22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1956. Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1956. Repatriation Bill 1956. Social Services Bill 1956.
– ls the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to report any progress regarding the appointment of a chairman of the Constitution Review Committee?
– J am sorry that I am not in a position to give to the Leader of the Opposition any firm information about the matter raised by him. However, I have mentioned it to the Prime Minister and I hope to be in a position to make the information available to the honorable senator at an early date.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a recent press statement by the New South Wales Minister for Mines to the effect that American and French companies were active in a move to establish a steelworks at Port Stephens, New South Wales, at an estimated cost of £100,000,000? As the investment of such a large sum of money in a steel plant would be of major importance to the whole Commonwealth, will the Minister say whether any approach has been made to the Commonwealth Government or whether there is any substance in the report?
– 1 saw the press statement to which the honorable senator refers. No approach has been made to me on the matter. I am not aware whether an approach has been made to any other Minister; if it has, I have not been informed about it. Therefore, I am not in a position to say whether there is any substance in the report.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I point out that it is reported in to-day’s Adelaide press that federal housing aid amounting to £720,000 would be given to South Australia in 1956-57, which sum would be shared by the State Bank of South Australia and the building societies. The Minister is reported to be trying to persuade British building societies to open in Australia branches which would seek new funds and attract additional capital. Can he indicate broadly the mode of operation of these British building societies and, in particular, whether it is expected that their entry into the Australian field will attract overseas capital and investment in homebuilding?
– To attempt to give a description of the way in which British building societies operate would be too long a task, but perhaps I can best illustrate the importance of their contribution to housing in Great Britain by saying that their total funds are in excess of £2,000,000,000, and that they are responsible for financing more than 60 per cent, of the homes built in Great Britain. Naturally, I cast envious eyes on societies operating in that way, and I have, endeavoured to persuade some of them to come to Australia. The information I have received is that, although they are interested, they are unable to do so because they are prohibited from investing their capital outside of the United Kingdom. I then turned my thoughts to persuading British insurance companies operating in Australia, which have affiliations with permanent building societies in Great Britain, to establish permanent building societies in Australia, but so far I have not been successful. However, hope springs eternal.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether his attention has been directed to the prominence given in all sections of the press to a suggestion that in the almost immediate future largescale retrenchment is to take place in many Commonwealth departments, and particularly in the Department of Defence Production. Has he noticed that the order of this unfortunate retrenchment has also been published? If this is so, will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, make a statement to the Senate outlining the Government’s intention in the order of retrenchment in the various departments?
– My notice has not been drawn specifically to the subjectmatter raised by the honorable senator, but I have seen in the press, and I am otherwise aware, that certain retrenchments are in contemplation. I understand, however, that the order of the retrenchment, if and where such is necessary, will be along the traditional lines pursued by various governments over the years. I do not think that any departure is contemplated from the accepted procedure where retrenchment is, unfortunately, necessary. I am informed that at the present time very little, if any, unemployment will ensue from the contemplated retrenchment. There will be a change of employment rather than a cessation of it. I understand that many of those who, within the last month or so. have received notice of termination of employment, have already been found alternative employment by the Department of Labour and National Service.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. It arises from a previous question that I asked the Minister in connexion with a petition, signed by the heads of the various denominations in Adelaide, namely, the Bishop of Adelaide, the Archbishop of Adelaide, the President of the Baptist Union, the President of the Methodist Conference, the President of the Congregational Union, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the President of the Churches of Christ Union, the President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army and the President of the United Churches Social Reform Board, relating to lottery matter distributed through the post in South Australia. This was described as a flagrant aiding and abetting of Tasmanian lotteries, and a direct contravention of the laws of South Australia. In my previous question I asked the Minister whether he would look into this matter, and he assured me that the Postmaster-General was making a full investigation of it, and that he would inform me of the result. As I have had no answer to that particular question, I ask the Minister if he will pursue the subject further and let me have a reply.
– I shall be only too pleased to approach my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, and ask him to let me have an answer, which I will pass on to the honorable senator.
– Following upon the question asked by Senator Critchley, 1 wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, and, by way of preface, I pom out to the Senate that the firm of Chrysler Australia Limited, in South Australia, is now employing fewer than 200 men out ot a peak of 800 on aircraft work. In the last three weeks, a further 129 have received notice of dismissal. 1 understand that a similar situation applies in the other States of Australia, and in those circumstances 1 ask the Minister whether, in view of the great importance of aircraft to Australia’s defence, the Government will make a statement as to the future of aircraft production in Australia.
– The subjectmatter of the honorable senator’s question was recently the subject of a statement made by my colleague, the Minister foi Defence Production, in another place When he made that statement, my colleague pointed out that the necessity to issue notices of dismissal to employees of various aircraft factories arose from the fact that some aspects of the defence production programme had come to a conclusion and he instanced particularly some aircraft production programmes. He also pointed out that although as yet it had no firm plan, the Government is now considering a plan for the continuation of an aircraft production programme. My colleague also took the opportunity of stating that the continuation of aircraft production in Australia was a question which required the closest possible examination because of the very rapid technical advances which were being made overseas, and it is only natura! that the Government should wish to move with a great deal of caution.
– Did the Government say where it will be able to get skilled men after having lost them?
– No, but it did point out - 1 am sure this will not have escaped the honorable senator’s attention - that private enterprise would employ a very large number of the men who were being dismissed from these factories and, when aircraft production is resumed, as it most certainly will be, those men will not be lost to the industry. They will be available for re-employment in it. In terms of an answer given by my leader to an earlier question, the whole problem of unemployment in defence production plants is engaging the attention of the Department of Labour and National Service which has the matter under constant consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that circulars have been sent by the National Employment Information Service, 1020 Broad-street, New Jersey, United States of America, to recipients of unemployment relief in Australia. A condition of providing employment is that the unemployed person should pay a registration fee of 3 dollars. Will the Minister inform the Senate how it is that this organization has become aware that certain people are out of work and in receipt of unemployment benefit? Has the Department of Social Services, or anybody associated with it, supplied any information, including the names of persons receiving unemployment benefit, to this organization?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable senator has referred. However, I should think that any body endeavouring to build up a business among the unemployed in this country would have a very difficult task, because of the comparatively small number of persons who are unemployed.
– My question to the Minister for National Development relates to the donation of £1,000 by the Commonwealth Bank for research into water conservation by damming creeks and other water courses to stop the run-off of winter rain from farming properties. Is the Minister of the opinion that this method of water conservation could increase considerably Australia’s primary production? If so, will the Minister assure the Senate that the Department of National Development will carry out vital research work on this problem in the immediate future?
– 1 should think that if the Commonwealth Bank has made a grant of £1,000 for research on the particular project mentioned by the honorable senator, the work would be well worth while. I shall act on the suggestion made by the honorable senator, and ascertain what information the Department of National Development has about the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Production whether he is aware that hopgrowers in Tasmania are experiencing considerable difficulty in disposing of their crop, especially in view of the fact that hops are being imported from the United States of America. If the whole of the Australian hop crop were absorbed in Australia, would that not assist the Commonwealth to save valuable dollars?
– No, I was not aware that hop-growers in Tasmania were experiencing difficulty in disposing of their crop. I shall refer the question asked by the honorable senator to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Production, and obtain an answer for the honorable senator.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply by stating that an impact has been made on the town of Georgetown, Tasmania, by the establishment of the plant of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay, where the population has been quadrupled in a very short time, necessitating extensive water reticulation, road and footpath construction, sewerage work and so on, by the Georgetown Municipal Council. Will the Minister consider making substantial and effective exgratia payments in lieu of rates to the Georgetown Municipal Council, to make it possible for these important services to be provided as quickly as possible?
– 1 shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Supply, and have a reply sent to the honorable senator.
– 1 preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade by reminding him that last month I asked a question relating to the wheat deal that was concluded by the United States of America with the Indian Government. In particular, I asked him why Australia had been by-passed in this matter. Although the Minister promised to furnish me with a reply, I have not so far received one. As Mr. McEwen, the Minister for Trade, has now again departed on a foreign mission, will it be necessary for me to await his return to Australia before I can be supplied with the vitally important information that I have sought?
– The honorable senator must be in error, because the question to which he has referred is not on the notice-paper. That, I suggest, is prima facie evidence, at least, that he did not ask it. However, if he will now place his question on the notice-paper I shall see that he receives an answer. The matter will be dealt with, of course, by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, who is acting for Mr. McEwen during his absence abroad.
– Both the honorable member for Franklin, Mr. Falkinder, and I have often advocated the provision of a ward for war widows and exservicewomen at the Hobart Repatriation General Hospital. Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether steps are being taken to provide such a ward and, if so, when it is expected that the ward will become available?
– I know that both Senator Marriott and Mr. Falkinder have been very interested in this matter. I have pleasure in informing the honorable senator that a ward is now being converted at the Hobart Repatriation General Hospital for ex-servicewomen, and also for widows, who are entitled to treatment in a repatriation hospital when beds are available. Offhand, I should say that the conversion will be completed in about a month’s time. When the exact date is known, I shall write to him and let him know.
– During the last general election campaign, Government supporters referred volubly to the CourtsMartial Appeals Bill, which was passed by this Parliament on 10th May, 1955, whenever they were asked to define the Government’s attitude towards this subject. Will the Attorney-General inform me why the proclamation of the measure is being delayed? Is the Minister aware that many servicemen have commented adversely on. this delay, claiming that justice is being denied them? Does the Minister know that they have published articles accusing the Government of neglect in the matter?
– I shall inquire into the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator, and advise him of the position in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing, the Minister for Defence Production. Does the Government’s policy of closing down aircraft production in Australia extend to the importation of machines from overseascountries? If so, is the Minister in a position to make any statement to the Senate?
– The policy of the Government in respect of the manufacture of aircraft in Australia and the importing of aircraft, both service and civil, has in the past been decided upon the basis of what is the most appropriate and effective type of aircraft which can be imported and the type of aircraft which can most appropriately be manufactured in Australia. Obviously, circumstances would arise inwhich it would be impossible to manufacture all the aircraft requirements for Australia within Australia. Of necessity, there will be always a need to import aircraft. The policy of the Government is to balance imports with manufactures in Australia. That policy, I suggest, has been eminently successful in the past and will be just as successful in the future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the -Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following information: - 1 and 2. The honorable senator may be assured that I do much more than note the data revealed by the monthly statistics deriving from the Commonwealth Employment Service.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has furnished the following reply: -
The honorable senator asked similar questions io these last June and answers to them appear on page 1403 of “ Hansard “, 12th June, 1956.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
and 2. The basic wage under federal awards is not adjustable in accordance with changes in the C series index numbers. At the present time, the federal basic wage s’ands at: £12 13s. per week in Sydney, £12 5s. per week in Melbourne, £11 8s. per week in Brisbane, £12 ls. per week in Adelaide, £12 6s. per week in Perth, and £12 12s. per week in Hobart.
Marginal rates for various types of tradesmen vary considerably. The “ key “ rate taken by the Commonwealth tribunal as a measuring rod particularly in the metal trades is that of the “ fitter “, which is 75s. per week under federal, New South Wales and Victorian State awards and determinations.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following information has been received from the Treasurer -
– On 20th September, Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Has the attention of 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 staled 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?
The Minister for Territories has furnished me with the following answer: -
At proceedings in the Lower Court where an aborigine is an accused person he is represented only by a Protector except when the Protector decides that a plea of not guilty shall be entered, when counsel is engaged to conduct the case on behalf of the aborigine. No aborigine is allowed to plead guilty except with the consent of the Protector. At proceedings in the Supreme Court, where an aborigine is an accused person, counsel is always engaged to conduct the case on his behalf. lt may be of interest to know that in the last 42 cases at Darwin in which aborigines have been charged with indictable offences counsel has been briefed in 33 of the 42 cases and represented the aborigine concerned at the preliminary hearing in the Lower Court. The occasions on which counsel was not briefed include - (a) seven cases in which aborigines were charged wilh assault; (b) one case of escaping from custody; and (c) one case in which an aborigine was charged with murder and in which the Chief Protector appeared on the aborigine’s behalf. In this instance a prima facie case was not established and the charge was dismissed.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the fact that experimental television programmes are already being produced in Victoria, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral request the Postmaster-General to ascertain whether the Postal Department, or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, could experiment to find out whether televised programmes from Melbourne can be received on the northern and north-west coast of Tasmania, and, if so, what is the greatest distance inland these programmes can be received? Would reception in Tasmania be of a quality that would make it worth while for people to purchase and install television sets? Could an early and authoritative statement be made on this matter?
– The Postmaster - General has supplied the following information: -
The reliable range of reception of television stations is limited to a distance slightly greater than that of the line of sight between the stations and the receiving locations. Consequently the range obtained will vary in different directions from stations and will depend upon the nature of the terrain between the stations and the receivers. Under favorable conditions of terrain reliable signals could possibly be received over distances of the order of 70 miles. The distance from the television stations in Victoria to the northern coast of Tasmania is approximately 200 miles and reliable reception of signals in that area from the Victorian stations could, therefore, not be expected. It is possible that under abnormal conditions signals could be received in northern Tasmania, but the time during which such reception would be possible would be a very small percentage of the total transmission time, and would not make it worth while for people in that area to purchase and install television receivers wilh the expectation of receiving regular television programmes from the Victorian stations.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral ascertain for me the approximate date when station SPA, at Penola, in South Australia, will commence, and the area which it is expected will be covered by broadcasts from that station?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: -
Installation of transmitting equipment will be completed and station ready for operation towards end of November, 1956. The question of fixing an actual date for commencement of service is at present the subject of consultation between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It is expected the station will provide a district coverage over a radius of about 40 miles and with 5MG Mount Gambier should ensure a satisfactory broadcasting service over the southeast of South Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
As a preface to my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, may I say that an announcement was made some time ago that a radio telephone service is to be installed between Perth and Derby at a cost of about £70,000. I ask the Minister the following questions: -
Is this the first radio telephone service to be installed within Australia?
When will it be completed?
Will the Postmaster-General consider making these facilities available to the people of other outback towns within Australia?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
– 1 present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Twenty-eighth Report - Supplementary Estimates and Variations under Section 37 of the Audit Act 1901-1955 (Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund for the year 1955-56).
