behalf of Labour was that if his party were returned to office there would be an immediate application to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and that the Labour Government would support an increase of margins. The Prime Minister said that was a cruel fraud on the people. His exact words were -
Dr. Evatt has gone so far as to say that if you make him Prime Minister, he will do something about it.
He is going to do exactly nothing. lt cannot be denied by him as a lawyer that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to give instructions to the Arbitration Court at all. lt can set it up, abolish it, but while the court is there, the Parliament has no power whatever.
There are two things seriously wrong with that statement. First, it most grievously misrepresented what Dr. Evatt had said. The Leader of the Opposition never suggested that instructions would or could be given to the Court. He intimated that an approach would be made to the Court to re-open the matter, and that the Labour Government would support an application for increased margins.
– He left the inference that he could do it.
– He did nothing of the kind. He intimated plainly that an immediate application would be made to the Court. My second point of criticism of the Prime Minister in connexion with this matter is that the right honorable gentleman completely mis-stated the law which he, as a lawyer, knows well. He said that Dr. Evatt could not make such an application; yet one month after the election, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) announced to the world that the Menzies Government would support an application to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for increased margins for a selected number of workers ! The Prime Minister said that could not he done and that to say it could be done was a cruel fraud on the people. I am relating to the Senate a story of gross misrepresentation. I make the charge also against Senator Maher although I concede that his misrepresentations were probably made in ignorance. He claimed that £372,000,000 had been acknowledged by the Labour party as the cost of its election proposals. He further grossly misrepresented the Labour party by saying that it proposed to provide this money by central bank credit. Those two gross misrepresentations, made in the Senate, are part of the pattern of misrepresentation, suppression and distortion which I have already exposed to-night. Dealing with the subject of central bank credit, I point out, particularly for Senator Maher’s information, that I made a number of national broadcasts. I gave the widest circulation to my official statements on the matter, and one that I made right at the outset was as follows : -
Let me say at once that annual expenditure on social services cannot under any circumstances be met from Loan monies or through the issue of Central Bank Credit. Labour has not proposed or even thought .of any such madness - despite what Mr. Menzies says. These expenditures must be met in any year from the revenues raised in that year.
There is the very negation of Senator Maher’s allegation, made on behalf of Labour, publicly and officially over the air and in the press. As I have said, I am prepared to concede that the honorable senator spoke in ignorance.
– Obviously the Leader of the Opposition is squaring off for his Leader.
– Senator Maher may have an opportunity to square off for his Leader regarding the misrepresentations that I am in process of proving, and with which I have not. yet finished. Om- the 25th. of May, a few days before the. end of the election campaign, the, Prime Minister picked up my proposals made on behalf of Labour, diatorted them, and. then proceeded to attack his, distortions. The right honorable gentleman’ said -
First, he says there will be £75- millions of additional revenue next. year.
He was speaking of the financial year 19’53-1954, of course. He continued -
Of this I say that for all his pretence of exact, calculations, the- Senator is. only taking a wild guess.
The right honorable gentleman made this further point -
His- second expedient is to use the Budget sin-plus-, from this, year which he says - again with’ more information than I have-. - will be £60 millions.
Happily, what I did say is in writing. There was not the slightest suggestion by rae that we. would use the extra £75,500,000 or the budget surplus which, in fact, turned out to be £56,000,000- not. far from my forecast.
– That had been appropriated.
– The whole lot had been appropriated. I concede that. I am merely drawing attention to the distortion of my proposals. And what were my proposals? I drew attention to the fact that, for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, the Treasurer had promised taxation reductions of £81,50’0,O00, and yet, due to what I termed the automatic expansion of the economy of this young and developing country, he was to collect only £6,000,000 less in actual revenue than had been collected in the previous financial year. And what happened? If honorable senators will examine the budget papers they will find that the Treasurer not only picked up £75,500,000 of that £81,500,000 tax reduction, but also that he picked up. an additional £34,000,000 as well. Revenue from taxes was estimated at £982,000,000, but the actual collections totalled £1,016,000,000. I had checked every year from 1945-46 onwards, and found that in Mr. Chifley’s time, although tax reductions amounting to perhaps £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 a year were granted, the Treasury would invariably pick up- from £40:000.000. to £70,000,000 a year- or more in actual revenue. The only time that trend was almost halted was du-ring- the- two- depression years 1951-52 and 1952-53, when the additional revenue fell as low as £15,000,000. My argument was that the trend which had been followed in all the post-war years: would continue. I never sought to use the £75,000,000 additional revenue or the budget surplus of £56,000,000 because I knew that, as the Attorney-General has pointed out by way of interjection, they had been appropriated. Therefore, it is clear that the Prime Minister completely distorted Labour’s proposals which were in writing. The right honorable gentleman had no answer to our propositions, so he distorted them and then attacked his distortions. Let me now take up the right honorable gentleman’s third, fourth and fifth points. I bracket them because they deal with, the one subject-matter, although in different phases. Speaking of my proposals,, he said -
His third card, is to transfer capital works from revenue to loan funds. The Labour party is playing this as the trump. I have no qualms about describing it as a piece of grim political deception, for they are perfectly well aware that a transfer of this kind would not add one penny to the Government’s resources. Can. a man pay his bills by shifting them from one account to another ? Can a business meet its expenses by mere bookkeeping? Unless some additional cash - I repeat, cash - can he found to pay the bills and meet the expenses, they will necessarily remain.
In other words, he stated to the people of Australia that our proposal was merely to shift expenditure, by a book entry, from one account to another, and not to raise one additional penny. Continuing on that theme, he said -
His fourth device belongs to the same order of ideas, but with a delightful variation. He is going to- charge to loan funds the revenue he says the Government is using to finance State works. The joke is that he has already counted this money in. He has said he is going to use the budget surplus– which I have shown to be untrue– but I have shown that the budget surplus will be used to finance State works and: is not available for expenditure nest year. Thus, the worthy senator is. reckoning on using twice over a sum of money that will not be his- to use anyway.
So spoke the. Prime- Minister. I take the third point! under this head”. Mr. Menzies said -
Eis fifth resource; is- to charge defence works to loans instead of revenue. What he- proposes is nothing but an accountancy transfer which: will produce: nothing- in terms of: the. real thing, which isi cash..
Mr.. Menzies, blatantly misrepresented our proposals to the. people, by saying that we- nadi no- thought of providing cash. I recited; - and. it was before. Mr. Menzies in. writing - what the: expenditure of revenue! on capital works; had been through the years. I referred to the terrific burden that that had placed upon the people.. Senator Wright referred to that matter the. other night. He. made a plea - the very plea that I made - for the Government to lift these colossal capital sums from the backs of the taxpayers in one year, to have recourse to loan funds and to spread the repayments over 58 years. Mr. Menzies said -
There is no- thought of that at. all. All that the Australian! Labour party proposes- is. to shift the amount from one account to the other and raise no more money:
Let me read what was in front of Mr. Menzies, in writing, when he said that. [ had said -
Now let me pass to the second question, the raising of sufficient loan- money for the capital works of both the Commonwealth and. the States: If, as I have indicated, the coat of these- works’ should be lifted from the taxpayers of to-day and be spread over the taxpayers of the next six decades, the Australian loan market will have to provide greatly increased yields in the. years immediately ahead.
That was- a. frank admission that, if our proposals- were to be implemented-, there would have to be- greater loan raisings on the- loan market. The point I am making a* the moment is that that proposal by Labour was’ most grievously misrepresented by the Prime Minister, at a time when he had our statement in front of him-..
– If the loan market had not yielded more money, what then ?
– That is the next point that the Prime Minister, raised.. I propose to do him the. justice of reading what he: had to say on that matter, and. I propose to do myself the justice, of answering him. The Prime Minister said -
Off course, Senator McKenna has- one device available: to moke his- proposals appear* to work;, audi that is to obtain: money from, the central bank against the. issue of Treasury bills and pay. that money into the loan fund. Is that what he really has in mind? He goes very close at” one point to saying- so:
I shall prove how completely false that statement was simply by reading what. I said, and what Labour said, in relation to central bank credit. I stated -
Insofar as loan raisings are. insufficient for the purpose of Commonwealth and Stats works programmes, central bank credit will be used-
Listen to the limitation” - to the limit imposed by resources and manpower available. Such a procedure is” not inflationary. It is line with the practice of the Menzies Government, which only last year, used -&72,0O0,000 of central bank credit. It is also in accord with the. statement of the Federal Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his budget speech- of August; 1952, when he said this; -
We consider it. justifiable that loan raisings for essential, works of a truly developmental, and productive kind “should receive some special assistance- from bank: credit.
Senator- Maher. - The honorable senator has read what he said, but it” is not. what Dr. Evatt’ said. Dr. Evatt is- the Leader of the Labour party..
– It is exactly what, he said,, and what has been distorted. Mr: Menzies acknowledged that what, I said was said on behalf of our party. His opening, sentence was -
– task, was assigned by Br. Evatt, has- revealed the: best kept secret of the election campaign - how Labour will finance its promises.
Mr. Menzies had our proposals before him. On point, after point, he deliberately distorted them, and then he busied himself with attacks on his own creations and his own distortions.
– Gould the honorable senator come down to earth and. say how much bank- credit they would have to use-?
– Not the exact figure.
– Would it not be fair to tell the public that?’
– It would be quite impossible to. do so. The limitation that we set, and. the principle that we enunciated, were all that mattered. We imposed the limit that I have just stated. We said we should use central bank credit, if necessary, to the limit of the resources and materials available. That statement was made by Labour men throughout the country, but it was distorted. When all is said and done, it is impossible to use credit for public works further than the resources of man-power and materials permit. It would be silly to. try to go further. Our proposal was completely in li,ne with the actions of the Government, which had used £72,000,000 of central bank credit the year before, and with the Treasurer’s own statement that it was proper to use credit for that purpose, but the Prime Minister professed to ridicule what his Government had been doing.
