22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at. 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1956.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1956.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1956.
Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and
Nyasaland Preference) Bill 1956. Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1956.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Territories been drawn to an article in the Melbourne “ Herald “ under the caption, “ Aboriginals need aid in law courts “? Is it true, as stated in the article, that aborigines do not have legal aid when appearing on charges in the Darwin court, but have only the assistance of the Protector of Aborigines, who often appears for both the defendant and complainant? If that is so, will the Minister take steps to provide legal aid for aborigines, especially in the more serious cases?
– I am not able to answer specifically the questions put to me by the honorable senator, and I shall bring them to the notice of the Minister for Territories and obtain a reply from him. I have had considerable contact with aborigines in this country, and as far as I know they are treated exceptionally well by the Administration.
– I do not question that.
– Then I shall obtain an answer to the honorable senator’s question from the Minister for Territories.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. By way of explanation may I say that the question relates to export lamb carcasses. For many years, Tasmanian producers have been trying to get permission for exported lamb carcasses to be branded sls Tasmanian. In the past, those seeking this, concession have been fobbed off with the excuse that any such decision rests with the Government of the United Kingdom. Recently, a visitor to Tasmania, who represented an important firm of carcass butchers in London, stated that this decision rested with the Australian Government, and not the Government of the United Kingdom. He said that, in his opinion, Australian meat was not well advertised in English newspapers. Not one person in ten, he said, knew that the meat he bought came from Australia, particularly in Yorkshire, where most of the Australian meat was used. Is the Minister aware that Tasmanian Iamb enjoys the reputation in the trade as being of supreme quality in the United Kingdom markets? Is he also aware that the Australian Meat Board or Department of Trade refuses to allow Tasmanian lamb carcasses to be branded with the name of the State of origin? Is he also aware that the absence of such a plan allows irregular practices to develop in that Tasmanian lamb is being sold as New Zealand lamb in the United Kingdom shops to the advantage of the English butcher and the detriment of the Tasmanian grower? In the event of the reply being to the effect that only the name of the country of origin is allowed to be stamped on export meat, will the Minister explain how it is that New Zealand lamb from the province of Canterbury is branded with that name in addition to “ New Zealand “? Will the Minister take the necessary action to ensure that in the present season, and in future seasons, the name of the State of origin should be included with the brand, “ Produce of Australia “, now placed on export meat?
– The question asked by Senator Wardlaw is of considerable importance to Tasmanian producers. He gave me notice that he proposed to ask it, and I took advantage of the opportunity to confer with my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, who has furnished me with the following answers to the various questions asked by the honorable senator -
That is, the practices referred to by Senator Wardlaw - and the fact that, under United Kingdom law, all Australian lamb must be stamped with the word “ Australia “ in six places creates a practical barrier to their development.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether it is intended that a statement shall be made to the Senate about the Government’s outlook on the Suez Canal crisis. If so, when is it likely that such a statement will be made, and will an opportunity be given to the Senate to debate the matter?
– The statement proposed to be made by the Prime Minister to the House of Representatives next week will be repeated by me to the Senate as soon as is practicable thereafter. As to whether a debate proceeds then or at some subsequent time, I think the whole Senate will agree with me that at a time of great delicacy when negotiations are still in hand for the purpose of working out an honorable, just and workable arrangement, it. may not be wise to have an unrestricted debate. However, the wisdom or otherwise of that course can be decided after we are placed in possession of the facts thai will be given by the Prime Minister. Consideration will be given to the matter then.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether action can be taken to ensure that in future, when important papers and reports are tabled in the Parliament, sufficient copies shall be made available for distribution to senators and members as well as to the press gallery. Would not such a course obviate such a happening as the recent publication in the press of a small but controversial extract from the important Tariff Board report, when neither Ministers, senators nor members had access to the report and were unable to reply to questions posed to them?
– The point raised by the honorable senator is one of considerable importance, but I think inherent in the question is quite a mistake of fact if it is implied that copies were made available to the press and denied to honorable senators. The position is that very few typewritten copies were available, and the press was given access to them as, I understand, were some honorable senators, also. The position governing the printing of papers is covered by Standing Orders 36 and 365. There is a Printing Committee which is charged generally with the responsibility of deciding whether or not certain papers shall be printed. Inherent in the powers of the Senate is the provision that the Senate may itself, at any time, order that papers that are tabled in this chamber be printed, but there must be some authority for the printing of papers, and the authority cannot operate before papers are presented in the Senate, or go from the Senate to the Printing Committee. It is a pity that sometimes there is a time lag between the actual tabling of papers, and the motion that they be printed, and the actual printing. Steps are being taken to ascertain that the printing, particularly of the more important papers, is expedited.
– If I may supplement the answer that has been given by the Leader of the Government, I should like to inform the Senate that I made an inquiry yesterday, and ascertained that copies of the Tariff Board report will be available in a week or ten days. The delay is entirely due to congestion in the printing office.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by stating that I hold in my hand a large number of letters from age pensioners, who claim that they are slowly but surely dying a painful death from malnutrition. Will the Minister take the matter up immediately with the Government with a view to giving some immediate relief in such cases, as outlined in the circulars and petitions that have been presented by members of the Parliament?
– The honorable senator will have ample opportunity to propound his views on that topic, and to hear a rebuttal of those views, in fair debate when the social services legislation is introduced into the Senate next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to section 57 of the Stevedoring Industry Act, which was passed by the Senate on 30th lune last and which requires that there should be made public by the authority as soon as possible after the last day of each month a report with regard to stoppages and delays in the performance of stevedoring operations. Can the Minister say what arrangements have been made for making public those reports and will he, in consultation with the authority, endeavour to ensure that honorable senators shall receive copies of the report each month?
– I shall place the request before my colleague and let the honorable senator know the result.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware that the successful introduction of television in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney has opened up a new medium of entertainment and relaxation to many ex-servicemen who are patients in repatriation hospitals? Will the Minister give consideration to installing, as soon as possible, in the Heidelberg and Concord repatriation hospitals television sets so that patients and staffs may receive television programmes? As television extends to other States will the Repatriation Department give consideration to providing television sets in all repatriation general hospitals?
– I realize that television is a great medium of entertainment. 1 am very pleased to see the interest the honorable senator is taking in repatriation and I can assure him that 1 will go into the matter and see if it is possible to install television sets in repatriation hospitals not only in Sydney and Melbourne but also as a general principle at other centres.
– I desire to address a question to the Leader of the Government as representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that when the Prime Minister told the Australian people that he would restore value to the £1 he meant value to the pound of potatoes, pumpkins and onions?
Question not answered.
– I wish to ask a sensible question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to the contention that has been advanced in the Senate as to the relative effects of profiteering and increases in wages and salaries as contributing factors to inflation. Am I correct in reading from the White Paper that the statistics show that in 1954-55 company profits represented 12.76 per cent, of the national income and that they decreased to 12.52 per cent, in the following year, whereas, on the other hand, wages represented 58.15 per cent, of the national income in 1954-55 and have increased to 59.4 per cent, in the present year?
– The figures cited by the honorable senator are correct. My attention has been directed to them and also to similar figures showing quite clearly the fallacy of the argument advanced by the Opposition.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service noted the trend disclosed by the fall in the number of unfilled jobs registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service from 58,759 at the end of December last to 26,968 at the end of August, being a decline of 31,791 jobs? Has he noted that for the first time since 1 953 there have been fewer vacant jobs than persons seeking employment? What significance does the Government attach to the great decline in the number of vacant jobs, particularly having regard to the increase in the number of unemployed over the same period from 16,266 to 35,107?
– I regret that I am unable to verify or contest the figures cited by the Leader of the Opposition. The inference to be drawn from them is that there is some tightening in the employment situation. That is not unexpected, having regard to the Government’s financial policy, but to attempt to deduce from those figures that there are grave threats of unemployment or that there is distress and unemployment is, in the opinion of the Government, completely unjustified. If the Leader of the Opposition puts the question on notice I will obtain for him a detailed reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been directed to a press report on Monday last that the life of a round-the-world yachtsman, Daniel Weil, had been saved near New Guinea as a result of the initiative and resources of an amateur radio operator, Frank Nolan, who is also on the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. As these amateur radio operators function entirely without fee or reward, would the Minister consider taking action to provide some form of civil recognition for amateur radio operators who serve this country so well both in peacetime and in war?
– I read the press report that the honorable senator has mentioned, and I shall bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General the suggestion that he has made. I cannot see how the PostmasterGeneral’s Department could make any recommendation for civil recognition of initiative and bravery. That would have to come from an organization such as the Royal Humane Society, or some other outside body. I join with the honorable senator in expressing admiration for the services rendered by amateur radio operators in peace and in war.
– Bearing in mind the question asked by Senator Wright and the reply given to it by the Minister for National Development, I ask him whether, in view of the fact that questions are being broadcast, it would not have been fairer, when making his reply, to state the actual number of employees who had been working during the years mentioned in Senator Wright’s question?
– lt is a new concept that we have to be fair in politics, but I shall approach the honorable senator’s question on that basis. When the Leader of the Opposition was making his budget speech, and made certain claims about company profits, I interjected because I considered he was presenting his case unfairly. I did so for the very reason that Senator Kennelly now suggests. The Leader of the Opposition said that company profits had increased tremendously, and I interjected that the number of companies had increased also, and that they were serving a larger population. I give the same reply to Senator Kennelly’s question. Certainly wages have increased, but so has population. In New South Wales, during the last census period, population increased by 15 per cent. I am merely trying to establish the point that the approach of the Opposition to this matter is completely fallacious.
– In view of the statement to-day that the Government Printing Office is well behind with its work and is unable to print the report of the Tariff Board and other reports immediately, can the Minister representing the Treasurer advise the Senate as to when the new Government Printing Office that is planned for Canberra will be built? Further, can he say whether in any plans for the new printing office consideration has been given to what has been done by printing offices in other States which have increased their capacities in order to cope with Commonwealth Government work?
– There are many aspects to this problem. Despite the tremendous amount of unemployment which the Opposition mentions continually, one of the problems experienced by the Government Printing Office is that it has been unable to get sufficient staff. The bottlenecks that occur in the Government Printing Office at Canberra have exercised the mind of the Treasurer for some time, but I shall make known to him the views expressed by Senator Henty.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer tell us whether the Prime Minister arranged for a further dollar loan for Australia during his recent visit overseas? If he did, for how much and at what rate of interest was the loan arranged? What is the total amount of dollars borrowed overseas by the present Government since it has been in office, and what is the annual amount of interest payable on such dollar loans?
– I am sure that if the Prime Minister had arranged a dollar loan while he was overseas, he would have said so. As to the remainder of the question, if Senator Aylett puts it on the noticepaper, I shall obtain the statistics for which he asks.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport tell the Senate whether it is correct, as reported in this morning’s press, that a submission has been made to him by the Australian steamship owners for approval of an increase of something like 9 per cent, in Australian coastal shipping freights? If such a submission has been made, has any consideration yet been given to it? Can thi: Minister indicate what relationship that increase bears to the recent increase of 10s. in the basic wage and the increases in holiday pay, sick pay and annual leave granted to the Waterside Workers Federation by Mr. Justice Ashburner?
– The Senate will probably remember that consequent upon the increase of 10s. in the federal basic wage and the granting of the Ashburner award, Senator Wright and others directed questions to me towards the end of the last sessional period as to the possible effects of those variations upon shipping freight rates.’ I then told the Senate that the shipping companies had intimated to me that they were studying the effects of those increases and that when the survey had been completed they intended to make a submission. I said at that time that no increase would be permitted unless or until such submission had been thoroughly examined by the Government and the possible effects of award variations had been studied, particularly their possible effects upon the accounts of the Australian shipping line. It is a fact that the shipowners have now made a submission along the lines suggested by Senator Wright. That submission is the direct result of the 10s.. increase in the federal basic wage and the liberalized terms of the Ashburner award, and it is now being studied by the Government. I repeat the assurance which I gave previously to the Senate. Increases will be permitted only in order to cover the increased costs to which the shipping companies and the Australian Shipping Board have been subjected by the increases springing from the factors mentioned by Senator Wright.
– On 13 th September, Senator Grant asked the following question: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether he has seen the report in to-day’s press of a statement by Mr. Carver, the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, to the effect that last year 53,000 Britishers came to Australia, intending to stay permanently, but 30,000 of them left. That means that three out of every five returned to their homeland. In view of the Government’s statements about prosperity and housing, can the Minister make any suggestion as to why these people left Australia?
I promised to discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, and give the honorable senator a completely effective answer. As a result of that discussion, I am now in a position to answer the question in the following terms: -
The figures quoted by the honorable senator are in accordance with those published by the Commonwealth Statistician, but his interpretation of them is incorrect. He has misinterpreted the definition of “ permanent movement “ which the Commonwealth Statistician employs. The “ arrivals “ figures indicate only the number of persons arriving who intend to remain in Australia for twelve months or more, and the “ departures “ figures indicate only the number of persons departing who intend to be absent from Australia for twelve months or more. Accordingly, the latter include departures of Australians going abroad for twelve months or more, as well as genuine permanent departures. In regard to the reasons for departure, the honorable senator may be interested to learn that the figure for departures quoted by him include 19,354 Australian residents going abroad on tours or business trips. This no doubt resulted from the general prosperity of the community. The balance of 1 1,553 included departing visitors whose stay in Australia has exceeded twelve months, as well as Australian-born persons going to Papua, New Guinea, New Zealand and other countries; it included also departing naturalized Australians, most of whom intended to return to Australia. The number of post-war British immigrants departing from Australia is approximately 6 per cent. of the British intake, but many of these return to Australia at their own expense for a second try as immigrants. Because of these factors, the published migration figures do not give a correct indication of the net migration from various countries or a true indication of the migration effort. The Department of Immigration has already discussed the matter of migration statistics with the Commonwealth Statistician, who is giving consideration to a more detailed dissection of the figures with a view to rectifying the various deficiencies which at present exist.
– On 11th September, Senator Ashley asked me a question about the supply of the so-called tranquilizing drug chlorpromazine or Largactil for use in mental institutions in New South Wales. I have made inquiries from my colleague, the Minister for Health, who informs me that representations were made recently to him by the New South Wales Government, to the effect that supplies permitted to be imported were likely to become insufficient. My colleague immediately took up the matter with the Minister for Trade, who thereupon arranged for extra licences to be issued so that adequate supplies should be available for use in mental institutions. The Minister has assured me that the position will be kept under review, and it is not expected that mental institutions will experience difficulties in obtaining their requirements of the drug.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 368), 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 30th June, 1957,
The Budget 1956-57 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1956-57, and
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof: - “the Estimates and Budget Papers 1956-57 tabled in the Senate are unacceptable and should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured “.
– When the debate was interrupted last night I was directing the attention of honorable senators to the way in which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had refrained from making the Government’s intentions clear in his budget speech. When speaking about the problems facing the nation he said -
To meet these problems, so far as they are capable of being met by governmental action, the Government has developed policy measures designed, on the one hand, to restrain demand and so mitigate pressures on resources and, on the other hand, to promote higher levels of production and exports.
After I read that I was very intrigued and thought that at some stage of the budget speech I would be informed about the nature of the measures that the Government would take, but I looked in vain to find any reference to repair measures that the Government intended to take to fill up the cracks developing in the national economy. The budget speech contains nothing but a series of platitudes, mentions certain deficiencies in our economic system and deals with certain difficulties that we are experiencing but not one word is said about how the evils detailed might be coped with. I could go on for some time in this vein, but I desire now to deal with some of the particular issues that concern us.
I remember rising in this Senate on past occasions and putting before honorable senators the position of the dried fruits industry in South Australia and other States, and stressing the necessity for the removal of the sales tax on all foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. In that contention I was supported by at least two honorable senators on the Government side. I thought that the matter was sufficiently stressed on that occasion and that a sufficiently good case had been made out for action to be taken by the Government under the budget to help the dried fruits industry, particularly in view of the difficulties that the industry is facing at the moment. It is greatly to the Government’s discredit that, the matter having been raised so frequently and so forcibly, the Government has not seen fit to assist an industry which is so vital to this country and which is now experiencing such great disabilities. Even at this late hour I hoped that South Australian senators on the Government side might consider urging the Government to assist the dried fruit growers by taking the necessary and practical step that I have indicated.
I notice in the budget that an additional £20,000,000 will be raised by way of sales tax this financial year. The increased sales tax will lower the standard of living of the lower-paid workers. It is an insidious, indirect form of taxation which virtually robs the pay packet of the average worker. The same thing can be said in respect of excise duties, which also are to be substantially increased. Those duties are to be increased on beer, tobacco, cigarettes and other necessary commodities that the ordinary man in the street needs from day to day. Although some minor concessions are made in the field of direct taxation, an amount of about £70,000,000 will be drawn off from the people by the insidious method of sales tax and excise. That is typical of the attitude of the Government towards taxation in general. The Government’s attention has been directed to many anomalies in the field of sales tax, that the continuance of the imposition of that tax is farcical. Those items have been named repeatedly in the Senate, and it is almost: incredible that some of the gravest anomalies in sales tax were not corrected by the Government when it had an opportunity to do so under this budget.
Practically every line of the budget indicates an attack on the standard of living of the Australian worker. Listeners’ licence-fees have been increased by 15s., although practically everybody owns a radio receiving set as a necessary ingredient of his ordinary home life. One of the most farcical matters mentioned in the budget is the imposition of an excise duty of £7 on each cathode-ray tube used in television sets. Having made that savage attack on prospective users of television sets, the Government then makes the magnificent concession that there will be no sales tax on these tubes. I suggest that we should pay due deference to the Government for that generosity. On the one hand it has imposed an excise of £7 on these tubes, and on the other hand it says that it will relieve the people of the necessity to pay sales tax on them. That is tantamount to a dealer saying, “ I will give you a radio set free of charge, but it will cost you £25 for the cord that you will require to connect the set to the electricity supply “. Postal, telegraph and telephone charges have been increased, and that is another attack on the living standards of the people. With all these charges as well as pegged wages, the workers are going to have a very tough time in the coming twelve months.
I now wish to turn to the vital matter of defence. Attention has been directed to the fact that since 1949, when this Government assumed office, more than £1,000,000,000 has been spent on defence; that we have received no indication of what the Government has to show for the expenditure of that vast sum of money. No report has been given to the Senate, or in another place, about the state of the various armed services of this country. What ships has the Navy, what is the strength and armament of the armed forces in general? What is the position with regard to aircraft? All those matters are surrounded by a cloak of secrecy, and all the money spent by the Government since it assumed office might as well have been poured down the drain or put into fantastic projects like the St. Mary’s filling factory in New South Wales. I hold the view strongly that we are not getting value for the money that this Government has spent on defence.
In these days when the hydrogen bomb is an actuality, we should be devoting the major part of our defence expenditure to securing aircraft and strengthening our air forces. It should be obvious to any person who has some knowledge of the geographical position of Australia and the manner in which future wars will be fought, that our basic defence must be our ability to intercept bombers carrying hydrogen bombs. To the extent that we are successful in that regard will determine our capacity to defend this country. The chiefs of the Royal Australian Air Force have repeatedly urged the Government to pay regard to the fact that Australia’s chief hope of defence lies in the extension of its air services. Yet we find that in this budget a meagre sum of £53,000,000 of the £200,000,000 allocated for defence is allocated to that particular branch of the armed forces. I do not think any honorable senator opposite will disagree with me when I say that, if a third global war occurs and if this country is attacked, it will be attacked by fast bombers carrying hydrogen or atomic bombs to the capital cities and that no navy or great infantry force would be of any use in combating that initial devastating attack. So, it is a matter of simple necessity that this Government should consider an extension of the Air Force for our future defence.
Yesterday, Senator McManus asked a question in which I was particularly interested. He referred to aircraft production in Australia and mentioned the cessation of work at a certain aircraft factory in Melbourne which is under government jurisdiction. A similar situation has arisen in South Australia. The firm of Chrysler Australia Limited was doing a considerable amount of aircraft work under government contract, but suddenly and without warning as to what was intended for the future, the project was stopped by the Government and 400, or 500, men were released to ordinary industry. The folly of that kind of thing is noted when we note that men who are working on the intricate processes of aircraft assembly are lost to such a firm and go into the ordinary fields of industry. When work on aircraft assembly is resumed, it is difficult to find those men because they have obtained jobs that perhaps suit them better. If this Government intends to defend this country adequately, it ought not to be dismissing men who are working on aircraft assembly. It ought to be engaged in a continuous process of development, experimentation and production of those machines that are needed for our defence. This Government’s action in Victoria and South Australia, and possibly in other States, is an example of the kind of muddling that we can always expect from it when it considers the question of defence.
I understand that in another place a responsible Minister stated, in relation to our infantry force, that Australia could place 900 men in the field. If that is true, it constitutes a reason why this Government should resign. Before I leave the subject of defence, I urge the Government to consider the reports of experienced Air Force chiefs in regard to the form that future warfare against this country would take, to discard some of the eighteenth-century methods that it is adopting, to realize that we are living in an atomic and hydrogen bomb age, and to act accordingly in relation to our defence. Whether that advice will be accepted is questionable, but at least it is supported by persons who are in a far better position than is any Government supporter to know the trend of things for the future.
I was interested to note Senator Willesee’s reference to the report of Mr. Dickinson, a former Director of Mines in South Australia, on the steel position in this country. He repeatedly sought to impress upon the South Australian Liberal Government the necessity to establish a steel mill at Whyalla, and he was blunt enough to say that, if the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would not carry out what might be considered to be the normal requirements in this matter, the State Government should take the situation in hand and establish the mill. Mr. Dickinson was most outspoken. I understand that he saw no future in being employed by a Liberal government in that State and that he has now obtained perhaps much more lucrative employment with one of the leading Australian mining companies. At least, while he was in that position he tried repeatedly to impress upon the tory Government of South Australia the necessity to develop Australia’s steel resources.
– At whose instance was his report circulated to us within the last couple of weeks?
– I have not any idea.
– When did he leave his official position?
– Some considerable time ago.
– Within months or years?
– He has not left it yet. He is still in his official position.
– I stand corrected. Mr. Dickinson had another appointment offered to him, and he stated some considerable time ago that he intended to take it. I understand that, at the moment, the South Australian Government is trying to fill his position and will probably do so in the near future. I regret that I was in error when I answered Senator Wright’s question. He also asked at whose instigation the report was circulated. My reply is that I do not know; but I do know that it has been common knowledge in South Australia over the last three years that Mr. Dickinson has been at serious odds with the State Government because of its attitude towards the steel position, and that he has been most outspoken in his criticism of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited over its f ailure to do certain things that he believed it had an obligation to do in the national interest. To that extent I agree with Mr. Dickinson. During the first speech that I made in this chamber, I dealt at length with lie steel position in Australia, and honorable senators will remember that I warned the Government that, unless immediate consideration were given to it, we could find ourselves in serious difficulties. I think, if my memory serves me correctly, that, at the time, I quoted extracts from a former report by Mr. Dickinson on this very matter.
– Where does the honorable senator suggest we would get the iron ore to enable us to establish the mill?
– The honorable senator raised that question the last time the matter was discussed, and I answered him adequately then. He asked where the steel mill should be established, and he proved himself to be a good South Australian by suggesting that it should be established at Newcastle: or somewhere else. I do not intend to retrace-
– The honorable senator does not intend to repeat that he would repudiate the contract.
– I do not intend to go over the matter again, because I think it was dealt with adequately on the last occasion.
– The honorable senator is not game to say again that he would repudiate a contract between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the South Australian Government.
– Senator Mattner raised that question on the last occasion, and I answered it. I am prepared to answer it again.
– Hie honorable senator would repudiate it?
– The way in which I answered that question on the last occasion-
– The answer is either “Yes” or “No”.
– If the honorable senator wants to state his own conditions about the way in which I should answer an interjection, he is making things a little bit difficult.
– That is orderly room style.
– It is, indeed. On the last occasion when Senator Mattner asked the question, I believe he put it in these terms: Would you- repudiate a contract between the South Australian Government and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited? I said that, if it were against the interests of the State or the nation, I would repudiate it unhesitatingly and that he, too, ought to do so, because he has spoken in this chamber on many occasions about the national interest and I have heard him say that it must be upheld.
– I say, too, that, if a contract exists between the South Australian Government and a huge steel monopoly and that contract is reacting against the public interest, it ought to be repudiated.
– It is not reacting against the State.
– What is the nature of the contract suggested?
– The honorable senator should direct that question to Senator Mattner, because he made the interjection. I have replied to Senator Mattner, and I think I have satisfied him. He wanted me to repeat something that I had said before. It must be obvious to honorable senators on the Government side that the steel position in this country is not satisfactory. If there were an urgent demand for a large quantity of steel in Australia, we could not supply it because the Liberal-Country party Government, assisted by State governments of a similar colour, has sold out the mineral resources of Australia to private interests.
I direct my attention now to pensions because, although every speaker in ‘ the debate has referred to this matter, I want’ to make my protest formally because of the failure of the Government to give some consideration to the plight of age and invalid pensioners. The Government has never given enough consideration to the problems confronting those people, and in this budget it has not even made a gesture. Although it is taking £70,000,000 more than it did last year from the people by way of additional taxes, it was not prepared to give the pensioners Id. I am confident that there are honorable senators on the Government side who would agree with the Opposition that the Government has sold out the pensioners.