Although it has not been customary to do so, I wish on this occasion to pass one or two comments on the report, because it has particular significance for honorable senators. Since the re-establishment of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, it has been the aim of that committee to have the budget presented at a date nearer to the close of the financial year, but so far that has not been achieved. Another aim of the committee has been to bring up the report on the Supplementary Estimates and Variations under Section 37 of the Audit Act at a time when honorable senators are considering the general Estimates to which they refer.
In previous years, this report has not been presented until about nine months after the consideration of that expenditure, so that much of the interest in the report has gone. On this occasion. I am pleased to say that the objective of the Public Accounts Committee has been attained, and that the report refers to the expenditure contemplated in the general Estimates that will be before honorable senators within the next few days. This will be of considerable help to honorable senators. The presentation of the report at this stage was made possible because the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made available to the committee an advance copy of the Supplementary Estimates and Variations, so that an examination of them could be made in time lo prepare and present the report.
In view of the comments that were made in the Senate when the report of the Tariff Board was presented, I point out to honor* able senators that this report is not in its usual printed form largely because of the inability of the Government Printer to print it in time to enable copies to be made available to another place at the same time as the Estimates were presented there. Another factor largely contributing to the failure to print the report is the difficult conditions under which the committee is required to carry out its work. As honorable senators will probably know, the committee meets in the Senate committee room and many other meetings are held there. When one of these other meetings is to be held, all our papers have to be collected and taken into another room, and after the other meeting is held they have to be brought back and sorted under their various headings. All this considerably retards the work of the Public Accounts Committee, and I mention it in the hope that some provision will be made to enable our staff to work under more convenient conditions than at present. Here, I pay special tribute to the very valuable work the committee’s staff is carrying out under rather difficult conditions and have pleasure in moving that the report be printed.
– The question of accommodation for the Public Accounts Committee is tied up with the general problem of accommodation in this building. The simple truth is that there is not sufficient room in the building to provide the accommodation that the Public Accounts Committee would like to have. Until such time as additional facilities are made available, I am afraid that very little can be done to help the committee in that respect.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
.- The bill now before the Senate is probably one of the most important measures to come before this chamber in the course of a year. It appropriates amounts not already appropriated by law for the ordinary annual services of the Government of the Commonwealth. The amount normally covers about three-quarters of the year’s expenditure. That is due to the fact that the Parliament granted to the Government four months’ Supply in June last, which will carry it up to the 31st of this month.
When such an important measure is put before us, the Opposition normally exercises its traditional right to seek the adjournment of the debate. It does that, first, to assert the right; and secondly, to have the opportunity to give adequate consideration to the measure. The third reason for moving the adjournment is that in this particular bill the Estimates already submitted to us are renumbered when they become attached to the Appropriation Bill as a schedule. From lime to time, many honorable senators become confused in the committee of the Senate when they are looking at the wrong papers. Both time and the opportunity are required to enable honorable senators, who have addressed their minds to the Estimates already presented, to transfer their notes and their thoughts to the copy that will be available to us presently. I understand hat the debate on the present motion will proceed, on present indications, for at least the rest of the day and honorable senators may have an opportunity so to transfer their notes, along with their thoughts, to the schedule of this bill.
This measure, of course, opens up the whole of the financial policies of the Commonwealth. When we had before us the motion for the printing of the budget papers, T addressed myself at length to those matters. I directed attention to the state of the nation. I documented very extensively my claim that the Governnent had failed. 1 do not propose to traverse- that ground again. We have had an unrestricted opportunity to debate the earlier motion, and I simply indicate now that 1 repeat and incorporate in these remarks all that I said on the former occasion when 1 addressed myself to those matters on 5th September last. On this occasion, however, 1 want to advert to one phase of my earlier remarks. I refer to the question of budget leakages. The Senate may recall that on the previous occasion I directed attention to the fact that there had been very dogmatic announcements in the press that there would be no taxation concessions and that there would be no increases in pension rates; and T referred to certain other very specific forecasts made in the press. I also directed attention to the advertisement of an insurance company that appeared on 3 1 st August, the very morning following the promulgation of the budget on the preceding evening.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), very properly, was concerned with those allegations and he look them up, but he investigated only one of them. That was my reference to the fact that an advertisement of an insurance company appeared in the first edition of the morning press on the following day. directing very particular attention to the fact that there had been an increase to £300 in the allowable taxation deduction in respect of insurance premiums and the like. The Treasurer informed members in another place that he wrote to the proprietor of the newspaper, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and directed attention to the statement made by the manager of the company. The answer was that it was an intelligent anticipation, that two advertisements had been lodged about noon on the previous day, the day upon which the budget was presented, and that later that night, after 9.15 o’clock, when the budget speech had been delivered, the advertisement was selected from the two that had been proffered, and the amount was altered from the anticipated £250 to £300. I do not controvert any of the statements that are made by the newspaper or by the general manager of the company. I referred at the time to the fact that the advertisement was an extraordinary one. T still think that comment holds good. T Fink it most extraordinary that in a barren budget of this type, that did not move at all and which was commented upon freely in advance of and subsequently to its presentation, there should have been such a live anticipation of a concession of this nature made to people who pay large annual amounts by way of insurance premiums. I suggest that it is even more extraordinary when we find under the same budget that not only were no taxation concessions given to the taxpayers of Australia but also additional burdens by way of customs duty and postal charges were imposed upon them. Still more extraordinary is it that there should have been such an anticipation when none of the pensioners in either the civil or repatriation fields were given a rise. There were some incidental provisions in the matter of social services, but, to the great body of pensioners, there was no benefit under this budget at all. It is a really extraordinary anticipation. I comment upon the fact that the Treasurer, although I mentioned a number of matters, adverted to that one only in his reply.
Now, I wish to go back to the specific instances of the forecasts that were made in the press because 1 think a very important matter of principle is involved here, from a number of angles. In the first place, Government supporters cannot be too happy to read in the press decisions made by their Government long in advance of being notified themselves about those decisions. I understand that this Government does not notify its own supporters of the contents of its budgets until almost immediately before the budgets are presented.
The other aspect of this matter is thai if there can be a leakage, even in an unimportant matter, the danger is that there can be a leakage in an important matter out of which profit or advantage may be taken by some persons in this community. Finally, there is the whole great principle of Cabinet secrecy, which must be preserved inviolate. I know from bitter experience how difficult it is to keep things perfectly confidential when so many people know about them. There are typists, secretaries and others, and also printers who know about these matters, because confidential and budget information at a governmental level is handled by an enormous number of people, and occasionally it is mis-handled. It is not unknown that there have been thefts of certain material due to laxity on the part of some officer or Minister who is not immediately responsible.
I have never at any stage accused the members of the Government of making these leakages, but I repeat what I said on 5th September, that the Government must accept responsibility for any leakages, no matter how they occur. The Treasurer, for example, indicated that he was gravely concerned about what had happened, but he did not address his mind to the main matters. 1 am rather loath to refer to any particular newspaper, because I think that the press generally throughout Australia referred to these principal matters which should have been quite confidential until they were announced by the Treasury. However, 1 intend to refer to some specific newspapers, not to pinpoint them, but because I feel under the necessity to say that there have been leakages. I take these particular newspapers, not for any reason connected with them, but just because they are good examples of what has taken place. These leakages took place long before the budget was presented to the Parliament.
– But the newspapers prepare the budgets.
– I am not quite prepared to affirm that proposition. I refer honorable senators to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 11th August, that is, some nineteen days before the presentation of the budget. There is a great banner headline in that newspaper which reads as follows: -
Migration cut in Budget expected.
That expectation is strengthened appreciably when the first line is read -
Federal Cabinet has decided-
I invite the Senate to notice the emphasis on those particular words. The article then proceeds - to reduce Australia’s migration intake in 1956-57 from last year’s total of 125,000. Provision for the cut will be made in the federal budget for the current financial year. Cabinet, according to reliable sources, made the decision during its discussions on the Budget Estimates this week.
There is nothing of a temporizing nature about that forecast. It is said that Cabinet has decided, and that the writer of the article has got the information from reliable sources. They might be reliable from the viewpoint of the newspaper, but they are exceedingly unreliable from the viewpoint of the Government and the Commonwealth. I put to the Minister for the Navy (Senator O’sullivan) who is at present at the table: What inquiries, if any, from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or anybody else has this Government made regarding that specific leakage? Either some source that the newspaper thought was reliable illicitly and improperly gave to reporters certain information, or the reporter was lying when he said that he obtained information from reliable sources. It is one or the other.
In the same newspaper in a block setting is another heading which is completely inaccurate. Before I read that, 1 indicate that the previous forecast was perfectly accurate because in the budget the intake of immigrants was reduced by 18,000 a year. I remind honorable senators again that that forecast was made about three weeks before the budget was presented to the Parliament. Another headline in the same newspaper reads -
No rise in pension.
– Did anybody make any money out of that information?
– I have not suggested that. If Senator Scott had been here during my earlier remarks he would have heard me say that even though money may not have been made out of the budget leakages, there were three or four leakages where that could have been done. Under the heading “ No Rise in Pension “ in that newspaper we read -
No old age pension increases are expected in this year’s Federal budget which will be introduced on August 3rd. Federal Cabinet is reported to have decided against the representation for a Ss. increase in the pension.
There again is a perfectly accurate forecast, because that is what happened.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– It is a fact that there were no increases.
– How does the honorable senator know that the Cabinet decided against the recommendations?
– I do not know.
– Then, how is it that the honorable senator is able to say that this newspaper report is an accurate report? Did not the same sort of thing happen the whole time that the last Labour Government was in office?
– No, it did not happen the whole time.
– Only 99.9 per cent, of the time.
– Whether it happened when Labour was in office or whether it happens under the present Government, it is equally bad from every viewpoint - from the viewpoint of the Government, the Public Service and the country.
– Then, the honorable senator is criticizing a Labour government as well as the present Government.
– I am criticizing the present Government because of the leakages that have occurred in connexion with the budget now under discussion.
– But the honorable senator has admitted that the same sort of thing occurred under Labour governments.
– Yes, but we discovered how it occurred and we did something to stop such leakages.
– I have not heard about that.
– The honorable senator should know that certain people were prosecuted by the Labour government for illegally obtaining information. There was an inquiry into the matter which lasted for six months, and we actually found a thief in Parliament House who was selling documents. We did something about that matter, but I ask what this Government is doing about the leakages that have occurred before the presentation of its budgets. The Treasurer has made no comment. When a Labour government had. this trouble it ordered the Commonwealth Investigation Service to inquire into the matter. That service made a six months’ inquiry, and kept at it until it discovered something. It was required to report to me as the then Acting A ttorney-General every day about the progress that had been made. Labour governments suffered from budget leakages, but they stopped them. However, leakages have occurred year after year under the present Government, and I expect that it should do something equally as effective as was done by Labour governments. These leakages may not be the immediate fault of a Minister or his staff - indeed I have not said that - but I affirm that it is a serious matter, and Iask what the Government is doing about it. Another report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 14th August which, as honorable senators know, was well before the budget was presented. There is a headline in that newspaper which reads -
Federal Cabinet is reported-
I ask: By whom? The article continues - to be considering further education concessions of income tax, but details have not yet been completed.
That also turned out to be correct, because the allowance was increased from £75 to £100. I come now to 28th August, some days before the budget was presented. The Melbourne “ Herald “ published the following banner headlines: -
Postal Shock in Budget Likely.
Big rises in Charges to Check Loss.
It followed that by reporting -
Wide increases in Post Office charges are expected to provide a shock when the Federal Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, presents his Budget in the House of Representatives on Thursday night.
Postal, telephone and telegraph rates arc all expected to rise, in a drive to increase the Post Office’s revenue and offset its huge losses.
Details are still being worked out, but the increases are expected to cost postal users between £4 million and £6 million a year.
That was a most accurate forecast. On the same day the same newspaper reported a very interesting piece of information with the following large banner headline: -
New Budget to Provide £100m. Record.
The story was set out item by item, with a most meticulous degree of accuracy. Then again, on 29th August, an article appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, under the heading, “ Postal Charges likely to increase in cut-cost budget “. There was no tentative suggestion about that being done; that newspaper affirmed the position quite positively. I regard this matter as most serious, and I should like the Government to inform me what, if anything, it has done to investigate this particular instance in which there was a specific leakage, so that we may not have a repetition of it. I advert to the fact that, on occasion after occasion at this time of the year, I. have directed attention to the self-same thing. I am becoming a bit tired of it, and I imagine the Government is, also.
– Hear, hear!
– The great danger, I submit to the Minister, is that if, in relatively unimportant things like these, leakages can take place, the position would be much worse if there were leakages of information that really did matter, because they might not hit the press at all; the information would be unlikely to reach the press if it did matter. It would be kept confidential to the people who wanted to take advantage of it. The point is, that there have been leakages; there is no doubt about that. Unquestionably, the Government should do something about the matter. I think that the Minister has a duty to both the country and the Parliament to make a statement in connexion with the particular instances to which I have referred.
I now want to say a few words on the industrial position in Australia, and the chaos that is afflicting this country due to varying wage levels. In September, 1953, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court determined that there would be no further cost of living adjustments, but that there would be a periodical review of the basic wage itself. When the court said that, it also said -
In the judgment of the Court the present is considered to be an appropriate time for abandoning the system, for the evidence put forward suggests an immediate future period of relatively steady retail price levels - steady as compared with the consistently rapidly rising levels experienced, particularly in the past three years, until some six months ago. No real difficulty should be experienced by wage-earners as an immediate result of the abandonment.