I think I have said enough to convince anybody who. is listening to me with an objective and open mind that in this matter there was the most gross misrepresentation. In addition, there was a great deal of suppression. There were certain points in Labour’s proposals that Mr. Menzies simply by-passed. Let me read one of them to the Senate. He did not know how to distort it, so he did not answer it. It was this -
The second answer is that the Menzies Government, in order to hide the surplus revenues it has been taking from the people, has been placing them in trust accounts, the funds of which are then applied for purposes other than those for which they were established. The Strategic Stores and Equipment Trust Account is a case in point. Over several years, the Government has paid £67,000,000 into this account from revenue, but has spent only £17,000,000 on such stores and equipment.
The Prime Minister decided not to answer that statement.
– What did Labour do with the National Welfare Fund?
– I am speaking about this account at the moment. The Strategic Stores and Equipment Trust Account was represented to the Parliament as almost a life-saving measure. We were told that we had to build up stocks of vital strategic materials. What happened? Money was taken from the taxes collected from the people and put into this trust account, but it was not spent for this purpose. It was used to support State works programmes and for all sorts of purposes other than the purpose for which it was collected.
– The Government spent some of it over Senator Spooner’s dead body.
– I remember that. I have come into this field, with regret and with some distaste, because of statements made by Senator Maher. I felt impelled to answer what I regarded as an insult to our party and an insult to the millions of people who supported our party and its proposals at the last election. I regret that I have had to come into the field at all.
– Why does not the honorable senator give an answer?
– I have given more than enough answers for the Minister. By way of a change, I want to deal with one aspect of the administration of the Minister’s department.
– Tell him about the money he has wasted on coal.
– I shall deal with a commodity that is more vital to this country even than coal. I refer to oil. It is perfectly true that until quite recently-
Senator Spooner interjecting,
– Would the Minister like to make his second speech now?
– I should, love to.
– I should give the honorable senator an opportunity to do so and postpone the remarks I am about to make, but for the fact that, if I let him speak now, he would close the debate. There are other honorable senators on this side who want to castigate the Government before the debate concludes.
– Will they tell us how much Labour’s proposals would cost ?
– Will the honorable senator let me talk about oil? Will he let me make my speech in my own way? I know of no commodity that is more important to Australia in peace and war than oil. It is more important even than munitions. Without oil and petroleum products, this country could not function either in peace or war. If oil were not available here, our aircraft could not fly and our troops and military equipment could not be moved. Some trains could not run. Even in peace time, the whole of the economy of this country depends on that commodity. Every major city in Australia would starve within a’ week if supplies of oil for motor transport were not available. In my opinion, oil is almost as important as food and air to this community. What is our position in relation to oil? There is a little case gas at Roma and some crude oil in Gippsland. But every gallon of oil that we use has to be brought here from overseas in tankers. A time of war is a time when our need for oil is greatest, but it is a time when our supplies are most precarious. Tankers are open to attack by submarines and aircraft.
Surely I do not have to argue in the Senate that a commodity of this type is essential to us. The country could not function without it. Therefore, one would expect this commodity to receive the gravest consideration from theGovernment. After World War I., a non-Labour government said we should never be without vital drugs again, and established the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I know of no commodity in which the Australian Government should take a keener and more vital interest than oil. It is important to have adequate reserves of oil, stored at strategic points, not only for commercial purposes but also for defence purposes. It is vitally important to ensure the continuity of our oil supplies. Presently, if time permits, I shall review the record of this Government in that field. I should like to make a preliminary comment. The great oil companies of the world, joined in a cartel - I shall put some information before the Senate on that subject later - are the companies on which we depend for every gallon of the oil used in this country. I put this serious thought to the Senate. Those companies could cut this country off from oil any day. I do not say they would do so. I am not speaking to-night with the purpose of attacking the major oil companies or the oil cartel. I acknowledge at once that the oil companies did a. marvellous job during the war by producing, despite the pressure of the war, petrol with a sufficiently high octane content. The job that they did justified Stalin’s statement at one stage of the last war that it was a war of octanes and steel. I give full credit to them. Nevertheless, I should like the Senate to consider for a moment “the nature of the companies upon whom we are dependent for every gallon of oil that comes to Australia. Fortunately, there is a completely objective report available upon the subject. I have in my hand the report to the Federal Trade Commission by its staff on the international petroleum cartel, submitted to the subCommittee on Monopoly of the United States Senate, dated the 22nd August, 1952. The report was released by President Truman very soon afterwards. It is a voluminous document of some 370 pages, but I commend its study to every honorable senator. I should like to give a few facts concerning the seven major companies, five American and two nonAmerican, with which it deals. All seven companies were investigated by this committee and I think the Senate will be staggered to hear some of the figures concerning their operations. They are the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, Gulf Oil Corporation, Royal DutchShell, the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), the Standard Oil Company of California, the Socony Vacuum Oil Company Incorporated, and the Texas Company. Their total reserves in 1949 were 50 billion barrels of oil, representing 65 per cent, of the total reserves of the world.
– Would that be American billions?
– I cannot attempt to give anybody a lesson in arithmetic at this stage. The report referred to 50 billion barrels of crude oil. Their crude oil production is 4,661,000 barrels a day. These seven companies control far more than one-half of the world’s crude oil production, and they control the whole of the major pipelines outside America. Their refining capacity is colossal. Concerning their tanker capacity, the report has this to say -
Since the seven large oil companies own or control about 12.4 million dead weight tons, their percentage of control is about two-thirds of .the total privately-owned tanker fleet, as compared to one-half of the world’s total tanker tonnage.
These oil companies move as one in .the matter of .markets, prices, and so on. It is .interesting to note that the seven of them, with -the addition of a Trench company, are at .the .moment .moving into Persia in complete combination.
– But they are friendly companies.
– ‘They are very friendly ‘to one another.
– Is it not important, at this .time, that we should have organizations such .as that on our side?
– Of course, it i3. I should dike the honorable .senator to remember that I .said at the outset of my remarks that I was -not launching -an attack on those companies but .merely laying a factual base in -order to show the type of organization upon which we are dependent if-or every gallon :o£ oil that comes into this .country.
I -should ‘like to read to the Senate a summary which appears at page -3*9 «of chapter 10 of the report, because it gives a -complete picture. It states -
The preceding chapters have described the degree of -control -over the world petroleum industry -held by the sewell -major international oil companies, .their participation in jointownership .ventures, as in the Middle East, “their control over sources of supply through contracts among ‘themselves for the .purchase :and sale <of .crude oil, as “in the Middle East and Venezuela,, their .development of worldwide production and marketing agreements, and the application of these agreements in specific countries. .Moreover, it has been shown that these major oil .companies, through the high degree of concentration of control, through direct ownership, through joint ownership, through -purchase and sales contracts, and through production and marketing agreements, have been able to limit production, divide up markets, share territories, and .carry on .other ‘activities designed to stabilize .markets and .control production.
– In other words, they have “established a profitable -and efficient organization.
– -I am not arguing that. The report continues -
In ‘addition, the international petroleum companies have followed a system of pricing which has had the -effect ‘of eliminating price -differences among themselves to any huyer at any given destination point. -Under .this system .the -delivered price .to .any given buyer is exactly the same regardless of whether he purchases from a nearby, low-cost source or from a -distant high-cost source. While the delivered price from :all sellers will he -different, at .one .destination point as compared with another, reflecting largely differences in freight costs, their delivered price at any given destination point will be exactly the same. This systematic elimination .of price differences has been -achieved through the establishment and observance of an international basing-point system, -generally referred to as “ Gulf -plus “. In -recent years the system has undergone a number of minor modifications. Nevertheless, since each of the major companies has usually observed these modifications, the system’s ultimate effect upon any ,given .buyer has remained the same- ‘the elimination of price differences as .among the various sellers.’
The .report goes on to explain how that basing point system works. I merely mention the facts, as set out fey this .responsible body in a report published under the authority of President Truman, in order to show the .picture. Forgetting about “Exmouth Gulf and the rich possibilities o’f oil in this country at the moment, it can he said that we are completely dependent on those companies for every gallon of oil we get here. It is true to say that they could .cut off our oil supplies in a day. Anybody who is concerned with the future safety and economic stability- .of Australia .must he gravely concerned about the oil position. Let us consider the record of this Government in relation to oil. It has already closed Glen Davis.
– It was not worth keeping open.
– I am prepared to admit immediately that the :cost -of Glen Davis oil - 5s. 3d. a gallon - was high, and that the relatively insignificant quantity of .3,000,000 gallons pex .annum was produced there, but the point I make :is that to a country which had never pie.viously produced a -gallon of ;oil and which was in a completely dependent position as far -as oil was concerned, Glen Davis should have been regarded as a research project. America, with its vast oil .resources .at home and abroad, -expends 7D.,000jO0.0 dollars -a year on research into the extraction of ‘oil from .shale. America, the greatest oil producer in .the world, spends that vast sum each year to <safeguard its oil supplies. Yet ‘.this ‘Government has closed down the on’ly
Australian plant which produced’ oil andwhich provided the opportunity for research’ into the production of oil from shale’.
– Labour threatened 1 o do that,, too.
– The present Government parties are the people who closed it down- and. dissipated its equipment.. To. my. mind, the fact, that its production was not colossal and that the coat of production was high is of no consequence, having regard to the precarious position of Australia in relation to oil supplies.
– Labour opposed, the establishment of Glen Davis.