One of the little things that the Government could have done would be to increase the funeral benefit. It has stood at a meagre £10 for many years. The matter has been raised repeatedly in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, and it has been suggested that the provision should be placed on some parity with the cost of funeral services. Such provision would cost the Government only a few hundreds of thousands of pounds, but it was not prepared to assist the under-privileged in that way.
Honorable senators have repeatedly suggested that consideration should be given to persons who are suffering from chronic ailments, and that there should be an amendment of the provisions for them under various hospital schemes. Although every honorable senator on the Government side who spoke agreed with me when I raised that matter previously, nothing has been done. When we have a budget which takes so much from the people, a few concessions of that sort could reasonably have been expected.
Much has been said about the alleged prosperity of the Australian workers. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has had a lot to say about it. A question that was asked to-day by Senator Wright was couched in terms which sought to convey the impression that the workers were receiving an increase of wages. That is completely untrue. Everybody knows that the wages of the workers have been frozen since 1953. It is known also that the average man has lost a total of 22s. a week, representing the additional amount he would have received if cost of living adjustments had been continued. Even supporters of the Government would not disagree with me when I predict that the next figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician will show another very sharp rise in the cost of living, and the living standards of the workers will be lowered again. It is fantastic for honorable senators to suggest that there has been some increase of wages, and such statements are not in accord with facts.
Much has been said about overseas balances, and the efforts that the Government is making towards improving Australia’s export position. I suggest to the Government that it should consider investigating the position in Asia, which is a natural and nearby market for Australian products. If Australia does not do something about it quickly, the race for trade in Asia will be won by other nations. I know that it is not fashionable to suggest that we should trade with red China, but the strange thing is that the United States of America is trading with Russia. We are told that we should not trade with red China, but the fact is that we accept the real criminal and penalize the juvenile delinquent when we say that it is correct to trade with Russia but wrong to trade with red China.
This Government should be realistic and recognize that, whether we agree with the Government of China or not, it is there, and if present appearances can be taken as a guide, that government will be in office for a long time. If we accept that position, it is simply a matter of common sense for any Australian Government to decide that, if there are markets in Asia, and we have products that they need, it is folly not to take advantage of such a situation. World events can change quickly, and it would not surprise me if, in the not distant future, the United States of America, whose lead we are following in our attitude to Asiatic countries, should make a snap decision to beat us to that field of trade. We shall be left lamenting and holding the bag, as we have done under every Liberal-Country party administration.
Foreign policy is a topic of importance now because of the recent visit to Egypt of a notable citizen of this nation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been absent for more than three months on a tour of the world.
– Another Marco Polo.
– The appellation given by Senator Grant is a good one. The modem Marco Polo has been touring the capital cities of the world. He was in London when the Egyptian incident flared up, and the United Kingdom Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden) was. foolish enough to send the Australian Prime Minister to Egypt as a negotiator over the Suez Canal. Menzies saw Nasser and Nasser said, “ No, sir!” The net result of that visit was that the situation was made worse than before the Australian Prime Minister arrived in Cairo. I suggest that Sir Anthony Eden might have told the right honorable gentleman to give the Egyptians a little bit of gunboat diplomacy. It had always worked in the past, but it did not work on this occasion.
I am not upholding the action that was taken by the Egyptian Government. All I say is that the methods adopted by the British Government, which received the whole-hearted support of the Australian Prime Minister, were not the methods that should have been employed in that dispute. It is a matter for grave concern when the Prime Minister of Australia can negotiate with other powers on matters that contain the seeds of war without the Australian Government or, indeed, any other Australian Minister being apprised of the situation or of events from day to day.
– Not even the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey).
– That is true. Not even the Minister for External Affairs had any idea of what was happening in the negotiations that were conducted by the Prime Minister. It is rather strange that this Government, which has usually clung to the skirts of the United States of America Government in matters of foreign policy, has now forsaken the United States and is taking the same line as Great Britain. While Great Britain is rattling the sabre over the Suez Canal, the United States Government is disposed to make a more reasonable and practical approach.
This budget should be condemned by every Australian. It has been condemned by the press of Australia. When senators on the Government side say this is a good budget, the only conclusion I can draw is that they are just whistling in the dark to keep up their spirits. The Government through this budget is saying to the age pensioners of this country, “ You are not entitled to any further benefit as far as we are concerned until the budget which precedes the election year. Whatever may be the disabilities you are suffering, we are going to let you stew in your own juice.” That is exactly the position. The only thing I hope is that when the Government makes its miserable gesture in the budget preceding the next election the age pensioners will not fall for it as they have in the past.
– In rising to support this budget I am in much the same position as Senator Wade, who described himself as being not too happy. I should like to have seen certain concessions made, reductions in taxation and so forth. However, if one faces the position squarely one realizes these things cannot be done. Consequently, with one exception, I rise to support this budget.
Before doing so, I should like to refer to one or two things that have been said by Senator Toohey who has just sat down. He made the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was in London when the Suez Canal crisis occurred; he was not, he was in the United States of America. I read in the newspapers - I am not in the confidence of Cabinet Ministers - that a special message was sent to the Australian Cabinet asking that the Prime Minister be made available for the mission he undertook. He was particularly asked to undertake it so there can be no question of any rivalry between the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Prime Minister. The Minister for External Affairs went over to London. Along with everybody else I have the highest regard for Mr. Casey as a foreign Minister. In this instance the Prime Minister was asked by the nations concerned, and I am certain that when the request came before the Australian Government it made him available to undertake that mission, a mission which everybody will concede he carried out with conspicuous ability.
Before introducing that matter into the debate Senator Toohey would have been well advised to wait until the Prime Minister had made his promised statement next week. Senator Toohey would then be better informed to make a contribution on that matter than he is at present. The honorable senator also said that Australia is neglecting trade opportunities in the Far East. I cannot commend him for the way in which he studied the activities of the Government. 1 think the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has been particularly active. He has appointed several trade commissioners in, Far Eastern countries and that, I maintain, is the first major step to be taken in order to open up avenues for the sale of our products. That has certainly been done. Senator Toohey said that the United States would come into these markets if we did not hurry up. That statement indicates that he was not present when Senator Willesee spoke last night. If Senator Willesee did not say it last night he has told me privately that when he was in those parts Canadian and United States products were available for consumption. So, those countries already have much of that trade.
– When he was where? In Formosa?
– In Indonesia and those nearer places. It is well known that American products are there, and we have to compete with them.
I was more regretful when listening to the utterances of Senator Toohey, who, after all, is vice-president of the Australian Labour party and, I suppose, a member of its executive, when he said that he was taking up the challenge that had been thrown down by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who spoke last night about full employment, defence, immigration and national development and other matters affecting inflation. Yet, Senator Toohey virtually side-stepped every one of those matters. In speaking of national development he brought up the Snowy Mountains scheme, which he claimed had been initiated by the Australian Labour party. That may be true, but does he imagine that this Government should abandon it now just because it was initiated by Labour? That has nothing to do with the present inflation.
– Honorable senators opposite boycotted the opening of the Snowy Mountains project; they refused to attend.
– What has that to do with inflation to-day? I give the Labour party credit for initiating the project but that does not justify the Government in abandoning it just because it was commenced by Labour. We are bringing it to fruition. It has one effect on inflation in that it is being financed from revenue instead of from loan money. It should be financed from loan money.
Senator Toohey then spoke of defence and referred to the position of this country in 1939, at the commencement of World War II. What has that to do with inflation? In reply to that, I direct his attention to the tribute that was paid by the then Prime. Minister, the late John Curtin, as to the position in which he found the defences when he took over; but that has nothing to do with inflation to-day. Senator Toohey made no contribution to the subject of immigration which may be influencing the inflationary position. I would have been very interested had he made some contribution to the subject of child immigration. I know very fine institutions which could take many more children than they have at present if the English people would allow children to come out other than under the care of foster parents. It is not possible to obtain these foster parents. People who have children of their own do not want additional children and some people who have no children do not want to act as foster parents. One institution I know is only half full and were children allowed to come out it could take them. Other institutions are in the same position. These children would not make the same impact on our economy as do adults and in the course of a few years, when their education was completed, they would become competent and valuable additions to our population. I was disappointed, therefore, that Senator Toohey merely seemed to follow the lead taken up by his leader who, in his turn, when giving reasons for inflation blamed the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission assets, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Commonwealth ships and all those things that took place years ago. How could they be affecting the position at the present day? I think it is a fallacy to adopt that line of argument.
With those few remarks I pass to the particular points I desire to make. Belatedly, I should like to offer my congratulations to our new senators for the very excellent speeches they made last week. The way they addressed themselves to this debate was a good augury for the future standard of debates in this Senate. They make up for the effect of the removal from our midst of the c.x-Attorney-General (Senator Spicer).
– Why did he not stay here? He would be of more use to the country.
– The honorable senator had better go and ask him. One cannot get away from the fact that the standard of debate has suffered as a result of his departure.
The Opposition, as usual, in criticizing the budget, has concentrated on age pensions. We are all sympathetic with the age pensioners but a lot of nonsense has been talked about them. Many honorable senators have referred to them as pioneers. I am getting to the age of some of these pensioners but I certainly do not regard myself as an old pioneer., nor would I regard my father as an old pioneer. It is about time we dropped this talk about old pioneers altogether. We are all aware that there are many deserving cases, but there are also some which are by no means deserving. Therefore, one cannot generalize.
– Every human soul is deserving of a decent living.
– I am not denying that; but all do not deserve the same treatment. lt is high time the Government took steps to bring into operation a national superannuation scheme to which everybody would contribute and from which everybody would benefit when they reached a specified age. It would remove age pensions from politics, which would be a very good idea. It would also guarantee that age pensioners would be provided for, and it would not be a matter of charity. They would have contributed to the scheme and it would not matter whether they were millionaires or paupers, when their specified time came, they would be entitled to draw superannuation from the fund. I know it is not easy to bring in such a scheme but it could be done in several ways. One way might be that those below a certain age would start to contribute and in due course, when they reached the specified age, would be able to draw from, the fund. Those above it would draw the age pension from the National Welfare Fund when they reached the specified age. Whatever scheme is adopted, it is high time that it was brought into operation so that, once and for all, this matter can be removed from politics. It is not edifying, during election campaigns, to hear one political party bidding against the other, offering higher rates of invalid and age pensions, in order to obtain votes. f was particularly pleased to see in the budget the Government’s decision to increase the allowable deduction for life assurance and superannuation contributions, payments to hospital and medical benefits funds and any sum received by way of benefit. In this connexion there is a matter which deserves closer attention than it has been receiving.- In recent months, I have received letters from several people complaining that they have not been able ‘to draw their refunds of medical expenses from the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited. That society was operating when the medical benefit scheme came into being, and it had thousands of subscribers. When the then Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) made an examination of this society’s operations, he found that it did not comply with the regulations necessary to receive government approval as a hospital and medical benefits organization, and that fact was made public. Many people in country districts never see a newspaper, and they have to depend on the radio for their news; consequently many were unaware of the Minister’s statement. Subscribers, who fell sick, and incurred medical expenses have made claims against the society for refunds, but without success. A letter from one contributor showed that he had been trying to obtain a refund for eighteen months, but had received no reply. Others had received small amounts, but not full satisfaction. Fortunately, the Minister has been successful in obtaining payment of some of the claims. It is high time that this society was made to comply with the regulations necessary to receive Government approval, or else be prohibited altogether from operating and so save people from making further contributions to it.
In discussing the economic position of the country, members of the Opposition always compare the actions of this Government with what was done when they were in power. They make no allowance for the entirely different economic conditions which now prevail. It is well known that shortly after this Government came into office a tremendous amount of money flowed into Australia as a result of the higher prices paid for our products. Producers found themselves in possession of thousands of pounds whereas previously they had had only hundreds, and that condition has continued, to a minor degree, ever since. The result has been a regular orgy of expenditure. In order to deal with the situation the Government has introduced certain economic measures. I was interested to hear Senator Laught say that the Government would have to take some action to encourage people to invest in government loans, but he overlooked an important factor - the natural reluctance of the average Australian to invest in loans. Much of that reluctance stems from the action of the Australian Loan Council in raising the rate of interest on new loans, thus reducing the value of earlier issues from £100 to £80 or £90.
– Could .anybody conscientiously advise people to invest in Commonwealth loans or securities to-day?
– No, but at that time they were encouraged to do so. Some people who had never invested before were told that when they wanted to convert, people would be waiting on their doorstep to pay over their money. I happened to be in a bank when people were lodging money on fixed deposit, and they were told that the maximum period for which the bank would accept deposits was two years. I was amazed to discover, towards the end of that period, how many investors came to withdraw their deposits before the two years had expired, or to obtain an advance payment before the date of maturity. If they could not afford to wait for two years before converting their bonds, how much more difficult will it be to get people to invest for a period of fifteen years7
We are frequently reminded that the Australian is an inveterate gambler. I think it can be truly stated that he is a gambler, but it must be remembered that his mode of life involves him frequently in the taking of risks. That is no reason, however, why opportunities to spend his money in gambling should be continually placed before him. To its eternal shame, the Labour Government of Western Australia last year legalized starting-price betting shops. The result has been that for the year ended 31st August last, the turnover in Western Australia from starting-price betting was £27,000,000. That State has only a small population. Lessees of business premises have been evicted and their places taken by starting-price bookmakers, who are paying a rental two or three times greater that did the previous occupiers. Gambling facilities are available in practically every State. In South Australia, such things as raffles are not allowed, but they have an ingenious scheme which, although not classed as a raffle, has a very close resemblance to it. Other States have their lotteries. In Western Australia, the weekly lottery has a first prize of £5,000, and it is a strong incentive for people to gamble. There are also “ Golden Word “ competitions in the newspapers, which are another form of gambling. Recently, I saw a proposal to establish football pools in Australia. How can people be expected to have any money left to invest in Commonwealth loans when all these gambling facilities are available to take it?
If they have any spare money they will probably spend it in hire-purchase transactions. Many people in Australia seem to have forgotten the events that occurred in earlier years. I remember the results of hire-purchase transactions in 1930, when farmers were put off their farms. Their machinery was repossessed because they could not keep up their hire-purchase instalments, and their household furniture was seized. God help many people in this country if a bad economic period comes, and they cannot meet their hire-purchase commitments. They will find that hire purchase has two sides, and the side that they do not know about now is the worse. They will learn about it then, to their sorrow.
On the subject of finance, I am reminded of a matter which has been raised in this House previously, but on which no action has been taken, that is, the revision of the Constitution, particularly with reference to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I know that a committee has been appointed, but it is temporarily in recess as the result of the retirement from politics of ‘Senator Spicer. But if anybody has any confidence in that committee, I have not. If anybody thinks that a State will accept a decision made by a committee on which it is. not represented, he should think again. The States are as intimately concerned with the Constitution as is the Commonwealth. Perhaps this particular committee may review only matters connected with disputes between the two Houses of the Parliament. If that is so, it is a pity, because those difficulties could be quickly settled if members of both Houses wished to do so. But if the Constitution is to be revised, particularly with regard to financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, it is advisable that the States should be represented on the committee.
Senator Henty referred, to wheatgrowing, and although I may have misunderstood him, I think he advocated that we should do away with what he called “ this silly f.a.q. system “ and adopt: a policy of segregation. He said -
If the farmers of northern New South Wales and Queensland were given the incentive to grow high protein wheat, and if we were to get away from this stupid non-segregation of wheat whereby we pui everything into “ fair average quality “ we would be able to capture at a profitable level the specialist markets that should be ours.
If he had confined his suggestion to Queensland perhaps I might have accepted it because 1 do not know anything about that State, but the grading of wheat throughout Australia generally is impossible at the present time. It is not possible to grow high protein wheat just as one wishes. The protein content of wheat depends upon the quality of the soil and upon rainfall. Further, the rain must fall at the right time. Another important factor is that the miller must be prepared to pay for this high protein wheat if he wants it. After all, the farmer is merely a business man. He is going to grow the wheat that gives him the best return. If wheat of a lower protein content returns him 30 bushels to the acre as against 20 bushels in the case of the higher protein wheat, and if the difference in the price for the two qualities is only 6d. or 9d. a bushel, it is obvious that the farmer will produce the wheat which gives him the better return. Further, if such a scheme were introduced, it would be necessary in Western Australia to sample every load of wheat that came to sidings because in that State it may be possible for one to grow high protein wheat in one paddock whilst it would be impossible to do so in the adjoining paddock. Because of the variation in the quality of the soils there, a scheme such as the one suggested would require at least 600 chemists in Western Australia alone.
– Is it done in any other large wheat-growing country of the world?
– It is probably done in Canada, but I am dealing now with Western Australia, where there are extreme variations in both the quality of soil and the rainfall. Even now the wheat-farmers there are crying out for rain, and every day that passes without rain has a detrimental effect on the crop. Actually, we should be much better advised to endeavour to grow a stabilized type of wheat and to avoid growing wheat in good rainfall areas where other industries such as grazing could be carried on successfully.
I did not take part in the very interesting debate in this chamber a few nights ago in connexion with floods. I refrained from doing so because I thought it only fair to allow those honorable senators whose States were affected the opportunity to discuss the matter. At the same time, I was keenly interested in what was said, and there is not the slightest doubt that we have to do something about this problem. In my opinion, it is possible to prevent floods whilst, at the same time, improving the quality of the soil and increasing production. A few nights ago, in the Senate committee room there was screened an excellent and interesting film depicting the effect of soil erosion on the Mississippi River. It showed how soil erosion had led to the flooding of that river, with consequent untold damage. Unless we take preventive action, we shall have recurring Murray River floods in heavy rainfall years. Flooding could be prevented if it were made compulsory for every property along the tributaries of our large rivers to be contour ploughed. By that I mean that ploughing should be done round the contours of the land so that rainwater, instead of running off the country, would soak into it. Any excess water could be diverted into dams.
A striking example of the effect of erosion is to be seen in two paddocks near the Canberra aerodrome. In one paddock there is a deep gutter running through to the adjoining paddock, where it branches into two gutters. There we have an example of the effects of erosion; and all this could be prevented by contour ploughing. I, inspected one property in Western Australia where a farmer was having trouble from erosion. He brought in a bulldozer and filled in the drain running through his property. He planted the area, with grass and did some contour ploughing round the top of the hill. He then called in a dam-sinker and asked that a dam be sunk about 50 yards from the top of the hill on his property. The dam-sinker suggested that it would be no use there, that it should be at the bottom of the hill to catch the water as it ran off the hill. The farmer insisted upon having it near the top of the hill, and when I inspected the farm recently, I noticed that by having the dam at the top of the hill, the farmer had overcome his soil erosion trouble. His dam was full and the effect of constructing it near the top of the hill was to stop the heavy rush of water down the hill, with consequent erosion. Water that overflowed from the dam simply soaked into the country, and he now has a good growth of grass. More of such work should be undertaken throughout Australia. If we were to make an inspection, I think we would find only one paddock between here and Cooma in which any contour ploughing has been done. Contour ploughing, will prevent the heavy flow of water into the larger rivers from their tributaries. That, in turn, would minimize the danger of flood and, at the same time, increase the productivity of riparian lands along tributaries and larger rivers.
I have not been particularly impressed by the reports of the Australian Agricultural Council. That body simply says that it is very pleased with the progress made in agricultural production since it took action in 1952, and then goes on to say that there is still as much need as ever for further progress, clearly indicating that it is not keeping abreast of the times, especially on the question of production per head of population.
There is one part of the budget 1 do not like, and I shall certainly have to consider my position on it when legislation dealing with this particular matter comes before us. I refer to the proposal to increase telephone charges in country districts. I do not like that because, to the man in the country, the telephone is an absolute necessity. In my opinion,, to him it is just as necessary as a fence around his property. It is one means, by which he can reduce his costs of production. When dealing with tariff matters the other night I mentioned, that we are urged by the Government to reduce costs of production, yet it seems to be doing its utmost to increase costs in every possible way. Higher telephone charges will increase the cost of production to every farmer who has a telephone. I know of. one man who spent £600 on constructing his own line and connecting it with the departmental telephone line. It is outrageous to impose increased charges on such a man for trunk-line calls. That is one part of the budget with which I disagree. Other than that, I support it.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and to express my disapproval of the budget. I do not think any honorable senator, whether he be on this or on the Government side, will deny that this budget has failed completely to give any ray of hope that we can look forward to some relief or amelioration of the present position. Right throughout the debate, the principal line of political thought on the Government side has been to stifle criticism by the Opposition. Further, I have not heard one word ,of reference to the extremely hostile criticism of the budget by the Australian press which often can influence the opinions of people on these matters. Every newspaper throughout Australia has either severely criticized the budget or condemned it outright. Yet, we have heard no word of reference to this criticism. In our everyday travels we meet people in all walks of life and we hear their opinions. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that because of the inconsistency of this Government no business executive, primary producer or person in an executive position is. able to formulate any stable policy for the following twelve months.
Digressing for a moment, I add my congratulations to those offered by honorable senators on both sides to the new honorable senators who spoke last week. It is an interesting coincidence that the three of them followed each other; and all must agree that their contributions added coasiderably to the tone of the debate. It must also be agreed that by their election the debating strength of the chamber has been improved greatly. In those remarks I include the honorable senator who had, on his own admission, to go to his bedroom and read about Jeremiah and then gave us an interesting dissertation on the Jeremiahs in this chamber.
I am at a loss to understand the Government’s efforts to vindicate itself and its policy by tolerating some of the things being done by certain concerns throughout the country. During my speech, I intend to read extracts from previous budgets, but at this stage I should like to quote a paragraph from page 14 of this year’s budget. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said -
There is also this yearthe probability that redemptions of maturing loans will have to be made on a fairly large scale. Besides the £70,000,000 of 3 per cent. and 3¼ per cent. securities for which conversion has lately been sought, further loans totalling £189,000,000 will fall due at intervals during the remainder of2956-57. Although the response to the £70,000,000 conversion offer was moderately satisfactory, a sizeable amount of cash had to be found to pay off non-converters. What the prospects for the remaining maturities may be is most difficult to say in advance. Whilst a fair proportion of the securities maturing this year is held by official institutions, a large part is held by private institutions and the investing public. Besides these loans falling due locally, a loan of £7,000,000 sterling matures in London during December and a 17,000,000 dollar loan matures in New York next June.
I am sure that all members of this chamber recognize the responsibility of the Australian nation to honour its obligations. The Treasurer is to be commended for paying attention to the matter of loans approaching maturity. However, I am at a loss to understand why the Government tolerates the kind of financial sabotage that I shall now bring to the notice of honorable senators. In the Sydney “Truth”, of the 16th September, this advertisement appeared -
Are you satisfied with the 3% to4½% you are at present receiving? You CAN receive 7½% per annum. £1,000 invested at 7½% earns £375 in five years. At 3% it earns only £156. Why not have the extra £219?
The Commercial Credit. Corporation of Australia Limited (Established over 27 years) will purchase your Commonwealth Treasury Bonds at FULL FACE VALUE provided the amount is lodged on fixed deposit with the Corporation for five years at 7½% per annum.
Example: You have £500 Bond. C.C.C. issues Fixed Deposit Receipt for £500. You receive £18.15.- interest each half-year and £500 back in five years.
Bonds of £50 or more are accepted.
At the foot of the advertisement is a blank application form addressed to the secretary of the corporation asking him to supply to the applicant with full particulars of the plan. In view of the difficult times in which we are living, how in God’s name can we hope to get through if the Government takes no action to prevent this sort of adventure? I think that it is an adventure, a disloyal action, and one totally unworthy of any section of the people. The Government’s attention having been drawn to it, I shall regard honorable senators opposite as being sadly remiss in their duty to the people of Australia if corrective action is not taken.
– The corporation undertakes to purchase Commonwealth bonds at their full face value, provided the amount is lodged on fixed deposit with the corporation for five years. I think that even the astute legal senator from Tasmania who has interjected would agree on the need for drastic action to prevent this kind of thing from continuing. I do not know for sure, but I have a fair idea that money lodged with the various commercial credit companies eventually finds its way to the hire purchase field. Many honorable senators are able to substantiate what Senator Seward has said of the happenings in that field about 25 years ago.
I am glad to be able to say that I have not seen the advertisement in any other newspaper. It is one of the most dastardly things imaginable; indeed, it borders on an act of sabotage. It could ruin any chance of success when the Government appeals to Australian bondholders to convert their securities. This corporation, by its advertisement, has invited the bondholders to break their contracts. At least a percentage of bondholders, who would otherwise be willing to convert their securities, might be tempted by the advertisement to lend their money to the corporation in order to gain an increased return. It is time that this
Government took action - drastic actionin relation to such financial adventurers, in order to make the Australian people realize their responsibility to assist the Government to meet the nation’s commitments. In order to restore public confidence, the Government should take action, legislatively if necessary - and I think that that is the only satisfactory means - to bring the actions of such finance corporations within reach of the law. It is a disgrace for the corporation I have mentioned to make such an appeal to Commonwealth bondholders, even before the debate on the budget in the National Parliament has been concluded.
– Has the honorable senator considered in which Parliament power resides to curtail that sort of thing?