In other words, when the court abolished the cost of living adjustments, it expected that there would be no further substantial rises in price levels. The court felt that a degree of stability had been reached. I believe that the court was impelled to take what was, in effect, action to freeze wages because of the inaction of this Government in the matter of halting inflation. In other words, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had to legislate where this Government had failed to do so - legislate in a field which is vital to the economy, the field of wages, which is the basic factor in the cost structure. That is the first thing. The wages of the workers under federal awards were pegged until the next increase was given in June, 1956 - three years later. What happened in the meantime? In all States except two, the State authorities followed the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and abolished cost of living adjustments. They were continued in Queensland and Victoria, right up to the end of last year when, in all other States except South Australia, the State tribunals restored cost of living adjustments, lt is very interesting to consider what happened to the cost of living over that relevant three-year period. Actually, it was a period of two years and nine months, which I loosely refer to as the three-year period. In Sydney, over that period, the cost of living rose by £1 a week; in Melbourne, by £1 8s.; in Brisbane, by 19s.; in Adelaide, by £1 2s.; in Perth, by £1 7s.; and in Hobart, by £1 10s. a week: lt is most interesting to notice that the increase in the cost of living in Hobart, where cost of living adjustments were abolished, was £1 10s. a week; during that period, cost of living adjustments were non-effective. The lowest increase of the cost of living - 19s. - took place in Brisbane, where cost of living adjustments were granted over the whole period; they were not suspended at all. This means that workers under federal awards suffered for almost three years a reduction in their standard of living. 1 surely do not have to argue to the Senate, particularly as the Tariff Board’s commentary on the matter was recently debated, that, so long as the wages of workers under federal awards are stationary while those working under State awards in the same industry, the same establishment, are getting the benefit of cost of living adjustments, there cannot be stability of employment, and men will not remain in their jobs. As the board pointed out, in these circumstances, there is a great movement of workers and, above all, industrial unrest. That is a factor that militates against production, and damages every aspect of the Australian economy. This disparity between wage rates has unquestionably been one of the major factors responsible for the disbalance that afflicts the Australian economy.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when acting as Prime Minister recently, called a conference of the various Premiers to consider this difficulty. The only real solution that the right honorable gentleman suggested to that conference - he certainly submitted it as a first step - was that cost of living adjustments should be abolished; that there should be a halt. The conference broke up in disorder, one might say, and certainly without any conclusion having been reached. Premier after Premier, including Mr. Playford, the Liberal Premier of South Australia, pointed out that it was unreasonable to halt wages without doing anything about prices, profits, interest rates and capital issues. As he rightly said, the Government was seeking to impose the whole burden of halting inflation upon one category in the whole Australian set-up. that is, upon the workers under federal awards in particular, and upon the wage and salary earners throughout Australia in general. They were asked to bear the whole burden of halting inflation. It is to the credit of the various Premiers that they refused to comply with the then acting Prime Minister’s request. There is to be a further conference when, I trust, the Commonwealth will give a better lead than it did on the last occasion. I trust that, if the Commonwealth persists in asking the Premiers to agree to abolish cost of living adjustments, it will at least recognize that the first step involves bringing workers under federal awards into line with those under State awards. The present situation should not be perpetuated. Secondly, the Commonwealth must advert to the fact that something must be done in relation to prices and the control of interest rates. Something must also be done to control capital issues and the activities of hire-purchase companies, both from the point of view of the rates of interest that they offer to depositors and the rates that they charge hirers. That should be done, not State by State, but at the national level. Even the United Kingdom Government, early in August, afflicted with very much the same problems, met the leaders of a trades union congress and, after the conference, issued a joint statement. There appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 3rd August, 1956, a statement by the British Prime Minister. Sir Anthony Eden, in the following terms: -
The national interest can be served only by a continual effort to keep prices steady, and, if possible, to reduce them, even where this process would affect profits and dividends.
I hope that the Government will make a broad approach to the next conference and will put before the Premiers a plan covering all the factors that go to make inflation and will seek whatever powers are required to enable it to exercise proper control.
Surely, the Government has learnt its lesson. Let me divert for a moment to falk about that aspect. It must be conceded by any fair-thinking person to-day that Labour, away back in 1942, saw this position very clearly, because in that year the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, convened a conference of leaders of governments and leaders of oppositions - at that very high level - to consider the post-war period, the dangers that lay in accumulated funds pressing upon goods in short supply, the impact of inflation and the need to curb trends during the post-war period when industries and people were moving from a war fooling to peace-time occupations. Mr. Curtin painted a picture for the Premiers and the leaders of the oppositions with the utmost clarity. They were so impressed that unanimously they agreed to join in referring from their parliaments, with the concurrence of those parliaments, a large number of powers to the Commonwealth Parliament for a temporary period of five years. That proposition was put to all the State parliaments and carried in all with the exception of Tasmania. Victoria introduced the qualification into its powers bill that the bill was to be operative only in the event of every other State Parliament referring powers in similar terms. The result was that the Victorian bill became completely inoperative.
– South Australia also introduced the same qualification.
– The plan might have functioned perhaps without Tasmania, but it was impossible for it to function owing to the bill that was introduced in Victoria and, as the honorable senator who just interjected reminds me, in South Australia also. It was not an even pattern of powers referred. The powers could not be exercised at an efficient or competent level and were not used. Faced with that position, in 1944 the Labour Government held a referendum of the people of Australia and asked them to cure the defects, pointed out the dangers of the post-war period, the harm that inflation would do not only to the people, their savings and jobs but also to export industries and our. balance of payments position. It gave a clear preview of what is the trouble in Australia to-day.
– Real planning!
– It was real national planning for the post-war period. Our friends who are now members of the Government parties opposed that proposal and it was defeated.
Let us consider what happened in the Unite.d Slates of America, in 1946. In the first post-war year, the United States of America lifted prices control. What was the result? In five months, the general level of food prices rose by 30 per cent., a most dramatic rise that alarmed the American Government. Beef prices rose by 60 per cent., and butter by 45 per cent. Those were some of the meteoric rises. .
– Over what period?
– A period of five months. That was what happened with the lifting of controls in the United States of America, in 1946.
– Would that not be expected?
– It was certainly not expected by the American Government. There was a rampage of profit-making and profiteering at that lime. The Labour party in Australia recognized the position, and again went to the people and asked for a pattern of powers over employment and unemployment, organized marketing and social services. It was granted one of these powers, supported, more or less, by the present Government parties, but the other iwo- employment and unemployment and organized marketing - were opposed by the present Government parties and, as a consequence, were rejected by the people.
– The Opposition’s trouble was that the people did not believe it.
– 1 say to a South Australian senator in particular that honorable senators opposite have come to believe the Opposition now. They have had a look at what happened in Barker as recently as Saturday last. The honorable senator can draw little consolation from the fact that an outstanding majority of 13.000 in favour of the Government in December last has been reduced to approximately 4,000.
Government senators interjecting,
– Not too many at once, please, lt was put to the people in Barker, and I joined in putting it to them, that Liberal supporters had the opportunity of administering a rebuke to their Government; and 1 invite the Government to interpret the results at Barker as showing that many Liberal supporters are dissatisfied. I hope they continue to be dissatisfied with the present Government. At the moment, speaking with a sense of responsibility to Australia, I hope that the Government will at last be goaded into action, having realized the futility of the advice it has tendered to the people of Australia during the last decade.
What was their story in 1948? When the Labour party again went to the people and warned them that if prices, profits and charges were not controlled, raging inflation would result, supporters of the present Government again opposed the warning and Labour’s proposal was defeated.
Senator Scott interjecting,
– Question time has passed. The honorable senator’s voice is too loud, it disturbs me.
– The Leader of the Opposition does not answer questions.
– I do when it suits me and particularly, may I say, if the questions are relevant to the topic J am discussing. I am not going to run off on sidetracks for the honorable senator’s delectation.
In 1948, the Labour party again gave the people a warning. In 1949 what did the parties opposite say to the people of Australia? “ Let everything run free. Competition will come into play and prices will automatically go down. We will reduce the cost of living.” That was the solemn pledge upon which the present Government parlies were elected. What happened to the cost of living? In eight years under Labour, with controls, it rose by £1 16s. Under this Government, with controls off. i; has risen, on account of price increases only, by £5 1 ls. in six and a half years. That £5 I ls. does not include the substantial increases of £1 in the basic wage in 1950 and of 10s. in 1956, granted by the Federal Arbitration Court. That increase was attributable solely to the increase in the cost of living in this country. That is a disgrace to Government supporters who have deceived the people. They were completely wrong in their forecast, and the sad thing from the viewpoint of the people of Australia, is that they are still blind to the truth. Inflation will not be controlled in Australia until the Government, first of all. arms itself with the necessary powers, and secondly, applies those powers. Again and again the Opposition has stated that view. It stated it in this Senate in 1950. At that time, honorable senators on this side had a majority in the chamber. We carried a bill providing for another referendum on prices. The Minister at the table on that occasion told the Senate that governments could do nothing about inflation and that it was a matter for the people themselves. In other words, the Government abandoned the ship and let it go on the rocks. Honorable senators opposite have still not learnt their lesson.
The Treasurer told the Premiers the other day that he did not believe in freezing anything, wages, prices or profits. He certainly believes in freezing wages or he would like to freeze wages judging by his pronouncement to the Premiers the other day. He has frozen pensions and child endowment. Although he pretends to abhor controls the Government, of which he is Treasurer, imposes import controls and control of foreign currency. It employs many controls, but not the right ones; and those that it adopts, it mishandles. They are the things to be considered. I am not denying that cost of living adjustments, recurring quarter after quarter, make a contribution to inflation, but I say that they are neither the main nor the primary cause of it. There are many other causes. We have only to contemplate the slow rise in the cost of living in Brisbane compared with Hobart. In Brisbane, cost of living adjustments were paid; and in Tasmania they were not.
Another factor, to which the Government has awakened belatedly, is immigration. It imposes undue strain on the economy, and demands the expansion of every public facility. The Government has been bringing too many people into Australia, and only after years has it begun to realize the strain that such a high immigration rate imposes on the economy. Another big factor, to which I have referred previously, is the effect of sales tax and the pay-roll tax upon the cost and prices structure. This year, sales tax totalling £130,000,000 will be imposed.
– What about immigration?
– I have finished with that. I. have said that the Government has reformed slightly in the matter of immigration, but. that is not enough. The way that immigration has been handled by the Government is one of the major contributions to inflation.
– Would the honorable senator have handled it differently?
– Tell us more about immigration?
– The honorable senator is merely being rude, and is trying to be disconcerting. Allow me to deal with the two tax provisions which are contributing to inflation. Sales tax collections this year will reach £130,000,000, and pay-roll tax will amount to £48,000,000, a total of £178,000,000. We must accept what the Tariff Board said about the pay-roll tax recently - that for every £1 of tax paid, £2 goes into costs. Does anybody deny that? The Opposition has been putting forward that proposition year after year. Those taxes are adding at least £350,000,000 a year to the price structure. They are a major cause of inflation, and they are wholly within the control of the Government.
– What would the Leader of the Opposition do?
– The Government could reduce both those taxes. It could economize in government expenditure, and abolish both taxes with advantage to the cost structure.
– Would the honorable senator abolish both of them?
– As soon as possible, yes. I. direct attention to comment that was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) on the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in relation to wages. In the first edition of the Melbourne “ Herald “, of 18th August last, there appeared this statement by the Minister -
The Federal court’s policy obviously gives the wage-earner the best deal, and should be adopted by the States. It is worked not on what the worker needs to live, but what the employer can afford to pay him.
The latter part of that statement was deleted from later editions of the newspaper. I say emphatically now that it expressed a completely immoral proposition. It is right for industry to pay a man up to the limit of what it can afford to pay, but it is completely wrong to make what industry can afford to pay the test, unless there is a minimum related to a means basic need.
– The honorable senator is twisting the statement.
– No, I have read what the Minister said. It is completely wrong and immoral to make the test what industry can afford to pay, and to make any test other than the minimum relating to the basic living needs of the worker.
– It is un-Christian.
– I agree.
– What are the basic needs of the workers?
– Since 1952, we have warned this Government what would happen. I invite honorable senators to consider what the Government has done to the basic wage earners, the pensioners, the persons on fixed incomes and, above all, to our export industries, which are directly affected by every rise in prices. Against the effects of price increases, the export industries are defenceless. Price increases go into the costs of the export industries, which have to sell their products on markets that are becoming increasingly competitive. The Government has done a dastardly thing to the wage earners and the exporting industries. It has done a great wrong to the economy, and it is still blind to the fact. It will not adopt policies that will get Australia out of its difficulties. 1 have outlined them to-day and on previous occasions. Our troubles are due to the absence of national planning.
There is delay whenever the Government is faced with a major decision. Three limes during the last two months I have asked. in this chamber, when a chairman will be appointed to the committee to review the Constitution. The matter has not progressed at all in two months, yet all we need is a simple decision that will enable the most important committee that has been set up in Australia to function. That committee could render a great service to Australia. lt could be the precursor of effective national planning. Whether the powers that are to be obtained are used or not is a matter for judgment from time to time, but the mere existence of the power would suffice to curb the profiteers and the usurers. The mere fact that the Commonwealth had the power would be a threat to them. At present, ‘ the Commonwealth Government, of any kidney, is deemed by the people to be responsible for the Australian economy, but, for half of the time, the Government has its hands tied behind its back because it has not sufficient power. This Government will not seek the power.
Why does not the Government allow the committee that is to review the Constitution to go to work? Why do not the Government supporters impress upon their leaders the need for a decision on this simple matter? 1 propose to do as my colleagues did in another place, and put before this chamber something in the nature of a motion of censure on the Government. 1 shall relate it to one specific matter - the failure to deal with pensions, but although I shall confine the terms of the motion to that one paramount matter, I desire it to be construed as a general vote of censure on the Government for its ineptitude, its lack of decision and its failure to engage in national planning. 1 move -
That all words after “bill” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ be returned to the House of Representatives with a request that it be withdrawn and redrafted to provide substantial increases in pension rates.”
– ] have listened with much interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). 1 am always interested in the remarks of the honorable senator because, according to his own lights, he puts matter very clearly. From his point of view, he does very well for the Opposition. To-day he delivered a diatribe of so-called facts that he has placed before this House on many previous occasions. Unfortunately, in recent months he has introduced a note of bitterness into his remarks. I do not know whether I am correct in interpreting his attitude as being one of bitterness, but it seems to me that on each occasion his censure is becoming more and more vehement. There is no reason why he should introduce that note into his comments, because it will not get him anywhere. Surely we can agree to differ on these important matters without the introduction of bitterness into the debate.
As usual, he has made great play of the basic proposals of the Australian Labour party to rectify the so-called troubles with which we are confronted at the present time. He has placed a great deal of stress upon the policy that the Curtin Labour Government proposed for the post-war years but which, if I remember his words correctly, because of certain shortcomings of the governments of South Australia and Tasmania, was never put into effect. He used the word “ shortcomings “, but J am inclined to suggest that the so-called shortcomings constituted in effect much sounder judgment on the part of those governments.