– Then we come to- the most inglorious performance of ali by the Minister for National- Development) (‘Senator Spooner)- and the Government of which he is- a member. I referto the- sel’L-out of Commonwealth Oil Refineries- Limited, and the- refusal’ to join rn> the Kwinana project. One of the members of the great cartel, Anglo- I ranian Oil Limited, came to this country in 1952 and. said to the Government, in effect, “‘Will you join us in putting £6,000,000 into Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited (in which the Government, had’ a half interest) ?’ Will you. go halves with us in erecting- a great refinery i m Western Australia ?” At that time the Government said, “ Yes; we willi expand, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited with you1, but we will not go into the refinery/”’. Butt did» it expand Commonwealth Oil Refineries- Limited, the one- 1istening post that Australia had’ in the oil- industry? Om the contrary, in October of that year the: Government sold its- shares in that company toAngloIranian Oil Limited at a ma-r- vellous profit. Commonwealth ©il Refineries’ Limited’ had been enormously successful. Its- dividends had paid back the whole of the capital invested in it-, and its’ shares- sold at £6: 10s; each. Perilaps far more should have been obtained for them-. Honorable senators may recall’ that the Minister declined to table valuations– and’ opinions- which alleged that there* was1 a doubt about? the constitutional propriety- of retaining the shares. The Government walked1 right! out of that field. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited had been- charged’ with the duty to refrain from joining in any cartel arrangements. Australia can do nothing whatever1 about the price of oil landed on its shores. That matter is in the hands of the cartel’. Tfr can charge what? it likes and’ supply as little as it likes. Australian’ price control, in relation te oil, is a mere formality. The cartel determines it’s price- at the border. Commonwealth Oil’ Refineries Limited was the one factor that could keep the Australian price- of oil- steady. The retention of our shares in- the company would have enabled the Government to learn what was going on in the oil world.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired’,.
Senator LAUGHT. (South Australia) i8’.42:] .i - I wish to: address’ myself to the budget papers The Leader of the Opposition ( Senator- McKenna) had very little to say about: that- subject, and- 1 hope tu bring; the debate’ back to its proper- perspective 1 suggest that all honorable senators were surprised by the remarks of the Leader of the- Opposition. I recollect very well- that, during: the final sittings of the Twentieth- Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition, when addressing the Senate,, referred to the economy of. Australia as “sick”. He also referred- to rising unemployment. Within, six or eight- weeks- he was attempting to justify an enormous increase in the expense- list of the Commonwealth, in. support of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, (,Dr. Evatt). On the. hustings,, and. again, to-night,, when asked directly what additional budgetary commitment Labour’s policy would, have meant for the people of Australia, he failed to supply an answer. It has been necessary for- the Prime Minister (Mi-.. Menzies) and. other members of. the Government to give, the people the answer to that question. I consider, it. my duty to state briefly the figures, as I see them, in relation to the promises made by the Leader of the Opposition prior to the recent general election and to expr.ess, as a senator, my great relief that the Australian Labour party was not returned’ to office. Had it been, the. people of Australia would be facing a very different budget from that which the Government introduced a little while ago. That budget gives promise of a balanced economy and tax reductions of approximately £45,500,000. The recent policy speech of Dr. Evatt envisaged an increased expenditure of several hundred million pounds yearly. If Labour had gained office, and the annual expenditure had been increased by only one hundred million pounds, Australia would not be in the happy position that it is in to-day. Within the next few weeks, substantial taxation reductions will be implemented by measures that will come before this chamber. Let us consider proposed reductions. There will be an overall reduction of income taxation of individuals by £31,000,000. The lower groups will receive a reduction of about 20 per cent., and the higher income groups a reduction of about 8 per cent. Let us consider the position of a man with a wife and two children. At present, due to this Government’s approach to child endowment, he is in rather an interesting position. Such a man could have an income of £855 before his tax liability exceeded the child endowment that comes to his home. A man with a wife and five children could have an income of £1,466 before his tax liability exceeded the child endowment that comes to his home. For family men of the lower and middle income groups, this Government has shown great imagination in relation to income tax. The proposed taxation reductions have been made posible only by virtue of the prudent budget that has been introduced. Generally speaking, income tax rates are now 30 per cent, lower than they were when this Government came to office at the end of 1949. Of course that is a very real thing. I shall not cite any more figures in relation to taxation, because there will be an opportunity to do so when the taxation measures come before the Senate.
I should like to compliment the Government on a matter that has somewhat escaped attention in the press. I refer to the income tax deduction that is allowable in respect of donations of £1 or more for the construction and maintenance of school and college buildings. The effect of this provision will be to give to private educational organizations, great universities, colleges, and convents an opportunity to rebuild and maintain their buildings. This is a matter of very great importance in connexion with the education of the children of this country. It is a further earnest of this Government’s intention and desire to assist in education. It will be remembered that two years ago the Government introduced the system of allowing as an income tax deduction, an amount of £50 in respect of the school fees for every child sent to these institutions. Last year, the amount was raised to £75, with a much wider application. It now covers all equipment and uniforms purchased. That amount has been retained this year.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to a very interesting trend that has developed. I want to develop a theme of very great importance, in relation to what I might call the new atmosphere with regard to our neighbouring countries. A great change has taken place since this Government came to office. We are on the threshold of a very thrilling age. There are great opportunities unfolding in this country, and great responsibilities awaiting us. Dr. Clunies Ross, the Director of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has predicted a tremendously great future for Australia, as a result of the development of our power potential, the finding of uranium and its use for industrial purposes, the vast quantities of raw materials that are becoming available here, and the discovery of myxomatosis. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been playing its part in a magnificent way. As a representative of South Australia, I can speak with authority on what that institution is doing in that State, particularly in connexion with the introduction of trace elements, and their use with superphosphate. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, of course, has been taking advantage of this development. That truly great Australian institution is now settling scores of people on what was once known as the 90-mile desert in South Australia. In the long run, the vastly increased production that has been made possible will help us reduce our costs of production.
I predict that markets for our primary and secondary products will unfold in the Near East, India, and Pakistan. The Government has a responsibility, through its Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to investigate market possibilities in those countries. We have men of great ability who could go there as our trade ambassadors. We should encourage them to do so. I was impressed by the remarks that were made by Senator Armstrong some time ago after his return from abroad. He said that he thought there were opportunities for Australian manufacturers in the Near East. Although our costs are high compared with costs in those countries, I believe that costs are rising in some of the countries that were once cheap labour countries. The competitive spirit in Australia is not lost, because costs in Japan and other Eastern countries, which were once our serious competitors, are rising, whereas our costs have been stabilized to a very marked degree. As our production increases, the costs of the items that we wish to export will decrease. Therefore, I think there will be a tremendous expansion of our markets. I consider that two things will have to happen before we can increase our export trade. There must be peace in those countries, because people will not trade in countries whose government is in jeopardy or likely to be removed. I announce here and now that I am very greatly appreciative of the work that has been done by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and others who have tirelessly engaged in negotiation, with great skill and patience. Their latest triumph was the conclusion of the SouthEast Asian Treaty. I believe that the people of Australia, both from the angle of security and trade expansion, will be forever grateful for what the Minister for External Affairs has been able to do, and is away doing at present. If we are going to do any good with regard to these markets, we must get to know the people of those countries. We shall have to become great merchant adventurers. As in the first Elizabethan age, when the people of the United Kingdom lost their insularity and sought markets over the horizon, we shall have to go further afield. The great British ports of Bristol and Liverpool became established - Bristol through its trade with the West Indies, and Liverpool, later on, through its trade with the Americas. We might see another Bristol arise at Darwin, and another Liverpool arise at Perth as a result of the trade across the Indian Ocean. We might engage from Hobart in an important trade with Antarctica, where there is every known mineral. It is most interesting that, in this Senate to-day, we have considered a bill relating to the legal system of Antarctica. There is tremendous wealth down there. In Antarctica, Australia has a territory that extends from directly south of South Africa to directly south of the Fiji Islands, with only a relatively small area of a few hundred square miles owned by France. We have tremendous opportunities there. Members of both sides of the Parliament, excluding Ministers, who have tremendous responsibilities, should be encouraged by the Government to go forward in ones and twos and engage, in conjunction with our trade officers in the South-West Pacific Area, in tours of investigation. We must get away from the idea of insularity. Members of the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster can travel to another country within an hour, and they can be alongside the iron curtain within two hours. We really owe it to ourselves to break down our isolation. There is a very good reason why members of this Parliament should travel. The expense should not be an obstacle. Our constituents demand of us work all over our respective States. It costs a lot of money to travel, but I think that the nation demands of us that we go to other countries and work in conjunction with our trade commissioners and others in order to get to understand the requirements of the people there. We often see Indonesian, Pakistani, and Indian students who have come here to study our library work, statistics, animal diseases, medicines and cropgrowing. But how many of us go to their countries to discover their requirements in manufactured goods? We must realize that we are growing up, and that we should get to know these people. The other day I listened to an excellent speech which was made by a man who had come to study our Australian Constitution and the constitutions of the States. Was he an Englishman ? No. Was he a white man ? No. He was a native from the Gold ‘Coast of Africa. Do we ever send men to the United States of America or to England to study constitutional questions 1 The American .Senate ‘has ‘had years of experience with important .committees, yet no mem’ber of this Parliament has ever gone to the United States ‘of America in order to study the working -of those committees, or other methods of American government.