– It would have resided in the Commonwealth Parliament if we had had our way, but the present Government parties campaigned against it.
– I consider that a responsibility devolves on the Commonwealth Government in this matter, but 1 do not forget for a moment that certain power is vested in the State Parliaments. I think that my colleague, Senator Byrne, has answered Senator Wright’s interjection more effectively than I, as a layman, could do. I condemn the practice to which I have directed attention, and I defy any honorable senator on the Government side to say that he advocates its continuance. If he did so, any appeal that he made to the people to subscribe to future Commonwealth loans, -or to convert their present bondholdings, could not be sincere. I hope that the Government will take immediate action to curtail the practice to which I have directed attention.
Sirring suspended from 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 345), on motion by Senator Cooper -
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition offers no objection to this bill, but we do desire to criticize certain aspects of it both in this debate and when the measure is in the committee stage. We do not oppose it, because under the measure some relief will be afforded to a suffering section of ex-servicemen who have not received the attention that they should have received from the Repatriation Department. When the Minister is replying to this debate I ask him to inform honorable senators why the increased allowances which will be made under this measure are not to be payable until 1st January, 1957. The time between now and the beginning of 1957 is an unusually long period to withhold the application of benefits such as these, particularly in view of the fact that the Government wishes to pass the legislation as quickly as possible.
It is difficult to criticize the section of the bill that deals with the increase of benefits to ex-service personnel. Many of the reforms contemplated are long overdue. The Government, through the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), has repeatedly directed attention to the fact that the pensions and benefits paid at present are much greater than the pensions and benefits paid in 1949. Any criticism of the last Labour Government in that regard is unnecessary and unwarranted. The Minister has directed attention to the fact that the special rate pension for totally and permanently incapacitated persons increased from £5 6s. in 1949 to £9 15s. at present. Any such comparison does not present a true picture of the pension rates because of the great reduction in the value of money since 1949. The general rate pension has been increased from £2 15s. to £4 15s. In 1949 the pensions had a much higher purchasing power than they have to-day, and I am sure that the Government itself knows that the comparisons it has made are of no value. Since 1949 living costs have increased out of all reason, and have reduced the value of the pensions. However, it is satisfactory to the Opposition to know that many ex-servicemen and their dependants, and many widows and children will receive increased benefits. Therefore we are prepared to assist the Government in giving a speedy passage to the bill.
There will be an opportunity for us to debate repatriation matters during the consideration of other measures that will come before the Senate, but at present I wish to express my disapproval of the long delays that occur in dealing with applications by ex-servicemen for pensions. In some cases applications are not determined for years, and many ex-servicemen, particularly those from World War I., have to wait so long that by the time their applications are decided they are either dead or too old to worry about being engaged in any occupation at all. The Government and the Repatriation Department should closely examine the provisions of the Repatriation Act in that regard. This legislation, which was drawn up ten or twelve years ago, is totally inadequate to meet the conditions of the present day.
If a man, particularly a man of advanced years, is unable to work because of sickness or injury sustained as the result of war service, his case should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. It is wrong for successive governments to continue the provisions of an act that operates to the disadvantage of applicants in the way that the Repatriation Act operates.
During my speeches in the Senate I have repeatedly mentioned the plight of exservicemen who suffer from neurosis. I have been assured by the Minister that the Government is doing something about such persons, and I know that steps are being taken in my own State properly to place such sufferers in a hospital where they can receive psychological treatment. I hope that the Minister has not lost sight of my request. I know that he is interested in this matter; but I also know the reason why he has not been able to proceed with it as fast as he would like. However, time is marching on, and I cannot understand why the Government permits ex-servicemen suffering from neurosis to be placed in State mental hospitals where the environment is not conducive to their recovery. Such a policy reflects no credit on the Commonwealth Parliament.
It is interesting to find the soldiers’ children’s education scheme dealt with in this measure and to see that increased benefits will be made available to the families of war widows. The Opposition is grateful for that advance. However, there is evidence that many totally and permanently incapacitated applicants for pensions have had to wait inordinately long periods to have their claims determined. There is no valid reason why that should be so, and I hope the Government will correct the position. We appreciate the action of the Government in increasing the miserable pittances which were being paid to those mentioned in the bill, but we regret that the increases are not greater, and see no reason why they should not be more generous.
I urge the Government to consider the matters I have put before the Senate, and also to remove as soon as possible the onus of proof provisions from the Repatriation Act. Those provisions are miserable in their application, and the onus of proof is very hard to determine. Many exservicemen of World War I. suffer under those provisions, because it is such a long time since their medical records were made up, and the medical officers concerned have since died or cannot be found. That an ex-serviceman should be forced to see his case held in abeyance is wrong and unworthy of the Australian people. I again ask the Minister to look at these matters and, in his reply, to explain to the Senate why the Government is deferring payments under this measure until 1st January, 1957.
– 1 desire to support the bill and to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) who, as he has done over the years, has again given attention to the tidying up of our repatriation legislation. I was very interested to receive recently a copy of the report that it is proposed will be submitted to the annual meeting of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and to read in it the great regard in which the Minister is held in that circle. I was also interested to note that, at the last annual convention of the league, he had gone to great pains to explain the operations of the onus of proof clause and to submit with his explanation the interpretation put forward by the then Attorney-General. In view of the promulgation of that information which the Government, in its wisdom, made available at that convention, there should not arise the difficulties to which Senator Critchley has referred this afternoon. I feel that, in one part, the Minister has anticipated the requests that would be made at the forthcoming convention of the league by including a slight amendment in regard to eligibility for service pensions. I was glad to note also that particular attention has been paid to increased benefits for children of ex-servicemen who are receiving training.
I now refer to the question of repatriated persons who need assistance in repatriation hospitals. We are very grateful to the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament for the presentation of its fifteenth report, which relates to the Repatriation Department. The Public Accounts Committee, consisting, as we know, of members drawn from both sides of the Parliament, investigated the activities of the Repatriation Department very thoroughly. I was particularly interested in studying its report on repatriation hospitals. It should be remembered by the Senate that the hospital treatment of people in Australia has been revolutionized over the last 30 or 40 years; but I think it can be fairly said that repatriation hospitals are conducted on very much the same pattern as they were, say, 20 or 30 years ago. As you, Mr. President, appreciate, the main repatriation hospitals were established immediately after World War I. and they have catered also for. the big influx of inmates during and shortly after World War II.
T think it is time that we took a good look at repatriation hospitals and sanatoria connected therewith. It should be remembered that a new age group of patients is now being treated. The youngest person who served in World War I. is now possibly 56 years of age and the average age of persons who served in that war is now possibly 66 years. The youngest person who served in World War II. is now possibly 31 years of age and the average age could well be 41 years. It will be noted, therefore, that many of the inmates of the repatriation hospitals are of a different age group from what was expected about the time they were established. I detected that idea running through the report of the Public Accounts Committee. Paragraph 109 of the report reads -
There is much in the argument that the hospitals were not built for the Department’s particular needs but it also seems to the Committee that a change is taking place in the general pattern of illness to be treated by the Department, away from acute cases to chronic cases. The most economical hospital accommodation for the Department’s needs can be expected to change, and what was suitable for those needs immediately after World War II., can be expected to become progressively less suitable in future years.
A warning note is sounded also in paragraph 1 1 1, which reads -
Within three to five years, it would appear that the excess capacity in the Repatriation hospitals will, in default of another war, increase so that more than the present excess capacity will stand empty. The Committee points out there is, therefore, the prospect of the Department maintaining and safeguarding idle buildings, grounds and equipment at a substantial cost to the Commonwealth. The Committee is aware of the urgent need of the community for additional facilities for hospital treatment and it has been anxious to ascertain what the Department may have in mind for using the excess capacity.
Paragraph 114 is couched in these terms -
One alternative would be to present the empty ward space to the State Health Authorities but even to do this there were difficulties. The hospitals had been built around common services, such as kitchens and laundries, and the State would have to be provided with these services by the Department. The whole matter was, the Department stated, one for the Government.
It will be noted that the committee has posed certain relevant questions. I believe that, as the years pass, we will have to face up to the whole question of repatriation hospitals and decide whether the conditions that obtain in them are suitable for the new age group.
As the inmates age, it is necessary to be more careful with them and to make better provision for them. I think we ought to provide something in the form of cottage homes for them. Instead of having them remain as inmates in wards and being treated in the way they were treated immediately after the war, we should try to house them in settlements. We should also pay more attention to inmates from the country. When a man is young and single and needs repatriation treatment, it is quite a good idea to move him to the larger repatriation hospitals in the city. As these men grow older, I think we ought to consider giving them treatment in the larger country hospitals or in repatriation sanatoriums spread throughout the country, because older men do not like being away from their homes for long periods. Too much time is taken up in the movement of patients to the cities for repatriation treatment.
At present, repatriation hospitals exist only in the capital cities. Several new and modern government hospitals are springing up in the country districts. In the western districts of Victoria and in South Australia, hospitals costing over £1,000,000 are being built. I wonder whether annexes could be built into those hospitals! for the treatment of repatriation cases. That would obviate the loss of time in taking repatriation cases to the centralized city hospitals. We have gone some of the distance already by accrediting medical practitioners in the country to treat repatriation cases. That advance in the arrangements was made before this Government came into office. It has maintained the doctor-patient relationship in the country areas, but as soon as it becomes necessary for a patient to get hospital treatment, he has to go to a repatriation hospital in a big city.
If a survey is to be made, I suggest that some consideration could be given- to my suggestion. If there is surplus accommodation in repatriation hospitals in the cities, as the report suggests, could there not be a reciprocal arrangement with the States to take over surplus accommodation? The repatriation hospitals have conferred great benefits, and methods should be kept up to date.
I have one other suggestion to make while we are discussing repatriation and service pensions. I suggest that the Minister for Repatriation might refer this matter to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). Provision is made under social services legislation for tax remissions to men over 65 and to women over 60 years of age. If those persons have incomes of approximately £390 each, they do not have to pay any tax. That limit is fixed at 65 and 60 years for men and women respectively, because those are the ages when persons become entitled to age pensions.
A man under repatriation is entitled to receive a service pension at the age of 60 years. It was generally understood that, because of war service, his age at 60 years would be equivalent to that of a man of 65 who had not had war service. I suggest that some remission of income tax should apply at the age of 60 years in the case of a person who is entitled to a service pension. I know that this is not a repatriation matter, but I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation would be sympathetic towards it, and I suggest that he bring it to the notice of the Treasurer for consideration.
I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation upon the work he has done for exservicemen, and for his co-operation with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. His replies to letters from ex-servicemen’s associations throughout Australia are forthright, and I am sure that his co-operation has helped materially in the repatriation of exservicemen.
.- The Opposition will not oppose the bill, but we believe that it provides belated benefits for only a small section of persons who gave their services to the nation in time of war. We are fortunate in having a Minister for Repatriation like Senator Cooper, whose sympathies are always with ex-servicemen. We know that he has to interpret government policy, and I am certain that he, like many of his predecessors, has had battles in the Cabinet room to get the claims of ex-servicemen recognized. My only criticism of this bill is that it is belated. It gives only a measure of justice to a small section of repatriated persons. Many of them are, because of the rising cost of living, in sore need. They are badly in need of higher pension?, but insufficient benefits have been incorporated in this measure.
The new provision for the care, of children of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is laudable, but I point out that not only the war pensioner, but also his wife or his widow, and his children, are a direct responsibility of the Parliament, the Government, the Minister and the Repatriation Department. The provision that is made for the. amelioration of the means test is rather niggardly. If a man who has reached the age of 60 years has been thrifty, or has worked within his capacity to save money, he should not be penalized. This is one section of the community, at least, that should be free of the means test, particularly if the ex-serviceman concerned’ has received war injuries.
The Minister has said that the Government is proud to honour the obligations of the nation to those who- have fought and bled- in; the defence of their country. It is niggardly to perpetuate the means test in this budget after the promises that have been given by the Minister that he would try to have the means test abolished. He suggested that on occasions to conferences of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and I hope that he will be able to prevail on the Cabinet so that we can look forward to the amelioration and abolition of the means test for pensions to exservicemen after they reach the age of 60 years.
Our responsibility continues not only towards the ex-serviceman himself but also towards his wife should he predecease her. War injuries naturally shorten the lives of ex-servicemen and many of them leave widows who are not perhaps of an age when they are eligible for other support in the form of age pensions. Increased concessions should be granted to war widows, particularly in relation to hospital treatment. The Minister has said that if a war widow develops certain types of sickness she may be allowed to enter a repatriation hospital if a vacancy exists. That is not good enough. This Parliament and the Government made promises to servicemen during the time of their service of which we must be continually mindful. We cannot wash our hands of them after a certain time in the hope that people have short memories and will forget these things. War widows should not be forgotten in regard to their health, and facilities such as hospital treatment should be made available to them in the same way as they were provided for their husbands.
The pension of £4 10s. a week which they receive is a bare existence allowance, and the Minister himself and all honorable senators on the Government side must realize that it is impossible for a widow to live on £4 10s. a week and, at the same time, contribute to a medical benefits scheme in order to provide for her hospitalization in the event of sickness. That is a glaring anomaly which I would like to have seen remedied in this bill. Pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen should also have been reviewed in this budget. An increase, commensurate with increased living costs, should have been granted. Although, in contrast to other classes of pensioners, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman may be on a rate equivalent to the basic wage that, to me, is still not good enough. Had he not lost his health as the result of war service he would be earning at least the basic wage. We are obliged to make certain that he does not suffer further as the result of the great sacrifice he made in the defence of the nation and thereby placed himself in the position in which he was rendered totally and permanently incapacitated.
Another matter I wish to mention, although not exactly in line with any of the recommendations before the Senate at the moment, concerns the administration of the Repatriation Department. I am still not satisfied that the Minister’s directions, given in the spirit in which he wishes the Repatriation Act to be interpreted, are being observed at the departmental level. 1 refer, as I have in the past, to the onus of proof provision. One hears of people being caused a considerable amount of distress when they go before the tribunals. Admittedly, their claims, even in their own opinion, create an element of doubt, but they are put in the position of an accused person and are obliged to match the greater experience and knowledge of members on the tribunals. If the Minister’s interpretation of the act, as he has expressed it to honorable senators, were adopted in the department we would not get these complaints from people, particularly widows, who are not used to handling such matters. Previously, perhaps, they had their husbands, or some one else, to speak for them. If is felt that the attitude of the department in that respect is not in line with the true spirit of the act.
I should like to cite the case of a widow iri Tasmania in relation to onus of proof. Her husband was injured and carried a splinter of shrapnel in his abdomen ever since World War I. Rather than become totally and permanently incapacitated, he carried on with his work in the capacity of a hairdresser and was able to contribute towards the support of his wife. However, about two or three years ago, he developed a heart complaint and received treatment by an acting repatriation doctor. During the process of treatment, he became quite ill and an X-ray was taken, but during the period in which the X-ray was being developed and examined, he suffered a further heart attack and died. On the X-ray was a mark which doctors classified as indicating cancer of the stomach. They said that it was not war-caused and, therefore, his widow was not eligible for a pension. I do not think the Minister believes that the onus of proof should be cast on the widow in an instance of that kind. In the first place, conclusive proof should be required that the mark on the X-ray was not left by the splinter of shrapnel that was still in the man’s abdomen. On the other hand, then; was no conclusive proof that the shrapnel was not the cause of the cancer. The treatment meted out to that widow is not in keeping with the true spirit of the Repatriation Act. I know that when problems are put to the Minister he is most sympathetic:, and I bring this case forward in the hope that the same generosity and spirit. of willingness to help these people will motivate departmental officers in their contact with ex-servicemen, their widows and children.
I am rather sorry that the Minister tried to squeeze a little bit of political value out of this bill by making comparisons which, to my mind, are not relevant for the simple reason that he knows, as well as we do, that values have changed over the years from 1949 to 1956. Everything changes except, it appears, the attitude of the Government on many things. I should like to have heard, during the presentation of this bill, that the Government intends to do something for ex-servicemen as soon as it possibly can. It should have given them some hope that they are not forgotten, and that when the present economic difficulties are overcome, the Government will ameliorate their conditions. Instead of that, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, harked back to the past in an endeavour to make out that the previous government did nothing and that this Government has done everything.
The little that is being done under this bill is highly acceptable. It is overdue. Other benefits that have not been touched are pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated persons, general pensions, widows’ health benefits, concessions for war widows, cheaper radio licences and a host of other things thai: have been brought before the Minister. I hope the Minister will keep these things very much in his mind, and at the earliest possible moment will set about improving the lot of these people, who, after all, are our direct responsibility.
I endorse the remarks ‘of Senator Laught concerning repatriation hospitals. No one can complain about the service they provide. Any one who has been a patient realizes that he received the best medical attention available. The skill of the medical profession, the efficiency of the nursing staff and the standard of care and treatment generally are of the highest order. My only complaint is the difficulty that some patients have in obtaining admission. Many an ex-serviceman who has been sick and depressed starts on the road to complete restoration once he receives treatment in a repatriation hospital. He feels that he has some one on his side, and his morale is lifted. If, however, there is uncertainty about his being able to gain admission to the hospital, his health is adversely affected, and I hope that the organization relating to admissions will be improved.
The Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill, because it contains provisions that will improve, even though belatedly, the lot of the ex-servicemen. Consequently, 1 support it.
– I join with honorable senators who have already spoken in congratulating the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the further progress represented by this measure in improving the lot of the ex-serviceman and his dependants. The Minister’s second-reading speech on the bill covers a wide scope, and gives me the opportunity to make some observations which are not particularly relevant to the measure. I wish to refer briefly to section 48 of the Repatriation Act. Sub-section (2.) of that section provides that if a medical practitioner entertains any doubt concerning the physical conditions of an ex-serviceman, he must give the exserviceman the benefit of that doubt. All medical practitioners dealing with repatriation cases are expected to exercise that discretion. Cases are on record, however - and I have in mind a very famous one - in which it has been clearly shown that medical officers did not give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. That fact is obvious from their reports.
I suggest that when a medical officer reports on a repatriation case he should be specifically required - indeed, it should be made a condition requisite - to state that he has, in fact, had regard to the benefitofthedoubt provision. In order to have this done a slight amendment to section 48 (2.) would be necessary. I understand that medical officers have a report form, and it would be a good idea if it contained a clause, which the doctor should sign, stating that he has exercised his discretion and accorded the. patient the benefit of the doubt. I have personal knowledge of a case in which that was not done, and it was obvious that the medical practitioner who made the examination was not aware of the implications of the benefit-of-the-doubt provision.
This can have an important bearing on appeals against adverse decisions. There is a clause in the Repatriation Act which limits retrospective payments to a period of six months in the case of a successful appeal. Therefore, when a case drags on for more than six months because the serviceman has not been given the benefit of the doubt, .he can, even if ultimately successful, suffer a considerable loss.
I cannot agree with Senator O’Byrne about the difficulty of obtaining admission to repatriation hospitals. In all my experience of returned servicemen’s organizations and their welfare work I have never known of any difficulty by ex-servicemen in obtaining admission to the hospital where such admission was justified. -If an exserviceman seeking hospital treatment goes to the repatriation clinic in the Grace Building in Sydney, and the medical officers, upon examination, find that lie is a case for hospital, they immediately call a car from the pool and send him to hospital, sometimes even before he can return to his home. Their .record of service of this kind is magnificent.
I hope that honorable senators, in a corporate effort, will ‘be able to bring to the attention of -the Minister -features -of the act which need improvement - such as the ,benefit-of-the-doubt provision to which 1 have referred - and so help to obtain the best ^possible treatment for ex-servicemen.
– I join with my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, in congratulating the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) ,on his attempt in this measure to improve and increase repatriation benefits to exservicemen and their dependants. It has been refreshing to notice that in this secondreading speech the Minister refrained from referring to what happened in 1949 - a practice to which, previously, I took exception.
The care and the welfare of exservicemen should be treated as a matter beyond all political considerations, and I hope that next year, when a further measure is brought down to improve repatriation legislation, no reference will be made by the Minister in charge of it to what took place in the past. Every honorable senator on this side of the House has as much concern for the well-being of ex-servicemen, who served their country so gallantly in time of war, as have senators on the Government side.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister referred to the repatriation artificial limb factories in capital cities, and said that they provide a ready and highly skilled service for those who needed it. I should like to refer to the work being done by an artificial limb factory at Carlton, Sydney. Whether it is a fact, I do not know, but I am led to believe that in 70 per cent, of cases legs are amputated above the knee. Since World War I., our returned soldiers have been provided with artificial legs that have leather buckets for the stumps and braces over the shoulder. This has been the best type offering for a number of years: but I understand that in England, America and Germany experiments have been conducted in the production of artificial limbs with suction buckets. I am also led to believe that a representative of the Repatriation Department was sent abroad to investigate the position and ascertain what results had been achieved from those experiments, and that the artificial limb factory referred to in the Minister’s second-reading speech has attempted to produce artificial limbs fitted with suction buckets. I think production of these limbs was started about .three years ago and that to date about 4.00 have been produced; but I am led to believe that a large number of the soldiers to whom these legs <have been furnished are unable to wear them.
On the other hand, I believe that the new artificial limb factory at Carlton brought out an expert from Germany and that it is producing artificial legs fitted with tailormade buckets. By thai: I mean that the person for whom the limb is being made is measured for it and those persons who have been fortunate enough to obtain these limbs are amazed at the comfort and service they are getting from them. I do not know why the Repatriation Department’s factories cannot produce these limbs, and 1 should be grateful if the Minister could offer some explanation when he is replying. Perhaps, the reason is that they have not the technical officers available. I should also like the Minister to give information as to the number of artificial limbs issued by the Repatriation Department and the number that the soldiers have discarded because they have been unable to wear them. 1 understand that a limb made by the factory at Carlton costs from £115 to £135, and it is a perfect product. It might be much more expensive than limbs produced by the department’s factories, but as the department provides each soldier with two artificial limbs it is probable that the cost of those two limbs would be about the equivalent of that of one of these artificial limbs fitted with the suction buckets. That being so, I suggest that it .might be of advantage to the soldiers if they were provided with the suction bucket type of artificial limb.
I am given to understand that these new limbs have special knee and foot joints which are a tremendous improvement upon the product of the department’s factories. In fact, the improvement is so great as to be comparable with the improvement that the new Ford Customline motor car represents over the old T-model. I shall be grateful if the Minister can see his way clear to give the information I have requested, t and I do not think there is any one more qualified than he is to speak on this matter because, unfortunately, he is one of those who are compelled to use an artificial limb. I should like to know whether the department has made any inquiries in connexion with this matter. I know’ “the limbs are expensive, just as I know that not every person can afford to pay £135 for an artificial leg. But nothing is too good for our ex-servicemen, and if these new artificial limbs are more comfortable and more serviceable the department should provide them.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the pensions paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I agree entirely with what he said and suggest that people who are in receipt of 100 per cent, pension should be placed on an equal footing with the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Without labouring the matter, I point out that in 1949 under a Labour government the effective value of the basic wage was 45 per cent., whereas, today, it is only about 23 per cent., and in those circumstances some consideration should be given to the position of those people who are in, receipt of full pension.
I am not opposed to the objectives of the bill; in fact, I congratulate the Minister upon them, but I am surprised that they are so meagre. Many other concessions and privileges could well have been increased, but, perhaps, we should be thankful for the little that is being provided. Senator Anderson referred to the difficulty experienced by some applicants in obtaining admission to repatriation hospitals. The position as I have found it has been that it is not so hard to get into a hospital; the great problem is that patients are discharged from them too soon. That matter needs investigation and I suggest that it be looked into by the department. I congratulate the Minister upon bringing down the bill, and I hope that the time is not far distant when further improvements will be made in the provision already made for ex-service personnel.
– in reply - I have listened carefully to what has been said this afternoon and I greatly appreciate the manner in which the bill has been accepted by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. As Senator Ashley has said, repatriation is not and should not be a party political matter. It is something that we should accept as a duty, and we are all agreed that we should do the best we possibly can for those who have suffered disability as a result of service in defence of Australia. During the six and a half years for which 1 have been Minister for Repatriation, -my job has certainly been made easy by ‘the loyal service rendered by departmental officers. The bulk of the 8,000 odd employees of the Repatriation Department are returned servicemen and servicewomen. All of the employees are keenly interested in their work. They feel that they are doing a good job on behalf of ex-service personnel. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that all of the employees of the department, from the chairman down to the newest office boy, have been of the greatest assistance to me. That factor makes the work of the department much easier. Of course, I am personally interested in every aspect of the department’s activities, and I must say that I like my job. I feel that I am doing something for the ex-service men and women, with many of whom I was associated years ago.
Senator Critchley referred to the fact that the date of commencement of the children’s educational allowance has been fixed for 1st January next. That date was decided upon because 1st January is the commencing date of the school and university year.
– Will the other beneficiaries have to wait until then?
– No. The other benefits will be payable from the first pension pay day after the bill is passed.
I fully endorse what Senator Laught has said in regard to the excellent job of work that was done by the Public Accounts Committee. As a result of its activities, the Repatriation Department was assisted by the Public Service Board to obtain specialists to undertake our hospital accountancy work, and other work of that kind. These trained men are helping us to run the accountancy side of the department more efficiently than hitherto. We have not yet been able to do everything that the committee recommended us to do.