The honorable senator has again suggested that the only way of getting out of our so-called difficulties - I stress the words “ so-called “ - is to control profits, prices, interest rates and capital issues over the whole economic structure of Australia. I say without hesitation that from time immemorial - for a thousand years - prices control has been introduced as a means of overcoming inflationary difficulties, but history has shown very clearly that the control of prices gets a country nowhere. I am glad to think that this Government has resisted with all its strength the proposal to control prices as a means of rectifying any difficulties that might crop up in economic affairs. Whatever might be said by the Opposition, price control is not the answer to the situation. I repeat that I am glad to think that the Government has resisted any tendency towards the control of prices that some of its followers may have displayed in the past. 1 suggest that Senator McKenna’s statement that this Government has drifted on with a policy of laisser-faire will not stand examination. The times in which we live will not permit such a policy. Let us consider the problems that have confronted the Government since it assumed office. From time to time, every government runs up against difficulties. As I understand the policy of laisser-faire, it means that the economy is allowed to ride and things are allowed to right themselves. I most vehemently oppose the suggestion that this Government has adopted that policy, because it has not let the economy ride. From time to time, the Government has had to make difficult decisions as a result of which it has incurred the hostility of some of its own supporters. Do honorable senators opposite call that a policy of laisserfaire? What happened in 1950-51 when wool was bringing high prices and when there was a tremendous influx of new money? Did the Government adopt the policy of laisser-faire? No, it certainly did not! lt adopted a policy which the Opposition almost unanimously condemned as being sectional. It said, in other words, that we robbed the wool-growers. But what did the Government do? It asked for a prepayment of tax, which was the best thing it could have done for the woolgrowers. Do Opposition senators suggest that that was a policy of laisser-faire?
Does the fact that, as there have been variations in Australia’s overseas reserves, the Government has applied import restrictions at certain times and has lifted them at others suggest that it has adopted a policy of laisser-faire? .1 suggest that its policy has been the reverse, and that from time to time it has adjusted the financial structure to suit the times, and has done so with conspicuous success throughout its whole term of office. ‘ What is more, as Senator Pearson has reminded me, the people have believed that to be so on consecutive occasions since 1949. There could be no greater proof of the soundness of a government’s policy than the fact that the electorate re-elects it to the treasury bench.
Now let us examine a little of what the Labour party did during its term of office. The suggestion that we came into office on a sound economy is farcical in the extreme. Let us recall a few of the things that this Government had to contend with at that time. Five years after the war there were shortages of almost every essential commodity that one could think of. Rationing
Was in existence.
– Petrol rationing.
– Yes, rationing of petrol, the vital lifeblood of transport. What did this Government do? It obtained petrol in the shortest possible time.
– At a price.
– We obtained it at a price, but what was the price? No one in the wide world suffered as a result of our obtaining petrol, and we obtained it in the shortest possible time. Black markets became a thing of the past after this Government assumed office. But what happened while Labour was in office? There were black markets throughout the length and breadth of the country. Moreover, there was industrial trouble We recall the disastrous coal strike of 1949. Can honorable senators opposite recall also the power restrictions that we had to put up with? Yet the Opposition suggests to this House that we had a sound economy then! To say that is the worst sort of nonsense. There was also, as is well known, Communist control of the unions. No one can suggest for a minute that some of the main Australian unions were not Communistcontrolled. What effect did that have on production? Without the efforts of this Government, which resulted in ridding the main unions of Communist control so that there was an increase of national production, what would this country have achieved? It would have achieved practically nothing. Those who lead this Government knew, before they came into office, that a rise in prices would occur. The rise was 10 per cent, in 1949, and slightly less in 1950. Admittedly, the rise was more violent after that, as result of the influx of money gained from increased wool prices. The Government had to make economic adjustments to meet the situation, and it has done so as time has gone on. Inflation is inseparable from expansion, and as Australian industries have expanded there has been a gradual rise in prices and in the cost of living.
I remind honorable senators opposite of some of the conditions that existed under a Labour administration before this Government took office. The Labour government was building about 15,000 houses a year, but since this Government has been in office the rate of building has been increased fivefold. This Government has done a magnificent job also in the field of defence. Honorable senators opposite suggest that things were in a sound condition when this Government took office, but if they will give the present situation a fair and close examination they will realize the shortcomings of their own government. It was because of those shortcomings that the people of Australia would not tolerate a Labour government any longer, and in 1949 threw it out of office. The anti-Labour government is now firmly entrenched, and is likely to remain in office for many years.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) had a great deal to say about inflation, and I have just pointed out that inflation is inseparable from expansion. History will prove that it is not possible to have a high rate of expansion and development without a consequent pressure on price levels. I wish to read a short extract from an article, written by Mr. W. S. Robinson, who is well known because he was economic adviser to successive Australian governments, including the Hughes, Curtin and Chifley governments. No honorable senator would underestimate his qualifications. In his article he refers to the problem of inflation. It is headed “ A Great Future for Australia - A letter to the editor from a man who helped Australia grow “. It begins thus -
I believe in Australia and her future. There is no future in deflation, which would be disastrous to Australia. The word “ inflation “ has been and is kc’-.z used and abused by those who do not feel the world should take the risk involved in progress. Where, in the whole history of mankind was there ever any economic development of any moment that did not involve a pressure of demand a consequent rise in prices?
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by this writer. The policy that has been outlined by the Opposition from time to time is diametrically opposed to the very policy that the Government has been following since 1949, and if the Government’s policy is not right, then honorable senators opposite must believe in a policy of deflation. Deflation can be brought about in two ways. In the first place, credit can be restricted and public works curtailed.
Financial controls and economic measures applied by the central bank are another way. Deflation can be achieved also by prices control, which has been advocated from time to time by the Opposition. If anything will restrict development and expansion, it is prices control, and other controls in which the Labour party believes and has always advocated. The effects of deflation would be felt in this country for many years, and those effects we must avoid at all costs. I have vivid recollections of the effect of deflation in the 1930’s. The deflationary process was started under a Labour regime. The whole of the country lost confidence and depression in its worst form followed, bringing about widespread misery. The policy of this Government is not to depress or deflate, but to stabilize and improve the level of prosperity and to seek further economic expansion.
I wish to read to honorable senators part of a statement made by Professor Copland, who is well known as an economic adviser. I have a healthy respect for him, particularly when his views coincide with mine. In an article printed in the “Adelaide Advertiser “ on 27th September, 1956, headed “ Inflation Part of Development “, Professor Copland makes a good deal of play on the idea that it is not possible to have development and expansion without a consequent rise in price levels. He wrote -
The Australian rate of development was almost the highest in the world, if measured by the proportion of investment to the gross product and the increase in population.
He then added -
Investment had been running at more than 25% of the gross product for some years, and the population increase was at the rate of 24%. This involved a severe strain on economic resources, more particularly because the flow of foreign capital had been relatively small for such a high rate of expansion.
I do not propose to read the whole article, but the whole tenor of Professor Copland’s remarks is in accord with Mr. W. S. Robinson’s statement that expansion is, almost invariably, accompanied by increases in prices, or inflation. Honorable senators must always remember that, during the whole of this Government’s term of office, inflation has been controlled. We have never allowed it to get out of control. We have taken most rigid measures to keep it well under control. When we realize how Germany was brought to a state of despair by uncontrolled inflation, it cannot be suggested that the position in Australia is in any way comparable with what obtained in some European countries after the war. The Opposition has no answer to that argument. We have had inflation, and we still have it, but, with it, we have sound and progressive development throughout the whole country, and this more than offsets my hardship that may be caused by rises in price levels. In the main, the budget is a sound one. lt does not provide for any unjustified expansion; it is based upon reasonable and steady progress in the financial structure of the Commonwealth, and it follows a policy that is gradually, but surely, stabilizing the whole financial edifice of Australia.
When speaking to the motion for the printing of the budget papers, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) compared the taxation levied by this Government with that imposed by the Labour administration. He stated that, under the Chifley Government, taxation represented 22 per cent, of the national income, whilst under this Government, the figure has been increased to 25 per cent. When we examine the position, however, we are compelled to admit that the position is not so bad after all. The people of Australia have much more for their money to-day than they had under the Chifley Government. Certainly, taxation, to-day, takes 25 per cent, of the national income, compared with the 22 per cent under the Chifley Government, but the community, to-day, is enjoying far wider social services than it did during the Labour government’s term.
– The honorable senator is a humorist.
– Furthermore, we have a much better defence structure to-day.
– The defence services are in a much better position today than they were in 1949. Senator Kennelly may laugh as much as he likes, but surely he will not suggest that the puny forces we had in 1949 can be compared with those of the present day? I am comparing what we have now with what we had in 1949. The people of Australia are getting value for their money to-day, whereas they did not in 1949.
We have heard much from the Opposition about what has happened in connexion with indirect taxation under the present Government, and I was extremely interested in Senator Ryan’s suggestion that this Government is deriving an extortionate amount by way of indirect taxation. Let me compare what is being levied now with what the Labour government raised by way of indirect taxation in its last two years of -office. In the field of taxation, certain items -come under direct taxation whilst others fall unto the category of indirect taxation. For the purposes of comparing indirect taxation levied by the respective governments, I have taken out the percentages relating to customs and excise duties, sales tax, pay-roll tax and entertainment tax. In 1948-49 the Labour government raised 40.4 per cent of its income by way of indirect taxation.
– What year was that?
– In 1948-49; and I challenge Senator Ashley to refute my figures. In 1949-50, the indirect taxation levied by the Chifley Government amounted to 42 per cent of total revenue. Surprisingly enough, despite what has been said by honorable senators opposite about the heavy burdens imposed upon the people of Australia by what they are pleased to call the present heinous Government, indirect taxation approximated only 41 per cent of total revenue last year. It will be seen, therefore, that there has been comparatively little variation in the actual percentages imposed.
The Opposition constantly chides us with extorting huge amounts from poor unfortunate people who cannot afford to pay, yet the Labour government’s record is almost identical with ours. The Opposition is simply adopting a hypocritical attitude in an attempt to mislead the people into believing that the present Government slugs the poor man. The fact is that we are not taking any higher percentage from the people than the Labour government did during its last two years of office. No one likes taxation, especially heavy taxation, and I like it least of all; but I try to look at the question sensibly. I do not propose to make invidious distinctions between the various classes of taxation we find it necessary to impose in order to obtain the revenue required for carrying on the duties of government. I believe that even the rather unpopular sales tax is necessary, because no one in his right mind would suggest that we could get all the revenue that we need from income tax, company and personal. If this Government were to raise sufficient money from income tax alone to administer the country, it would kill every ounce of incentive in the community. Therefore, we must keep a proper balance between the various types of taxes. I did have some figures before me which I proposed to use to draw a comparison between the various types of taxes, but I do not intend to use them now because those comparisons are clearly set out in the Estimates. I repeat that I have no quarrel with the way in which the Government has applied the various taxes that are shown there. I suggest that we must raise a certain amount of revenue from the sales tax, and that that tax has some value in our economic system. lt can be applied as an economic control, and it has been used by the Government to control hire-purchase to some extent. The sale of motor cars, for instance, can be controlled by means of the sales tax. It is my opinion that far too many motor cars are sold, bearing in mind the vast sums of money involved in the hire-purchase of these vehicles. The application of sales tax at a high rate to motor cars has a dampening down effect on their sale, and that, in its turn, benefits the general economy of the country. For several years the sales tax has been used by the Government to diver! men, materials’ and money from less essential to more essential industries. Indeed, the sales tax has an effect which is similar to capital issues control, and while I agree up to a certain point with what Senator McKenna said about capital issues control, the fact remains that that control is no longer operative and we therefore have to resort to measures such as the application of the sales tax to divert labour and resources to the manufacture of essential goods which are so badly needed in this country.
Much has been said in this debate in condemnation of the pay-roll tax. and about its effect on prices. Therefore, I now wish to deal with this tax. I do not deny that it may increase prices, but we have to look upon it in its original conception as an adjunct to the basic wage. It was first introduced in order to finance child endowment, and while it continues to do that it will perform a useful function in our com.munity Consequently, there is some justification for the pay-roll tax. All our taxes, including customs duty, excise and pay-roll tax, have their place in the general scheme of government in Australia, and I am glad that the Government will not be stampeded into raising money in ways suggested by the Opposition which will bear heavily on particular sections of the community. I am prepared to accept the orthodox method of taxing the people as has been outlined in the budget now under discussion. No doubt, the Government is anxious to have this bill disposed of to-day, and therefore, just before concluding my speech, I want to say that I wholeheartedly support the budget proposals.
In addition to the normal surplus of £222,000, the Government will raise .another £108,500,000 from revenue for the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. I commend the Government for that action, because many loans are falling due for conversion and a great deal of new loan money will have to be raised. That money is required for capital expenditure throughout the nation, and it can be raised only by taxes or from loans. Capital works have to continue, because if they do not we shall suffer the alternative of deflation and depression, and this Government will never embark upon a policy which will slow down the wheels of industry. The money set aside for the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve will ensure that the great public works of this country shall be carried on. Whether the Government obtains the necessary money from loans or taxes, its policy is to ensure that the prosperity of the people shall continue. The budget is sound in its conception, no one is undergoing any great hardship, the people are prosperous and will continue to be prosperous, employment will continue at a high level, and the general prosperity of Australia will go on for a long time to come.
– I congratulate Senator Hannaford upon his complete misunderstanding of the policy of the Government. He has adopted the tactics that have been adopted for some time by every speaker from the Government side of the chamber; that is, he has tried to divert the minds of those who may hear him and who do not take part in politics away from the real policy of the Government and the effects of that policy. I intend to take the honorable senator to task for one or two of the things that he said. He said that there is now no black market in Australia as there was in 1949 under a Labour government. Does the honorable senator know what is going on under the Government’s import restriction programme? The statements that have been made by the Minister who is in charge of import licensing indicate that there is a considerable amount of trafficking in these licences, and that the Government ceased issuing licences to about 130 people because of the trafficking and black-marketing that was going on. Of what use is it for honorable senators opposite to shut their eyes to these things and say that, although they happened in 1949, when Labour was in office, they are not happening to-day? They are happening to-day. That is beyond question. Senator Hannaford piously said that we should be able to debate this subject without bitterness.