The Prime “Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced in his policy speech that he proposed to set up a committee from both sides of the Parliament for the purpose of studying constitutional questions. We have in this Parliament a committee on foreign affairs. Unfortunately it comprises only honorable .senators and members in another place who support the Government. Such & committee should meet outside Australia occasionally so flat, instead of reading what happens in other countries, it would .actually have experience of what happens in .those countries which are so :near to us now that .transport has become m fast. This .country is growing .up fast and yet the methods of cultural and trade .contact between ourselves and countries near us have .not improved much during *he last 50 years. I hope that the people of Australia >will take .a rational view , of these ideas and not brush them aside as another plan by politicians to provide themselves with a holiday. I think that -the visits abroad that I have suggested would be strenuous working “tours and that when honorable senators returned from them their experience could be of ‘very great ‘benefit to the Commonwealth. We should not bog ourselves down but should go forward because the scientists, the geologists, the men who work on uranium; and the men who are improving our agriculture have all done tremendous work for us, and it is our duty to use what our scientists have developed for us and spread our trade and commerce into Asia. That can largely be done by the promotion of peace in Asia and by understanding the Ar.an mind and creating a bond of trade. This objective can only suceed through personal contact with ‘the nations ‘to ‘our north. I .support the motion for the printing of -the papers.
– Mr. President, any budget depends upon the character and policy of the government that prepares it. The budget that we are discussing is typical of the Menzies Government. The character of the Menzies Government is essentially dictatorial. Its ‘declared policy is based an the principle of private monopoly ownership of the land and the means of primary and secondary production. From time to time Ministers have declared that that is .so. Ministers of the Government have acted dictatorially, particularly in their dealings with the representatives of overseas countries. The character and policy of this Government is similar to that .of the governments of all capitalist countries. Under this Government, individual production and craft production is being replaced by machine production. Individual ownership is being replaced by private monopoly ownership. What .is known as “ free enterprise “ is :also the policy of the Government. Everything is regimented or monopolized or controlled. We have reached a stage of highly mechanized production and of highly developed monopoly control. That is the economic basis of capitalist society in Australia as it is overseas. It is based on ‘socialized production and private appropriation of the profits. Two classical .examples are the sugar and steel industries. Socialized production prevails in those industries where thousands of workers are most efficiently organized. !Brat the wealth that they produce .does not belong to them. It belongs to the shareholders in the companies. There is the fundamental contradiction which is the cause of all the trouble throughout the “world, including war.
Who is going to own the world ? The people or the monopolists? The Government is doing all that it ‘can to strengthen private monopoly at the expense of the people. The Government has much more in common with monopolies than it has with the people of Australia. It trades in the name of the people of Australia but, where opportunity offers, it sells out to monopolists overseas. As Senator McKenna mentioned, that has been >done in connexion with oil ‘and finance. For all practical purposes, the Government’s policy is designed to -establish what is euphemistically known as a “world government “ which would be controlled mainly by American imperialism. What we call Australian sovereignty is. a diminishing quantity. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) said that quite openly in 1952.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McCallum) .-Order ! Would the honorable senator try to link his remarks with the budget papers^
– I am showing that the budget is based on the character of the Government and its declared policy. The character of the Government is dictatorial. Its declared policy is one of private monopoly control, of the land and the means of primary and secondary production. I am -stating that the Government has much more in common with capitalist governments overseas than with the people of Australia. Ultimately, that policy will lead to the economic dictatorship of the political superstructure. Economic dictatorship can become political dictatorship on an international scale, due to the control that can be exercised by the increasing of loans.
Senator Wright referred to the fixing of wage rates and conditions of employment by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. He paid a tribute to the court, but he did not attempt to state the principles upon which the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is based. The court came into being as a result of a number of widespread strikes in this country. It came to be understood by those who were actively associated with strikes, on both sides, that a system of arbitration and conciliation might do away with strikes. In bringing the Commonwealth Arbitration Court into being, a virtue was made of necessity. The employers were not influenced by any feelings of altruism. They simply thought that a system of arbitration would result in less trouble for them. The workers, on the other hand, accepted the arbitration system under duress, because it provided for a minimum rate of consumption by the workers and maximum production and profits for the owners of capital.
The court is mow taking up a much more -dictatorial .attitude than it has taken up in the past. As Senator Wright said, it has disallowed the ordinary cost of living adjustments to the basic wage and it has refused to increase margin– for skill. In my opinion, the court has been influenced by its conception of the economic position more than it has been influenced by any other factor. The judges of the court have stressed the importance of our national income. Socalled national income is not national income .in the real sense. It is the aggregation of private incomes. The term is used to mislead those who know nothing about finance. That applies also to the national debt. It is always described as “ our national debt “. Actually the capitalists do not pay one penny towards meeting the national debt because all wealth is created by the workers who are engaged in essential industry and services. They carry the whole structure on their hacks. They are the real producers of wealth, and the national debt is paid from that wealth. It is really ;i workers’ debt, and from the wealth that is created by the workers, we have the national income which is an aggregate of private incomes.
That is how the system works, and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, having heard evidence from that point of view, decided accordingly. It referred to the high cost of production, and reference was made to that subject by the Minister also in his second-reading speech. Costs are higher, but the real fact of the matter is that they should be lower because costs, in terms of labour time and on a gold basis, are automatically reduced as mechanization is extended. As I have said, costs, in terms of inflated currency, have never been higher, and that is where we are faced with a contradiction. An inflationary cost is a fictitious cost. Senator Laught, like many others, regards monetary costs as the real costs. They are not. They are inflated and fictitious and they mislead most people who do not know differently. Actual costs were never lower than they are now. In the days of chattel slavery, a slave making a chair would take six times as long to make it as a cabinetmaker would to-day. Therefore, in terras of labour time, a cabinetmaker to-day is a cheaper proposition than a chattel slave of old.
When we consider costs, we should remember that costs, like prices, fall into two categories - the real and the fictitious. I emphasize that because unless a more intelligent approach is made to the problems that face us, our position is likely to be much worse than it has been in the past. I refer to the accumulated surplus of primary products in Australia. Mi1. D. Lindsay, secretary of the Victorian Potato Growers Association, has stated that the marketing system is in chaos. Potato-growers are preparing to plough thousands of tons of undug tubers buck into the ground because they cannot be sold at a profit. People who want potatoes cannot get them. Other primary products are in a similar position and J. refer particularly to wheat and dried fruits. What is the solution to the problem ? Senator Laught suggested that we should approach the people living in the Far East about trade, but those people, particularly the workers, are being impoverished just as they are in Australia. They are not in a position to buy our products. The press to-day reports that the United States of America, with mountains of surplus primary products, will sell them overseas. If they are sold more cheaply than we can produce them, our primary producers will be out of work. That is the background to the decision by the Arbitration Court to reduce to the minimum the purchasing power of the workers. If resistance is not sufficiently strong, the court would not hesitate to reduce the purchasing power of the workers to the level that prevails in Eastern countries and in some countries of Europe.
In Australia, as a result of the present system, we have increasing prosperity, to which reference has been made to-day, and increasing poverty. In the European countries and in the United States of America, there is the capitalist paradise at one end of the country and the paupers’ hell at the other. That is what is proposed for this country. The Arbitration Court’s plan is to assist in every way to increase profits and reduce the purchasing power of wages. That again is a fundamental contradic- tion. Senator Maher has referred to overall company profits totalling about £377,000,000 between 1952 and 1954. Those are colossal profits. General MotorsHolden’s Limited made a profit in the last financial year of 100 per cent. The Commonwealth Bank has shown increasing profits. All are the result of the reduction of the cost of production, for it automatically increases profits. All this is bringing about a state of chaos. We shall have shortages in Australia if effect is given to that policy, because, unless primary producers are subsidized so that they can sell their products in Australia at a payable price, they will not produce more than they can help. They will reduce production. The wheatgrowers are doing their best to reduce the acreage under wheat, just as the farmers are doing in the United States of America. The whole policy should he in reverse. It is based upon the principles to which I have directed attention. Senator Laught made reference to taxation. I was interested to learn that the Government proposes to reduce taxes. But the workers will not benefit.
– Oh, no?
– No. Wages will still be based on the cost of subsistence. The Arbitration Court’ will not depart from that principle. The more the Government reduces taxation, the more it will assist the wealthy taxpayers. The workers will not be helped in the slightest. As a matter of fact, under a proper system of taxation, wages and small salaries would not be taxed, and indirect taxation would be reduced substantially or abolished. All indirect taxes are flat taxes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that speakers in this debate may not ramble through any subject.
– Yes they may.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I heard an interjection suggesting that some honorable senators believe that they may deal with any subject in this debate. The object of this debate is to enable honorable senators to discuss the financial policy of the Government. There has been a good deal of irrelevance and Senator Cameron has not been the only offender. I do not wish to convey the impression that he has been alone in that respect. T direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that their speeches should be related to the financial policy of the Government.
– I should like to speak on your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy President, as to the scope of the debate that has been prompted by the motion that is before the Senate. The budget papers have been filed. A motion is before the Senate that the papers be printed. That points not only to the financial policy of the Government in futuro. but it is par excellence an opportunity to deal with the administration of the Government.
– Hear, hear !
– Plainly, it is the one opportunity for unlimited criticism that presents itself to honorable senators throughout the whole year. While I suggest that it is true that the financial policy of the Government is involved, that is not the only consideration. Certainly the administration of the Government, as well, is open to debate.
– I find myself in the rather unusual position of more or less supporting the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in this matter. T was very impressed early this afternoon by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he said in this debate - which he described as a pot-boiler debate. - he and his deputy took the opportunity of allowing the less experienced and less intelligent of his supporters-
– I did not say that.
– He allowed them a free hand to expand upon the motion that is before the Senate. I must say that the example that is now before honorable senators amply bears out the methods of the Leader of the Opposition, and it would be a pity, on this small and petty matter, to prevent the honorable senator gaining the experience that he too obviously needs.