Senator Laught also referred to the matter of vacant hospital beds. If another war does not eventuate, beds will become vacant, but up to now, on an average, we have kept the repatriation hospitals throughout Australia fairly full. We have been able to close the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital in Victoria, the Randwick Military Hospital in New South Wales, and the Rosemount Repatriation Hospital in Queensland, and to concentrate on the newer and more up-to-date hospitals. The position will continue to be watched very carefully. Naturally, we do not want a great number of empty beds. In this connexion, the peak has” not yet been reached, but it will probably be reached in the near future, when, perhaps, some re-adjustment will be necessary. I should like to see the repatriation hospitals continued for exservice men and women. It might be possible to vary the present procedure in order to permit of ex-service’ men and women of a lower degree of incapacity being treated in those hospitals.
Senator Ashley has referred to the subject of artificial limbs. In my judgment, our artificial limb factories are pretty well advanced, although not so far advanced as are the factories in certain other countries. The artificial limb factories in Germany are probably a little ahead of ours, because of the huge number of artificial limbs that they have had to make for disabled men and women in that country. I should say that the artificial limb factories in America are also a little ahead of ours. Both Mr. Boyle and Mr. Westaway have visited artificial limb factories in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of America in order to study the latest techniques in artificial limb making.
– I said that.
– They were sent overseas in order to gain a knowledge of the latest methods that are being applied in this field, with a view to their introduction in our artificial limb factories. We have endeavoured constantly to keep up to date in this matter by exchanging ideas with those three countries. The kind of artificial limb that Senator Ashley mentioned is a great improvement on the oldstyle braces. Of course, a great deal more skill is needed to make the new appliance.
– I agree with that.
– Many of the employees in our artificial limb factories attended a six-weeks school in Victoria in order to lean ann about the manufacture and fitting of the new limb. That school was held about four years ago, and others have been organized in each succeeding year. I may say that I was one of the first persons in Australia to wear the new limb, and it has been a wonderful success. Senator Ashley also referred to the system of sending measurements abroad for artificial limbs to be supplied ready to be fitted.
– Why cannot that work be done by the Repatriation Department?
– From my own experience, no artificial limb manufacturer can make an artificial limb, with any certainty that it will be comfortable, from measurements supplied. In some instances, non-ex-servicemen who have been supplied with artificial limbs that were made according to measurements supplied, have come to the repatriation artificial limb factories asking whether the limbs could be made to fit more comfortably.
– Is it not a fact that many such artificial limbs have been discarded?
– I do not know offhand, but I shall examine the position. Unfortunately, we have received far more applications from civilians for artificial legs than we have been able to supply. I hope that, at a later date, we shall be able to do something about that aspect of the matter.
– lias the Minister visited the factory in Carlton to which I referred?
– Does the honorable senator mean the Alto factory, or the one conducted by Mr. Tom Meade?
– I am not sure who runs it.
– One factory out that way is run by a German; his work is quite good. He personally fits every artificial limb that he makes, and he does not supply any ready-made limbs.
– I referred to tailormade limbs.
– In some instances, measurements are taken and sent to England. I knew the man to whom I think Senator Ashley has referred when he was in Brisbane. I went to see him there, and obtained quite an amount of information from him. He is now in Sydney, and is doing a very good job there. We are working on the same lines as those followed by that gentleman, and we have evolved as good a type of artificial knee as we can. There is a braking system in the knee, and by the turn of a small screw the play can be made harder or easier. The ankle joint in the type of artificial leg that we make is rubber, and there is a soft cushion in it. I doubt whether a better one could be had. Throughout Australia we are supplying a type of artificial leg which I do not think could be bettered anywhere in the world, except perhaps in Germany or the United States of America. As an ex-serviceman from World War I. who has been wearing an old type of artificial leg for the last 30 years or so, I experienced some difficulty when I changed to the suction socket type limb and suffered some pain and irritation before I got used to it.
– Just like wearing a new pair of boots.
– I think it is a bit worse than that. However, our factories are now manufacturing very good types of artificial limbs. I think I have dealt with all the points that have been raised. I appreciate the way in which this bill has been received by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and- passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 388).
– Before the debate was interrupted 1 had dealt - I think convincingly - with the Government’s statements about the amount of money required this year to redeem loans that will fall due in Australia and overseas. I had also dealt with the advertisement of the Commercial Credit Corporation of Australia Limited that appeared in last Sunday’s issue of Sydney “ Truth “. I hope that as a result of the information that I have put before the Senate this Government will overcome the legal difficulties indicated by Senator Wright and take the necessary steps in the immediate future to ensure that this sort of commercial sabotage will not continue. There are a number of people who do not play fair in the realms of private enterprise, and pay no regard to the welfare of the nation. The appeals by the Treasurer for money to fill the Commonwealth loans will go unanswered while private enterprise is allowed to sabotage government finance in the way that I have indicated.
There are many people throughout Australia who, directly as a result of the actions of this Government, cannot secure bank overdrafts for legitimate activities, but in many cases no difficulty is experienced by hire-purchase organizations and similar concerns in obtaining all the money that they require. The Opposition hopes that the Government will take cognizance of this matter in the interests of the country. During his budget speech on the budget of 1954-55 the Treasurer said -
The first thing to do about the problem of costs is, obviously, to ensure that costs rise no higher. If the general forces which influence costs can be kept stable, then the particular factors which normally work towards reduction of costs wil have a chance to operate. It is through these factors that higher national productivity will be achieved - and the obverse of higher productivity is lower costs levels.
A little earlier, the Treasurer said -
Were inflationary conditions to return we could expect at a fairly early stage the beginning of a new upward thrust of prices and costs. That, I suggest, is about the last thing any of us wishes to see. During the inflation years our general level of costs was raised inordinately high - far too high for a country such as ours which, on the one hand, depends on selling so much of those products in markets abroad and which, on the other hand, has been rapidly establishing new industries to compete in our own markets with the products of other countries.
If we were to examine previous budget speeches of the Treasurer we would probably find similar statements. However, in his last budget speech the Treasurer said -
We have no full and exact measure of cost and price changes over the whole field of the economy, but it is common ground that costs and prices have been tending to rise for the past couple of years and that latterly the rate of increase has become more rapid. The movement has reached a stage at which it is beginning to affect seriously the relative economic position of people and classes of people and to disturb the competitive position of firms and industries. It is also at the spiralling stage in which a cost or price increase affecting one commodity sets in train a series of cumulative cost and price increases, multiplying the original increase.
Those statements by the Treasurer reveal that two years ago he warned, the people of approaching dangers and that now they have arrived and that the position is getting worse; yet nowhere in his recent budget speech, except for an exhortation to the people, to work harder, does there appear any proposal for combating that state of affairs-. This Government, stands utterly condemned, because in neither the recent budget nor previous budgets has it offered m stable plan to the people. lt is all very fine for the Minister for National Development to look across to the Opposition and to accuse it of being guilty of carping criticism and of. not: offering an alternative. I submit that, it is not the function of the Opposition, after this Government has been in office for six and a half years, to offer an alternative. It is the function of the Opposition to point out to the people the blunders of the Government and the hollowness of the promises that it has made to the people at each election. Its policy and objectives were placed before the people and accepted by them, but it must accept responsibility for its abject failure to fulfil its promises. We continually hear various- sections of the community, particularly the workers, blamed for the present situation and being told that, if they worked a little harder and produced a little more, things would’ be better.
– For which they would receive a. little less.
– For- which they would receive a little less, as Senator Kennelly has stated. Since this Government assumed office, and for reasons best known to itself, Australia’s overseas markets have been slowly whittled away. Since, at the behest of its masters, it relinquished government-to-government trading, one after another of the world’s- markets have been lost to Australian exporters. The Opposition hopes that the energetic Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) will be successful in his efforts to increase Australia’s overseas trade. The Opposition, not because of any political love but in the interests of the nation, is just as eager as are Government supporters to see overseas markets established on a satisfactory basis for a fixed period. Probably some of the Victorian senators have read about or heard of John Eddy, a Melbourne “ Herald “ economist. In the Melbourne “ Herald “ of Saturday, 7th July, 1956, the following article by John Eddy appears: -
Australian factory output increased almost seven-fold between 1939- and 1955, whereas the number of. persons employed in factories did not quite double.
Output a person employed rose from £886 to £3,331, or 3) times. Much of this was due to higher prices rather than real output.
After allowing for the change in money values, the “real” production a worker has risen by 43 per cent.
– Yet the Government tells the workers that they always go slow.
– It might have another think coming, if it places too much trust in the economists. The article continues - lt has grown by more than 24 per cent, a year.
Analysing this week’s factory statistics from the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, and dividing the number of persons employed into his totals of the value of production and output, I calculate that output a person employed rose from £3,128 in 1954 to £3,331 in 1955. “ Production “ in the factory figures is the value added to raw materials between their coming into the factory and the output that goes out.
This “ added value “ was £360 an employee in 1939. It grew from £1,240 to £1,324 between 1954 and 1955. This was a rise of about 6i per cent, in value in the year.
After, allowing for price changes, it was an increase of about 51 per cent, in real production per employee. If we can keep that rate up, few other countries will match it.
The latest figures show that 1,031,083 persons in factories gave an output of £3,435 million in 1 954-55’, adding £1,366 million in value to the materials taken in.
Price adjustments made above are based on. the “ C Series “ index and are therefore approximate.
– What authority has the honorable senator quoted?
– John Eddy, a Melbourne economist. 1 have quoted an article of his that appeared in the Melbourne “Herald” of Saturday, 7th July, 1956, which’ was just a few weeks before this sordid budget was introduced. If Government supporters, as they constantly do, are prepared to quote statistics to bolster up their case in an effort to convince the Opposition and others that its case is right, it must of necessity, because of the political beliefs of this economist, place some value on his statement.
– I have before me another article by John. Eddy. Will the honorable senator read it?
– He is just . a “ Herald “ stooge.
– Not long ago there was before the Senate the Whaling Industry Act Repeal Bill 1956. I remind those fellows who are continually wailing that the more they spout the more likely they are to be harpooned. Accompanying the statement of John Eddy, which I have just quoted’, is an interesting chart which shows the productivity of employees in factories.
I have one or two more comments to make on certain matters appearing in the budget, but probably they could be more effectively dealt with when the Estimates are being considered in committee. The Opposition objects to the severity of the sales tax. I presume that every member of the Parliament has received a pamphlet relating to school tuckshops and workshop canteens. One rarely has an opportunity to examine the effect of the iniquitous sales tax, and I believe these matters should be brought to the attention of honorable senators. If a person buys a glass of fruit juice in a public milk bar, no sales tax is charged, but if the same drink is bought in a school tuckshop or in an industrial canteen, it is subject: to sales tax of 12i per cent.
My colleague, Senator Ryan, has frequently directed attention to sales tax anomalies affecting the trade in which he worked so efficiently before he was elected to the Senate. Senator Ryan has often . informed honorable senators that dried fruits, such as currants and sultanas, are not subject to sales tax, but immediately they are put into a cake or a bun, they are subject to 12i per cent. tax. Such imposts are wrong because they put a burden on the community and, particularly, on housewives.
I direct my attention now to defence, which is a most contentious topic. I am sure that the defence policy of this Government does not find favour even with its own supporters. When the defence legislation which is now law came before the Senate, we considered it from Wednesday until Saturday. It provided for an allocation of £200,000,000 for defence. A similar amount has been allocated by this Government each year since then for defence. Nobody on the Opposition side underestimates the need for our defence forces to be maintained at strength and equipped with modern arms, but every honorable senator has the right to express his opinion when he believes that the expenditure on defence is wrongly directed. As the “ Hansard “ reports will show, I asked the Government to ear-mark a proportion of its defence vote for the repair, maintenance and modernizing of our transport system, including roads and railways, because they are an important factor in defence. That was never done. We have had’ a long, wet winter throughout Australia, and roads which would be used in the event of war cannot carry even the traffic that attempts to travel on them now.
The Australian Government has the responsibility of allocating portion of the defence vote to our means of communication. The quantity of heavy transport on the roads is increasing each year, and State governments and local government authorities are unable to maintain or repair them as they would like to do. It is all very well to say that the Government should apply all the petrol tax revenue to roads. Basically, that is right, but the amount available would be only a flea-bite because of the condition of our roads and railways. This Government has a moral responsibility, which rests on any national government in office, to allocate portion of the defence vote to the authorities that have to build and maintain roads.
I shall have more to say on this subject when we are discussing the Estimates in committee, and I shall devote attention particularly to national service. For years, I and some of my colleagues have urged the claims of a certain national service trainee in South Australia. I have worked on this case for four years, and I was able to get the claim admitted only in July last. Even then, there was a lot of passing the buck. However, the trainee concerned is still alive, and will derive some benefit from our representations. Had he been a veteran of World War I., he would have been dead by now.
The law of the land requires every fit young man of a certain age to’ undertake national service obligations. One would think that provision would be made for the safety and welfare of those young men, because they have no choice. However, if there were a camp in Canberra, and it broke up to-morrow, any of the lads who were ill and had to stay in hospital would not receive any pay after the camp ended. They would get free hospital treatment, but no pay. When the law provides that young men must undergo national service training, it is the responsibility of the Government to give them their daily rate of pay, if they are sick or are injured in an accident, during the whole time that they are in hospital. At present, they get their pay only so long as the camp lasts.
I am pleased that Senator Seward directed the attention of the Senate to the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited. I have had complaints about that organization in South Australia. Since I arrived in Canberra recently, I have had a communication from some residents of the northern part of South Australia, who were approached by travellers and became members of the organization. People living in remote areas are not conversant with political happenings. The Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited has been allowed to function. The persons concerned have paid their contributions, but when both husband and wife became seriously ill, two years elapsed before they could get anything from the fund and six months passed before they had replies to their letters.’ Surely, that is something into which this Government should look. The honorable senator has done a service to the Senate in bringing to the light of day the actions of that particular medical benefits society. After all, the onus of fair play and doing what it set out to do rests entirely upon it. Sir Earle Page, when he was Minister for Health, was forced to take certain action, and if the position has not improved the responsibility rests upon the Government to improve it.
I cannot conclude without making some reference to the lot of the pensioners. I appreciate the many times that reference has been made to the subject during this debate. I do not know whether that has been due to the outburst from all sections of the community since the presentation of the budget against the Government’s niggardly handling of the pensions position. A desire exists on the part of, not only members of the Parliament, but also all sections of the community that in the not far distant future the lot of the pensioners will be considered invariably on a non-party political basis. However, in the meantime I do not think 2 per cent, of the people expected that this or any other Government would leave the pensioners out on a limb as has been their fate on this occasion. Irrespective of the amount of the pension, whether.it be £1, £4 or £10, the only true measure of its value is its purchasing power. It costs a pensioner as much to buy a loaf of bread, a pint of milk or a pound of sausages as it does the wealthiest man in the land. I have yet to learn that any section of the community desires that pensioners should not receive at least enough on which to live. The Government, the country, and the Opposition hope that the present inflationary period is only a passing phase.
As I have already said, previously we can go back to the days when members of this Government stalked through the country guaranteeing to put value back into the £1 and to abolish all forms of controls and rationing. They said they would make a lot of people happier than they had ever been, but they lost sight of the fact that the conditions that existed in the days of their predecessors had forced the institution of controls. Senator Seward to-day, in answer to an interjection by Senator Toohey, reminded the Senate of the encomium paid to the non-Labour Government by the late John Curtin. In those days, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) sat on this side of the chamber and he realized the work of rehabilitation that was then going on, and what was being done to meet the needs of repatriation. The Labour Government’s handling of the affairs to meet the needs of i he country at that time stands as a monument to it. and -that honorable senator, realizing the position, did not make political capital out of its difficulties. The attitude of honorable senators who sit behind him to-day is such that one wonders how the change in that outlook ever occurred. He and his fellow henchmen now say that all the evils that have befallen this country are the result of Labour administration. They should remember that the Labour government was in office during the war and the period of rehabilitation. The present Government, in 1949, made promises galore to the people. It took over and has been six years in office during a time of prosperity when production and prices were never higher. To-day, the Opposition has no hesitation in branding the Government as the most inglorious that has ever occupied the treasury bench.
– First of all, I wish to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the presentation of his ninth budget which, I believe, is a record in federal circles. It is never an easy task for a Treasurer to present a budget, and I am sure that the serious financial position in which Australia finds itself to-day made it particularly difficult for him to construct this budget. Pressure groups both within and without Parliament must have been very busy, keeping the Treasurer really on his toes. I congratulate him on the main features of the budget although, later in my speech, I shall disagree with some of the items in it. Before dealing with the budget I should like to congratulate honorable senators on both sides of the chamber on their very constructive speeches, lt augurs well for the future of this chamber when we hear speeches of such a high educational order as that of the speeches we heard from three of the new senators the other evening. I should like to add my congratulations to those honorable senators.
Returning to the budget, whilst I agree with a good deal of what it contains, I, with many people in all walks of life - fellow-parliamentarians, church leaders and social workers throughout Australia - must say that I was absolutely shocked to learn that nothing was being done to alleviate the position of those who receive the basic pension of £4 a week and have no other income. Rising prices have hit people in the lower income groups very badly indeed. In regard to pensioners who are trying to live on £4 a week out of which they have to pay rent and meet all their expenses, it was a great shock to most of us to learn that on this occasion no relief was to be given to them. Bundles of letters have come to honorable senators on both sides of the House and, I presume, to honorable members of the House of Representatives. They have come from pressure groups all over Australia asking us to vote against the budget so that some justice can be done. That is very foolish advice, and T do not intend to follow it. I know that some Labour senators have been threatening to vote against the budget because they feel that it may offer a way to do justice to these people; but that is a very wrong approach, because the budget does give help to certain sections of family people and very substantial help to some groups.
It would be a great pity if, because of one particular class - a very deserving class; do not misunderstand me - we were to reject the whole budget in order to attempt to get justice for that class. It will be much better to pass the budget in order to enable those people who are to benefit from it to obtain increases, and to keep on pressing for further justice for people in .the lower income groups. If we reject the budget we shall hurt a number of defenceless people, because the increased benefits to be made available under the budget are to be provided mainly for civilian widows for whom most of us have beenrighting for a rise for some time. As well as catering for civilian widows and their children, the budget makes provision for a great number of repatriation benefits which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has just had passed through this chamber. So, I feel that the threat made by some honorable senators to vote against this budget is ill-advised indeed. .Rejection of the budget would only delay justice being done to a great number of people whom we desire to help.
We should constantly remind not only ourselves but also the general public of certain social services benefits that have been introduced during the six and a half years’ term of this Government. In 1949, when the electors of Australia, by an overwhelming majority removed the Labour party from the treasury-bench and gave the Menzies-Fadden Government the reins, the age and invalid pension was only £2 2s. 6d. a week. To-day, it is -£4 a week, plus a number of very worthwhile benefits. Among these are hospital treatment and free medicines, not only for pensioners, but also for their dependants. The permissible income for age pensioners was then only £1 10s. a week, but to-day it is £3 10s., and many pensioners are able ito ‘take advantage of that latitude and earn £3 10s. a week to add to their pension. The property allowance was only £750 in 1949, but to-day it is £1,750, and is not subject to means test.
In 1949, the National Welfare Fund stood at the figure of £92,000,000, but to-day it contains the splendid sum of £214,000;000. I wonder how many people ask themselves where the money for the National Welfare Fund comes from. It comes from those who have taxable incomes, and in a population of roughly 10,000,000 the taxable incomes are earned by only about 3,000,000. It is obvious, therefore, that the taxable incomes in Australia will not be able to compass the great rises in social service benefits unless some new method is found of apportioning pension rates. While we still have to adhere to an outmoded rule of retirement at the age of 65, the number of superannuated and pensionable people will grow, and in this ageing community that number is growing more rapidly than the number of young people who, before long, will be earning taxable incomes. We have to devise a scheme, such as Senator Seward, in his excellent speech this morning suggested - a national superannuation scheme - to which every one, from the moment he starts to earn, will contribute, and so -provide a competence which will be adequate to live on in his old age.
It is fair to remind the Senate that in each of its budgets, this Government has done something for some group of pensioners. In this budget the civilian widows and their children have been helped, and repatriation benefits have been enhanced. These will be distributed after the budget is passed. This shows that the Government is using every endeavour to level up our social services. I say quite definitely, however - and I do not want to have any misunderstanding of my remark - that I am distressed that anybody should be asked to live on £4 a week to-day with prices rising as they are. People cannot live on that amount. They may exist, and I am sorry to say that a proportion of our pensionable people, either through misfortune, or it may have been through lack of thrift in earlier years so that they failed to save for their old age, cannot exist on £4 a week. I regret that anybody should be asked to do so in this wonderful country.
When we are thinking of what has been done for pensioners, we should remember the £ 1 -for-£1 subsidy scheme that this Government instituted, together with its other benefits, to help .them. I have had the privilege of visiting many homes .run by churches and charitable institutions, which have benefited from .the Government’s scheme. These organizations have been enabled to build places of refuge for these older citizens of our Commonwealth. I have been delighted not only with the homes and their surroundings, but also to see the joy of these old folks who have found a real haven for themselves and are very happy to be living there. Some of the places are cottages and others are of the large institutional type, but in them the old people have found shelter and happiness.
This scheme has had another effect. It has awakened in local government authorities a desire to build in their own districts homes for their aged citizens. That is altogether to the good. In Western Australia, the particular charity with which I was connected - the Silver Chain and the Bush Nursing Association - often offered cottage homes to miners from the gold-fields who were living in rather distressing circumstances. But would they leave Kalgoorlie to come to live in the capital, even though the comfort which was offered them was so superior? No, they wanted to stay and live in their little humpies on the gold-fields near the mines rather than leave their pals - the people with whom they had grown up. That is a. very understandable sentiment. Consequently, the Government has done a wonderful thing in instituting this subsidy fund to assist charitable and other institutions to finance the building of homes in the districts where people of this kind have grown up, made their friends, and desire to continue to live. There they can be easily visited by their friends and relations. To-day, after a .period of only two years since this fund was started, it stands at the figure of £1,600,000. That is no mean contribution by the Government to the welfare of our senior citizens.
I regret that in the taxation field, the Government has not abolished the two taxes which I consider are unbearable - the sales tax and the pay-roll tax. I have spoken with unfailing regularity against both these taxes, ever since: the war years. They were imposed only as war measures, and they have both militated against our comfortable living. They are a form of indirect taxation which is an annoyance whenever we come up against it. Sales tax is an irritant to the shopkeeper and it is decidedly an irritant to the customer. Senator Critchley, in his very fine speech this afternoon, illustrated some of the anomalies of the sales tax which still exist. As the honorable senator pointed out, if one drinks a fruit drink in a milk bar no sales tax is charged, but if, in order to be .hospitable, one buys a bottle of fruit drink to take home to share with the family, sales tax of 12i per cent, is charged. Children can buy a fruit drink in their tuckshop at school and are not charged sales tax, but if two of them want to buy a bottle between them they have to pay 12± per cent, sales tax. It is an unreasonable anomaly which should be removed. Most of the fruit drinks on the Australian market are made from the wonderful fruit grown in this country, and the firms that manufacture them .are giving great .assistance and encouragement to the gruit-growers. This Government should support that sort of thing, and not discourage it by allowing the 124 per cent, sales tax to continue.
Another anomaly created by the application of sales tax is of interest to women - although men, generally, are fond of fruit cake - that is, in the pastrycooks’ trade. Every ingredient used in making a fruit cake, except salt - the bid salt tax, which has whiskers on it, is still retained - eggs, fruit, flour, and so on are free of sales tax until the pastrycook mixes them and makes them into a cake. When he has done that the housewife pays 3s. 6d. per lb. for it, and of that amount 3f d. represents sales tax. It is an anomalous position when the individual ingredients of a fruit cake, which are completely free from sales tax, should attract that tax immediately they are mixed into a palatable food. I should like to see sales tax abandoned altogether. The Government is continually urging producers and manufacturers to keep down costs of production, yet it imposes sales tax on heavy machinery and the other articles I have mentioned, with the result that the price to the consumer is increased. It is only natural that if costs of production are increased the manufacturer or producer will pass on the extra cost to the consumer.
Pay-roll tax is another irritant suffered by both big and small businesses. I admit that it is an interesting tax for the Treasurer because it is very easily collected, but 1 was particularly impressed by a very fine leading article published in the Melbourne “Age” last Tuesday under the heading “Way to Healthy Economy”. If I had been preparing a speech on the budget, 1 do not think I could have picked out .the points better than did the author of this article, which reads -
The Tariff Board’s latest report is in line with earlier recommendations, and events have already confirmed their wisdom. No government can be excused for disregarding them.
We were discussing the Tariff Board’s report last week. The Melbourne “ Age “ has referred to the highlights in it. The article continues -
It is all too easy to accept a negative approach to our real and urgent economic problems, to look for salvation in restrictive measures alone. There are positive measures too which can help to increase production, to hold down prices and to improve our overseas trade balance. The board proposes three, and they ars worth the closest attention of the Federal Government.
Briefly, these are to conduct a great and sustained campaign for increased production, to abolish the pay-roll tax, and to allow more generous taxation allowances for depreciation on new plant.