– Hear, hear!
– Of course, that is a splendid idea. But apparently the honorable senator has overlooked a statement that was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), that was read earlier by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), to the effect that the Arbitration Court did the right thing when it fixed wages having regard to the amount that industry could afford to pay. Good heavens! That was the principle that obtained 60-odd years ago, when labouring men were told, in effect, that, as industry could not afford to pay them adequate wages, they should be ‘ content to have only a small quantity of jam on their bread, but no butter. After many years of agitation by the trade union movement, the Arbitration Court ultimately acknowledged the needs of working people, for whom it fixed a standard wage payable irrespective of the capacity of industry to pay. The Minister apparently believes that the workers should revert to the standard of living that obtained 60 years ago. but Senator Hannaford says that this matter should be debated without bitterness. If supporters of the Government had experienced the ‘ difficulties and hardships that were suffered by the workers in this country years ago, they would not say such things. The new generation does not know anything about the industrial struggles that took place 50 or 60 years ago. Because of this Government’s policy, there is more industrial unrest in Australia than in any other country of the world. In these circumstances, is it any wonder that the workers are bitter? Why, the Government’s policy itself breeds bitterness. Honorable senators opposite have said that it is proper for the court to fix wages. Of course it is! But is it proper to abolish quarterly cost of living adjustments of the wages of men who work under awards of the court and at the same time increase the salaries of tall poppies in the Government service by thousands of pounds a year? The Government is penalizing the actual producers of wealth. Our friends opposite say that we should not be bitter. Unless the Government alters its industrial policy, more bitterness will be engendered in the hearts of the workers. Do not make any mistake about that!
Senator Hannaford stated that the Australian defence structure is now better than it has ever been. But is it? We need only consider what happened in a certain part of Australia recently. Sufficient private soldiers could not be supplied to form a guard, and it was necessary for colonels and other brass hats to do guard duty. When I was speaking in this chamber during the debate on the budget last year. 1 pointed out that the proportion of officers to men in the Australian defence forces was five to three; to-day, there are fewer men and more officers. What is the Government really doing about defence? Supporters of the Government appear to be proud of its defence programme. Because Labour objected to increased expenditure on the brass hats of the defence services and other tall poppies of the Government service, the Government became piqued and sacked a large number of munitions workers.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8 p.m.
– Just before the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with what Senator Hannaford called the “ magnificent efficiency of the defence forces of Australia “. I had pointed out, of course, that a number of deficiencies exist. Every day in the press one reads statements or advertisements announcing that the military authorities or the Defence Department is selling surplus stock. From these advertisements one learns that the articles to be sold are entirely new, never having been used. The remarkable thing is that the people who traffic in these goods sell them at prices much lower than those at which they can be bought anywhere else in Australia, and, furthermore, at much lower prices than were paid for them by the department. Honorable senators opposite must have forgotten those facts which tend to reveal tremendous wastage and haphazard methods of dealing with supplies that should be used for defence purposes. This waste has been reported upon by the Public Accounts Committee, which does not tend to prove in any way that the defence programme of Australia to-day is efficient in any respect.
When honorable senators opposite tell us that the defence programme is better than it was in years gone by they speak with their tongues in their cheeks because the defence programme in Australia is hopelessly inadequate and out of date in many respects. Indeed, we have the spectacle that because members of the party to which 1 belong have criticized defence expenditure, and because the Public Accounts Committee has also criticized defence expenditure, the Government to-day is sacking men from ordnance factories. It says this has to be done because there is too much criticism of its programme. On top of that, the Government is trying to throw the onus on the Labour party because its members have criticized the defence expenditure. I shall not go into the pros and cons of what should be done because that aspect has been explained from time to time, by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and no doubt in due course will be explained again. However, I shall make one suggestion which I believe will help the defence authorities to overcome their transport difficulties. Nobody can convince me that the present transport system throughout Australia is adequate to meet the defence needs of this country. Anybody who travels at all, whether in a motor car or even on horseback, must realize the impossible and hopeless condition of our main roads and highways. It would be impossible to shift large bodies of troops, or large quantities of defence material on the present roads. I suggest that the Government should utilize between £50,000,000 and £75,000,000 of the proposed defence vote for the purpose nf building arterial and sub-arterial roads i hat could be used in the defence of this country. If it did that, criticism would not be levelled against the Government for spending money and having nothing to show for it. We would then have proper roads that could be used in the defence of Australia.
I refer now to the change that is taking place in the outlook of honorable members opposite. I have not heard quite so much eulogy of late of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). A few months ago, every time any Government supporter spoke he told us of the magnificent job the Prime Minister was doing. Government senators have forgotten that. I do not know whether something has happened, but they have now forgotten that the Prime Minister is still the same Prime Minister whom they wereeulogizing a few months ago. Whether it is because of the policy he announced just before he went abroad, and left for somebody else to put into operation before he came back, 1 do not know. There is some reason for that change. Probably, somebody will tell us why honorable senators opposite are not continuing to eulogize the Prime Minister and the policy which he enunciated
On almost every occasion on which they speak, honorable senators opposite tell us about something that happened during the regime of the Labour government prior to 1949. Senator Hannaford did not refer to prices, but the fact remains that the Government, of which he is a supporter, put into operation the “ little budget “ which the present budget confirms, it has affected the economic situation to the detriment of the working people. There is no question about that. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, from 1953 until early this year, wages have been pegged, no increase having been granted as a result of an increase in the cost of living. When an increase in wages is granted because of an adjustment resulting from an increase in the cost of living, the family man does not receive an increase in wages to cover the cost of living increase until approximately four months later. The basic wage has been pegged, and the working man has suffered to that extent. We also have pressure being brought to bear on State governments to abolish the quarterly cost of living adjustments, with the result that Victoria is now adopting the same practice as has been adopted in federal awards. The Victorian Government intends to abolish cost of living adjustments. Then, of course, somebody says in horror, “ It has to be done because of the inflationary trend “. The position is that it is the working man. the man who. is producing the goods, who is suffering. 1 might say, in passing, that it is not only the man who is receiving wages who suffers. In that respect, I shall deal with the position of primary producers presently. Agitation is going on all the time to reduce the standard of living of the working people of Australia, particularly those working under awards. It has been suggested from time to time that overtime should be reduced. Men are working overtime because they are unable to meet their commitments out of their ordinary wages, and because prices have got out of hand. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, the cost of living has risen so rapidly that the average worker cannot maintain a reasonable living standard. The Government hopes that, by eliminating overtime, it will be possible to discipline the workers.
The Government has repeatedly dodged the issue when asked how many persons are unemployed in Australia. Although the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) stated last month that there were 35,000 registered unemployed, we have been told that all those persons are not actually out of work. If that is so, why did they register? I believe that there are many more than 35,000 out of work. The Minister has dodged the issue, and Government senators support him by their apologetic attempts to disguise the fact that so many persons are unemployed. They claim that only those persons who collect the unemployment benefit are actually out of work, but there are thousands of men without regular employment who do not register, but who go from place to place looking for work. They get casual employment from time to time. If the Government took into consideration all of the persons who call at country employment agencies, it would learn that there are many more than 35,000 looking for work. The army of unemployment in Australia is growing because of the deliberate actions of this Government. It is the policy of the Government to discipline the workers who are working under arbitration awards. That is why the Government will not come out in the open with unemployment statistics.
In an earlier debate, Senator Wright referred to the incomes of primary producers. He spoke of their returns in terms of a basic wage. There is no basic wage for the primary industries. The amount to which Senator Wright referred was the average minimum return received by farmers, which is entirely different from a basic wage. His error might have been inadvertent, but nevertheless he was wrong. He said that the average return to primary producers in Australia had fallen from £2,744 to £1,307, so that the average income of farmers had declined by more than £1,000 a year. That has happened because, under the policy of this Government, primary producers are receiving less for their products. There has been a marked decline in the standard of living of primary producers.
From time to time, members of the Government produce figures relating to the volume of farm production. These statements are prepared by armchair economists who are paid enormous sums of money to agree with the opinions of Ministers and put them into the phraseology of economists. They have told the farmers that we can get out of our troubles and raise outstandards of living by producing more. Senator Wright, who was very concerned about the decline in the standards of living of the primary producers, said that the volume of production had increased by 12.8 per cent, between 1950 and 1955. but that the return from the sale of the produce declined by 7 per cent. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have stated repeatedly that the Government’s policy is wrong, and Senator Wright’s figures prove the truth of our contention.
Senator Wright stated that the interest bill of primary producers had risen from £17,000,000 to £29,000,000 between 1950 and 1955 because of the higher rates of interest. The cost of implements, he said, had risen by 42.1 per cent. He blamed the Labour governments in some of the States for enormous increases of freight charges, although he did not give any specific figures. The fact is that the people are being robbed because of the policy of this Government. The interest bill has risen from £17,000,000 to £29,000,000 because the Government handed control of interest rates to the financial institutions.
The farmers are in similar trouble over the implements they need for their properties. Because of the policy of the Government, manufacturers of implements have been allowed to make bigger and better profits. The result is that, in the period of time mentioned by Senator Wright, the prices of implements have risen by 42.1 per cent. The attitude of this Government is that, as long as private enterprise gets its cut, the primary producer can pay, and if the primary producer cannot pay the lot, the working people in the factories and workshops can help. Is it any wonder that there has been a feeling of revulsion in the southern part of South Australia, which is the most conservative area of that State?
I have pointed out that production has risen by 12.8 per cent.; but the farmer’s net receipts are 52.3 per cent, less than in 1949, and that in currency which the Government is trying to bolster up but which each year is receding in value. In other words, he gets 52 per cent, less in to-day’s currency than he did in the currency of 1949. Do honorable senators opposite think that will be good for this country? Do they think it will help in any way to overcome the difficulties into which this Government has brought the economy? If the position deteriorates much more, these people will revolt too.
I have a little more to say in relation to interest rates, lt will be remembered that a tremendous lot of propaganda was issued about what the Government intended to do. and about how the Prime Minister proposed to meet the employees, the employers, and representatives of the banking institutions, and arrange for voluntary agreements between them all. With the exception of an agreement with the banking institutions for the restriction of credit, that is as far as the Government has gone. If we look at the report of the Commonwealth Bank, we find that the arrangement did not work out as well as was suggested by the Prime Minister. It was discovered that some of the banks were not carrying out the agreement as they should have been, with the result that the central bank had to release more of its special funds to tide the private banks over. I again go back to the question of the primary producers. The private banks were allowed to raise their interest rates on overdrafts a little, but they were not to exceed 6 per cent., and primary producers and expo-t producers were to get favorable consideration.
Immediately the banks agreed to that arrangement they established credit corporations which were attached to the banks.
Some of the banks own more than 51 per cent, of the credit corporations so established, some own them wholly and solely, and others own about 40 per cent, of them. Now we come to the remarkable part about, the arrangement. A primary producer might go to his banker and ask for an advance for the purpose of buying machinery. He is told that the bank has agreed with the Prime Minister through the central bank to restrict credit, and it is not able to give him the usual accommodation. The farmer then naturally puts on a bit of a blue, and he is asked what he wants. He might say that he wants a harvester or something of that kind. He is told to go along to a certain counter in the same bank building and he will probably be accommodated there. When he goes there, what happens? At that counter he is told that he can be fixed up with a hire purchase agreement through the credit corporation. The result is that, in order to obtain accommodation to buy the machinery that is necessary to harvest his crop or for the purpose of putting in a crop, he has to pay an interest rate of up to 18 per cent. Let us not forget that already the price of the machinery has risen by 42 per cent.
That is how the banks carry out the agreement that was made with the Prime Minister. They have dodged it by establishing their own credit corporations through which they are issuing hire purchase agreements to primary producers and others. I repeat that they are charging as much as 18 per cent, for the accommodation that they are giving to those people. Yet, the Government wonders why it is not overcoming the present economic difficulties. It is allowing the private enterprise factor to exploit over and over again the producers of Australia. The Government believes in private enterprise, but it will never get anywhere if it carries on as it has done thus far. If the people of Australia do not soon wake up. they will find themselves in almost the same position as that in which they found themselves in the depression years, which Senator Hannaford said started when a Labour government was in office. Again he does not know what he is talking about. The last depression started at the beginning of 1927, and a Labour government was not in office then. Australia is in exactly the same position as it was in 1927, with this slight difference: In 1927 it was stated that we did not have enough money to carry on, but now it is said that we are a prosperous people, and the Government can raise more than £1,000,000,000 in the form of taxation.
I have already mentioned how the banks are getting around the agreement that was made with the Prime Minister, and other private organizations are doing the same thing. This afternoon, I referred to import restrictions. There is no doubt that certain practices are being indulged in in the issuing of licences, but the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has taken certain action against them. I do not want to embarrass him, because I think that he has to do the best he can in- a very bad situation. Because he believes in private enterprise he believes that private organizations have the right to exploit the position that has been created by the shortage of many commodities as a result of import restrictions. The Minister’s belief is shared by honorable senators opposite, but not by the Labour party. That is the difference between us. Because the Labour party says that it is of no use trying to remedy the economic situation by pegging wages without pegging other things as well, our opponents reply that all the Labour party can suggest at any time is that prices should be fixed. The policy of the Labour party goes further than that; it deals with the credit resources of this country as well, lt is no wonder that the banking institutions, business combines and cartels have such a bitter hatred of the Labour party. They would chop our heads off if they could, and they have spent a lot of money in attempts to effect our political decapitation. They, and not the Government, have full control of credit, interest rates and the economic expansion of this country. This Government has found that there is a stronger force than itself in control of the economy of Australia, but the Government is not game to stand up to it.
Australia’s economic difficulties will never be solved while the private enterprise system prevails. I know that some of my political opponents will say that I am talking revolution, or that lama” commo “. The fact remains that the Government is not overcoming the country’s economic difficulties, and it never will while it adheres to its present policy. Ever since 1949, when it was elected to office, it has had recurring crises, and each time it deals with the crisis as it arises. Unfortunately, it is generally about twelve or fifteen months loo late. The Government tries to shut she stable door, but the horse has gone, and then the worker and the primary producer suffer. The Government has acted too late, and has done too little to rectify the economic situation.