– I had many years experience in the chair as honorable senators are aware, and if my memory serves me correctly, my practice during the budget debate always was to allow speakers to deal with any subject. I recall that Senator Lynch, who occupied the chair in this chamber for many years, held the view that the budget debate gave honorable senators an opportunity to speak on matters nearest to their hearts. I think that you yourself, Mr. Acting Deputy President, in your contribution to this debate, spoke about the working of the parliamentary library, and its ramifications throughout the world. Personally I think that your decision is wrong, because the common practice over the years has been to allow honorable senators to speak on any subject during the budget debate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I assure the Senate that I have no wish to give a narrow ruling on this subject. I am relying on previous rulings given by two former presidents, Senator Givens and Senator Gould. At times, speakers in this debate have strayed not only from the financial policy of the Government, but also from the Government’s policy generally. I ask Senator Cameron to confine his remarks to the policy of the Government.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) dealt with a wide variety of matters in his speech on the Estimates and budget papers. He spoke, for instance, of the state of the Australian economy, financial policy, expenditure estimates, the National Welfare Fund, and so on. I am dealing with taxation, and I am pointing out that the taxation reductions do not benefit the workers in the slightest, because their wages will continue to be based on the cost of subsistence. I believe that if the workers did not have to pay taxes at all, that fact would be taken into consideration by the courts and wages would be reduced accordingly. Senator Maher referred to the inflation of the currency and I asked him to define inflation. He invited me to come to his office- but it is not necessary for me to do that. Surely we can assumethat anybody who talks about inflation has some idea of the meaning of the word. Before the 1914-18 war, the economic law operated. The issue of paper money could- not exceed the value of gold in circulation and the £1 note had the same purchasing power as the sovereign. Early in the war years the 10s. note was brought into- existence, and that was the beginningof inflation. Inflation means in effect that paper mopey is issued1 far in excessof the- value- of production. The inflationists) who are mainly the private bankers and controllers of other private financial institutions, are able to purchase millions of pounds worth of goods and services, merely for pieces of paper. They are in the same category as a counterfeiter except that, whereas the counterfeiter is outside the Jaw and is gaoled if he rs caught, the inflationist actswithin the law and sends his representatives to the Parliament.
Inflation in this country may ultimately bring the state of chaos that existed in Germany in 1924. To the extent that a currency is inflated, the purchasing power of wages and also of savings is reduced. The surrender value of insurance policies is also reduced. “Who gets the benefit of these reductions? The inflationists get the benefit. To-day, private bankers are buying up valuable hotel properties at record prices because they know that if a crash comes, real estate will be real wealth. If the currency collapses paper money will be worthless. Senator Maher’s arguments about Labour’s financial policy were ably answered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I should merely like to add this: If bank credit is used for reproductive work, it is. not inflationary because assets are being created. Ti, for example, £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 were spent on the abolition of slums and the construction of modern dwellings for workers, that would be a revenueproducing project and, therefore, it would’ not be inflationary. The cost of the bank credit would he only the cost of administration. It would not be lent into existence at 4£ per cent.; it would be spent into existence and recovered by means of rents. So, when Dr. Evatt spoke of using bank credit for reproductive work, his proposition was perfectly sound. There was nothing new in it. In 1816, just after the Napoleonic wars, one country wanted a loan of £50,000. The banks wanted 17 per cent, for their money so the people of that country used bank credit to do the work that had to be done. It was all developmental work such as the building of market places, new road’s, and quays and the expenditure was recovered m charges, but not plus interest. So, what Dr. Evatt said! in his policy speech- about using bank credit was a legitimate proposition. Bank credit is already in use, but the banks are getting a rake-off of 4f per cent., whereas, with honest administration, the cost would be only the cost of administering credit advances.
Our slums are increasing. Nearly every State Premier has promised to abolish slums, but they are still in existence. New Australians find that decent housing is not available for them, so two or three families are crowding into small houses, some of which were condemned years ago. In this way, our slum population is increasing. If the Government were to- tackle the immigration problem as it, should be tackled, new Australians would be provided with suitable houses, but that is not being done at present. I say therefore that bank credit could be used to abolish slums and to pro-vide dwellings of an acceptable standard. Under existing conditions most workers will, never own the homes they are living in. Far too many people are born in debt, reared in debt and die in debt. That is the position not only in Australia, but also elsewhere, but here the opportunity to do something different is unique. We should be setting an example, but I would not expect this Government to do that, because it is more or less the political management committee of the private monopolists. We cannot depend upon our arbitration courts to increase wages sufficiently to enable workers to enjoy the standard of housing to which they are entitled because so long as low-rental slum houses exist, wages will be kept correspondingly low. If workers had to pay £6 or £7 a week in rent, our Arbitration Courts could not ignore the situation, and wages would be increased proportionately. That is the unfortunate situation to which I direct attention. I have been speaking of causes; honorable senators opposite have been dealing with effects. Unless a relationship between cause and effect is established in economics as it is in mechanics, physics and other sciences, things will not be better in the future than they are at present. The position is becoming chaotic. The Government refuses to increase pensions. In the Melbourne Age of Tuesday, the 7th September, the following pensioner’s budget was published : -
That is an illustration of the weekly expenditure of age pensioners - the men and women who built this country, who made our existence possible, whose efforts enable us to draw an allowance which, J submit, is in excess of our means. They made this country what it is to-day, yet 1 heir standard of living has been reduced to the lowest possible level, and the Government refuses to increase their pensions.
I leave it at that. I trust that what I have said will cause honorable senators opposite to think about these matters more intelligently and constructively than they have done so far. I say that quite dispassionately. I have been through the mill since 1893. I have seen crises come and I have seen them go. There was a bad crisis in the 1930’s but the one which is coming now will be even worse. “What is the Government going to do? What plans has it for the future? This budget is designed to maintain the status quo.
– I rise to support the motion and to congratulate the Government on the budget. An extraordinary feature of the speech just made by Senator Cameron is that unconsciously he paid the Government the greatest compliment yet paid to it in this chamber. He said that a budget was based on the character and policy of the Government. This budget is based on the character of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and those who support him. I was very interested in Senator McKenna’s remarks. He began by saying that it had never been his habit to rake over the dead ashes of an election campaign, but he proceeded to deal with every proposal made during the last election campaign by the Australian Labour party. That was nothing new for Senator McKenna because, as we all know, from time to time he produces the policy speech made by the Prime Minister in 1949. He has been heard to say that he knows it better than any member of the Government parties. I suggest that he has been raking over the dead ashes of election campaigns for quite a long time. The weaknesses in his speech to-night were due to the fact that he knew that the proposals put to the people by the Government on the 29th May were accepted, whilst those of his leader and himself were rejected because the people had no confidence in them. It was rather curious that when Senator Spooner, who represents the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the Senate, asked Senator McKenna to be more specific about the amount of social central bank credit that would have to be used to implement the Australian Labour party’s proposals, Senator McKenna said he could not state a definite sum. That seemed to me an extraordinary statement on such an important matter.
This budget follows the policy adopted by the Menzies Government when it came into office in 1949 - a policy of giving incentives to production through tax reductions. The incentives given since 1949 made it possible for the Treasurer, when presenting the budget, to say - 1953-54 was a period of stable, genuine and widespread prosperity. Perhaps never before in our history have we had a year to equal it.
That is the result of the wise administration of the Menzies Government. It is very interesting to note that the Labour Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, agrees with the Treasurer.Recently, when presenting the Victorian budget, Mr. Cain said -
More people are in employment than ever before, with industrial activity at record levels.
The Premier of New South “Wales said almost the same thing. If we require an independent opinion, I do not think we can find a better one than that expressed by the Commonwealth Bank in its annual report for the year that ended on the 30th -June, 1954. In the course of an economic survey, the bank stated - 1953-54 in Australia was a year of expansion and development, in conditions of relatively stable prices.
Then the bank made what I think was a most important statement, in view of Senator McKenna’s caginess - shall I say - when the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) asked him a direct question on central bank credit. It is as follows : -
An important feature of the year was the improvement in public loan raisings. This together with’ buoyant Commonwealth revenue and with expenditure less than anticipated, enabled all the ‘ commitments of Commonwealth and State governments to be met without recourse to central bank credit. Treasury bills on isue fell by £35.000,000 over the year, and the total holdings of Commonwealth Government securities by the banking system by about £30,000,000.
In those circumstances, is it surprising that the people of Australia rejected the inflationary policies of Dr. Evatt and decided again to trust the Menzies Government ?
Another point of interest is that the Government’s policy follows very closely the promises made by the Prime Minister, especially that in relation to taxation. In 1949, the Prime Minister said -
We still believe that rates of taxation must be steadily reduced as national production and income rise, and as economies are effected in administration.
As Senator Laught has said, the tax concessions granted in the budget this year are worth £46,600,000. The overall rate of taxation is 30 per cent, lower than when the Government took office in 194.9. It must be borne in mind that we are budgeting for an expenditure of £212,0O0,0>00 on defence, and that we have expanded our social services so that they are greater than at any time before in the history of Australia. I do not propose to deal with taxation concessions at length, but I want to refer to one concession which I know has given great relief to people engaged in the management of non-profit-making hospitals. The
Treasurer saw fit in the budget to exempt from the pay-roll tax hospitals conducted on a non-profit basis. So an anomaly that existed previously in relation to those hospitals has been removed. We are all pleased at the increase of the pay-roll tax exemption from £80 to £120 a week, but I think the exemption from the tax of non-profit-making hospitals is one of the best features of the budget in that connexion.
The Treasurer has stated that he intends to establish a special committee to inquire into and report on a taxation allowance for depreciation. I believe that is a step in the right direction. The other night, Senator Byrne said that time was running against us, and that it might well be that we should have to depend on our own economic sinews. .1. am sure we all agreed with him. We realize that, in the event of another war, we may be isolated as we have never been isolated before. Therefore, it i= important that our industrial plant and machinery shall, if necessary, be replaced, so that if a war occurs we shall not find ourselves with outmoded machinery.