These three measures all work in the same direction: they promise greater efficiency in industry, lowered costs to the consumer and the exporter, and an incentive to replace obsolescent machinery which cannot pay its way in the competitive world we live in. They attack the basic weaknesses in the Australian industrial machine.
This should interest honorable senators opposite -
Every one of those points could be incorporated in a budget by either the Liberal or Labour party without any departure from policy.
There can be little doubt that manufacturers, exporters, wage-earners and simple shoppers would benefit from the increased production and lowered costs which these measures promise . . .
Retention of the pay-roll tax has little justification except the obvious fact that it returns £46,000,000 to the Treasurer in the annual budget. This tax adds at least £2 to the consumer’s costs for every £1 it returns to the Federal Treasury. It strikes at the base of the economic structure, and strikes the firm which is losing money just as hard as the firm which is making large profits. It is directly inflationary in its effect and could easily be a cause of serious unemployment.
The article concludes -
Negative measures have failed to keep down costs. Manufacturers are already feeling the pinch in the home market and import restrictions are harming our prestige as a trading nation abroad. It is high time that positive measures were fully explored, and the Government would be wise to give its closest attention to this series of recommendations from a board of impartial experts. Costs’ are not like the weather- with foresight they can be brought under control.
Manufacturers are becoming very worried about the position. Import restrictions have proved to be a complete failure. Western Australia has suffered extremely under them because the quotas allotted to that State are so few that a great deal of the buying of manufactures there has to be done through agents in the eastern States. This means that on a great many articles there is a rise of at least 20 per cent, in the cost before they reach the public of Western Australia.
Recently, several cases were brought to my notice. One related to a large manufacturer of women’s dresses. This firm was not allotted any increased quota although it applied for consideration very early in the piece. The managing director, after being refused the quota, came east in the hope of being able to interview the powers-that-be in Sydney. Because import licensing authorities have been centralized in Sydney up to date, this man had to come over here. After waiting in Sydney for four weeks he was still unable to get even an interview with anybody who mattered. He was then told by one or two other manufacturers that only certain people could obtain interviews and that it would, therefore, be wiser for him to try to buy whatever he wanted from merchants in the eastern States. He visited all the wholesalers but was unable to buy a single yard of material suitable for his factory in Western Australia. He has now gone back to the west and unless he can get some relief somewhere he will be compelled to dismiss a number of highly trained employees who have been with him for years.
Import restrictions certainly have proved to be a negative step. I was delighted to receive from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade a letter saying that the import licensing staff is to be distributed throughout Australia instead of being concentrated in Sydney, and that before very long an officer will be sent to Western Australia to deal with a number of local cases. I repeat that I should like to see a complete review of import restrictions because I feel that up to date they have been a failure. I know that many primary producers in Western Australia were greatly alarmed when France threatened to boycott their wheat. Actually, the boycott did not take place; but it seemed to the primary producers that the Commonwealth Government was doing all it could to promote industrial progress whilst leaving them go hang. The position certainly looked alarming. At that time we were refusing to buy luxury goods from France - most French goods are luxuries - and the French, in their turn, were about to refuse to buy our wheat.
I come now to the subject of immigration. I do not think we can afford at this stage to curtail our immigration programme at all. It is essential that we continue it at the present rate, but I suggest that a great deal more skill and care be exercised in the selection of immigrants. Western Australia is mainly a primary-producing State and a good deal of help is required on the farms there, but primary producers are most reluctant to employ the type of rural worker who is coming to this country. In Australia, much expensive machinery is used on farms and we cannot alford to allow people who have not the slightest knowledge of machinery to play about with it. Therefore, I think that our choice of immigrants should be more selective, and’ that more skilled farm workers should be brought to Australia.
– Where are we to get them?
– I should prefer that we got them from the British Isles or from the countries of northern Europe. T agree with Senator Seward that child migration is one of the finest forms of immigration that we can have. In the early days, I was instrumental in getting under way the Fairbridge Farm movement in Western Australia. Many children were brought from England, and put through that school. We achieved nearly 100 per cent, success with our activities. The children were not condemned to be domestic servants or farm workers. If they showed any particular leaning during their schooling they were afforded every opportunity to follow the training of their choice. Many were trained as teachers, engineers and so on. I am still a member of the: council of a home in Western Australia, which cannot get sufficient children to fill the beautiful building that we constructed for children from Scotland, England and Ireland. I do not know how we are going to get them. Of course, I do not blame those countries for wanting to hang on to their children, because they are suffering from the disability of an ageing population. As I have said, we should make every endeavour to get the best immigrants that we can.
Senator Henty emphasized the point that 1 stressed last year on my return from the Philippines about the potential markets in South-East Asia. There is a wonderful outlet for our goods there. The Philippines comprise 7,000 islands, inhabited by 22,000,000 people, who are all meat eaters. They are not allowed to kill the caribou because the President of the Philippines wants the herds to be expanded for farm purposes. There is a great opening for the Australian beef trade there. Some one sent a shipment of Australian hogget to the Philippines, but the people there thought that it was goat-meat. I do not know whether or not it was, in fact, but they did not like it. I told people with whom I came in contact that if they tasted our Australian lamb, they would be convinced of its high quality. On one occasion, I visited the home of a man and his wife, both doctors. There I saw three prize dogs. When I remarked on their wonderful condition, they said to me, “ They ought to be in good condition, because we feed them on Australian beef which costs us 14s. 6d. a lb.”. I said “ That is splendid; I hope you get more dogs “. As I have said, I should like them to taste our Australian lamb. 1 am sure that it would make an appeal to them.
The people in the Philippines were particularly interested in our honey. They make honey from coconuts. They were very interested in our dried fruits. When 1. returned to Australia, I spoke to a leading dried fruits merchant, who said that if we sent our dried fruits to the Philippines we would have to compete with American products. Why should not we compete with American products? Anything that America can do, Australia can do just as well, if not better.
– America subsidizes its dried fruits industry, but we do not.
– I am sorry that I cannot join in the Jeremiah chorus of the Labour party about what we are not doing. For the last six and a half years, this Government has done a marvellous job. I agree with Mr. W. S. Robinson, that great industrialist in Australia, who has himself been such a great success, and has made a great success of everything that he has touched. I agree with his opinion that Australia is one of the finest countries in the world. I have great faith in Australia. He stated recently - 1 know of no country offering greater oppor tunities to those prepared to assist in her development. No country stands to benefit more than Australia from the discoveries of science. Her future will be great.
But, my friends, we do a great disservice to this country if we cry out about starvation and the evils and lack of success of a government. Let us get our shoulder behind the wheel of government and help this country in this Olympic year, when we are going to have a wonderful opportunity to advertise Australia. Let us forget about our differences, and exert every effort in order to make this country one of the finest countries in the world.
.- 1 listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of Senator Robertson. As she developed her theme, I was impressed by the wonderful change that has come over her since she dissolved her association with the Liberal party and became allied with the Australian Country party in Western Australia.
– Was it a change for the better or for the worse?
– I regret very much that, towards the end of her discourse, she deviated and showed a trend to get back to her old environment. During the course of her remarks, I thought that I could not have bettered the criticism that she levelled against the Government. At the outset of her remarks, with the allegiance that the Australian Country party owes to the Government - for what reason, I have never been able to fathom - she congratulated the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on this nice budget. She then severely criticized it. 1 thought to myself, “ This is what happens when one of the flock gets away from the cast-iron attitude that seems to prevail in the Liberal party “. I thought that, as Senator Robertson was getting further away from the right, she might eventually become a member of the left. The sentiments that she expressed were well worthy of a good leftist speech. There was no doubt about that. I think the honorable senator is to be congratulated on the interest that she has displayed in various social services activities. T could never understand why the Liberal party wanted to write “ finis “ to her politicai existence. Thanks to the Labour party, Senator Robertson still graces the Senate of Australia, and is able to voice the fine sentiments that we have heard to-day.
There are so many angles from which this budget might be attacked that one is almost bewildered in selecting those with which one can deal during the time allotted under the Standing Orders. During the time that I have been a member of this chamber, I have heard many, and varied, budget speeches delivered. Great expectations were raised among the people about the contents of those budgets. On, this occasion we were advised in advance about what was likely to appear in the budget. Newspapers and other interests were able to prophesy, almost to the last word, the speech on the budget that was delivered by the Treasurer.. I suggest that such a state of affairs is unprecedented in the history of budget-making. Not long ago a Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain resigned his portfolio because there was a leakage of one item of a budget before he presented it to the British Parliament. Apparently that does not happen in this country. The Treasurer and other Government spokesmen have sought to excuse the premature budget disclosures.
– The press prepared the budget.
– Of course. One is not much alarmed about the situation, because the budget really contained nothing of importance to the people of this country. After it was presented it was called, by the press and by most, people, a fraud and a sham, because there was nothing in it to inspire the people to grapple with the great problem of inflation which, as is admitted on all sides, exists in this country. Not one definite action has been taken by this Government to deal with a situation in Australia which is likely to bring this prosperous country to the brink of destruction.
Honorable senators on the Government side have criticized the Opposition because we have not offered a panacea for the ills with which the country is afflicted. But that is not our task. ‘ The Treasurer has presented his budget, and it is our job to point out its deficiencies and where it fails to meet the requirements of the people. Honorable senators of the Opposition have not been alone in their criticism, because not one newspaper in this country has spoken in favour of the budget. Indeed, it is beyond me why my friends of the Australian Country party are still finding words of praise for the budget. I am a subscriber to the “ Victorian Wheat and
Woolgrower”, and only this week I was surprised to find that in its leading article that newspaper roundly condemned the Government for its failure to rehabilitate the economy of this country. I intend to place before the Senate some of the statements made by leading members of rural organizations in Victoria. It is well that we should take notice of such statements because from time to time Government spokesmen urge us to produce more, and say that our overseas accounts are in such a mess that it is only by greater production that they can be restored to equilibrium. The article from the “ Victorian Wheat and Woolgrower” of 7th September, 1956, which 1 have already mentioned, reads as follows: -
Farmers’ leaders were outspoken in their criticism of the Federal Budget just announced, calling it “ negative “, “ disappointing “ and “ lacking realism “.
This was revealed in a round-up of opinion by the Wheat and Woolgrower over the past week.
Association Chief President (Mr. E. E. Nuske) said the keenly anticipated relief from tax- burdens on primary producers has been dashed with Sir Arthur Fadden’s speech. “ With a crumbling national economy, I can see nothing in the budget which would relieve fears of a possible depression from which it would take years to recover “, Mr. Nuske added.
In view of the constantly rising production costs, it is disheartening that the great primary industries, upon which the nation almost entirely depends to correct adverse trade balances, should receive such scant consideration from the Government.
I hope that honorable senators who are members of the Australian Country party are listening to those words because they are not the words of a Labour senator; they were spoken by a member of an organization from which they expect support. The article continues - . . among other tilings Australian manufacturers have the advantage of a protecting tariff wall,- and yet with these advantages cannot gain recognition ‘ on the world’s markets.
While the Government looks on with apparent unconcern price rises are being inflicted with reckless abandon and one wonders whether these things follow the advice of teams of professors, economists and planners, who are called in for periodical consultations.
I could also quote the words of the general secretary of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, Mr. McDougall, who is associated with the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association as its general secretary. He roundly condemned the -budget presented by this Government, demonstrated its implications and showed how it will hinder the advancement of primary production. Therefore, wherever we look we find criticisms of this Government and its budget, including the criticisms by the “ Age “ newspaper read by Senator Robertson. However, in spite of all this criticism and the half-hearted praise that has fallen from the lips of some of the Government supporters, there is no indication anywhere that the Government intends to heed the advice of the people concerned in this matter, who have suggested that some alterations of Government policy should be made.
– Why does not the honorable senator make a constructive suggestion himself?
– Last night Senator Spooner chided the Opposition and stated that we had reduced our points of criticism of the budget to a few particular matters. He then suggested that we should put forward some alternative plan. As I have already said, it is not our task to put forward plans. This Government has been in office for the last seven years and during that time our economy has deteriorated from the wonderful position that it was in when the Chifley Government relinquished office in 1949. This Government inherited an overflowing Treasury, a stabilized overseas trade balance and a flourishing economy that had not been known for years. AH that had been achieved by a Labour government notwithstanding the tremendous demands made upon the country because of the great conflict through which Australia had recently passed. This Government, after nine years in office, and having presented nine budgets-
– Not nine years.
– I mean since 1949; it seems a long time. Since this Government assumed office, the economy has deteriorated slowly but surely. It admits that inflation is in our midst. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has suggested that the Opposition has maintained that the cause of inflation is profiteering and that vicious attacks had been made on the commercial community and employers generally. If the Minister examines our contention, he will find that there is a lot of truth in it, that profiteering has been the cause of the present inflationary spiral. It is no excuse to say that, because goods were in short supply and the prosperity of the country was such that people were able to demand an improvement of their conditions, there should be wholesale profiteering.
In the price that an article attracts on the market are more ingredients than the wages of workers engaged in industry. The chief attack by our opponents has been upon the wage ingredient in the cost of articles. Why should there not be some limitation of the profits that are derived from the sale of an article? There is no reason why only the wage ingredient should be rigidly controlled by an arbitration court or a judge who hears weighty arguments on the exact amount of money that a worker should receive as his share of the pool of wealth that is created by the application of labour to raw materials in order to produce a certain article. There is no reason why he or she should be the only one whose share should be measured out, but that is what is happening to-day. We know full well that when the arbitration court decided that industry could afford to pay a prosperity allowance to the workers, it did so after months of very careful consideration of the facts. It took into consideration the wages being received, the cost of production, the rate of dividend and profits, and said that out of that pool the workers were entitled to another £1 a week. But what happened? Immediately after the court brought down its judgment, the employers and those who control the prices of the finished articles said, “ That is all right, but we are not going to give the workers that £1 out of our share. We will simply put up the price to the consumer so that we can recoup ourselves “.
Is it any wonder that we should suggest that there should be some form of control over that kind of arrangement in our economy? If we want to control the share of the worker, what is wrong with controlling also the share of the other parties who are manufacturing a certain article? In the Treasurer’s budget speech and in all the discussion that has taken place in recent weeks, the only persons at whom our friends opposite have pointed the finger as being responsible for the present inflationary trend have been , the workers. At the recent conference that was held h. Canberra, the theme song of the Treasurer was, “ Do away with the cost of living adjustments “. The Government said, in effect, “ We do not want to freeze wages, but do away with the rise, and fall if you like, of the cost of living adjustments “.
What has caused the rise in wages? I presume that honorable senators on the other side of the chamber have some elementary knowledge of economics and that they know that, ever since the court decided that it would change the method of adjusting wages from a yearly to a quarterly basis, there has always been an increase. Why did Judge Powers get away from the yearly adjustment? Why did he add an extra 6d. a day to the old basic wage under the Harvester judgment at a time when wages were adjusted annually? He did so because the unions were able to prove that in the intervening period the cost of living had risen to such a degree that soon after increases had been granted by the court slowly but surely the benefit of them had passed away. He awarded the extra 6d. a “day so that the workers would have something to come and go on following the increase of the cost of certain commodities. So the position continued until the depression years, the years of the Premiers’ plan, until the C series index was applied and it was decided that there should be quarterly adjustments of the basic wage so that the worker might be able to keep up with the increase of the price of foodstuffs or other ingredients of the index. If the Treasurer, any honorable senator opposite, or any one else says that the cost of living adjustment is one of the greatest causes of inflation, he is either speaking with his tongue in his cheek or does not know the economic influences that are at work.
The federal basic wage has been pegged for the last three years. But has that prevented an increase of the cost of living? Certainly not! State wages in those States in which the government has decided to retain the cost of living adjustments are higher than the federal basic wage because of the increase in prices. How does the Government intend to overcome the problem if it is not prepared to initiate some form of control and to ensure that the worker receives a fair share? We do not go as far as those who subscribe to another ideology would go and say that the worker should have the whole result of his labour. We say that the captain of industry, the investor, is entitled to his share, but that he is entitled to only a fair share. How can we ensure that result unless we implement some form of control or use a measuring stick for distributing the pool of wealth fairly between the parties concerned? The Government will not do it, yet it asks Labour to find a solution of the problem. When we had prices control and when there was in operation a means of keeping the economy on a stable basis, what happened? When the government: of the day endeavoured to have written into the Constitution powers to enable the National Government to deal with a crisis such as we are now facing, honorable senators opposite opposed it. This Government and its supporters went to the people and said: “ Away with these controls. Prices will find ‘ their own level. We will put value back into the £1. We will reduce the cost of living “. Unfortunately, the people, who were, no doubt, tired of the war and the controls to which they were subjected, listened to the words of the Government’s supporters, and this power was denied to the Parliament.
This Government has difficulty - and any government in office would have the same difficulty - in dealing with this problem, because the National Parliament has not the necessary power to grapple with it. There is this difference between the contending parties: If we were given the opportunity, we would go to the people and ask them to clothe this Parliament with the necessary power to deal with an emergency. The emergency that faces us in peace-time now is likely to bring this country down just as the Japanese would have done if they had invaded Australia. During the war, we were able to do many things under the defence power, and so we were able to steer the country safely through the crisis. Now, we, as a Parliament, are helpless to do those things.
When we had the little horror budget, we were told that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had called into conference all those persons who dealt in hire purchase. The Ministers were going to talk to the banks. They spoke to many people. Did those talks lead to any success? Does this budget show that any of the Government’s actions in those days achieved anything? Certainly not. Things have gone from bad to worse, and they will continue to go from bad to worse unless they are controlled. All the Government can do :s condemn the Australian Labour party.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the Government believed in control without rationing The Government has made great play o: the fact that rationing was introduced during the war years. That was one of the factors which brought about the defeat of the Labour government. This Government is imposing rationing by subterfuge, lt is not game to go to the people and tell them that it is rationing commodities. It has imposed sales tax on particular items. The Government tells the people that, although they are prosperous, they cannot have amenities in the home because of obstacles that are placed in their way. Heavy sales tax has been imposed on washing machines and refrigerators. The Government prevents the people from buying motor cars and motor trucks by increasing the sales tax on those vehicles. They might be vitally necessary to the people, but the Government rations them. Reference has been made to the unemployment in the motor vehicle industry. The Government is rationing motor vehicles by subterfuge.
Let us consider the increase in the price of petrol. The Labour government was prepared to tell petrol consumers that they could use so many gallons each month. Tickets were issued to the people. This Government is doing it another way by allowing the petrol companies to increase prices. The Government knows the position, yet it takes no action. Ye’sterday, in Canberra, an enormous sum was paid for a block of land .upon which to build a petrol station. Who will pay for it? The consumers will pay. Will that not increase the cost of production? If motor transport owners have to pay more for fuel, costs must rise. What is the Government doing? Nothing at all. It is afraid to grapple with the problem because the people involved are those who are keeping the Government in office.
This Government has been most fortunate since the budget was introduced, because an international problem has arisen over the Suez Canal. The people are beginning- to forget the implications of this budget. That is what the Government hoped. The Prime Minister should have teen called upon, to justify the budget in the Parliament, but the proposals were agreed t> before he returned to Australia. Now, ve are told that, instead of speaking about tie economy of Australia, the right honorable gentleman will speak, in the House of Representatives, next week, on the Suez Canal. The economy of Australia can go hang instead of receiving the attention that is due to it.
Much has been said about our pensioners. Recently, I sat in another place and heard the Minister for Immigration. (Mr. Harold Holt) reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on the budget. The . Minister said that the Government was proud of the pulsating development in Australia; of the indications everywhere of the growth of the economy and the national prosperity. My thoughts were these: It is true that there is great progress and prosperity in Australia. Many people are enjoying prosperity, but. at what a cost. We have a growing list of age and invalid pensioners. Year after year, their numbers grow. Industry is taking a toll of those people. They have toiled for years, and have reached the stage where they are no longer able to fend for themselves. Their share of the wealth they have produced is such that, when they are no longer required in the industrial field, they have to accept this miserable pittance of £4 a week that is handed out by the Government.
Senator Robertson spoke of the money that was received by the pensioners when this Government was first elected to office. 1 should like her to think of the purchasing power of the pension that was paid to age and invalid pensioners by the Chifley Labour Government, and to compare what they could purchase for their £2 in comparison with what can be purchased for £4 to-day.
Senator- Robertson. - The pension to-day is £4 plus.
– It is £4 plus some medical benefits and some hospitalization. That wonderful amelioration is no doubt a great advantage to the aged who need hospitalization. As some one in this country has said, “ If you fall sick you have either to be very rich or very poor “. If one is very rich the cost does not matter and if he is a. pensioner he can receive these benefits; but if he belongs to the section in between and is a. worker in receipt of a certain wage, to become ill to-day means ruination. He cannot possibly pay the hospital charges and the rest of the fees that are demanded. Anyone who says that conditions have improved as a result of these concessions demonstrates that he is not considering the nation, as a whole.
I wonder whether all the protestations that have been made against the action of this Government in refusing to grant an increase in. the miserable pittance pensioners are receiving to-day, insufficient to keep body and soul together, will force the Government to do something about the budget or introduce amending legislation to give effect to an increase in the pension rate. I hope that when this matter comes before us in committee a. concerted move will be made by honorable senators opposite, who have spoken against the Government’s attitude to pensions, to force the Govern. ment to increase the amount that is being handed out to these people.
So I could go on; but it is not my intention to go further except to say that this is one of. the most disappointing budgets that has been presented to the Parliament, at any rate during the period I have been here. It is a budget which takes from the people the opportunity to develop Australia as it should be developed. The Government is retarding the country’s growth. I trust, as do others, that as a result of the discussions taking place the Government will be exposed as incompetent to govern Australia in an expanding economy, just as it was unfit to govern Australia during a previous period of war-time travail.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers of 1956-57 and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The amendment reads -
That the Estimates and Budget Papers 1956-57 tabled in the Senate are unacceptable and should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured.
I thought perhaps I would, have heard some reasons why the amendment was moved. If one studies it one will- see that certain charges have been laid against, the Government, but not one word has been said by Opposition speakers in support of their leader.
The Senate is fortunate in the acquisition of three new honorable senators to this chamber of the calibre of Senator McManus, Senator Wade, and Senator Hannan. A week ago yesterday we were privileged to hear from those three honorable senators speeches of a very high quality, and I certainly wish to congratulate them. I also congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on having presented his ninth budget. Dealing with one or two matters -which have been discussed, I was staggered, this afternoon to hear Senator Sheehan say that it is: not the Opposition’s task to offer any constructive criticism because it. is not the Government. Strangely enough, under the Constitution and the Parliamentary system of government the Opposition is regarded as an alternative government. That, J. think, is fair comment; and as an alternative government one would think that the Opposition would have specific proposals to put before the people to prove to them that it is competent to form a government. Apparently it has not the slightest intention of so doing and has given up all hope of ever regaining office.
We have heard from honorable senators opposite great play upon words. They have used platitudes in opposing this budget. I can sum up their attitude in these words, “ Peg prices, wages and profits and all will be well “. We have heard a great deal about the wonderful economy that existed in this country in 1949, when Labour was in office, but we must remember that when the then Government went to the people who, after all, are the judges, the people would not have a’ bar of it. Again, in 1951, the Opposition was not approved of by the people; and the same thing happened in 1953 and 1955. Labour has had any amount of opportunity to prove to the people whether its policy of pegging prices, wages and profits and instituting a whole system of rationing, :is a sound one. The people of Australia do not want those things. It is time the Opposition evolved some constructive ideas on how to run this country if it ever wants to do so again.
I wish Senator Hendrickson were present at the moment, because he made rather a remarkable statement. I quote his words from “ Hansard “ -
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said that the present Government parties won the 1954 elections on the Petrov issue by adopting snide tactics. The political tactics of the Government in that instance have meant a loss to-day of £30,000,000 to the wool-growers of Australia.
I interjected -
How does the honorable senator make that out?
And he replied -
If the honorable senator will take the trouble to examine statistics, he will find that my statement is correct. That is not because Russia has not received Australian wool. Russia has received our wool, but only after Russian agents have bought it at sales in England. At sales held in Australia that wool was bought by buyers acting on behalf of wool magnates in England, who later resold it in London to the Russians. They made a profit on that £30,000,000, notwithstanding that they had probably never seen an Australian sheep, or even Australia.
I asked Senator Hendrickson, by interjection, how much of our wool Russia received and he replied that he did not know.