The Government’s policy is not having the effect of improving Australia’s overseas balances; rather, it is making things worse. Every time that Australia goes into the markets to borrow hard currency, it creates a fresh crisis in the balance of payments. History proves that. Australia is now attempting to borrow in the dollar market to overcome the crisis in the exchange position in connexion with hard currency. But borrowing will never gel Australia out of its difficulties. It is suggested that Australia should be able to import goods without charging tariff duties on those things that are required in this country. It seems that no one ever dreams of using the utilities already established to manufacture all kinds of goods in Australia. The idea is to purchase them somewhere else. Surely the equipment in the munitions factories, from which workers are being dismissed, could bc used to manufacture implements and machinery necessary for the expansion of industry. The factories in Australia could produce some of the biggest and best earth-moving equipment in the world, but instead of allowing that to be done the Government closes down the factories, and permits the purchase of equipment overseas, so that business concerns in some other part of the world may reap a profit. So long as private enterprise with its monopolies, cartels and control of the country’s economy is allowed to continue, the Government has no hope of remedying the present economic situation.
There must be an entire change of system, so that instead of profits and business as usual, as it is called - which means profits under another name - the human factor shall predominate in all aspects of the economy. Then the elected government will be in control of the economy. The Constitution would have to be altered - and I remind the Senate of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the great delay in getting the Constitution Review Committee, which was agreed to by both sides of the House, to begin its work. If this Parliament were given the necessary constitutional power it could control the finance, credit and exchange of Australia. Tt would also be able to bring about coordination in the production of both primary and secondary goods. All these matters could be correlated through the Parliament. Co-operative marketing could be established and extended, and people would be able to purchase goods that are not obtainable now because the cartels control their distribution. The Commonwealth would also be able to set up a credit authority that would issue credits at a low interest rate, with an amortization rate that would pay off the loan within 30 years. That method of financing would apply to public works, both State and Federal, and would make for expansion and development. The Government would not have to go overseas to borrow money. The present policy is to obtain a loan, and to spend 30 years paying the interest on it. At the end of that period the loan is renewed and over the next 30 years a further amount of interest is paid, but the principal is still owing. That system should be abolished, and under the method of amortization I have suggested, interest payments would be kept up and the principal would be repaid within 30 years. Then, fresh credits could be issued against the new assets that would have been established.
Some will say that such a system is not workable, but if they make a careful study of banking methods they will see that that is exactly what is happening; but under the plan I suggest the people of Australia, instead of the banking and private financial concerns, would be in control. The people’s savings could be used for purposes other than public works or other undertakings to which they are now specifically applied. As a consequence, undertakings and businesses in which the people themselves were interested could be expanded. Such a plan would not permit of the formation of combines or cartels here, nor would it permit of any association with combines or cartels overseas. All authority would be taken from both the cartels and the financial manipulators who are now operating these cartels in Australia. Last, but by no means least, it would provide for the proper control and stabilization of prices, charges and profits, and with that control would come the proper control of wages. Under that system, instead of having a position such as we have at present with industry saying, that it cannot afford to pay what we call a basic wage simply because it is not able to make from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, profit after paying this basic wage, we should have the foundation for a decent basic standard of living. To this could be added marginal or incentive payments for skill. Under that system, no person would be forced to exist on a low living standard. All people, whether they be primary producers or ordinary wage plugs in industry,, would have a decent standard of living. I commend that suggestion to the Government, because I am satisfied that it can never hope to lift this country out of the doldrums by pursuing its present policy of bolstering private enterprise.
, - The proposals contained in the budget for this year were extremely well canvassed when we were debating the budget papers some time ago. If we are to judge by Senator O’Flaherty’s speech, it would seem that the Government must be getting better in its administration. He has taken only 42 minutes to-night to tell us just in how many ways we are wrong. As he usually spends a full hour in doing that, I feel sure that the Government is improving with each budget. The rights and wrongs of our respective policies have been canvassed fully from both sides, and, in those circumstances, I feel that it might be of advantage to discuss something other than whether the Government is right or wrong in the various things it is doing.
Oil is of extreme importance in the world to-day. Indeed, it is so important that I understand that some 25 per cent, of the work force in Great Britain and the United States, and something more in Australia, is almost entirely dependent on its continual flow. I understand, also, that if the flow of oil were cut off to-morrow, there would be something like 2,500,000 people unemployed in Great Britain, and something like 600,000 or 700,000 people out of work in Australia immediately. But that does not mean to say that to the Australian people and, indeed, to most people of the civilized world, oil is not playing an increasingly important part in our everyday life, and I should like to spend a little time discussing its importance, especially with relation to Australia. In my remarks, I shall place special emphasis on the production of oil in the Middle East.
It will be of interest to all honorable senators to know that the first concession ever granted in the Middle East was granted to an Australian named William D’Arcy, who came from Mount Morgan in Queensland. He went up there and was granted a concession in 1901. After some seven or eight years of hardship and hard work, undergone with an unfailing belief in his own ability and in the fact that oil was to be found there, he eventually struck it in 1908. From that small beginning made possible by his tenacity, a tremendous flow of oil from the Middle East developed until to-day we have over 600 wells in various places.
– Who are “ we “? Who owns the wells?
– When I say “ we “, I mean the world in general.
– Does the honorable senator mean the Rothschilds?
– For Senator Grant’s benefit, let me say that there are just over 600 oil wells in this area to-day. Who owns them, I have not the faintest idea, but they produce oil which is used in Australia, and indeed all over the world. The oils produced in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Egypt are being used by people all over the world, and it does not greatly matter who owns the wells. In the Middle East, in those countries I have just mentioned, the oil wells produce 150,000,000 tons of oil every year. That represents 22 per cent, of the total production of the world, but what is of even more interest is that those same areas contain no less than 75 per cent, of the known reserves in the world, reserves which we are told to-day will last for something like 45 or 50 years, by which time, of course, if that is true, we hope that we shall be using nuclear power. The fact that these areas contain 75 per cent, of the world’s known reserves is of great interest, particularly in view of the international situation to-day and what might be the possible international situation in ten, fifteen or twenty years’ time.
Before going into the details of the Middle East, let us examine the balance of the rest of the production. Of the other producing countries, we have the United States of America, South America, the Soviet bloc, a very small portion in Africa and the Far East, and, of course, Canada. If we exclude from those producing countries the Soviet bloc, where production and consumption are about equal and where, therefore, there is no export to the Western world, of the remaining producing countries, only South America has a surplus. Of that surplus in South America, two-thirds goes to the United States and one-third to Europe. One very interesting fact which I think a great many people do not realize is that the United States, which we look upon as the home of oil, consumes 25 per cent, more oil than she actually produces herself. As I said before, she gets the balance of her requirements primarily from Venezuela in South America and a small amount from the Middle East. She also gets a good deal from Alberta in Canada, but that, of course, is only comparatively recently, as we all know.
The Middle East supplies almost the whole of Europe. Very little goes across the Atlantic from South America. The Middle East wells supply almost the whole of Western Europe, the United Kingdom, the Far East, and, of course, Australia. I suppose five-sevenths of Australia’s consumption comes from the Middle East, the balance coming from North-West Borneo and from Balikpapan in South-East Borneo. About 1 50,000,000 tons of oil a year is produced in the Middle East, and it is interesting to consider that tremendous quantity in terms of transport - that is, of course, ships. Even if more pipe lines are constructed to carry the oil from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean, or from the Iraqian fields to the Mediterranean, that oil will still have to be pumped into tankers so that it may be transported to the countries that need it. Therefore, the problem, however it may be considered, eventually comes back to the number of ships required.
Some 70,000,000 tons of oil a year is transported to Europe, some 5,500,000 tons to Australia, and about 25,000,000 tons to the United States and the Far East. All that oil is carried by ships. Suppose, for example, that we had to use the sea route via the Cape of Good Hope because the present route through the Mediterranean could not be used. The distance from the Persian Gulf to the United Kingdom would then be increased by about 4,500 miles, or an increase of 66 per cent. If the quantity of oil that is at present transported from the Persian Gulf to the United Kingdom remains the same, then for the longer route 400 ships more than those at present in use would be required. If the Suez Canal could not be used, the route from the Persian Gulf to the United States would be 3,500 miles longer, or 41 per cent, further than the present route. In that case 120 or 130 more ships would be required. Therefore, honorable senators will note that if the present route through the Mediterranean Sea could not be used, Great Britain and America would have to produce almost 600 more ships between them immediately. That, of course, is impossible. ff our ships could not use the normal route we should feel the pinch immediately, as there is no doubt that the ships which are at present bringing oil from the Persian Gulf to Australia would soon be thinned out because Great Britain would need to put more ships on to the run between the Persian Gulf and the United Kingdom. Honorable senators may think that this problem can be solved by building more pipe lines. There is a 1,000-mile pipe line from Bahrein on the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, but that can handle only the quantity of oil that can be carried by three average size tankers. Furthermore, although the pipe lines have been free from sabotage during the last twelve months, it only needs a couple of sticks of dynamite to blow up a section, put a pipeline out of action and stop the flow of oil. In any «vent, the oil that goes from the Persian Gulf through the pipeline to the Mediterranean is only about 16,000,000 tons a year, which is a comparatively small quantity in the overall picture.
If the oil route should be changed there would be a tremendous amount of unemployment in Great Britain and Australia because so many people in those countries are completely dependent on a steady flow of oil to maintain the industries in which they are engaged. I do not know whether the oil wells in British North Borneo and at Balikpapan are able to increase flow. If the oil production in those areas can be increased, it may be the answer to Australia’s problem. During the latter part of World War II., there were about nine gushers plugged off in the oil district of Miri, in Brunei, but I have been out of touch with this matter since then and 1 do not know whether they are now being used. If it is possible to put our tankers on to the job of carrying that oil to Australia, they would have to carry oil only half the present distance and perhaps that would improve our position. I have not been able to find out much about that matter, and perhaps the Minister will be able to give us some information which will enlighten us. In any case, it is quite plain that many of the ships that are at present bringing oil to Australia would be used to carry oil to Great Britain if we were not able to use the present Mediterranean route.
At present we are very proud of our big new oil refineries in this country. We have Kwinana which refines about 60,000 tons a year, Kurnell which refines nearly as much, Altona, Geelong, a small one at Clyde, and two or three other small establishments. Those refineries are capable of refining 7,500,000 tons of oil each year, or 90 per cent, of our internal requirements. We should be very proud that private enterprise, with the encouragement of the Australian Government, has gone ahead and built these refineries. However, it is of no use having the refineries if we cannot get crude oil for them to refine.
It has been frequently said that in ten years’ time the present route from Australia to Europe through the Suez Canal will not be capable of use by all the ships that will wish to use it. Therefore, in 1966 we could well be faced with the necessity to cut another canal through from the Gulf of Akaba for 140 or 150 miles to the eastern Mediterranean in the Gaza strip, or rely on super tankers. There are a good many arguments on both sides of that question, but whatever the decision may be it will have to be made for the peoples of western Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. We shall not be affected, because our oil does not have to pass through the canal. Therefore, we should be thinking to-day in terms of oil tankers, and making some plans to secure them and operate them, whether they be run by private enterprise, whether they should be an addition to the present Commonwealth line of ships or whether they should be controlled by both Government and private enterprise.
Let us now consider our defences. Oil is the fourth arm of defence because without oil, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force are completely useless. That has been recognized in Great Britain for many years and the Royal Navy has had as an adjunct to it the Royal Fleet Auxiliary which is composed of 80 or 85 ships, of which 56 ships are oil tankers. They range from the 25,000 ton Olna class of J7i knots down to the Dale class of 17,000 tons and the Wave class of 14,700 tons. Most of these types are capable of speeds in the vicinity of 15 knots. I shall have more to -say about this aspect later. In Australia, the Royal Australian Navy has one tanker, the “Tide Austral” of 17.500 tons. It is quite a nice class of ship, having a speed of about 16 knots, but the point is, we have only one. We should be thinking not only in terms of tankers running to supply ordinary industry in Australia; we should also be thinking in terms of tankers capable of supplying oil to naval vessels because, in the event of another war occurring, I am afraid that we should be in rather more of a mess than we were last time, as far as oil is concerned.
We have heard a lot about a balanced defence programme, but we lack the mainspring. To-day, there are no naval coalburners at all; all of our naval vessels depend on oil for fuel. Action in the direction I have mentioned is long overdue. Of course, there are enough merchant ships plying around our coast to meet the needs of industry in Australia at present. Before long, the Australian shipyards will be needing’ orders.
– They want them now.
- Senator Hendrickson might know more about that aspect of the matter than I do. They will certainly want more work to do soon, if they do not already need it. We should be thinking of placing orders with Australian shipyards for the construction of tankers in order to be able, to maintain our own fleet of tankers, and so be independent of the whims and fancies of the owners of the tankers that now bring oil to this country.
– You are becoming a real socialist.
– This is not a matter of socialism at all. I did not say that it was necessary for the Government itself to build tankers, but I should not mind, as I said earlier, if some were constructed by the Government and others by private enterprise. One could hardly call the Navy a socialistic enterprise. I have been wondering whether a proportion of the defence vote should not be expended on the construction of tankers for the Navy. I think that that could well be done.
– Hear, hear!
– 1 suggest thai something along the lines of the three suggestions I have made might be the ideal approach to this matter. It is up to those who are in power to talk these things over and make a decision. As I said before, in view of recent international happenings, the sooner we get on to this-
– Order! It is not in order for the honorable senator, to discuss the international situation during this debate.
– I emphasize that it is time we did something to establish our own tanker fleet. We have been given to understand that some of our defence projects, including aircraft factories, are to be shut down. I point out that fitters and turners, electricians, and draftsmen could be transferred from aircraft production to shipbuilding. A fitter and turner can turn a shaft for a ship as readily as he can turn a blade for an aircraft propeller, because his training ranges over a wide field. I can see no reason why skilled men should be dismissed from the Cockatoo Dockyard in Sydney. Why not build tankers there? I point out that, apart from armaments, there is no difference between the construction of a tanker and the construction of a naval vessel.