I thought Senator Laught made a valuable contribution to the debate when he spoke about the methods of government and the need for members of this Parliament to visit other Parliaments and ascertain their functions. From time to time, both inside and outside the Parliament, cogent arguments are advanced in favour of a convention to overhaul the Australian Constitution and bring it into line with present-day requirements. I believe such a convention to be long overdue. I think it was Senator Mattner who spoke recently about the functions of the Senate. As a housewife, and as a person who believes that in a budget debate the primary consideration should be finance, I suggest that one of the great needs to-day is to determine where the functions of government departments overlap.
– Hear, hear.
– I have heard Senator Wright express his opinions on this matter in this chamber and in other places. It appears that the work of many government departments, if not overlapping
– They are climbing one another’s backs.
– I think a little streamlining would be to the advantage both of the departments and of the taxpayers. The fields in which I think there is some overlapping are conciliation and arbitration, commerce and agriculture, education, health, housing, immigration, labour and national service, social services, transport and shipping and war service land settlement. In all those fields, it is easy to find a duplication of functions. Recently, Senator Robertson referred to the need to employ gainfully all persons over 65 years of age who are willing and able to work. After Senator Robertson had made that statement, I was very interested to read that Sir Philip McBride, the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, had stated that under present conditions the employment of older workers is good business. This is a problem that must be tackled by all Governments and private employers. It is disturbing to learn that whereas at the turn of the century 96 per cent, of our people were under 65 years of age, now, according to the latest figures published - probably the census will show an even more alarming drift - over 10 per cent, of our people are over 65 years of age, and 1,000,000 of them are over 50 years of age. With the increased expectation of life, one wonders how long, at that rate, the working population will be able to support those who do not work, if we continue to retire people at 65 years of age.
A few moments ago I referred to duplication of functions by government departments. I was, therefore, very interested and at the same time gratified, to read that the Australian Government is now directly entering the field of assistance to aged people and that it proposes to contribute, on a £1 for £1 basis, £1,500,000 annually towards the cost of building homes for such people. This is certainly a step in the right direction, because little additional accommodation has been provided for our aged sick during the past 50 years, despite the fact, as I pointed out earlier, that the greater expectation of life is making ever-growing demands on available facilities. The latest report of Mount
Royal, one of the largest institutions in Victoria, states that there is a waiting list of 400 patients, most of whom are in dire need of immediate care in an institution. The report also states that the number would be very much higher if it were not for the fact that many people are dissuaded from applying for admission when they learn that the waiting time is more than twelve months. We must continue to build homes for aged people. At the same time I suggest that the Government should consider the possibilities of the housekeeper scheme. The budget contains provision for the expenditure of £14,000 on the housekeeper service, which is the same as last year. In my opinion, if that grant were increased and the service extended it would be the best and the cheapest way to give real assistance to many of our aged people. As honorable senators know, many old people, particularly couples, do not need permanent hospital treatment. One of the great benefits of the housekeeper scheme, properly expanded, would- be that assistance could be given to such people in their homes. Though their home may consist of only one room, it is better for them to remain iri the locality in which they have resided for years, among their friends, than to go to an institution.
Another great benefit of the scheme would be that it would enable couples to stay together. One of the most dreadful sights which confronts those who do social services work is that of the old man and woman who have lived together all their lives, and who are dependent on each other almost for their very existence, being parted because we have been unable to provide homes in which they might live together. It seems to me that the care of the aged is an obligation, not only on members of Parliament, but also on every member of the community. Age is something which will come to most of us. If we are sick and feeble and are no longer able to care for ourselves, the problem of where we live, no matter whether we have sufficient means or not, or whether we need hospital treatment, will then become our personal problem. From the point of view of humanity and also from that of self-preservation, it is the responsibility of every one to consider the needs of the aged and to attempt to meet them.
Recently in this chamber, I asked whether the Government ‘would consider increasing to £50,000 its grant to the Lady Gowrie child centres. Here again, we have that curious overlapping of functions as between the Commonwealth and the States. The .Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) replied that that was primarily a State matter. I invite his attention to the fact that those centres were established by the Commonwealth. I do not understand why, after the Commonwealth established them and kept them alive since 1938, it has been decided that, in the very near future, they are to become the concern of the States. I should like to traverse, briefly, the history of these centres. In 1938, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, who was then Prime Minister, announced that £20,000 would be devoted to the establishment of Lady Gowrie child centres. A special fund had been set up to commemorate the jubilee of King George V. The government of the day considered many projects because it was eager to choose a field not already covered by State activities and one which would not produce any overlapping effect. Having announced that the fund would provide for public health projects, especially in relation to the health of women and children, the Government decided to establish these centres, and the sum of £20,000 was provided for the purpose. Two slight increases of that amount have been made, but the present grant of £30,000 is totally inadequate to cover the activities which the centres were designed to cover. I point out, by the way, that there is a centre in every capital city of the Commonwealth. They are not just ordinary kindergartens. The idea behind their establishment was that an opportunity should be provided to study objectively child care and education in the pre-school years. This they have done most effectively. They are unique in that they are the only pre-school centres in Australia at which a team consisting of professional workers, a doctor, nurse, social -workers and teachers combine with parents in an attempt to understand the needs of children daring that important period of -their lives.
– Are they not, for the most part, under-privileged children ‘(
– That is so. The centres are situated in the capital cities and -therefore cater for children in congested areas. Their great importance is that they .study the stresses of childhood., investigate causes and find ways to impress on parents and others the importance of child care and child behaviour. Their activities save many children from having to attend special schools, from needing special physical and mental care in later life, and from becoming delinquents through lack of parental care and understanding. I hope that the Government will reconsider this matter and that it will see its way clear to increase the grant
I come now to another important matter about which I have spoken previously in this chamber. It is linked with the need for objective study’ of children in the early stages of their lives, particularly the study of the mental health of children. I notice that the Commonwealth grant to the States for mental hospitals is to be reduced from £495,000 to £230,000. We all know that the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States have been terminated. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper)., in reply to a question asked by me about this .matter, stated that the Government is awaiting a report from Dr. Stoller. That may he so, but it does not get over the fact that mental hospitals find themselves in an .unsatisfactory position. Somewhere or other in the government mind there appears to be an idea, which is not shared by the medical profession, that physical health and mental health are different matters. The medical profession holds the general view that many illnesses may be caused by neurotic influences and, indeed, that the body is as much influenced by the mind as is .the mind by the body. A large proportion of mental illnesses are the direct result of physical injury or bodily defect. It is true to say that an injury to the head or spine, a fall, a blow, infection, or failure of the blood vessels to nourish the brain can result in a person having to seek attention at a mental hygiene centre. We have to face the situation that any perfectly normal person may suddenly become & patient in a mental hospital because of accident, infection or bodily illness.
In Victoria alone there are 7,<6Q0 patients on the books of mental institutions at the moment. Many of our hospitals hold 50 per cent, more patients than the number with which they were originally expected to cope, the reason being that a mental hospital, as distinct from a general hospital, cannot refuse to accept a patient. This is a very important matter because the state of unrest and anxiety in the world to-day is communicating itself to more .and more people, both young and old, with the result that the incidence of mental disorder is higher than it has even1 been in the history of the world. lt is most necessary that people who .are afflicted in this way .should receive early treatment.
I believe that this is another matter which cannot indefinitely be pushed backwards and forwards between the Commonwealth and the States. It is high time that we ‘decided whether public health is -a Commonwealth matter or whether it should be left to the States. I myself incline to the view Hia* the. States are ‘better able to handle it, hut I am open to conviction. The sooner we determine the powers and functions of the “Commonwealth .and the departments which operate under the direction of this Government, the .better it will be for every one.
Like ( everybody else, I have allowed myself the privilege of talking about those things which are closest to my sympathies. I think that -we all do that in- a general -debate. Reverting to the budget, I believe that we have every reason to he enormously proud of the record of the Menzies Government. Undoubtedly, it enjoys the confidence of the Australian people. In conclusion, I shall recapitulate the achievements of this Government:: It has reduced taxation and given concessions over the widest possible field; at has increased enormously the production of basic materials.; it has beaten the inflationary spiral. Our economy, to-day, is stabilized and balanced. The -Government has brought great prosperity to Australia; it has expanded and maintained the defence forces; it has made powerful friends overseas, and it has expanded repatriation and social services benefits to a degree unknown in the history of federation. In short, the Menzies ‘Government has served the Australian nation faithfully and well.
.- Both Senator Wright and Senator Maher referred to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Senator Wright dealt with the importance of the court, and its power to make decisions which had a great effect on the economy of Australia. He made .some rather vague statements about the court. When Senator Byrne asked him - by interjection - to be more specific, he .said that he was being deliberately v:ague, .because he did not want to develop his theme at that stage. Senator Wright applauded the cessation of automatic adjustments of the basic <wage, and stated that he hoped that there -would be -a strengthening of the court in the near future. I think his exact words -were, that he hoped -that the court would be given such strength in the near future as would place it in a more solid position in the. Australian economy. I do not know what the honorable senator meant by “ strengthening “ the court. This ‘Government, in 1951, made two amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904. On .the 8.th March, 1951, the .High .Court of Australia held, in the metal trades .application, that the ‘Commonwealth Court of Conciliation ,-and Arbitration did not have power to punish .contempt of itself, because .specific penalties were provided by various awards for breaches of those awards. That decision came as :a surprise to the Menzies Government, which, three days later,, introduced amendments “which were very wide in their application. Had the amending bill become law, the punishment for contempt would have been the imposition by the court of an unlimited gaol sentence, or the infliction <of ,a heavy fine on an individual who committed a breach of an award in defiance of a lawful order of the court. The Government -did not proceed with .that .bill after iit was returned to office .at .the general election of 1951. The provisions of that bill were criticized very severely by Labour candidates throughout Australia during the 1951 general election campaign. As I have said, when we reassembled in this place, the Government did not proceed with the bill. However, in July of that year, the Government introduced another bill to amend the conciliation and arbitration legislation. In the sense that Senator Wright referred to the “ strengthening “ of the court, that measure - which became law - strengthened the court by prescribing a fine of £500 for an organization, £200 or a year’s gaol for an employer or an official of a trade union, and a fine of £50 in other cases. The Government has made two or three bites at this cherry. I wonder whether Senator Wright has knowledge which indicates that the Government intends to further strengthen the court?