It is rather remarkable that while the honorable senator was delivering his speech, 1 had before me a copy of the “ Quarterly Review “ of the Division of Agricultural Economics for April, 1956. Every honorable senator receives a copy of this publication. It contains figures of wool imported into Russia from all known sources during the years 1946 to 1955. I was interested to know the source of the figures which the honorable senator quoted and I ask whether he will deny that these figures are incorrect. They appear in the most authentic journal that one could read. I know that the honorable senator likes to go for things in a big way, and he has followed the old tactic that if one is going to tell a lie, tell a big one and the people will be more likely to believe it. When I challenged him about the quantity of wool imported by Russia he said he did not know how much that nation received. I shall now cite the figures from this article which is available to any honorable senator to read:
I shall begin by citing the figures from the year 1949-50. In that year Russia imported a total of 50,100,000 lb. of greasy wool. In 1950-51, the quantity was 9.000,000 lb. In 1951-52, it was 6,000,000 lb., and in 1952-53 it was 10,000,000 lb. In 1953-54 - honorable senators will note that this was the year in which the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia investigated the Petrov disclosures - it was 54,000,000 lb.; and in 1954-55, 22,000,000 lb. The average yearly importation, from all sources, during the period 1946 to 1955 was 24,000,000 lb. How, in the name of thunder, can Senator Hendrickson justify his claim that Australia lost £30,000,000 on the deal? His statement was sheer balderdash, and the honorable senator knows it. His remark is typical of the tripe that is broadcast from this chamber and which the public is expected to believe. It is pure nonsense. I regret that the honorable senator is not present to hear these figures read, but he can study them if he cares to obtain the journal. Perhaps he does not know what is the price of wool but he could work it out and ascertain the total value of the wool imported by Russia. From his remarks he would have us believe that Australia lost almost £30,000,000 on its sales of wool to Russia.
– Is the honorable senator sure that the figures he has cited are correct?
– I am delighted to hear that interjection. I assure the honorable senator that I can read and also that I can handle the truth. I am convinced that if truth and some honorable senators met face to face, truth would die from shock. If the honorable senator who has interjected doubts the accuracy of my recital of these figures I shall make them available to him. I expect that he has the ability to read, and when he receives them he can inwardly digest them and then pass them on to Senator Hendrickson.
I have been particularly interested in the discussion on defence. Iron and steel play a most important part in our defence programme, and I was interested in Senator Toohey’s remarks about the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. He quoted the views of Mr. Dickinson of that company, a most admirable man, who is keen to see an iron and steel works established in South Australia. I share his keenness and I am equally zealous for the establishment of such a concern. But iron and steel are needed in Australia to-day - not ten years hence. I am a good South Australian, but I am also a good Australian, and I am conscious of the basic need of Australia for steel and iron. In my opinion steel production could be stepped up in order to supply the requirements so urgently needed, only at the steel works at Port Kembla. Last Monday, through the courtesy of Senator Buttfield, that honorable senator, together with Senator Hannaford and myself, spent the afternoon with Mr. Dickinson discussing the ways and means of increasing steel production. Although I keenly support the establishment of an iron and steel works in South Australia it is important to decide which is the best place for the works to be established. Whyalla is not quite such a dead shot as some people think.
Mr. Dickinson made a most interesting suggestion which is worthy of a good deal of consideration. He said that if Australia could export coal to Japan, and Japan could smelt the iron ore which it receives from Malaya, Australia could import billets of steel from Japan and treat it in a rolling mill which could be established, but not at Whyalla. In saying that, I am not doing any injustice to Mr. Dickinson because he suggested that such a mill should be located close to Adelaide. The question of scrap iron also has to be considered. I have to thank Senator Wright for the suggestion that the Senate might set up a committee to investigate the steel requirement of Australia and the best methods of increasing production.
On the subject of primary production, I am one of those who believe that the best chance Australia has of increasing its overseas trade balance is to increase primary production. I have been interested to hear honorable senators opposite refer to Australia’s overseas balances at the end of 1949 before the last Labour government went out of office. They lose sight of an important fact that at that time the countries to which Australia exported goods could not export goods to us in return. Although we were sorely in need of goods which those countries were making they wanted everything that they could produce for themselves to build up their own industries and repair the war damage which they had suffered. As a result, Australia’s trade balance overseas was well in credit. That condition could not be attributed, however, to good housekeeping on the part of the Labour government; it was purely through force of circumstances.
I am pleased to inform the Senate that in Adelaide an arrangement has been made between the University of Adelaide and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization to share some of the university buildings and equipment so that methods may be studied to increase agricultural production. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has established the head-quarters of its soil analysis branch at the Waite Research Institute. The pooling of the buildings, equipment and knowledge of the University of Adelaide and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has b©?n a very happy arrangement. During 1956, it is expected that 30 or 40 agricultural science students will be enrolled. It is. expected that each year 30 or 40 students will be doing the agricultural science course and that in three years’ time at least 160 will be receiving this training, most of which will be carried out at the Waite Research Institute.
– Will the students include any potato-growers?
– I shall deal with potato-growing later. Unfortunately, the accommodation in the buildings at the Waite Research Institute used by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has deprived the University of Adelaide of sufficient room for its work in agricultural science, and reluctantly, the university has had to ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to vacate the premises it is now occupying at the end of 1957. The University of Adelaide has offered to the Commonwealth Government a beautiful site comprising three acres just across from the Waite Research Institute. I am given to understand that the estimated cost of the buildings for the soil analysis branch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would be £75,000, and that it was proposed that this be spread over three annual sums of £25,000. At the moment, £25,000 is required to put down the foundations, but, unfortunately, that sum is not available to carry out work of vital importance to the productivity of Australia. Yet, we read in the press that £25,000 can be made available to the denominational schools in Canberra! I do not favour governmental payments to denominational schools. After all, we have our own public schools providing excellent service. An apt analogy might be found in our transport system. In Australia we have public transport systems. Those people who do not care to use them use motor cars. If the Government is to spend £25,000 on denominational schools, it is equally logical for the motorist to ask the Government to subsidize his costs. If it is logical to do the one thing, it is equally logical to do the other. I was certainly shocked and horrified to learn that it was not possible to provide £25,000 for the laying down of the foundations of the soil analysis branch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Potatoes have been mentioned. I have been trying to grow them for 36 years, and all 1 can say in reply to those who criticize present prices is that two years ago, at this time of the year, we could not give them away in South Australia, and in that State there is the most socialistic scheme of potato-growing that one could wish to find. There, a farmer can plant only a certain quantity, and he has to obtain permission to do that. Further, he can dig them only at a certain time; he can deliver them only at a certain time, and he is compelled to take whatever the board likes to give him for his product.
– And that is under a Liberal government.
– I was hoping Senator Ashley would come in with that. I remind him that this system is in operation in Victoria and other States also. It was introduced first by a Labour government. After all, the potato-grower is now getting only a little of what he has lost over the years. I repeat that despite all the planning and all the advice of the wise men of the east who came to tell us how to grow potatoes, it was impossible to sell our potatoes in South Australia two years ago.
– Why was that?
– Because the board would not take them; it could not handle them. When I point out to honorable senators that we were paying £5 a ton to store those potatoes until December when the highest price we could get was £10 a ton, they will appreciate that our position was not extremely happy. This year we have had a freak situation in that every State, with the possible exception of Western Australia, has been short of potatoes. Even New Zealand was experiencing a shortage of them and was offering £60 a ton for them on farms in Australia.
– The present price is about seven times the price pre-war.
– Honorable senators opposite often talk about the wonderful Labour regime, but I can remember the time when I found it possible to get only £3 5s. a ton for my potatoes during a Labour regime. I am not greatly in love with the very high prices, although I must confess that when the price of potatoes went to £89 a ton we sold all we had; and the strange part about it all was that at that price the people consumed as many potatoes as they did when potatoes were only £20 a ton.
Senator Benn had a great deal to say about the primary producers. He went so far as to accuse them of letting Australia down. I am certain that when the angry dairy-farmers of Queensland have finished with him he will not have a feather to fly with. To say that the Austraiian primary producer has let Australia down is just irresponsible nonsense. If any section of the community has done a good job for Australia it is the primary producer.
When dealing with defence, Senator Toohey had something to say about our Royal Australian Air Force. I have before me an interesting article by Air Marshal Sir John McCauley, in which he says -
The most significant event in R.A.A.F. progress this year has been the re-equipment of the three squadrons of No. 78 (Fighter) Wing at Williamtown, N.S.W., with Australian-built Avon-Sabre jet fighters. By the end of this year, this wing will be battleworthy and fully equipped with the finest and fastest jet fighter south of the equator.
This is the first time in R.A.A.F. peace-time history when we have had entire units equipped with aircraft of the finest quality.
He goes on to make many other significant remarks, and then says -
The R.A.A.F. to-day is a most efficient business organization - as it should be - for it disposes of some £50,000,000 a year of public money.
He then eulogizes what is being done and points out that there are 16,000 men in the Royal Australian Air Force and that it has 800 machines. He concludes his article by saying -
Meanwhile I would like you to come and see for yourselves the Air Force for which you are paying. During Air Force Commemoration Week, our bases are open for public visits. Come along and see what we do.
When it comes to defence, we have to assess the actual international position, the degree of preparedness it is necessary for us to maintain, and the strength at which we should hold the various branches of our services in order to fulfil whatever tasks may be allotted to us in the strategic field. One of the things that will determine how much we can do certainly is the state of our national economy. As to air defence, only the experts can tell us what to expect and in this connexion Air Marshal Sir John McCauley says -
A significant aspect of our operational duties is the R.A.A.F.’s work on the Rocket Range and in the various atomic tests. More than 10 per cent, of our trained personnel is engaged in flying or maintaining the dozens of aircraft which we do not own for the British Ministry of Supply and the Australian Department of Supply. These include transports, jet fighters and jet bombers up to the Valiant class.
At the moment, there is considerable speculation in the press and elsewhere on the equipment which the R.A.A.F. will order for the 1960’s. The problem is to know how automatic we can make our system of air defence. If we knew the answer to this, the life of the leaders of the air forces of all nations would be much simpler.
My personal opinion, and that of our Air Staff officers is that the human being will not be replaced for many years..
I am, of course, aware that we must use guided missiles together with our manned aircraft. This is the solution which I foresee m the world’s air forces over the next few years at least.
It is the solution which we favour and which in relation to our operational requirements and the funds available will prove the most efficient. Our Avon-Sabres are being -equipped now -with guided missiles in their interceptor roles. -Despite the criticisms we have heard of the Air Force, that is the opinion of Sir John McCauley. I do not suppose that any member of this chamber would claim to have a better knowledge of what is required than that distinguished gentleman. In the (past, perhaps we have looked to the west; in the future, I should think that we will have to look to the east. As one who has given considerable thought to this subject, I believe that, in the matter of equipment for our Air Force, America will play a very important part in the future. I go as far as to say that I think that a great deal of our equipment should be interchangeable with that used by America.
We have heard a great deal about what the Labour party did for defence, and the amount of money that the Labour government set aside for defence purposes. It is true that, in 1949, the Labour Government voted £50,000,000 for defence. The amount voted in 1948-49 was £61,000,000, of which only £25,000,000 was expended. I remind the Senate that, since this Government has been in office, it has expended on defence almost £1,200,000,000.
– What is there to show for it?
– I am glad that Senator Ashley has asked that question. I shall cite some relevant figures, which I should be glad if the Opposition would criticize. I should also be glad to hear any suggestions advanced from the other side. Of the proposed vote for defence of £190,000,000 for this year, £134,000,000 will be expended on maintenance. In the six years from 1950-51 to 1955-56, the total defence expenditure was £1,031,000,000, of which £324,000,000 was for additional capital assets and £707,000,000 for maintenance. Of the £324,000,000, no less than £226,000,000 was spent on new equipment for the services and the modernizing of existing equipment. If the defence vote is to be reduced - as Labour suggests it should be - we have to decide whether to do without new equipment or pay our servicemen less. The Opposition would have to make up its own mind on that matter. If honorable senators opposite firmly believe in what they have advocated, they should rise “in their places and say that they are in favour of cutting down the wages of the armed forces because they consider the wages are too high, or that they are in favour of cutting down expenditure on equipment that is needed for the forces that we have enlisted. If the Opposition is prepared to offer suggestions on those lines and point to where money can be saved, the Government will welcome them.
– A commencement on cutting down could be made with the St. Mary’s project.
– Some honorable senators opposite speak impetuously, and at times I have great difficulty in understanding them. Of the amount of £324,000,000 that I mentioned, £84,000,000 was spent on buildings, works, and the acquisition of sites, while £14,000,000 was spent on machinery, plant and equipment for defence production.
In 1949, the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office, there were 34,000 members of the permanent forces; to-day, the strength is 52,000. In 1949, there were 22,000 men in the Citizen Military Forces; during this Government’s term of office, the number has risen to 100,000. Furthermore, there are now 78,000 national service reservists, who have completed their training. Since the inception of the national service training scheme, more than 180,000 youths have been called up for training, at a cost of £103,000,000. Are we to cut back-
– The question is, whether the Government is going to cut back the expenditure on the St. Mary’s project.
– I am glad that honorable senators opposite are showing so much interest in what I am saying, because defence is a subject in which we all must take a great deal of interest. We must have an overall plan for defence. Our military preparedness to-day is better than ever before. When I hear some honorable senators opposite refer to what they did in the years from 1941 onwards, I sometimes think that they have forgotten that Liberal and Country party governments sent divisions of Australian troops to Egypt, in order to keep that country safe.
– You were sitting on the fence.
– If the Menzies Government had not sent divisions of troops abroad, the Suez Canal would have fallen to the enemy in 1940 or 1941. If that had happened, the Japanese would have invaded Australia in 1941. Some honorable senators opposite continually refer to what they did during the war. I do not want to say that they did not do certain things, but if they want praise for what they did from 1941 onwards, they must be prepared to accept responsibility for the greatest disaster in the annals of the Australian fighting forces. Labour split Australia from stem to stern by establishing two armies, and the greatest disaster that ever befell the Australian forces happened under its rule. Some honorable senators opposite have referred to the “ Brisbane line “. Let me say that some of the bright boys who talk about such things scattered to the Blue Mountains and had a dug-out there when Rabaul fell, because they thought that the Japanese would soon be in Australia. Some of the persons to whom I refer were members of the Labour ministry. Do not talk to me about what happened then! What Labour did to the militia boys who were sent to Port Moresby in January, 1942, is well known. Honorable senators opposite should remember some of these things. Japan did not enter the war until after the Labour government had assumed office. If some honorable senators opposite knew the facts surrounding the sending of militia units to New Guinea in January, 1942, they would not be so ready to claim that Labour did a wonderful job.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- I move-
That after Standing Order No. 38, the following new Standing Order be inserted: - “38a. - (1.) A standing committee, to be called the Standing Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, shall be appointed at the commencement of each session, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives. (2.) The committee shall consist of seven senators chosen in the following manner: -
The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate, in writing addressed to the President, four senators to be members of the committee.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate, in writing addressed to the President, three senators to be members of the committee.
Any vacancy arising in the committee shall be filled after the Leader of the Government or the Leader of the Opposition, as the case may be, has nominated, in writing addressed to the President, some senator to fill the vacancy. (3.) The committee shall report from time to time upon the development of the Australian Capital Territory, with particular reference to the development of Canberra in relation to the original plan and subsequent modifications, and on matters incidental thereto. (4.) The committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to move from place to place.”.
The purpose of this motion is to give effect to the second recommendation of the select committee of the Senate which inquired into the development of the City of Canberra. Honorable senators will find that with the exception of one or two necessary modifications it is completely in line with that recommendation. The relevant paragraph of the recommendation reads -
That the modifications and variations made in the past to the original plan have not been subject to adequate parliamentary surveillance and that many modifications have been made that should have been the subject of searching parliamentary inquiry.
That is the basis for the following particular recommendation: -
That parliamentary oversight be exercised by a Senate Standing Committee on the development of Canberra, consisting of seven senators with power to call for persons, papers and records.
I shall refer briefly to the terms of the motion, which are conditioned by the Standing Orders. They are more elaborate and detailed than the recommendations, but that is to put the committee on the same footing as all other standing committees. I have used the words “ Australian Capital Territory “ in place of the word “ Canberra “ as it appears in the recommendation, and I believe that the committee realized - I know that I did - that it would have been wiser if the original select committee had inquired into everything in the Australian Capital Territory, because the inter-relations between the rural part of the Territory and the City of Canberra are so intimate that we cannot consider Canberra without considering the Territory as a whole. After all, the Territory exists only to give us a federal capital. If that had not been its purpose it would have been left as part of New South Wales.
I do not think that any honorable senator could object to the other terms of the motion, but some people might want to know why it is necessary for a committee such as this to move from place to place. That provision was not put in so that the committee, if it felt so inclined, could go to Timbuctoo or some other distant place; the idea is that a parliamentary committee sits in Parliament House - according to the advice given by the officers of the Senate - and unless this provision were in the resolution we could sit only in a parliamentary committee room. The places to which the committee would intend to move are within the Australian Capital Territory. Jervis Bay, for example, is intimately connected with the capital, and just at present there is some discussion taking place about its revival as a naval base.
– Why should that not have been put into the motion?
– Because the motion has been framed - on the advice of the officers of the Senate - to make it agree with the Standing Orders. I cannot take it upon myself to depart from the advice of those officers, and to frame the motion in such a way as would hamstring the committee. I believe that the advice was sound, and if other parliamentary standing committees have that power, then it should be given to this proposed committee. The function of the committee is to act as the eyes and the ears of the Senate. It is not intended that we shall assume any functions which are not properly given by the Senate to committees such as this, and a justification for requiring this provision is found in the whole of the report of the previously appointed select committee on Canberra, which I trust at least every potential critic of the motion will have read carefully. If any one criticizes the proposal without having read that report, his criticism will be ill-formed.
– The Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) has read it.
– I am sure that he has. In the past, Canberra has suffered many disabilities because there have been departures from the original plan, and some of those departures have been ill-conceived. Some have been undertaken by departmental officials, and on occasions there have been attempts to smuggle things through without the knowledge of the Parliament. On one occasion, such an attempt was made to smuggle something through without even the knowledge of the responsible Minister. There has been no clear-cut, definite policy with regard to the growth of Canberra. The whole policy towards Canberra, except during the period when Sir John Butters was the chairman of the Federal Capital Commission, and it was necessary to bring the Parliament here within a limited time, has been a piecemeal, patchwork policy. Canberra has been the unwanted ward of the Department of the Interior, and that department has never shown great interest in it. The city has been like an orphan boarded out to a person who had no particular interest in it. Some public servants have watched over it very carefully, and we owe the fact that it is not completely spoilt to the unsleeping vigilance of a very fine public servant who, since he has now retired, I can name. He is Mr. Daley.
If there had always been, on the part of public servants, as much diligence and faith as Mr. Daley has shown, Canberra would be a much better city. We know what it has become now - a shoddy place where there is a perpetual use of makeshifts and a constant postponement of the building of the real city till some time in the future. All those things have been proved, and there has been shown to be a complete lack of a consistent policy for Canberra, and no attempt to carry out a real plan. Even Parliament has failed in its duty towards this city. It is of no use to put the blame on a particular Minister or department or government, because all governments have failed, and that means that the Parliament has failed. The Parliament needs somebody whose duty it is to draw its attention to the needs of Canberra.
The proposed committee would have no power except that which the Senate gave to it. It would have no executive power, and could not attempt to interfere - an odious word so often used by public servants - with administration. Indeed, it will not need to interfere, because it can report to the Senate itself, and will act as the Senate’s watchdog. I desire to put before honorable senators some of the specific things that this committee may do, because I do not want anybody to believe that we hope to form a committee which wil sit down and say, “We have a general charter, but what can we do? “ It may be that the committee will not do these things, because I have not the faintest idea who the honor-1 able senators will be who will compose the committee. I merely say that these are the things that it could do. It could ensure that making Canberra the effective Public Service centre of the Commonwealth was carried out in the shortest possible time. That is something for which Canberra has been crying out for years. This is not the centre of government at the present time. We have as many centres of government as there are State capital cities, and sometimes we have centres of government all over the Commonwealth. I was in Canberra during the last recess. Only one Minister was here then; all the others were scattered throughout the Commonwealth. Very few of the leading public servants were here; only the heads of the departments that are centred here were in Canberra.
– How many politicians were here7
– There were about six members of the Parliament here, and we were eagerly sought by every one who was having a party. I had a very good week, simply because I happened to be one of the few members of the Parliament who were in the National Capital. I dined with two ambassadors and quite a number of other interesting people. We know that there is an administrative policy to bring the leading departments to Canberra within a few years and to find homes for the public servants involved and their families. It will be necessary for the Parliament to ensure that that is carried out. Let it be remembered that there has always been the pressure of conflicting interests to exclude from the programme of expenditure anything that has not had a solid body of public opinion behind it. One of the functions of the proposed committee would be to arouse that public opinion, not in any illegitimate way but through the mouth of the Senate.
All kinds of things happen with people who work in the dark purlieus of public offices. Some of them whom many of us do not know do little private jobs that they hope will pass unnoticed. I went for a walk this morning and I discovered something that I bad never seen before, I shall not say what it was. I do not know whether it has been authorized or whether somebody is presuming upon the failure of a certain regulation.
– Not the building on the roof of Parliament House?
– Senator Vincent noticed that, and I am very glad that he did. I have not seen it. We must keep our eyes and ears open, and I think that a committee specially designed to do thai would be valuable. Members of the committee would do a great deal if they did no more than learn the history of Canberra, the form of the plan, and the intentions of the people who founded the city, because, as 1 have said, in neither House has there been a sufficient body of men ready to press on with that work. There is an old adage that knowledge is power. I think knowledge is power, because when one knows what is being done one can do something to help it or to circumvent it. In the past, Canberra has grown largely without members of the Parliament knowing what was going on. Papers have been tabled in this chamber and I have not known what was in them because 1 have not taken the trouble to read them. The proposed committee would have referred to it every paper dealing with the development of Canberra and every suggested variation of the plan.
Those are only a few of the things that could be done, and I do not wish to occupy much time in going into the matter. All I want to emphasize is that this committee would not be idle, that it would be as valuable as is any of the Senate committees that have been formed already. By forming this committee, the Senate would be able to establish for itself something new. I have noticed among certain people an extraordinary timidity to try anything new. Even to-day, a gentleman in another place said that it was unrealistic to think of the Senate as being anything but a mere echo of that place, that it was unrealistic for anybody to think of the Senate as occupying anything like the place that it was intended to occupy’ under the Constitution. On both sides of this chamber are men who have resisted that attitude and who continue to resist it, and I hope that it will receive no consideration from the Senate when the vote on this proposal is taken.
The committee should guard against becoming the mere mouthpiece of local people or employees of the Crown who might have a particular little grievance to air or a certain axe of their own to grind. I think it can be said that although the Select Committee on Canberra had a wide charter and heard evidence from all kinds of people in this city, it considered the national interest. If honorable senators read the committee’s report, they will note that, while we listened to local inhabitants and advocated that they should have every right that is posssesed by people in the rest of the Commonwealth, and that some measure of local government should be given, we said that the paramount interest was that of the whole nation and that this city did not belong only to the people living in the Australian Capital Territory, but also to the people of all the States and Territories and that the people from the distant States and outlying Territories were as interested as was anybody else.
I hope that the proposal for the formation of such a committee will be welcomed by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is responsible for administering Canberra. I do not know what arguments will be advanced in opposition to it, but if it is argued that it will be an interfering committee, a standover committee - a terms that I have heard used concerning other committees - the argument is not valid. The word “ interference “ should have no place when we are talking about any of the activities of the Parliament. We, as a parliament, are the lawmaking body, the body to which the Executive and the Administration is ultimately responsible. It is our duty to inform our minds by every means we can employ about what is going on in order to correct abuses when we see them, to criticize, and also to encourage.
I believe that a new era is dawning for the Senate. I believe, also, that the committee system will be built up, and that it will forever remove the: complaint that this House has no purpose: and no reason to exist. I know that the old parliamentarians smile. I know that many of them who have had long experience as.k, “Well, how can you retain so much enthusiasm for six years? “ I have had it for six years and I hope to have it a little longer. But I am not content to accept a situation in which the Parliament is looked on as being a mere registering house or in which the leading members of the Public Service regard themselves and are regarded by others as being the real government of the country.
– That is what is happening to-day.
– And it happened when the Australian Labour party was in office. The growth of the Public Service has been remarkable. I have read the history of the beginning of the Public Service and of Commonwealth government. Mr. Edmund Barton was commissioned by the first Governor-General to form a ministry. He went to the Treasury in Sydney, borrowed a table and a few chairs, and he and Mr. Robert Garran, who happily is still living as one of the most esteemed citizens of Canberra, sat down at that table on the balcony of the New South Wales Treasury building and commenced the Commonwealth administration. How it has grown! It is like the tree that grew from the seed of mustard. It will be remembered that the seed of mustard is the smallest of all seeds, yet from it grows a mighty tree. One of the tasks of the Senate is to ensure that the Public Service is responsible to the Parliament and to public opinion. Once it is openly acknowledged, and the position is cynically acquiesced in, that the leading men of the Public Service are the government of the country, that Ministers are only their mouthpiece and that members of the Parliament are only their stooges, we are on the road to a very foul form of autocracy. The worthwhile part of the history of the British people has been the revolt against that state of affairs. Again and again in English history, some one has tried to set up a tyranny, and has been overthrown. Only the Parliament can stop somebody from trying again.
I reject altogether the proposition that we are here simply to carry out a few routine tasks, to vote on bills sent from the lower House and draw our salaries. It would be an easy existence, and I could find many ways to spend my time. I could easily spend more of it in the Parliamentary Library. I could have written a couple of books in the past few years, but I prefer to give my time to the service of the public. That demands setting up committees such as the committee I propose. I hope that this motion will be carried unanimously, and I hope that this will be the beginning of a new era when the Senate, through its committees, will inform itself and exercise a real, and sometimes decisive, part in the government of the Commonwealth.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, and reserve the right to speak later.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 416).