The Australian shipbuilding industry should abandon the idea that it should noi construct ships of a greater speed than 12 knots, because ships with a speed of less than 16 knots are unsuitable for deepwater work. In this connexion, the industry should take its cue from shipbuilders in other parts of the world. I expect certain members of this chamber to try to blind mt with science by pointing out that the cost of installing an engine capable of producing a speed of 15 knots is disproportionately greater than the cost of installing a 12-knot engine. I acknowledge that the cost rises greatly as the knottage capacity increases, but persons who argue along this line frequently overlook the time factor. By that, I mean that the additional initial cost in order to gain greater speed results in a considerable saving of expenditure on crew wages and victualling, because the time required for each voyage is shortened.
It is most interesting to study the economics of super tankers. In my opinion, the upper limit as far as capacity and speed are concerned will be determined, not by the shipbuilders, but by the availability of port facilities, depth of water alongside the wharfs, and the dry-docking facilities. As far as the actual construction is concerned, I cannot see that there need be any limit, The tankers which at present bring oil to Australia are of an average size of 16,500 tons. Some are much larger than that and, of course, others are smaller. Their average speed is 15i to 16 knots. By constructing a super tanker of, say, 50,000 tons, there is a tremendous saving in the initial capital because less steel is required in relation to the cargo-carrying capacity of the ship. Moreover, if we compare a 50,000-ton tanker with an average 16,500- ton tanker we find that the former will effect, by comparison, a saving of about 60 per cent, on operational costs. This, I submit, is a very persuasive argument in favour of the construction of super tankers of 50,000 tons or more. In order to explain my contention clearly, I have obtained figures in relation to three recently built vessels. It costs £70 per ton, deadweight, to build a tanker of 18,000 tons capable of a speed of 1 5 knots, but a tanker of 36,000 tons costs only £53 per ton deadweight to build. Finally, a recently laid down vessel of 84,000 tons-
– Does the honorable senator contend that they should be built in Australia?
– Yes. The lastmentioned tanker is estimated to cost only £33 per dead-weight ton, and it is expected that the operating cost per actual ton of oil carried will be 65 per cent, less than in the case of smaller tankers. A vessel of 1 00,000 tons has been laid down recently in the United States by Onassis, a great financier of whom honorable senators have heard. In future it may. perhaps, be possible to utilize vessels of that size on the long haul from Persian Gulf ports to the United Kingdom round the Cape, or to the United States. If the vessels are too large to enter some of the ports en route, oil could be transferred into smaller tankers. It takes only a day to transfer oil from a large to a smaller tanker, and money could still be saved on the whole trip.
– A sort of mother ship?
– Yes. It may seem strange to say that the operating costs between a large and a small ship are not so very great. After all, when one comes to think of it, no matter what the size of the ship, whether it be 10,000 tons or 1,000 tons, it has only one captain, or one chief officer or six quartermasters, and so on. A large ship does not carry any more than a smaller one. Generally speaking there would be little increase in the size of the crew except in the case of a big passenger ship which carries hundreds of stewards. In an ordinary cargo vessel the crew is much the same whether the ship be 1,000 tons or 10,000 tons.
For the benefit of those who have not had the experience of going to sea, I point out that it is quite natural that there should be a big saving by using larger tankers.
An experiment was carried out with a ship called “ Sinclair Petrolore “. an oil tanker of 56,000 tons, which was sent round the Cape. The actual cost of the oil per ton was less than that of a 16,000-ton tanker travelling the normal route through the Mediterranean. That was a very interesting experiment. Of course, one has to take from that the dues payable when going through the canal. I would say that the economics of tankers are not only persuasive but also compelling. I think, that in larger tankers lies the remedy for the present situation.
It is very difficult to say what type we would require, in Australia. That would have to be left to the experts to work out. As I said earlier, the size of a tanker is limited by the depth of water in the pons it will serve. At Kwinana we have 36 feet of water alongside the wharf where ships are discharging. That port is quite capable of taking ships up to 50,000 tons, and could certainly cope with 40,000-ton vessels. Kurnell also has 36 feet of water, and very large ships could enter there. Altona has a depth of 42 feet at Williamstown and could cater for ships up to a tonnage of 4i,000 and 50,000 tons. I would think that the ideal tonnage for Australian ships would be somewhere in the vicinity of 25.000. The size is something on which 1 cannot decide; I simply offer my suggestion to the Government, which should look into the matter.
Whether the Government or the Cabinet has already discussed these matters I do not know. I should imagine that they must have done so at some time. If not I hope that the Government will listen to what I have said and will discuss this subject in order to see what can be done about it. I am quite sure that from an employment, defence and common-sense angle, something should be done as soon as possible. I think I have said sufficient on this matter to raise some interesting points for discussion by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. My speech has been rather sketchy because the subject is tremendous. I do not wish to speak at greater length. As I said before, I hope that what I have said will provoke some discussion and thought. I support the bill.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Before speaking to the amendment, I desire to pay a compliment to the other new members of this chamber who were elected at the same time as I was. I listened attentively to their speeches and was impressed by the high standard they set, which I shall find very difficult to maintain. Whilst I do not agree with all the views they expressed I agree that they did a particularly good job in their maiden speeches and I trust that I can open up as wide a field of discussion as they did.
In supporting the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism of the financial transactions of the Government, one matter which has particularly disappointed me is that the Government has afforded no taxation relief. For the working man, taxation is always a nightmare. Whether direct or indirect, it increases considerably the cost of living of the family man. I also join with the Leader of the Opposition in requesting information on the reason for a leakage of certain details in the budget. It is a bad thing to have items in the budget published in the press before they are revealed to the Parliament.
I also criticize the Government for its failure in the social services field to give relief to age, invalid, and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. That failure must be viewed with very grave concern. I know a pensioner of 72 years of age who has reared a large family and is to-day receiving a pension of £4 a week. This particular lady is living in a home, the rent of which has been increased progressively over the years. When she first occupied the house, at a time when rents were controlled, she was paying 22s. 6d. a week. Later, the rental was increased to 27s. 6d. a week; then to 37s. 6d.; and to-day she is paying £3 5s., for a four-roomed house. After paying rent, she has 15s. a week left on which to feed and clothe herself. Any pensioner over 70 years of age, who has reared a large family, who in turn have also reared families, should receive better treatment from this or any other government, than the lady to whom I have referred is receiving.
I am also very disappointed in this Government’s approach to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. Their pension rates have not been increased. Their plight has been made worse because they are not allowed to earn a few shillings by casual employment. Some totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners have asked me whether I would make representation on their behalf so that they could act as poll clerks or returning officers at Federal or State elections, and earn a small amount of money. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to do so. I know a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner in Hobart who was an enthusiastic cricketer in his younger days. He thought that he would return something to the game from which he had derived so much pleasure, and he became an umpire at 10s. a match. He was stopped from enjoying his sport and making a small addition to his income because he was a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner.
– lt is dreadful!
– It is worse than that. The pensioners are up in arms against the Government. I wish that the Government would go to the country to-morrow so that the pensioners could tell it where it stands. Honorable senators on the Government side have claimed that the Government has the confidence of the people. Certainly, it gained the confidence of the people in 1949, and it obtained a new mandate last December, but how did it do so? The Government gained office before it introduced the little horror budget. If the Government had allowed the Parliament to run for its full term, and had presented the little horror budget before the election, it would not be occupying the treasury bench to-day.
The workers have lost heavily by the abolition, in September, 1953, of cost of living adjustments under the C series index. I can speak on this matter with some authority, because I have been an industrial worker since 1920, and have had experience as an official of an industrial organization. I know the losses that industrial workers have suffered under federal awards. After the basic wage was frozen in 1953, the only increase granted was a paltry 10s. a week, which was granted by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration after lengthy evidence had been submitted on behalf of the trade union movement by the Australian Council of Trades Union. The workers in Tasmania lost heavily. I think that they were hit harder than any others in the Commonwealth, with the possible exception of those in Western Australia.
When the increase of 10s. a week was granted, it was claimed that the economy would be stabilized, and that there would not be a sharp rise in the prices of commodities. Strangely enough, while there might not have been particularly sharp increases in items in the C series index, there have been big increases in the price of other commodities. The infamous document in which the Arbitration Court announced the increase of 10s. a week referred to the financial policy of the Commonwealth Government. The court believed that it should not get out of step with the Government’s financial policy. It has always been said that the government of the day did not interfere with the arbitration system. On this occasion, the action of the court showed that it was subservient to the wishes of the Government.
The former Attorney-General, who was then Senator Spicer, has been appointed Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. It is an old court dressed up in new clothes, and the appointment of Chief Judge Spicer was made so that the Government’s policy on wages could be put into effect. We of the trade union movement consider that the appointment of Chief Judge Spicer was provocative.
Much has been said in this chamber, and in the press, about stabilizing costs, and it has been suggested that this could be done by one wage-fixing authority for Australia. It has been said that the States should bring their basic wage rates into line with the federal basic wage, but I do not agree. The standard of the workers is low enough without trying to reduce the standard of those who enjoy a higher rate of pay under State wards. We should endeavour to lift the standard of the workers under federal awards to that which obtains under State determinations.
Great prominence has been given to the suggestion that price control is not necessary to keep prices at a reasonable level, and that the law of supply and demand will take care of the situation. In many cases, there is a fair amount of supply. However, in many instances it is in the hands of monopolies which will not supply wholesalers and retailers unless they charge the prices that the monopolies want them to charge. In Hobart op » number of occasions firms in the electrical business have endeavoured to cut the prices of appliances, but immediately the monopoly that controls the distribution in that State has informed the firms that, if they do not increase their prices, they will not obtain a further supply. The same thing happens in Hobart in regard to meat and, to a lesser degree, in regard to vegetables. It will be noted, therefore, that the law of supply and demand does not react favorably towards the consumers and wage-earners.
It has been suggested that we should get away from the needs basic wage and work to a basic wage based on the capacity of industry to pay. There might be good arguments in favour of that proposal, but there are also very good arguments against it. If workers are to be paid a wage that is in accordance with the capacity of industry to pay, what wage would railway workers get?
Railways generally do not show a profit, so if railway workers were to receive a wage that the industry could afford to pay, they would be on a particularly low wage. The same can be said about postal workers. Recently postal rates were increased. When the relevant measure was before this House, it was stated that the Postal Department had showed a loss for the previous twelve months. If the department had paid its employees a wage which it thought would enable it to run its activities at a profit, those employees would have received a very low wage. Already some postal employees are in receipt of a very low wage, and I shall quote some examples. A postman in Hobart named Sward, who has a wife and one child, is on a salary of £742 a year. His overtime would work out at £1 4s. a week. Out of his salary he has to pay a superannuation contribution of £1 7s. 2d. and income tax amounting to £1 7s. In addition, he probably has to pay £3 or £4 a week in rent, because rents arc not controlled. A certain mail officer, who also is married, is in receipt of a yearly salary of £782. Being employed in a temporary capacity, he is not obliged to pay superannuation contribution, but has to pay tax amounting to £1 16s. a week. 1 do not know whether he happens to be a relation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies); he has the same name, but he does not enjoy the same salary.
I am disappointed at the sum of money that this Government makes available to the various State governments for the building of houses. For a considerable number of years there has been a very acute shortage of houses throughout the Commonwealth. I feel that the Tasmanian Government has done a particularly good job with the money that has been made available to it for its home-building programme. I am not aware of the position in the other States, but I presume that they too have done quite a commendable job in that direction. Nevertheless, I am very concerned when 1 note that over the past few years there has been a decline in the number of houses that have been erected in Tasmania. In 1952-53, the Tasmanian Housing Department erected 566 houses; in 1953-54, 467; and in 1954- 55. only 444. However, in that last year 3 1 flats were erected, making the total 475. I think this Government could make more money available to the various State governments to enable them to expand their programmes to provide more homes for the workers, because there is still a very acute shortage of houses. In Tasmania, quite a number of families are evicted but have no home to which to go. I know one family of husband and wife and three children that was evicted. The furniture was taken care of by the police for six weeks and the family was accommodated among relatives and friends before another home could be found for them.
I am disappointed at the failure of the Government to give relief in this budget from pay-roll tax. This tax was introduced by a Labour government as a temporary measure, but like many . other temporary measures it has remained, because it is a means of getting something more from the already over-burdened taxpayer. It is reliably stated that for every £1 of pay-roll tax collected by the Government, the consumer has to pay £2. 1 was somewhat surprised to read a statement by the president of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Edney Medhurst, who attacked this Government, particularly in connexion with the pay-roll tax, after the budget was brought down by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden. He said -
The budget must have evoked the keenest disappointment to those who looked to Canberra for sound and effective leadership in combating the deterioration of Australia’s economy.
It is not often that I agree with a president of a chamber of commerce, but on this occasion I agree entirely with his statement. He went on to say -
The continued high taxation on pe’.rol and the retention of pay-roll tax was having a disastrous effect on costs in export industries and was a major factor in the inflationary spiral.
It seems strange for the government of the day to be taken to task by the president of a chamber of commerce, because usually chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures support wholeheartedly governments of the political complexion of the present Commonwealth Government. I am somewhat concerned at the unemployment figures that have appeared from time to time in the press, and that have been quoted in this chamber. Claims have been made also by various responsible- bodies regarding unemployment. In the building trade in Tasmania, between March and June, 1956, a decrease in the number of employees in that industry took place. In
March, 5,401 tradesmen - carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, electricians and so on - were employed, but by the end of June that number had been reduced to 5,370. That is a trend in the wrong direction. Senators from Western Australia have referred to the unemployment in that State, and it has spread to South Australia also. The Government now proposes to lay off employees in the aircraft production and shipbuilding industries, which is a further indication of unemployment spreading.
Since the budget was introduced, adverse criticism of it has been heard on all sides, from .trade union leaders and others, and the Government would be well advised to pay some attention to this criticism. For example, the budget has been referred to as barren. That term does not adequately describe it. lt is worse than barren; it is dead. Both the budget and the Estimates reveal a lack of courage on the part of the Government. i am disappointed that the Government has not provided more money for shipping. Within the last few months, representations have been made to the Government to re-establish a shipping line between Sydney and Hobart to provide a passenger and cargo service. So far, the Government has not seen fit to accede to this request. I have here an urgent telegram from the master warden at Hobart, Mr. Turner, which is as follows: -
Marine Board very disappointed to learn Federal Government’s decision nol to approve of reintroduction -of Sydney-Hobart passenger-cargo service stop. Urges strong representations by all Tasmanian members for reconsideration of matter in view of State’s virtual isolation as regards passenger shipping service on account unsatisfactory service provided by Taroona.