– I have no knowledge whatever of any intention of the Government to make the law more punitive.
– I am very glad to hear that. Senator Wedgwood referred to the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) promise of constitutional reform. The recent remarks of Senator Wright in that connexion are worthy of consideration. Many opinions have been expressed on this subject. About eighteen months ago the Minister for Social Services (Senator McMahon), who was then Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air, made some startling suggestions in a speech that he delivered in Sydney. He suggested that the court should voluntarily relinquish some of its powers. As he had not specifically mentioned the powers that he considered it should relinquish, I endeavoured to ascertain that information by asking a question in this chamber. I do not know where we would get if the Parliament were to make laws and delegate its jurisdiction to certain bodies and charge them with the responsibility of carrying out the delegated duties, if those bodies subsequently voluntarily relinquished that power. However, the Minister to whom I have referred is not the Minister for Labour and National Service ; on his showing on that occasion, I do not think that he will ever be allotted that portfolio. Conciliation and arbitration is a most controversial field. When we recall the conditions that gave rise to the introduction of the original legislation, the field of controversy that can be opened up by debate is evident.
I shall trace, briefly, the history of our industrial legislation, and I shall make four suggestions for the strengthening of the court, maintenance of industrial harmony, and assisting Australia’s progress. The first mention of the desirability of establishing a court of this kind was made at the Federal Convention that was held in Sydney in 1891. Of course, that was before I was born. As that was the year of the maritime strike, doubtless the establishment of such a court was uppermost in the minds of the people. It was suggested that a court for the settlement of disputes should be established, but the proposal was defeated by 25 votes to twelve. In 1S97, Mr. Justice Higgins, who was an ardent advocate of arbitration, suggested that there should be established a court for the settlement of industrial disputes which extended beyond one State. That proposal was defeated by 22 votes to twelve. Mr. Justice Higgins subsequently submitted the identical motion in Melbourne, when it was agreed to by 22 votes to nineteen. In the light of the atmosphere that was created by the maritime strike in the early 1890’s, it was difficult to achieve cohesion of thought on what should be done in this vital field. However, the original legislation was enacted in 1904. There have since been 28 amendments of that legislation, which is not had in 50 years. Proposed alterations to the Constitution in relation to its powers were submitted to the people by referendum in 1911, 1918, 1919, 1926, 1944 and 1946. All were rejected. Mr. S. M. Bruce (now Lord Bruce) suggested during the general election campaign of 1929 that the federal court should abdicate the industrial sphere, except in relation to industries such as the maritime industry which, obviously, was not confined to one State. The Government was roundly defeated, Mr. S. M. Bruce making history by being the first Prime Minister to suffer defeat in his own electorate. The present Government has adopted a virtuous policy, by saying, in effect, “ The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established. We have no further interest in it. We shall not interfere in any way, or express opinions before the court “. That is an extraordinary attitude, in view of the authority that reposes in the court. The application of that policy means that the Government; - I do not confine my remarks to the present Government - has no policy in relation to wages. As Senator Wright remarked during his speech, the Arbitration Court is to-day one of the principal bodies engaged in this country in determining economic policy. Quite apart from the social aspect of the matter, I consider that a representative of the Government should inform the court of the Government’s wage policy, and the economic state of the nation. I believe that a serious obligation devolves on the Government in this matter. I do not think that the present Government has acted rightly by remaining aloof when important matters were before the court in recent times. They will come before the court again in the near future. For instance, several years ago, after the court had announced a wage increase of £1 a week, there was a tendency for supporters of the Government to assert that inflation was running riot because the court had granted a prosperity loading of £1 a week, which was not related to the cost of living index. On the other hand, the court could say at any time, and probably is saying to-day - in view of the fact that it has pegged wage: - “ After all, we received no advice from the Government as to what it considered was socially desirable, and we have not been advised of the economic state of the nation”. Therefore, there has been a passing of the buck from the court to the Parliament, and from the Parliament back to the court. I think that the court is more justified in condemning the Government, than is the Government in condemning the court. After all, there is in the Constitution a very narrow placitum, from which the court draws its power. It reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
On the other hand, the Australian Government is charged with the very great responsibility of providing good government for the citizens of Australia. It should not completely abdicate its rights in this field. If I understood Senator Wright correctly, he was inclined to the opinion that the cessation of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage had had a stabilizing effect on industry. On the other hand, Senator Maher seemed to think that the policy of the Government had brought about that effect. In view of the claim that has been made that; there is no connexion between the court and the Government, I should have thought that honorable senators opposite would abhor the idea that the Government had had anything to do with the court’s decision.
– I never suggested it had anything to do with government policy.
– I said that the honorable senator had claimed that the cessation of quarterly adjustments was one of the main factors in stabilizing industry.
– Exactly !
– As Senator Maher apparently disagrees with Senator Wright, they should get together and resolve their differences of opinion. I wish now to direct the attention of the Senate to the position that has been reached in connexion with the fixation of wages. Both the basic wage and margins have been frozen for some time. Let us consider the position from the point of view of a man who has only his labour to sell. In times of depression his wages are reduced compulsorily. I remind honorable senators that it was not a decision of the court, but decisions by the parliaments of some of the States, which brought about this reduction. The red herring that is dragged across the trail repeatedly, is that the Parliament ha= never had anything to do with wage fixation. The history of wage fixation shows that to be incorrect. Immediately after the Avar, when a lot of money
Was circulating, the Government pegged wages. Now, in a period of prosperity, wages have again been pegged. In what economic climate does the Government say that wages should he increased?
– In Victoria it was accepted that the stabilization of wages would be equivalent to increasing wages.
– I do not think that that statement is absolutely correct. It seems that the Government considers that the solution to all problems is a reduction of wages, no matter what the economic climate.
There is a certain amount of confusion as to the significance of high wages. Wages have reached a comparatively high level in Australia although chey are not high compared with wage, levels in countries such as Canada and the United States of America. A high wage structure need not be detrimental to an economy. It has been amply demonstrated in Canada and the United States of America that industry can afford to pay high wages and at the same time improve the standard of living. Wages in Australia comprise two parts, the basic wage and the margin. The basie wage has never been scientifically fixed in Australia. In 1907 Mr. Justice Higgins delivered a judgment as a result, of a request from- the Harvester Company to- decide a. fair and reasonable wage for its employees. A minimum wage of £2 2s. a week was fixed but it was not based on any scientific survey. Mr. Justice Higgins examined the budget of six Melbourne housewives. As any one from. New South Wales could tell the Senate, Victoria is a depressed State and therefore the wage that was fixed was not large. Afterwards,, other industries asked to be joined to the Harvester judgment. Only one inquiry has ever been made into the basic wage, and that was made hy the Piddington. Commission of 1920 which recommended that the base rate should be increased by £1 a week.. That recommendation was never put into effect. As I have said, the problem of fixing a basic wage has never been approached, scientifically. The workers have, only been given a sort of rough justice.
Never at any stage, even when there has- been no wage-pegging, have, margins for skill been, easy to> get. Naturally, unions are constantly asking for increased margins for their members. Before they can approach the Commonwealth Arbitration. Court they must create an industrial’ dispute. After some time, the union’scase comes before the Court and it meets efficient opposition by groups of employers. It is never easy to obtain an adjustment of margins or an increase of the basic wage except insofar as it ia adjusted in accordance with changes in the. C series index. The arbitration system has never been generous to the persona in receipt of wages; Australia* has had a proud tradition that thosewho work in industry, no. matter what physical ability/ they were born with, provided that they work the requirednumber of hours, must be paid enough to enable them to comply with their obligations to their wives and. families. We also have standard working hours, sick, leave and annual leave. But the conditions to which I have, referred are threatened by the action of the court im doing away with automatic adjustments of the basic: wage and pegging margins. In effect, the court has reduced the- minimum- wage. It has not cut down the tall poppies. It has- done: away with the bit of rough justice that had been handed out to. peoples The pious silence: on the part of the- Government. which has refused to make data available to> the: Coir mon wealth Arbitration Court,, has forced the court ta put back, thehands of the clock in Australia at a time when we; .should be progressing- and givingthe working class people a share of prosperity. I believe that there, is a grave constitutional doubt whether theCommonwealth Arbitration. Court. Unas-, power to suspend regular automaticadjustments of the basie- wage-. It isdoubtful whether- tha power of the. count to deal- with the- prevention- and settlement: of industrial disputes includes; a power as wide as the power to suspend adjustments to the basic wage..
I hope that honorable senators opposite have now lost the impression that wages are- the only factor that is pushing up prices. Wages- have- been pegged for about eighteen months but the cost of living- has increased by £1 a week, in that time. Wages cannot be blamed foithat increase. Wages are a big factor in the costs of building. But the cost of building homes has gone up during the LAST eighteen months in spite of the fact that wages have been pegged.
– I question that statement.