– When the sitting was suspended, I was speaking about defence policy, and was replying to some of the claims that are made continually by the -Opposition about the part that was played in defence by the Labour government. I remind the Senate that the Labour government formed two armies in Australia, and that action divided our forces as nothing else could have done. Some of our men were allowed to go only as far as a certain parallel. They could not advance beyond that line although we were fighting to the strategy of General MacArthur, who was always praised by the Labour government. It believed in General MacArthur’s strategy, and the main point of his plan was to by-pass the islands in the South-West Pacific. He placed his submarines and aircraft athwart the island chain that lies between Australia and Japan, and cut off large numbers of Japanese troops, who were then unable to contribute anything further to the Japanese war effort. What did the Labour government do with the militia?
– You were training them with broomsticks when we were elected to office.
– Senator Ashley might be interested to know that I was in New Guinea when the Labour government was in office. Perhaps Senator Ashley will tell me why the Labour government sent the Militia into the islands after they had been by-passed so that the Japanese in them were >no danger to our general advance. Every man of ours who lost his life in those islands after’ they were by-passed was an unnecessary loss. If Senator Ashley wants the Labour Government to take all the credit for the war effort, it should also take the blame for the loss of the 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force, which was put in the bag while the Labour Government held office. Not one factory or one munitions establishment was constructed after the Labour Government got into office, other than those that were either established or planned by the previous administration. Not one was added to the plans of the predecessors of the Labour Government.
– The previous government could not do anything except put plans on paper.
– Senator Ashley was a Minister, and had access to every file. I ask him to point to one thing that was achieved by the Labour Government other than those prepared by the previous administration. While I am speaking of defence, I should like to urge the Government to take a bold step, and go on with the standardization of our railway gauges. I believe that the railways still have an important part to play in defence. We have to quit the horse-and-buggy days. Many of our stations are too close together. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the steel road is still the best road for heavy transport. Surely we can evolve something better than allowing large motor trucks to cut our roads to pieces. We could run loads on to flat-top trains attached to diesel engines which pull 1,000 tons. They could travel from Adelaide to Melbourne, and from Melbourne to Sydney, in a few hours. Instead of having 40 men driving trucks along the roads hammering them to pieces, we would have two or three men on a train.
Honorable senators opposite have referred to unemployment. If, by any chance, there is some sign of unemployment, we could place those men in work on the standardization of the railway gauges .or on building roads.
It is almost time that we revised the financial arrangement that exists’ between the Commonwealth and the States. If the Government proposes to continue with its immigration scheme, it should make more money available to the States so that roads and transport systems can be maintained, and education provided. We must give more money for public schools. Until their needs are satisfied, we should quit all this nonsense of offering money to denominational schools. I want everybody to know that I am not in favour of giving any financial assistance to denominational schools. Let us look after the public schools first.
Much has been said about trade with Russia. I ‘am not very worried about politics in Russia. 1’hat is an internal matter, but why does Russia talk of banning the atomic bomb when it is exploding atomic devices near Norway and Sweden, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to the west of China? Russia has vast areas where it could explode nuclear weapons without endangering neighbouring countries. If Russia wants the atomic bomb banned, why does it noi tell the world when it is going to explode a nuclear device? Every other nation does so. Why does not Russia assure the: world that it has adopted every safety measure that should be used? As long as no international control of atomic energy exists, nuclear tests will continue, but they should not be shrouded in mystery.
I deal finally with trade with Russia. Let me take as examples some of the countries that are neighbours of Russia. Greece, we know, is an exporter of dried fruits, raisins, currants and tobacco, to name just a few of the items. It has had great difficulty in selling any of those goods to the Russians although there is no surplus of them in Russia. Turkey endeavoured to purchase petroleum products from Russia. What was the result? Again and again, it was . rebuffed; Russia did not want Turkey’s trade. In 1954, Great: Britain sent a trade mission to Russia and wrote £400,000,000 worth of business, but so far only £40,000,000 worth of goods ordered in that transaction has been allowed entry to Russia. Switzerland desired to trade with Poland and Roumania, two of Russia’s satellites, but found it could not do so, not only because delivery was uncertain but also because the quality of the goods was poor and the prices demanded were too high. I repeat that no evidence exists that Russia wants to trade with us. Personally - I think the great majority of Australians agree with me - I am not concerned in matters of trade about Russia’s politics provided it observes the usual business conditions and honours agreements. In those circumstances, I for one would be perfectly willing to trade with Russia in spite of what may be said. Then, there is this poppycock about the £30,000,000 mentioned by Senator Hendrickson who told us how the terrible British people bought our wool and resold it to Russia at a profit of £30,000,000. The plain facts are that Great Britain reexported less than 5,000,000 lb. of greasy wool to Russia. I support the printing of the budget papers and oppose the amendment.
– I begin by adding my congratulations to those accorded to the new senators who contributed in such an excellent manner to the budget debate last week, indicating that they, in due course, will render valuable contributions to the many discussions that will transpire in this chamber. We await the maiden speech of Senator Poke from Tasmania and I predict that when it is made he also will receive many congratulations for his contribution.
I readily support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) which reads -
That all the words after “ that “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof: - “ the Estimates and Budget Papers 1956-57 tabled in the Senate are unacceptable and should be rejected because they seek to implement policies which are seriously detrimental in their effect on the interests of Australia and for which the Government deserves to be censured “.
As I analyse the contents of the budget I find it differs very little from budgets that have been presented during the eightyear term of this Government. The theme of this budget, in effect, is “ Tell me the old, old story “. An analysis of it indicates that no equitable distribution of national income has been made. It is alleged that the national income has increased tremendously during the term of this Government; but that income has not been distributed equitably in proportion to the services rendered by the various sections of the community. In the cut-up of the national income, the rich will grow richer and the poor, poorer. A perusal of the contents of the budget verify that statement.
It is proposed to collect in revenue during the year ending 30th June, 1957, by means of direct and indirect taxation, the sum of £1,230,153,000. That sum is approximately £100,000,000 higher than that collected last year when the Government finished with a surplus of approximately £58,000,000. Expenditure upon all facets of Government administration is estimated at £1,121,431,000. The estimated surplus for the year is £108,722,000. It may be considerably higher, taking into consideration the additional population and ‘ the implementation of sales tax that will continue to operate during the current year. In effect, this budget in round figures is £100,000,000 higher than last year’s budget, but in essence it represents less money in circulation than was the case last year. It is the policy of this Government to impose restrictive measures to cope with the problem of inflation. It adopts that policy of restriction in all facets of the national economy, but, at the same time, claims that it will foster national development.
Concurrently, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has submitted a documentary analysis of the economy of the country showing the proposed programme to be undertaken by the Government during the current budget year. We of the Opposition, who comprise the largest single party in the National Parliament, say immediately and definitely that the Government is indifferent to the welfare, security and happiness of most sections of the community because it is giving preferential treatment to its privileged supporters. A perusal of the budget will indicate that fact very definitely. The Government has done nothing to alter any of the conditions of the prosperous section of the community that keeps it in office. The second criticism that I level at the Government is that it has denied justice to the wage-earners. Many of my colleagues have covered all phases of that matter in their speeches, and Government senators will probably be tired if I continue in the same strain. The fact is that the wage-earner in Australia has not received his fair share of the prosperity which Government senators claim that we are now enjoying. We of’ the Opposition do not deny that claim, but we say that the workers have not shared in the prosperity, nor does the Government intend that they should. The budget makes no provision for increasing the wages and living standards of the workers. I invite Government senators who have not yet spoken to show where the Government has fostered the welfare of the Australian worker by giving him his rightful share of the increased prosperity of the country.
The Government deserves censure for its callous and inhuman treatment of age and invalid pensioners. Not a word has been said by Government senators to explain why these people have received no increase in their pension rates. Although the Government proudly presents a budget showing an estimated surplus of £108,000,000, no increase has been made in pension rates. Last year, they were increased by 10s. a week, but since then cost of living has risen tremendously - by no less than 12s. a week. In addition, the Arbitration Court has granted a 10s. a week increase in the basic wage, so that the total rise in the cost of living is 22s. But in spite of these facts the pensioners have received no assistance from this budget. They are in desperate straits, and 85 per cent, of them cannot participate in other benefits provided by the Government - which, by the way, are no greater than those provided by Labour governments. Only 15 per cent, of the aged pensioners are able to take advantage of the income provisions of social service legislation.
I shall not be caustic and critical of the Government altogether, however, because I recognize that it has provided for age and invalid pensioners hospital treatment and medical assistance, but some of them have been deprived of the benefits of medical and physiotherapy treatment. Government promises to pensioners have been ignored.
Newspapers throughout Australia have not been sparing in their criticism of the budget. One described the budget as continuing “ an economic policy of hopelessness “. That is not a phrase which I have coined. The budget gives no evidence of initiative such as would foster public confidence. We must admire the activities of the Department of Trade in its efforts to build up and gain new overseas markets for our primary exports. We know that many handicaps have made this task difficult, and that the activities of departmental officers overseas have been stultified by the fact that other nations have been able to capture markets abroad in which Australia at one time was favorably situated. I have been amazed that this Government has allowed that favorable situation to deteriorate. The Government, is: also rigidly avoiding the fostering of trade in markets adjacent to our shares. I was elated a week or two ago to read in a Sydney newspaper that private traders had entered the markets of red China at Canton with samples which were eagerly purchased. The person who conducted the sales was, I think, a Queenslander, and he was most enthusiastic about the potentialities of the Chinese market which, if exploited, would bring tremendous benefit to the Australian exporter, particularly of primary products, the sale of which is lagging so lamentably now. The Australian export industries need new hope and virility injected into them.
What has the Government done to curb inflation? Have all sections of the community been asked to participate in an allout war against inflation? Has the Government given a lead in this direction? It. promised to lead an attack on inflation by reducing costs, but according to this budget its attack has been on only one section of the community. It has attacked the wages of the workers. But prices have continued to rise, and all economic standards other than wages standards have risen also. The Government’s so-called attack on inflation is only an excuse for an attack on the workers’ wages. What is the situation which has developed? Unemployment is beginning to spread. The Opposition has every justification for demanding full employment. Full employment is vital to the workers - to the men who build the homes and develop the economy of this country. The community enjoyed a period of full employment under the Labour Government, but now we find unemployment rearing its ugly head. Those of us who experienced the conditions obtaining during the 30’s know only too well how this situation can snowball until it becomes a national calamity. Unless we can develop our internal economy concurrently with our export markets, we shall have growing unemployment within our borders. That is only simple economics. This Government has also dissipated our overseas balances, no doubt in order to pander to the privileged sections of the community which support its policy. It has certainly imposed import restrictions, but even in this respect its policy has been so ineffective that last year our overseas balances declined by £73,000,000 to the low figure of £282,000,000. In addition, the country has been put into pawn by the raising of further international loans, thus adding to the burden that must be borne by future generations.
The Government is deserving of. censure also for not only continuing, but also, increasing, without even minor adjustment,, the iniquitous and vicious sales tax. I wast delighted to hear Senator Critchley and Senator Robertson condemning the Government for its policy in this connexion this, afternoon. It is tragic to think that the Government proposes to collect £130,000,000 by way of sales tax this year as against £110,879,879 derived from this source last year. That increase of £20,000,000, together with an additional £43,946,303 proposed to be raised by way of excise duty will have a terrific impact, upon the community life of the average worker. The major part of the additional £20,000,000 to be raised by sales tax will be levied on food items required by the workers at every meal he takes during the year. I remind honorable senators too, that although the industrial court fixes a basic wage on a formula which gives recognition to the purchases by the workers of such essentia] foods as butter, sugar, eggs and meat, and even recognizes the fact that the worker is required to pay a union fee each year, it gives no consideration whatever to the amount of sales tax paid by that worker on the food he must buy. That being so, the effect of this increase of sales tax. is that the Government is consciously and deliberately penetrating the wage envelope of the worker to the extent of 2s. 6d. in the £1. By that means it will derive the phenomenal amount of £130,000,000 in revenue this year. ‘
Sales tax was- imposed originally by this Government’s predecessors as a war-time measure, and the community gladly accepted it as such. As the war years receded, the incidence of sales tax was gradually reduced, and in the last year of its term, the Chifley Government collected only £37,000,000 from this source. If it had remained in office longer, sales tax would have been abolished altogether. The present Government, however, continued the imposition of sales tax to the extent that the revenue derived from this source has now reached the alarming figure of £130,000,000 a year. It is possible, too, that it will seek to collect another £20,000,000 by this means next year. The housewife has to budget according to what her weekly wage envelope contains. When we consider what she must buy in essential foods each week, we realize that sales tax absorbs from 10s. to 12s. 6d. of the contents of that wage envelope. Indirectly, that takes from the family 12s. 6d. a week, and the pegging of the basic wage denies the worker another 14s. a week to which he is entitled.
– It is sheer robbery.
– Yes, indirectly the Government is denying to the workers the standard of living to which they are entitled. This budget has been criticized caustically by the supporters of the Government. One of the most carping criticisms was made by Sir Frank Richardson, on behalf of the retail traders of Australia. He described the Government’s policy, as manifested in the budget, as hopeless. His statement to that effect was published by the Melbourne “Herald”. The Adelaide “News” stated that the budget would not assist the Government to overcome its balance of trade difficulties.
This budget grants benefits estimated to cost approximately £2,000,000 a year. As one of my colleagues has said, that is only chicken feed. The budget has not reduced taxation. In the last few years, previous budgets have provided for trivial reductions of taxation which, I suppose, the workers accepted with appreciation as a gesture by the Government. They felt that the Government had diverted some of its surplus revenue into the general economic pool for redistribution to the workers. In one year, the reduction of taxation was about 3s. 6d. a week on the average wages of the workers, and in the following year about ls. 3d. a week. In addition, small additional benefits were granted to the pensioners. But this budget grants no benefits whatever to the underdogs. As I said earlier, there will be less money available for public works, and the overall spending power of the community will be reduced. As a result, there will be a reduction of the rate of development. Already, the budget has had an adverse effect on the building industry, in which unemployment is now apparent. The budget proposes to increase charges for various services provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
It is implicit in the budget speech that the Government believes that the automatic quarterly adjustment of wages under the State wages systems should be abolished. After the recent conference in Canberra between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the newspapers stated that the New South Wales Government had declined to comply with the Commonwealth’s request to abandon the quarterly automatic wage adjustment system. Therefore, the Commonwealth failed to attain its objective, which was that the various State tribunals should follow the lead of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the determination of wage rates. As we know, wages under awards of the court have been frozen for the last three years. According to the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the workers in the various capital cities have been deprived of the following amounts through wage freezing: Sydney, £42 3s.; Melbourne, £48; Brisbane, £56 9s.; Adelaide, £55 16s.; Hobart, £85 14s.; and Perth, £154 12s. In addition, the Government has taken no action to protect the interests of the workers when application?, have been before the court.
It will be recalled that the court granted marginal increases of two and a halt times the 1937 margins. Of course, the catch was that in 1937, prior to the war. there were not so many industrial undertakings as there were immediately after the war. Consequently, the two-and-a-hall times formula did not benefit the employees, in many industries. It benefited only skilled workers in industries that have been carried on in Australia for many years. Therefore, about 75 per cent, of semiskilled workers and process workers have been denied increased margins under the formula. In South Australia to-day, the basic wage is £12 ls., and the marginal payment £3 15s., making a total of £15 16s a week. Very few workers in industry in South Australia receive more than that The difference between the standard wage in South Australia, and that in Victoria and New South Wales is about 5s. or 6s. a week. As I said before, as a result of the freezing of wages in 1953, the workers are losing approximately 14s. a week. lt has been argued that Labour has presented a case for controls, and that over and over again the Opposition has claimed that the remedy for the present inflationary situation lies in the re -imposition of controls. We make no claim that the reintroduction of prices control would overcome the present difficulties, but we do contend that all workers should be placed on an equitable wage basis. The workers observe the instructions and determinations of the industrial courts. There may be some occasional dislocation of that philosophy, but, in the main, the workers of Australia have made an important contribution to the progress of this nation. They have proved their value over and over again in times of crisis and necessity, and yet their share in the economy is a fixed wage and set working conditions. Is it not logical that if the reward of the workers, is fixed, other sections of the community should not have a free and open go? The Opposition says that if the conditions of the workers are subject to law, then every other part of the economy should also be subject to the law. Not only have the members of the Labour party advocated that policy; even sections of employers! have also openly declared that some governmental action should be taken to bring about uniformity in the price structure. They have advocated something like the anti-trust laws of America.
Positive action should be taken to fix the prices of goods and services in all parts of our economy in order to prevent further inflation. At the present time, due to our inflationary situation, private organizations are skimming the cream off the investment market and government instrumentalities are getting only what is left. High profits are being made, but the wages of the workers are being kept down so that the workers themselves are not able to get their proper share of the national income. I was hoping that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) would interject when I said that, but he has remained silent.
– He is giving the honorable senator a good hearing.
– I appreciate the hearing that all honorable senators are giving me. . Honorable senators on the Government side have claimed that it is the Opposition’s view that prices control would solve all our problems. We do not say that; but we do say that it would go a long way towards solving the problem of inflation. We should have a stable price level, together with control over the price of labour. The efficacy of such a system was demonstrated during World War II. While Labour governments were in office from 1941 to 1947, the cost of living increased by only about 27s. That shows that during that time we had a stable economy.
– But what about 1948?
– The honorable senator knows the answer to that question. When prices control was lifted, prices increased, according to the cost of living figures, by 10s. or. Ils. in one year. Prices control is not a complete answer to our problem, but it would help to stabilize our economy. In South Australia, the basic wage has been frozen, ‘ following the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1953, for about three years. The only basic wage increase in that State was an increase of 10s. granted by the State courts. Nevertheless, in South Australia, prices have increased to almost the same extent as they have increased in the eastern States.
– -The honorable senator should not forget that prices also are controlled in South Australia.
– I do not wish to be too hard on my South Australian colleagues; but let us compare the cost of living in Queensland with that in South Australia. There is no prices control in Queensland, and the basic wage in that State has increased according to increases in the C series index. In three years, prices in Brisbane increased by 8.7 per cent.; but in South Australia, where wages are pegged and prices are controlled, prices increased by 9.6 per cent.
– So prices increased in South Australia in spite of prices control?
– That is so; but State control of prices cannot operate effectively in seven different States. Under section 92 of the Constitution, trade between the States must be free and inviolate; and during the recent potato shortage trade operated freely between the States. State prices control has been tried, and has been found to be unsuccessful. The only way a successful system of prices control can be operated is to have it introduced and administered by the Commonwealth. I hope that I have established that point to the satisfaction of honorable senators.
– Not to the satisfaction of all of us.
– 1 appreciate the support given by Senator Critchley and Senator Robertson to my argument about sales tax. It is the Government’s policy to restrict spending. Consequently, it has imposed heavy sales tax which leaves less in the wage packets of the workers. There is also little overtime and special time worked in industry now, and the Government has, by its policy of restrictions, further decreased the amount of money going to the workers. There is less spending in the community, and consequently less consumption. That means that the larger the family the less it will be able to buy, because each additional child in a family is now an additional hardship.
The Government’s policy also has a detrimental effect on our primary industries. I have placed this matter before the Senate time and time again. Although the markets for our primary products are shrinking, the Government’s policy of restrictions has made things all the harder for those engaged in primary industry. The consumption of essential foods has decreased during the last two years. The official figures for last year show there was a decrease of about 5 per cent, in the quantity of groceries, clothing, drapery and footwear purchased by the people.
Representatives of the baking industry have forwarded to me a circular letter, enclosing a letter that had been sent to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), asking that representations be made for the removal of sales tax from items processed by that industry. The letter is so long that I shall not read it, but I shall’ present to the Senate one or two points contained in it. The: representatives of - that industry said that they accepted the imposition of sales tax by the- Menzies-Fadden coalition in 1940 as a war-time measure. The tax was retained during the period of office of the Ure Mc. Chifley, lt rose to 10 per cent. and then to 12i per cent. At the end of the war it was reduced to 10 per cent, and then to 8£ per cent., and members of the trade looked forward to its complete abolition. However, this Government has increased the tax to the war-time peak of 12i per cent. The letter further states that every item produced by the industry is subject to sales tax. There is not one item that any honorable senator can name that has not been brought within the sales tax dragnet. The imposition of sales tax upon these commodities affects the primary industries also, because the baking industry is a field in which the sale of primary products could be stimulated. Senator Robertson illustrated the economic effect of the tax by stating that every time a housewife pays 3s. 6d. for a pound of fruit cake, she makes a contribution of 3?d. to the Commonwealth Treasury.
My information reveals that the trade has made representations for the abolition of the tax as it affects that industry, but the Government, true to its form of delaying until the morrow in the hope that something will turn up, has stated that the matter was being, considered and would be further -considered when the next budget was introduced.
The Senate may remember the question I asked about last October in relation to last year’s Christmas parcels for pensioners. I also wrote to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), but he did not have the decency to reply. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in this chamber, stated’ that he would obtain the information and inform me accordingly. I am still awaiting his reply.
– The Minister did not say which Christmas.
– Perhaps he meant this Christmas. The primary industries are seriously affected by the proposals con,tained in the budget. If it were not for the: fact that the primary industries were heavily subsidized, I feel sure that they would actively support the abolition of the sales tax, because it would have the effect, of putting an added volume of money into circulation and increasing spending power and consumption. A perusal of the Estimates reveals that subsidies paid during this financial year will be £2,542,670 less than: the sum provided under this heading last year. The reason is that the subsidy on tea has been removed. It follows automatically that the price will rise. The removal of that subsidy will hit the pensioner heavily. And his standard of living will be further reduced.
I wish now to direct the attention of the Senate to the reduced consumption of necessary food items.. The community is being forced to purchase the cheaper items of food, instead of foods that are essential for the building of a healthy community. My point could be substantiated by an examination of a report on food production and the consumption of foodstuffs and nutrients in Australia. The subject is too comprehensive for me to deal with fully. It is sufficient to state that the two essential items for the human body are vitamin A and minerals. Those elements are contained principally in milk and milk products. Last year, the production of milk rose by 2,000,000 gallons. The production of condensed and concentrated milk dropped by 7,000 tons, powdered milk by 2,000 tons, milk products for infants and invalids by 1,600 tons, and cheese by 2,600 tons. The calorific values of butter, oils and fats is also high. Last year, the production of butter rose by 800 tons. That may have been due to the fact that we exported a little more and made the Australian community pay higher prices on the domestic market. The production of margarine rose by 1,100 tons. It is no wonder that the production of margarine rose, because it is a substitute for butter and, as the community’s purchasing power has deteriorated, it has been forced to take the cheaper lines. The production of other margarine fats, lards and vegetable oils dropped by 100 tons. Production is also down in the greatest field of all - vegetables, both fresh and canned. They have high calorific value and mineral content. There has been no increase in the production of any type of breakfast cereal. The Government is doing nothing to sell our surplus primary products overseas, and it is ignoring the market that exists in Australia.
I support the amendment because the lack of balance in the economy continues tinder this Government which has imposed extortionate indirect taxation, has made no real effort to increase the living standard of the workers, and has treated the pensioners inhumanly. Meanwhile, there is growing unemployment, the loan market has been destroyed, and hopelessness marches on.
– I could talk about many things in this budget-
– Do not do that.
– I know that it is agony for Senator Anderson to listen to anything intelligent, but I want to say something different about the budget. Senator Anderson has listened to so much drivel about putting value back into the £1 that, when he hears something intelligent, he wakes up. I do not mind interruptions, as long as they are to the point. This Government has won three elections, if not four, on huge political frauds. It has never even started to tackle our economic problems. It was elected first on its promise to put value into the £1. After a year or so, things were very bad, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said to himself, “I had better have another election. But there is no use having it on the value of the £1, because value has gone out of the £1. I will have to get something else “.
So the Prime Minister thought up the Communist bogy, and said that the Labour party was dominated and controlled by the Communists. Of course, it was a lie, and everybody on the Government side knows that it was a lie.
– The people did not know.
– In the main, the people are like Senator Marriott; they are inclined to believe propaganda, but the truth eventually dawns on the majority, and maybe it will dawn on Senator Marriott to-morrow. As this lie has been told for seven years, however, if Senator Marriott has not awakened to it yet, there is little chance that he will do so. The election to which I was referring was not fought on putting value back into the £1, but on the Communist bogy that was raised by the Government. I defy any supporter of the Government to point to any member of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament who is connected, directly or indirectly, with the Communist party. I challenge members of the Liberal party to say that one member of this chamber or of the House of Representatives is associated with the Communist party. It is easy to make charges, but it is not so easy to prove them when challenged.
Mr. Menzies was elected again. Then he had another election, based on the same sort of propaganda. I remember when members of the Labour party visited the coal-fields during a strike. The late Mr. Ben Chifley was talking to me about the claim by the Liberal party that it would handle the Communists. He said, “This is not a strike in the ordinary sense of the word. The Communist leader, Williams, has admitted that in the cold war, the Communists have gained more in a couple of years than in the previous thirteen years “.