I register my personal disappointment that the Government has not made some effort to reintroduce that particular service. Such a service is essential to the development of Tasmania’s industries. It would be of particular assistance to the small fruits industry of that State, With a regular service between Hobart and Sydney, considerable quantities of small fruits could be dispatched to the Sydney markets and our outlet there .greatly expanded.
I was pleased to hear Senator Kendall suggest that some of the money that is being voted for defence purposes could well be diverted to the building of tankers for the transportation of oil. Some of that defence money might also be utilized in. the establishment of a service between Hobart and Sydney. In addition to being of tremendous benefit to the primary and secondary industries of Tasmania, a regular service such as the one I have suggested, would promote a considerable amount of additional tourist traffic to that State. If a regular and satisfactory shipping service was. available, many people would travel from New South Wales to Tasmania, bringing their motor cars with them in order to have transport while on the island. At the present time they hesitate to drive from Sydney to Melbourne and then take the risk of being able to obtain transportation to Tasmania on “ Taroona “ whose service over the last few years has been most unreliable. In recent years, it has beennothing unusual for “ Taroona “ to leave Melbourne only to return shortly afterwards for repairs and even to have to return a second time without having made the journey to Tasmania. Indeed, on occasion, it has had to cancel up to half a dozen trips, and nobody could expect tourists to beattracted to Tasmania in those circumstances. A regular and reliable service would boost tourist traffic tremendously.
This afternoon, Senator Hannaford said, he regretted that a tone of bitterness had entered this debate. I share his regret, but, at the same time, 1 must point out that this tone of bitterness has been caused by the attitude of the Government of which Senator Hannaford is a member. It hasbeen caused by the Government’s unrealistic approach to the requiremen ts of the -workers, people on fixed incomes and the pensionersfor whom it does not propose to do anything whatsoever during the current financial year.
Senator Hannaford also said that when controls and rationing were in force ‘black marketing prevailed. I admit that it did, but for ‘his information I mention that black marketing exists to-day, especially in: rents. All too frequently, we find that when a house or flat becomes available for letting it is let to the highest bidder, and nobody can deny that that is a form of black marketing. In conclusion, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator WARDLAW (Tasmania) (9.53]. - 1 support the budget and the bill before the Senate. At the outset I take the oppor tunity to compliment my fellow Tasmanian, Senator Poke, and the other three new senators on their maiden speeches which were Interesting, informative and wellbalanced. I am confident that the new senators will prove themselves to be assets to the Senate.
The budget is an accurate accounting of last year’s working and a reasonable estimate of the requirements for the current year. It reflects accurately the financial position of the country. Furthermore, it is the ninth budget presented by Sir Arthur Fadden as Treasurer. The conclusions contained in it have been arrived at after a full and thorough discussion of the facts based on an accurate understanding of the actual position and the advice of Treasury experts and departmental officers who have all the details at their fingertips. The best indication that this budget has been well received is the tremendous improvement in the bond and share market which has been firm ever since the budget was presented.
The Opposition, of course, has exercised its traditional Tight to oppose and criticize the budget, but the criticism offered by honorable members opposite has been neither constructive nor of help in the solution of our problems. If those honorable senators had taken the trouble to examine the position closely and to study the facts contained in the budget, they would not have criticized as they have done. They have described it as sterile, heartless, barren, uninspiring and unimaginative; but in their speeches they have shown a complete lack of understanding of Australia’s position or of the difficult and vital national problems with which this Government has dealt during its term of office. The Opposition, no doubt, could deal, in a much more competent way, with the hazards which we shall probably face within the next two years! lt is no good condemning what this Government has done unless honorable senators opposite can put forward some better course of action. The whole of their criticism has lacked direction, has been bereft of ideas, and has produced nothing constructive. The Opposition has said that the Government’s approach to many problems has been faulty, but even conceding that, the Labour approach to those problems was absolutely hopeless.
The two outstanding events of the last financial year were the economic surveys made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in September, 1955, and in March, 1956. The latter survey was, of course, followed by what has been called the little budget. It is to be hoped that the White Papers on economic conditions that have already been put before us will be followed at intervals by others in order to keep the public and members of the Parliament fully informed about the economic position in Australia.
Our overall economic position has not been dealt with at all by the Opposition in this debate. Honorable senators opposite still concentrate the full weight of their argument on social services, wages and prices control. Those matters are very important in their way, but their importance is much less than that of the “big national problems that confront us to-day. and that require solution. The Opposition could well have dealt with those matters, and I commend to honorable senators opposite a closer .study of affairs from the national viewpoint. The Government .has received not one word of encouragement, and no help at all in its endeavours to solve the problems that affect the unions of working men, and the Opposition has not made the slightest attempt to put forward amy alternatives to the methods that this Government has adopted. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that the budget was not a spectacular budget, and was not intended to be one. The policy of the ‘Government is to hold our economy at its present prosperous level, and not to take any undue risks. The Government is determined to retain the high standard of living and the splendid working conditions that exist in this country, conditions that are, perhaps, better than those of any other country in the world. We want to retain prosperity and guard against inflation.
Two budgets have recently been presented in this country, one by the New South Wales Labour Government and the other by the Commonwealth Government. I suggest that Opposition senators should compare those two budgets, because if they do so they will find the comparison particularly odious. One could not find a worse budget, or one that divulges more inefficiency and waste in government expenditure, than the recent New South Wales budget. Honorable senators opposite have complained of high taxation. I believe that there are three forms of taxation - direct, indirect and invisible. I now desire to examine some of the invisible charges on the community which amount to vcr> heavy taxation. The irresponsible and incompetent unions which undermine awards, oppose the actions of arbitration courts and introduce go-slow tactics - boosting the size of gangs on the wharfs and fighting for unfair and uneconomic working conditions - impose heavy invisible taxation on the community, and this has a very bad effect on the country generally. The recent shearers’ strike in Queensland is a good instance of how widespread dislocation can be caused on a flimsy pretext. That strike has dislocated Queensland’s economy for nine or ten months, and it has all been over 6s. or 10s. a 100 sheep.
– But that means a lot to the shearers.
– lt may, but the shearers should have continued to work at award rates. I shall give an illustration to indicate how badly off shearers are. Recently, I had to go from Sydney to the place where my home then was at Rose Bay. I travelled out in a taxi cab with another man who told me that he was a shearer. He said that he and his mate had earned nothing less than £50 a week clear while shearing, and that they owned five taxis between them. As I understand that taxis are worth about £3,000 each, honorable senators will see that those men were not actually working men; they were capitalists.
– He was taking you for a ride!
– He told me that he and his mate were both fairly wealthy men, because the taxis that they owned were worth more than £15,000. It has been said by honorable senators opposite that the profits of private companies have increased to £550,000,000 a year in the last few years, but that is a normal increase because this Government has encouraged private enterprise, and more capital has been invested in private companies. Moreover, the increased profit has brought about better working conditions and wages for the men engaged in industry. I also understand that about £250.000.000 out of that £500,000,000 profit comes back to the Government in taxes at the rate of 8s. in the £1. The remaining £300,000,000 is paid out to shareholders, and is then taxed again as shareholders’ income, so 1 cannot see that the present rate of company profit is a calamity - particularly when we realize that private companies give work to 84 per cent, of the people, and play a major part in the development of the country. For all that, and also because they take additional risks, they are entitled to some return on the money invested.
I point out to honorable senators opposite that wage and salary earners have not done so badly recently. The national income has increased to £4,300,000,000 a year, and wages and salaries to £2,650,000,000. Therefore, wages and salaries represent about 60 per cent, of the national income. This year the national income increased by £270,000,000, and wages and salaries represented 80 per cent, of that sum, or £209,000,000. Therefore, the statement made by one honorable senator opposite that wages and salaries are frozen cannot possibly be correct. Public investment has increased, and the much condemned dividends have risen from £62,000,000 to £120,000,000. If the whole of that £120,000,000 were divided up among the wage-earners they would get only an additional 5 per cent., which is a very small addition to their incomes. 1 come now to the subject of primary production, and I wish to refer particularly to farm incomes. The statement on national income and expenditure shows that the aggregate farm income has been falling over the last three years. This year, the figure is an all-time low, being 6 per cent, less than last year, although production has risen by 8 per cent. Over the last three years, farm income has fallen by 20 per cent. At this stage, I should like to sound a note of warning. While industrial profits have been rising, farm income has been falling. We know, of course, that 30 per cent, of the population now lives in rural areas, 600,000 people live in rural and mining areas, and 1,000,000 in the industrial areas in Australia. If farm income continues to fall at the rate I have mentioned, we may find ourselves in a very serious position within two or three years, particularly if we are unfortunate enough to experience a severe drought. If that happens, our friends on the Opposition benches will realize that primary production is really the backbone of the economy.
A rather difficult position has arisen in the wheat industry, to which one of my confreres referred recently. This year, sowings are down by probably 25 per cent. In addition, in Tasmania, due to the very wet weather conditions that have been experienced, both oats and barley will be in short supply. As wheat has been selling rather freely, I expect that, by the end of the season, the reserve stock will be down to 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 bushels, which is scarcely sufficient to provide against the contingency of one or two dry years. Before leaving this subject, I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) for his splendid work overseas in negotiating trading arrangements with England and continental countries. I know that he did not get all that he went out to get, but he certainly improved the situation tremendously, and is entitled to commendation for his work. We look forward to an increase in exports of manufactured goods this year in order to offset the decline of farm income. I understand that only about 8 per cent, of manufactured goods is being exported. As I have contended previously, manufacturers should place a certain amount, say 5 per cent., of manufactured goods at the disposal of the Government for export without profit, or at actual cost, to be subsidized from the remaining 95 per cent. If this were done, we could probably develop a market in Britain for our manufactured goods. Indeed, this is probably the only way in which it could be done.
It is not generally understood what primary production really means to Australia. As has been pointed out previously in this chamber, about 85 per cent, of our exports consist of primary produce. Therefore, unless we make a special effort to popularize our manufactured goods overseas, we cannot hope to increase our exports of secondary production within a measurable period. In conclusion, I emphasize the necessity to expand our primary production, and to seek new markets overseas. Only by becoming more efficient, and by increasing production can we overcome our present difficulties.
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.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to appropriate from revenue amounts required to meet expenditure on the ordinary services of departments. The bill provides for the appropriation of £292.836,000 for the services of the year 1956-57. In addition, supply amounting to £160.968,000 has already been granted, making a total estimated expenditure of £453.804,000 from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1956-57. The amounts for the several departments are shown in the second schedule of the bill. The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget speech and it is not intended to deal now with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may be sought by honorable senators will be provided at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1956-57 Estimates of Expenditure for Capital Works and Services is £109,738,000 made up of £108,238,000 from annual votes and £1,500,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act 1956-57, provides the necessary parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure under annual votes, which may be summarized as follows: -
Details of the proposed expenditure will be found on pages 232 to 247 of the printed Estimates, in the schedule of the present bill, and in the document “ Civil Works Programme 1956-57 “, which was recently made available to honorable senators at the direction of the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall). The major proportion of the 1956-57 provision is required to continue works in progress and to meet other outstanding capital commitments. The new works included are especially urgent and essential. The bill provides a further appropriation of £30,000,000 for expenditure on war service homes. Provision of £30,727,000 is included in the bill for post office works and equipment for the Postal Department. The provision for broadcasting and television has been increased from £817,000 to £2,474,000 mainly to meet establishment costs of television.
The provision this financial year to cover expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric power scheme is £18,000,000. This higher provision is due mainly to increased contractual commitments for the projects comprising the upper Tumut section of the scheme. The production of electricity from this section is expected to commence by the end of 1958. The amount of £5,657,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation includes £2,807,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes, £1,350,000 for the purchase and installation of modern technical equipment and £1,500,000 additional share capital for Qantas Empire Airways.
Under the Department of Shipping and Transport, £4,650,000 is provided for ship construction in Australian dockyards, but against this is offset an amount of £3,300,000 estimated to be received from the sale of vessels, and the Commonwealth subsidy of £1,400,000. Expenditure by the Atomic Energy Commission on capital projects is estimated to increase from £1,478,000 in 1955-56 to £2,436,000 this financial year, mainly due to the construction of the research reactor at Lucas Heights.
The continued development of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to cost £3,366,000 and £5,330,000 respectively this financial year. The provision for the Australian Capital Territory is mainly to continue the housing and school programmes and for associated engineering works. Any details which may be desired regarding specific works will be supplied in committee by the appropriate Ministers.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended for this sifting, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m. at night.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the motion resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The Supplementary Estimates of expenditure totalling £6,811,266 are for the financial year 1955-56. The amounts set out were expended from an appropriation of £16,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation for the several items of excess expenditure.
Full details of the expenditurefor 1955-56. which includes these items, are set out in the Treasurer’s finance statement for 1955-56, which has been tabled for the information of honorable senators. The Estimates Papers 1956-57 also show the total amounts for 1956-57, together with comparative figures for the previous year.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. The principal items, in round figures, are: - Ordinary departmental expenditure, £3,657,000; business undertakings, £3,058,000; territories of the Commonwealth, £88,000; payment to or for the States, £8,000. Any further details of the various items of expenditure will be provided at a later stage.
Honorable senators will observe, in the earlier presentation of the Supplementary Estimates 1955-56, a departure from past practice. The Treasurer considered that such a measure should be brought down shortly after the close of the financial year to which the Estimates relate. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts was informed of the Treasurer’s intention and so arranged its programme that the committee’s report upon the Supplementary Estimates was recently laid on the table of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The appropriation for Capital Works and Services for the financial year 1955-56 amounted to £104,978,000. The actual expenditure was £99,669,000, that is, £5,309,000 less than the appropriation. However, because of requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, the expenditure on certain items exceeded the individual amounts appropriated and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval to these increases. The excess expenditure on the particular items totals £456,353, which is spread over the various items of the departments, as set out in the schedule to the bill. Any details which may be required by honorable senators will be furnished at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 622).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
– by leave- I desire to announce to the Senate that, during the absence abroad of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) will act as Minister for Trade.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561016_senate_22_s9/>.