– Then Senator Wright should go into the matter scientifically and he will find that that is so. Evidence of that fact is to be found in the estimates relating to the cost of Government buildings.
A unique position exists in the field of wage fixation, .first in the fact that it is compulsory, and secondly in the multiplicity of courts and boards which fix wages. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration works under a narrow power. Then there are the State courts and the various State tribunals and boards. Victoria, and to a lesser degree Tasmania, have the best systems of wage fixation in the wages boards, each board applying itself to one industry. That type of board should he encouraged in industry throughout Australia. I want to make four suggestions, which, I ‘ believe, would improve the present position. First, I believe that the time is ripe for an increase of child endowment. Wages have been fixed for a fairly long period. Therefore, the field is ready for the Government to increase child endowment and so put extra money into the pockets of the workers who need it most. Child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1940 when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was dealing with an application for an increase of the basic wage. The court adjourned and, while it was adjourned, the Government introduced child endowment. Consequently, there is a perfect precedent for increasing child endowment. Now, while wages are stabilized, is the time to increase child endowment. This is a golden opportunity for the Government to put money into the pockets of people who need it.
– Competition for labour is forcing wages up, despite the court’s decision. There is overfull employment.
– If that is so, government employees will suffer because governments cannot increase wages in competition with private industry. The result is a more unpopular wage policy. Consequently it becomes imperative to a<-t upon my next suggestion.
– ‘Costs are rising.
– That is an evasion of the facts. My second point In that the Government has a solemn responsibility to declare to the court the economic measures that it intends to take. I do not think that it is fair or practicable to expect the court to fix wages if the Government -will not be represented in the court in order to state its opinion and will not make available the economic knowledge that is at its disposal. 1 believe that it is the duty of the Government, and not of the court, to decide upon economic measures. If wages are to bo pegged, this Parliament should peg them, not the court. During the war, the Curtin Government did not leave the pegging of wages to the court. The Government; itself took action ‘in this Parliament to peg wages.
I believe it should be laid down that this Government, or any other administration of the day, should declare important economic measures and not throw that responsibility upon the court. The court is not a legal body as we know other courts. Judge Foster put it very well when he said, “ When you come before the court, you do not get ordinary legal justice, but justice according to Foster “. There are no set principles in the Arbitration Court. In a criminal court, there are penalties to be imposed upon convicted persons. In the Arbitration Court, it is well known that although there are forms of law, such as those relating to examination and crossexamination, the evidence flows as freely as possible away from legal form, although the average spectator would not realize that. There are no legal rules for the courts and, as Judge Foster said, “ You get justice according to Foster “.
My third point is that there should be a royal commission to determine a just social wage, or a basic wage as we know it. Except for the Piddington commission, to which nobody paid any attention, there has never been a commission to fix a wage. That is to say, we have never had a scientifically-fixed basic wage in Australia. The first thing to do to clear this atmosphere is to appoint a proper royal commission to decide upon a fair and proper basic wage. That would remove from the Arbitration Court the disputation in which it is involved at present. The moment that is done, a decision can be reached as to whether the basic wage will he adjusted in future and whether the adjustment will be automatic, by an act of Parliament or by some other method. It is important that that should be done. Why it has not been done in the past 50 years is beyond me. “My fourth point is that the Constitution should be amended to give the Parliament power to do all things that are desirable and necessary for industrial peace and industrial employment. When I say the Parliament, obviously again I mean that it should delegate authority for the purpose. I do not mean that the Parliament would meet and solemnly declare that wages were to be increased or reduced. We have power, under the present procedure, to delegate such power to an authority. The wording of the provision should be made as wide as possible so that the authority would be given all the influence possible. At present it is necessary to create an industrial dispute in more than one State before a case can be brought before the court. That is not a matter of conciliation but of disputation. Itencourages propaganda, which should have no place in any court. I suggest that there should be an extension of the common law rulings upon which the court is so limited at present.
In fixing margins, the practice for many years has been to fix margins for skilled tradesmen, usually in the metal trades, and then for every little organization in Australia to join the queue. That is why the Galvin decision was so important. When Conciliation Commissioner Galvin refused to grant a marginal increase to metal tradesmen, he set the tune for the whole of Australia. At this point I should like to quote the words of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Mr. Justice Latham, upon the creation of an industrial dispute. He stated-
The idea that nothing can be done to prescribe fair industrial conditions unless and until there is, or threatens to be, a dispute about them has placed a premium on constant industrial conflict for many years.
By making the alteration I have suggested, I believe that we could do away with the multitudinous bodies that are fixing wages throughout Australia. More power should go to the Commonwealth Parliament in that regard. I have not time to develop the reasons why I advance that opinion but I have reached that conclusion and it is shared by many others. Then, even if governments could not be persuaded to go into the court to give evidence, at least a body would be set up, and it should automatically have economic evidence placed before it. At present, when a court is trying to reach a decision, the only economic evidence before it is that submitted by the contestants, both of whom are biased. There should be channels for the Arbitration Court, or whatever the court may be called, to receive evidence on economic matters, just as the Government receives from the Treasury all the information it wants on decisions that have to be made.
Honorable senators should remember that wages must always be a first charge on industry. That is a controversialstatement, but a wage must be fixed and industry must pay it. The fixing of a wage must come before such matters as hidden reserves, excess profits and others. When that is done, if an industry cannot pay it is time for governments to step in. It is their task to discover and protect industries that are weak. If that were done, we would progress a long way towards industrial harmony in Australia with a consequent increase of production, because these matters have a distinct bearing upon it. Such a move would lead to the restoration of the fallen standards of the workers, and would lift the people to a new level of development for the advancement of Australia.
– In rising to support the motion, I wish to refer first to a matter that has been mentioned by several honorable senators during the past few days to the effect that the States, generally speaking, are getting too much money and consequently have a surplus of revenue at their disposal. It has also been suggested that the Australian Government should take portion of the loan money in order to give the Commonwealth authorities more money to spend. I believe that the honorable senators who made those statements were speaking for their own States, but I wish to make it clear that their remarks do not apply to Western Australia. That State is desperately short of money, so much so that the latest advice I have is to the effect that some urgent works have been postponed because of lack of finance. I refer to the great southern water scheme. It was started in 1948 and, up to the present, only 40 miles of the first 80 miles of pipelines have been laid. The West Australian reported a few days ago that important towns along the pipeline had imposed water restrictions. Oan honorable senators imagine what the position will be in the middle of summer which extends, in Western Australia, at least until Easter ? Towns in the northern part of the water scheme, including Narrembeen, Kondinan and districts have had water restrictions placed upon them already. Similar restrictions have been imposed in the towns in the southern section, including Narrogin, Wagin, Katanning and Mr Barker. All those restrictions have been imposed because the Government has not enough money to continue the project.
Another important construction work has been in progress at the port of Albany for two or three years. One berth has been constructed but work has been stopped because there is no more money available. The tragic part of the situation is that the wharf that has already been constructed is of no use. Until a second berth can be built, the Government cannot lay down railways or build storage sheds for the first berth. Western Australia has received a greater proportion of immigrants in relation to its population than have the other States hut schools cannot be built and the State Government cannot even build additional roo/ns on to existing schools because of lack of money. That leads me to renew a plea that I have made previously for the (summoning of a convention to place the financial relationship between the States and the Commonwealth on a better basis. If some of the States are receiving too much money - and there is evidence that they are - that position should be rectified, hut we should not deprive Western Australia of the money it needs for development. A revision of the financial relationships between the State governments and the Commonwealth should be made.
That thought brings me to a matter of vital interest to Western Australia that I wish to place before the Senate. That is the development of the north-western part of Western Australia. I refer to that matter because of a suggestion or a recommendation that was made a few days ago by the honorable member foi’ Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, to the effect that the north-west of Western Australia should be handed to the Commonwealth. God forbid that any Western Australian Government should consent to such a move. If evidence is required against such a proposition, I refer honorable senators to the deterioration of the Northern Territory since the Australian Government took it over from South Australia. My remarks in that connexion apply up to the time that the Government appointed the present Administrator. I congratulate the Government upon his appointment. Since his advent in that field, the position has altered greatly for the better. Honorable senators may not realize the vast extent of the north-western part of Western Australia. As a comparison, T point out that the population of Australia has risen from 3,700,000 in 1901 to 8,700,000. That is an increase of 150 per cent In the same period, the population of the north-west of Western Australia has risen from 6,200 to 7,700, an increase of 1,500. There are reasons for that state of affairs, and the most important is that a population of 700,000 in Western Australia, which is 7 per cent, of the Australian population, is trying to develop an area that is 32 per cent, of the whole of Australia. The position is impossible.
My object in referring to it during this debate is to point out a way in which the problem can and should be met. I had an opportunity during the parliamentary recess to visit that portion of Western Australia in May and June last. The area extending from Carnarvon to Wyndham is generally devoted to pastoral and mining activities. Pearlfishing is an old established industry. There is some mining and Western Australians hope that the search for oil will lead to discoveries that will be beneficial to the State and to Australia generally. The greatest problem in that part of the State is transport. At present transport services are maintained by the State shipping service at a financial loss to the State, but apart from an air service it is the only transport that can serve that vast area. Shipping is faced with difficulties because it is not possible to put any ship on that service. The coast is subject to high rise and fall of tides, and boats must be fairly flat in the bottom so that they can rest on the sea bed when the tide ebbs. That is a severe handicap to shipping on the coast because only the State ships are suitable.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - 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 pre sented : -
Explosives Act - Regulations - Order directing the berthing of a vessel.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Depart ment of Commerce and Agriculture - B. L. Gardner.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c., 1954 -
No. 41 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
No. 42 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 43 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
War Service Homes Act - Report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1953-54, together with statements and balance-sheet.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19540922_senate_21_s4/>.