The situation in Australia became worse. Then the Government discovered a gentleman named Petrov. This man admitted in his own book, “ My Story “, that he was an associate of assassins. If there are too many Scotsmen in this chamber, and they will not buy the book, they can read it in the Parliamentary Library. This Government used Petrov to perpetrate the greatest political fraud Australia has known. Petrov referred in his book to the butchering of Leon Trotsky. He said that the man who killed Trotsky was not very careful and blood was spilt all over the place, but if his colleague - a man who murdered a Soviet ambassador with one blow from a pick - had done the job, the world would never have known about it. This Petrov is a very nice gentleman, is he not? This is the man who is being kept by Australia.
An inquiry, of which Petrov was the centre, was held. We did not know until after the general election that Petrov received £5,000 from the Government; and after the elections, of course, it did not matter very much because the Government had been returned to office. The Government deliberately made sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was not in the House of Representatives when the news about Petrov was broken. I met the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he came out of the House of Representatives that night. The prima donna, Menzies, had made his announcement. Mr. Calwell asked me whether I knew anything about Petrov.
– Why did he ask you?
– He asked an intelligent man. If he had taken one look at Senator Marriott, he would have caught the next tram to get away from him as quickly as possible. I told the honorable member for Melbourne that Petrov was a friend of Beria, and Beria was from Georgia, the birth place of Stalin. They had assassinated the best men that Russia produced, and Russia has produced some good men who gave their lives to the revolution. I am not criticizing or praising the revolution, but I make that statement of fact. Petrov had participated in the butchery of those men. Now that Beria was dead, he intended to make a virtue of necessity, and he discovered that Australia was a very nice country. Like every other person who had been close to Stalin, he knew that he would lose his head. So the Government led by Mr. Menzies fought an election on the Petrov affair.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is not like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan). He knows a good deal about some things, and he is very clever. I know he has been an accountant. He told us the other night that everything in the garden was lovely, there is no need for controls, and that the national income was much more fairly distributed than it was ever before.
The Government has issued a White Paper. I do not profess to know too much about figures, but I know a little about them. It discloses that in 1952-53 farm income represented 13.9 per cent, of the total income. In 1953-54 it decreased to 11.8 per cent.; in 1954-55 to 9.7 per cent, and in 1955-56 to 8 per cent. Then we come to wages.
– The honorable senator has the red paper instead of the white one.
– This is not the Salvation Army; I do not need any hallelujahs. I am now talking to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He is not like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan), who says, “You can rest assured that the Government will do the right thing “. The Minister for National Development knows enough to know what to say and what not ito say. He said that the working people were doing very well and that the entrepreneurs were doing very badly. The figures for wages and salaries include executives, I presume. They are highly paid officers who are given all kinds of allowances as part of their salary. The figure for 1952 was 48.5 per cent.; in 1953-54 it was 47.8 per cent.; in 1954-55 it was 48 per cent, and in 1955-56 it was still 48 per cent. It went down by i per cent, from 1952 to 1956. Then we have what they call free enterprise income. That is what we have here. In 1952-53 this amounted to 9.9 per cent, of the total income; in 1953-54 to 9.9 per cent.; in l954-55?to 10 per cent, and in 1955-56 it remained at 10 per cent.
Next, we come to interest, which is very important, of course, because in times of inflation interest must go up. It is a great pity that we have memories. I remember the Minister for National Development-
– Why does not the honorable senator have a go at somebody else?
– Mincemeat of one at a time will do me. We will have a little bit of lamb’s fry and bacon later on. I was really reared on filet mignon
– It did not fatten the honorable senator very much.
– Senator Maher has just wakened up. Where has he been? I do not mind if he wants to chip in; that will be quite all right with me. Interest rates do rise during inflation. It is all very well for honorable senators to turn the debate into a joke, but is what I am saying right or wrong? With the rise in inflation, of course interest rates must go up and I remember the Minister for National Development, who, I believe, is an accountant - he has not accounted for very much here - having something to say in regard to loan raising. I might say that when Mr. Chifley was in office every loan was oversubscribed at 3i per cent, and 3i per cent. I remember the Minister for National Development saying, “ How the people subscribe to loans is a criterion of the condition of a country “. The people have not subscribed to the present Government’s loans. Why? Here is how interest rates have gone up. In 1950, 34.1 per cent, of the total money went in interest. This is the prosperity the Government is talking about. In 1951, 37.1 per cent, went in interest; in 1953, 48.1 per cent.; in 1954, 55 per cent., and in 1956, 70.6 per cent, went in interest. A very prosperous country! It all depends on how one looks at it.
– 70.6 per cent, of what?
– This is taken from the White Paper. A lady senator has said that this is a wonderful country. Of course it is, for the people who are on the easy end of it. There was a very famous Irish song written by Tom Moore. It is quite appropriate. It is called, “ Dear Vale of Avoca “. In it, he describes how there is not in this wide world a valley so sweet; it is a very beautiful place I believe, although I have never been there - the fare was too dear. However, a tramp wrote -
Dear Vale of Avoca, Tom Moore calls thee sweet.
But if Tom had to walk twenty miles in bare feet,
And sleep out at night without blanket or sheet. He’d not give a damn whether bright waters meet.
It is all right for those on top incomes talking about the pensioners. But what is going to happen to the pensioners? Are they going to be exterminated? What is to happen to the people who are saving a tew pounds for their old age? Has the Government any policy? Its policy is to drift from day to . day, hoping, like Micawber. that something will turn up.
Having said that, I want to finish with what. I want to say about Mr. Petrov. The Government won the election. It was won on the fraud of Petrov. Nothing was found out about the Communist party, although £135,000 was spent. On what? The Government made a mess of that inquiry as it has made a mess of everything else. Everybody knew that Lockwood was a Communist. Let honorable senators opposite tell us about it. If they have no time now, let them tell us next week. What did the Government find out? We all know that the tactics of the Communist party are to get in and get all the information they can and give it to the Communist party of Russia. What did the Government find out? As a matter of fact, the Communist party, as a result of that inquiry, found out more about the security service than the security service found out about the Communist party.
– What rot!
– Why did not the Government gaol them if it found out anything? Compare what this Government did with what happened in Canada. .1 happened to be in Canada at the time. Over there they obtained certain information from the security service, but they did noi do what was done here, publish photographs all over the world. When I was in Africa the whole thing was a laughing stock. They said to me, “ What sort of a country do you come from? Here is the head of your security service with his photograph on the front page - ‘I am Spry, the head of the security service ‘.” What did they do in Canada? They found out as much as they possibly could, and when they obtained the information they arrested the people concerned and sentenced them to long terms of imprisonment. Nobody has been gaoled in Australia, and the Communist party has gone on just the same.
I have been opposed to the Communist party since 1917. I knew they could not do what they were trying to do, jump from slavery through any other stages that might exist into socialism. It was an impossibility. This Government got away with the whole thing because it had the press and radio behind it, and now it has television. I think I will leave it at that.
There are a few more things I want to speak about. I said that Mr. Menzies never finished anything. Before the last general election he said, “ We will be returned and will undo the situation in the Senate “. How did he undo it? Now he has a minority whereas he had a majority before. He went to Victoria - I was there - and he said, “As a simple Presbyterian . . .” - I am one myself; you try to get a quid out of me and you’ll find out whether I am or not - he said, “ As a simple Presbyterian I want to congratulate the groupers ‘ on the good work they are doing “. Now, he has two of them around his neck and I hope he loves it. A constitutional committee has been appointed on which Senator McKenna represents the Labour party. It consists of representatives of all parties, and Senator Spicer, before he retired from this House, was the chairman. But where is the inquiry? If an election were held after a double dissolution only one-eleventh of the total votes in a State would be needed to win a seat in this House. The Anti-Communist Labour party can easily get one-eleventh of the votes in Victoria, and if that happens again the Government will have more of them around its neck.
– Around whose neck?
– The neck of the honorable senator’s party. The Prime Minister went to Victoria and paid a compliment to the ‘* groupers “. He even played the sectarian racket. He said, “As a simple Presbyterian “ - that was an appeal to the conservative Scottish element which exists in large numbers in Victoria - and largely as a result of his appeal one of the so-called Anti-Communist Labour representatives was elected to the Senate. That is how the Prime Minister has cleaned up the political situation. He said: “ I cannot work with the way the parties are represented in Parliament now; I am going to the people. I want to control the Senate “. Now we see how he has gained that control. The constitutional committee has been set up to find out, among many things, what the Government would do if a double dissolution of the Parliament occurred. But where is the committee? So far it has written no report.
The Prime Minister went to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, but I do not know where he is or where his report of that conference is, although he has been away from Australia for three or four months. We have heard nothing about it. It must have been a lovely sort of conference, with Nehru on one side and Strijdom on the other.
The Government has promised that inflation would be controlled, and that the position would be better in two or three months’ time. The Prime Minister then said it would be better in six months. He used this sort of appeal to the workers. He would not appeal to the women, but he told the men what they should do and how the Government would balance its overseas payments. His Government was elected under more favorable circumstances than prevailed in any country. When his Government came into office in 1949, Australia’s overseas trade balance was in credit to the extent of £700,000,000 sterling. Since then Australia has had prolific seasons. Those of us who have been long enough in Australia can recall terrible droughts, but as one travels through the country now it is so beautiful everywhere, as a result of the good seasons, that one can hardly believe that it is the same land.
When the present Government was elected in 1949, Australia had everything for which overseas markets were clamouring. When the present government in Great Britain was elected, all British investments abroad had been eaten up because of the demands of war at a time when Britain was fighting alone, and before the United States of America joined the conflict. Great Britain had to buy our goods as cheaply as it could.
– That .is not correct.
Senator -GRANT: - If the honorable senator can tell the British Government where it can buy its raw materials cheaper, I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be pleased to know. The British Government was in a bad position, but Australia had everything the world needed. Now the value of its overseas balances has been enormously depreciated. The amount has been reduced to a.bout £400,000,000, and now it would not purchase as much as £200,000,000 would have purchased when the Curtin Labour Government was in office. The Government boasts about the prosperity of Australa. We are doing so wonderfully well that we cannot even build a road. Section 92 of the Constitution allows heavy motor transport vehicles to come across the borders of our States and cut up the roads without any obligation to contribute to the cost of their repair. The people have to pay for it out of taxation.
According to a news item in this evening’s press, the economic situation in New South Wales is such that, in contrast to the prosperity about which Senator Spooner speaks, the amount of money allocated to the Mitchell Public Library for the purchase of new books has been exhausted, and no more can be provided to buy volumes which are urgently sought. In Sydney, tram fares are so high that if one asks his friend, “ Are you going on the tram? “ his reply is, “ No, I cannot afford to ride on the trams, they are too dear; I am taking a taxi “. That may be a slight exaggeration, but that is the impression of the economic situation in New South Wales, in spite of all this Government says about prosperity.
Recently, I heard the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Bolte), in a radio broadcast, say that all his government could afford for the repair of roads is gravel. I have listened many times to government proposals for arresting inflation. When the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister, people readily invested in war loans, because they knew that their money would retain its value. The then Opposition parties, for the purpose of political gain, canvassed the armed services for investments and said, “Put your money in, boys; when the war is over and we have beaten the Japanese, we will look after you “. Suppose they had said, “When the war is over, we will, let the profiteers go for their lives, and your wages will be pegged “, how would the war effort have fared?
I could make many suggestions about how to tackle inflation. The first would be to decentralize industries and take them to areas where the raw material can be produced. Flour mills have been established in the country, but much of the wheat is brought to the city to be ground into flour. The Government is bringing more immigrants into the country. The other night, a Government senator spoke about Chinese Communists and pointed out that since they have gained power in China they have become a menace. He suggested that one way of keeping them out of Australia would be to increase the number of immigrants coming in. My colleagues, Senator Cameron and Senator Kennelly, will probably recall, as I can, scenes in Melbourne in 1920 when immigrants carried banners in the streets asking to be taken back to England. If more immigrants come into Australia that sort of thing is likely to happen again. The workers will not be looking for Communists, but they will be looking for jobs. I have no prejudice against southern Europeans or any other good types of immigrants, but the housing situation in Australia is so bad at the present time that no more immigrants should be brought into Australia until a far greater percentage of Australians has been provided with housing. The newspapers recently reported a tragedy which would not have happened if the parties concerned had decent housing. Such happenings, in such circumstances, are certainly not good advertisements for Australia.
Now I turn to affairs in the Middle East. It is three or four weeks now since we received the first intimation of the Middle East crisis, yet so far we have not officially heard one word about it here. It has been discussed in the House of Commons, but we in Australia have heard nothing. We all have to wait until the great gentleman tells us exactly what has happened. And honorable senators opposite talk about democratic government! I and my colleagues have been saying that the economy of Australia is in a bad way. The Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies said, when he was overseas that he was coming back to a battered economy.
– He did not make any such statement.
– Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I do not know whether he made that statement or not, but the fact is that he has come back to a battered economy. I am merely saying what has been published in the press, and the following article from to-night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ is of interest: -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, now denies having told newspaper reporters in America last Saturday that he was returning to Australia to deal with his “ somewhat battered domestic affairs.”
But a group of correspondents who interviewed him there, including an Australian Associated Press reporter, say that Mr. Menzies did make the remark and that they chuckled with him over it.
I do not blame him for chuckling, either. If he had been thinking of the people he left behind, he should have been actually laughing all the time. The article continues -
Publication of that phrase caused a greatstir amongst Cabinet Ministers and the Government parties. It was interpreted as a reflection on Ministers’ handling of domestic Administration while Mr. Menzies was abroad.
The Herald Canberra representative, E. H. Cox, reports today that Mr. Menzies told a party meeting yesterday that he did not make the remark. Later a Government spokesman quoted Mr. Menzies as having said, “The report is a complete fiction.”
Australian Associated Press cabled today from Washington that correspondents who reported Mr. Menzies’ departure from Washington last Saturday were surprised at the denial.
Mr. Menzies had had an impromptu Press interview in the presidential room at the Washington national airport fifteen minutes before he flew to San Francisco.
Mr. Menzies refused to make any comment on the Suez Canal problem, but volunteered his remark about returning to his “battered domestic affairs.”
Among correspondents at the interview who quoted the phrase in their reports were those from the great American newsagencies - Associated Press, United Press, International News Service - and the Australian Associated Press. The New York Times reports also quoted it.
Four of the group of correspondents, including the A.A.P. reporter, said today that Mr. Menzies used the phrase.
– I am not suggesting anything; I am merely quoting what press representatives say and what he says.
– Why does not the honorable senator get on with his speech and refrain from sinking to such depths?
– Then, the Prime Minister says that nobody has ever talked about force. I suggest that the honorable senator read what the Prime Minister said about Mr. Nasser before he left. I have no time for Nasser; I know what these Egyptians are like, but the Prime Minister says that nobody talked about force, that any one who suggests such a thing must be dreaming. Why, I listened to the radio one night and I heard that the 1st Battalion of Cameron Highlanders had left Malaya for Egypt. Did they go there merely to show the Egyptians their sporrans? The next night I heard that a certain aircraft carrier had arrived at Southampton for overhaul. Then, I heard that the French had walked into Cyprus. Did they walk in merely to see the time? After that, that great intellectual Samson, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), like the mountain that laboured and brought forth a mouse, said he was going to send 900 troops over in batches of 300 at a time!
In reply to Senator Kendall, I simply say that I do not know whether the statements published in the press are true or false;
I am simply quoting what was published. At the beginning, it was suggested that Nasser had no legal right to nationalize the canal. An international lawyer now tells us that he has that right. The ramifications of this situation are terrific. I have no time for Nasser at all, but we have heard much talk about dictatorship. Was there ever a dictatorship like that which we have here at the moment when all the people of Australia are waiting for one man, this great oracle, to tell us what Nasser said to him and what he said to Nasser? This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. The Commonwealth conference is over, and we have been treated with contempt. So far as I know, no report has been made about it.
Again, we have heard nothing about the commission that was appointed to inquire into the question of altering the Commonwealth Constitution. I have asked questions day after day and received no reply, although I must exempt the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) from that accusation because he did give me an answer the other day. We of the Opposition are treated with absolute contempt in this chamber. We are never given answers to worth-while questions. I and my friend, Senator Cameron, have asked questions repeatedly and received no answers. Senator Cameron has even found it necessary to go so far as to object to a Minister’s impudence while answering questions. We are given no information at all. We have no desire to wreck the economy of the country, but the position is getting worse every day. Among Government members it seems to be a case of the blind leading the blind. The Government does not seem to have any platform or programme, and every honorable senator on the Government side knows in his heart that that is true.
– We always seem to get the majority of the votes.
– What is the matter with Senator Scott?
– Does the honorable senator want another election? Has he seen the results of the latest gallup poll?
– One would not need to gallop very hard to catch up with the honorable senator. I do wish he would not interrupt. We on this side would like to help the country. In actual fact, the Government cannot do without us, as was proved the last time the country was faced with a crisis. When war was upon us, the Government went to Mr. Curtin and said, “ For’ God’s sake, Mr. Curtin, can you do anything? Can you do something to help us?” Mr. Curtin agreed to help, and the government of the country was handed. over to him. When that happened, we found but exactly what things were like; and they are worse in the economic field now than they were in the military field at that time. I remember Mr. Chifley saying that he was against granting a big increase in pensions. He said, “ Unless we can stabilize our currency, nothing else matters “. That is as true to-day as it was then. When we were discussing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill earlier this year, I said that it mattered not whether wages were fixed by arbitration or by any other method; if the cost of living continued to rise, there would be industrial trouble. On the occasion that Mr. Chifley was discussing pensions he said, “ Of what use is it to put up pensions by 2s. 6d. a week if, in three months’ time, the pensioners will be worse off? “ I emphasize, that unless the currency is stable, nothing is any good. If honorable senators opposite would like to know just how much the Australian currency is worth, they should see how much they can get for £1 outside Australia.
I come now to the question of sending Australian troops abroad. The time has come when no Prime Minister, irrespective of party, should be in a position to dictate a policy which could mean life or death to tens of thousands of Australians. Yet, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) does not intend to make a statement to the Parliament on the Suez Canal crisis until next Tuesday evening. Why not? What about the anxiety of many women who are wondering whether or not their sons will be sent abroad? Why cannot Marco Polo make a statement earlier? The right honorable gentleman has treated honorable senators opposite with contempt. They are merely following his “ no policy “ policy, which is going on and on. I, for one, have done my best to direct attention to the state of affairs. In return, I have been called a pessimist and a Jeremiah. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that if one goes far enough east he will go west. If things continue to go as they have been going, the supporters of the Government will become Jeremiahs within twelve months.
I should like to repeat a story that I have told in this chamber before. On the boat by which I travelled from Vancouver to Sydney some years ago, there were several ecclesiastics, with whom I had private conservations. I shall not mention their names. One of these important gentlemen said to me: “ Formerly, I was against prices control. I have since been to America and seen what is happening there. Now that I know what American visitors to Sydney can buy with their dollars, I think that it is the most marvellous thing in the world.” After the war was over, and the boys came back home with plenty of money, the prices control regulations were lifted. Likewise, capital issues control was abandoned. Shortly afterwards, people came here from Europe and started factories to manufacture all sorts of things, including fancy ear-rings. In those days, it was not uncommon for the newcomers to Australia to offer workers increased pay to work for them. For instance, they might offer a concrete worker, who was receiving £7 a week, an increase of £1 a week to leave his employment and work for them. It was not long before these people were making a profit of from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, on their invested capital, because of rising prices. Then followed the grazing boom. The Government became worried over the greatly enhanced incomes that were being received by the wool-growers, and decided to skim off a percentage of their incomes; but it was not long before the Government got windy, and returned to the graziers the money that it took from them.
– I did not see any of it.
– Senator Maher got his share of it. As we know, the graziers employ less labour per capita than any other industry in the world. A member of the upper House in New South Wales recently told me that he set up his son on a beautiful property at that time, and that the boy now owns a big house at Manly. With their enlarged incomes, the graziers commenced to buy up shares, and so up went the share market. Many of them, also, went for trips around the world. No longer were they satisfied with little cars. Not on your life - the order of the day was Jaguars! The general attitude to life of the graziers in those days was, “ Eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die “.
I come now to the position that confronts a certain section of the community. I refer to the people who, during their working lives, saved something every week in order to establish for themselves an income of £6 or £7 a week when they reached 65 or 70 years of age. I assure honorable senators that I know scores of people - ships’ captains and mates, surveyors, doctors and others - who set aside what they thought was a sufficient amount for the time when they might not be able to work any longer. In addition to saving for their old age, many of these people provided their children with a good education. But what is their position to-day? It is idle for supporters of the Government to assert that the currency is stable when these people in the 65 to 70 years of age group are trembling in their shoes.
Recently, I met a doctor who had retired some years ago. I said to him, “ What are you doing these days? “ He replied, “lam practising again “. I said, “ I thought you retired”. He replied, “So did I, but I have been forced to resume my practice for economic reasons “. That has been one effect of inflation. What is the Government going to do about it? Does it propose to hold another election and merely talk about controlling the Senate? I want to know what the Government intends to do to correct the present inflationary situation. That is the only subject worth talking about. It is futile for Government senators to assert that wages are high and that, therefore, the workers are enjoying a good standard of living. We must consider the matter in the light of what can be bought with the wages of to-day. As I have said before, many people who have saved for their old age cannot afford to retire; they must go on working, or look to their children for support. I am convinced that honorable senators opposite know in their hearts that what I am saying is true. They also realize the effect that a serious drop in the price of wool would have on Australia’s economy.
In 1949, Australia was the most stable country in the world. When I was in the
East during that year, traders frequently said to me, “ We will take all the Australian £1 notes that you have “. But what is the position to-day? If one were to approach Indian money-changers in Singapore or elsewhere with Australian £1 notes, he would be told “Take them away; they are no good “. The Government parties have promised repeatedly to restore value to the £1, but value has continued to flow out of the £1 every year since they came to office. This Government has fooled the people for long enough. It is all very well for supporters of the Government to laugh at some of the jokes I crack. I like cracking jokes. But, seriously, this country - my country and yours-
– It is a great country, too.
– Unlike the honorable senator who has just interjected, I helped to make it great by fighting for free speech and getting my head split open by batons in the process. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It is a fine country for Senator Robertson and a fine country for me on the salary that we are getting, but it is becoming a worse country every minute for the workers. Every time wages are increased by1s. they have to pay out1s. 6d. because of the mounting inflation in this country. The Government has no policy, it refuses to deal with inflation, and it believes that the devil should take the hindmost. The Government does not know where it is going. It asks the Opposition to give it a policy, but we do not have to do anything. We are not the Government; and it seems to me that even Jimmy Blackfellow could lead a party to victory if he had to do no more than put up the performance that this Government has put up. The Governmenthas not carried out even one of the important promises that it made to the electors.
– How will the honorable senator get on at the next general election?
– I know that Senator Scott’s vote will be informal, anyway. If the Government is. satisfied that the currency of this country is good, very well! But if it is not satisfied, then let it not be overridden by other interests any longer. Let it not be like Napoleon crossing the Alps - very frightened. To-day Senator Critchley showed honorable senators that certain private organizations were offering interest rates of 7 per cent., but the Government does not see anything wrong with that because, in the words of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), it believes in the law of supply and demand. I say that this Government believes in the principle of spoils to the victors, and an open go for capitalism. The Government thinks that at the present time it is on top, and that it has got a grip on. capitalism. The truth is that capitalism has got this Government in its grip, and the Government will have to get out of its trouble the best way it can.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the papers be printed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
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 negative.
Motion (by SenatorO’Sullivan) put -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended for this sitting to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
[10.33].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926- 1953, in two respects: First, to enable members of the Australian Canned Fruits Board to hold office for three years instead of two years as at present and, secondly, to provide that the representative on the board of canned pineapple producers shall be elected on the same basis as other industry representatives instead of being appointed on the nomination of a State authority. The board is responsible under the act for the supervision and regulation of our export trade in specified varieties of canned fruits. The proposal to lengthen the term of office is designed to bring this board into line with other boards, namely, the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, and the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, appointments to which are for three-year periods. The longer term would facilitate continuity of experience and policy on the board, and would have administrative advantages.
The second proposal seeks to put pineapple canneries on the same footing as other canneries in relation to the method of obtaining representation on the board. When the representative of canned pineapple producers was first included on the board in 1933, pineapple production was confined to Queensland and the marketing of fresh pineapples was controlled by a single State authority - the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing. The committee itself has since become the largest producer of canned pineapples, but there has been some development of independent pineapple canneries outside the jurisdiction of the committee. The industry and the Australian Canned Fruits Board consider that the canned pineapple representative should now be elected rather than appointed on nomination so as to conform with the position of the other representatives, and the Government agrees with that view.I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Some two years ago, in a speech that I made during the debate on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I brought before the Senate information that I had gathered from various sources relating to the administration of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. As honorable senators are aware, the Public Accounts Committee investigated the early administration of the commission and made certain recommendations. During the course of the speech to which I have referred I mentioned the name of an engineer of the commission, Mr. John McDowell. Since then, after having had long conversations with him, I have discovered that most of the information - as a matter of fact, all the information - that had been given to me was incorrect. I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to apologize to the Senate for making those accusations against Mr. McDowell and to give an assurance that I should like to help him to re-establish his good name in the eyes of the community.
– I shall be very pleased to acquaint the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) with the remarks of the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560920_senate_22_s9/>.