22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Considering the cordial relations that have existed between Prance and Australia, especially since our partnership in the defence of liberty, and bearing in mind also the great disparity between the value of our exports bought by France and of French goods bought by
Us, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade take steps to negotiate a trade agreement with the French Republic?
– I shall certainly convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for Trade, but I would not like the fact that I am passing on that suggestion to create any notion that there had not been long and exhaustive inquiries and a great deal of spadework done by many government departments to try to help France to bigger trade with Australia in exchange for the trade that we enjoy with her. It is a problem that has exercised the mind of the Government for some time.
– In view of the conflicting reports about the projected sale of three coal mines owned by the Joint Coal Board, is the Minister for National Development in a position to report to the Senate upon the attitude of the Government to the sale of these mines?
– Whatever confusion my exist, I hasten to assure the Senate that there is no confusion in the mind of the Government on this matter. Its attitude has been consistent. The Government has believed it to be wrong for the Joint Coal Board to conduct these large trading activities in opposition to the coal trade as a whole and at the same time establish the right to regulate and arrange the the affairs of the trade itself. The Government believes that these two activities are distinct, and that the Joint Coal Board should get out of mercantile transactions. That attitude has been put to the Joint Coal Board by me frequently, but in the legal set-up the decision rests with the Joint Coal Board. The board has that degree of autonomy; in its own right it makes decisions. It has made a decision to sell the mines, and it has conveyed the decision to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has warmly approved the decision. The decision was to offer the mines for sale by public tender. The Commonwealth believes that to be the only reasonable way to sell the two underground mines. The State Government desires that they should be offered privately, I understand, to the State Electricity Commission. The Commonwealth is opposed to that course. It says, in effect, “ Offer them for sale publicly and get the best price. If the State Electricity Commission is keen and wants to buy them, it can submit its tender along with the tenders of other prospective purchasers “. All tenders will be given the same consideration and the best arrangement all round made for the taxpayers.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen the recent lengthy press release by Mr. P. W. Haddy, former chairman of directors of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, giving the reasons why that company was forced te sell its assets to Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited? Would he care to comment upon Mr. Haddy’s statements, and, in particular, upon the allegation that no private airline can, in practice, successfully compete with an airline financed and supported, as is Trans-Australia Airlines, by the Commonwealth Government?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable senator refers. The person who made it took the rather unusual course of inserting it in the newspapers of Australia as a paid advertisement. I had proposed, in due course, to make a lengthy statement covering all aspects of the negotiations which went on during the last few months concerning the airlines. However, Mr. Haddy’s statement raises certain points which could well be answered now. I am in the course of preparing a statement which, with the permission of the Senate, I shall present either later to-day or to-morrow. As for the allegation that no private enterprise company or organization can compete successfully with a government airline, I merely direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that another private enterprise entity apparently does not take that view.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation by saying that, since I made my speech on the Repatriation Bill in this chamber last Wednesday, I have received communications from officials of different branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia agreeing with my contention that, in practice, the onus of proof rests, not on the department, but heavily and harshly on the applicant. Will the Minister consider making a comprehensive overhaul of the working of the Repatriation Department, with’ special reference to hospitalization and the operation of the onus of proof provision? I again hasten to assure you, Mr. President, that I am casting no reflection on the personnel of any of these appeals boards, or of the department-
– The honorable senator will come to order!
– I direct the attention of Senator Sandford to the fact that, two years ago, the question whether the onus of proof provision was being applied according to the act was brought up at the federal conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in Brisbane. The six States and the Australian Capital Territory were represented, and after very extensive discussions had taken place, and I had made a statement on the subject, six of the seven were satisfied that the commission, the boards and the tribunals were carrying out their work according to the letter of the act. Indeed, it was admitted that, if anything, they were oversympathetic towards the appellant. I remind honorable senators that all these appeal tribunals are quite independent, and not in any way connected with the department. Senator Sandford is aware that it is the practice for State bodies to h( Id a confer ence at which the recommendations of the sub-branches are considered. Those recommendations of the State bodies thereon are submitted to the federal congress of the organization. The Minister for Repatriation, whatever the party to which he belongs, naturally deals with the federal body. He will consider the representations made by that body. I would advise the honorable senator to suggest that one of the subbranches bring the matter up at a State conference. If the State conference considers there is a need for an overhaul of the operation of section 47 of the act by the Repatriation Department, it will be at liberty to bring the matter before the federal conference. If the federal conference agrees to the resolution, the resolution will be brought before me. I assure the honorable senator that all resolutions referred by the federal body of the Returned Servicemen’s League are very carefully considered by me, then by the Cabinet sub-committee of ex-servicemen and finally by Cabinet itself.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has the Government’s attention been drawn to the reported statement in Washington by the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O., Mr. R. G. Casey, that Australia is leading the world in artificial rain-making and that the C.S.I.R.O. is now close to being able to say with truth that it knows how to make rain, with appropriate cloud conditions? In view of the prevailing drought conditions in a large part of Australia, and the apparent lack of success of the C.S.I.R.O. rain-making aircraft in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, does not the Government consider the purchase - also reported to have been announced by Mr. Casey - of two American Cessna aircraft, at a cost of 70,000 dollars each, for rain-making experiments to be an unnecessary extravagance? Finally, if the Government continues to have faith in rainmaking experiments, has it made inquiries as to availability of suitable aircraft in Australia or Great Britain, where dollar expenditure would not be involved?
– I understand that artificial rain-making is still in the experimental stage. The question asked by the honorable senator is addressed to me as representing the Minister in charge of ihe C.S.I.R.O. He is probably the bestinformed man in the Cabinet on that subject. I have no doubt that the circumstances and details mentioned by the honorable senator have already received his earnest consideration.
– In view of the fact that Russia has achieved such amazing success in setting off from this world into space the first man-made satellite, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following questions: - First, has Russia encouraged her students to enter the field of science and. technology by granting extremely high financial rewards? Secondly, are the heads of Russian scientific and technological institutes receiving salaries in the range of £A.15,000 per annum? Thirdly, do scientists and engineers form the bulk of the aristocracy in that country? Fourthly, so that we may compete, does the Leader of the Government believe that the low salaries which are paid to Australian scientists and technologists should be completely reviewed with the object of encouraging more of our youth to enter this field as a career?
– I am sure the honorable senator would not expect me to know offhand the answers to all the questions that he has asked. However, I think it is a well-known fact that the Soviet Union has given tremendous encouragement to its citizens who are engaged upon scientific and technical research and scholarship. If what we read is correct, I understand that, proportionately, Russian youth is leading the world in technical and scientific education. I do not know what Russian scientists are paid, but, according to reports, they are paid very handsomely, and there is a considerable margin between the salaries and wages of skilled and unskilled employees. Inherent in the honorable senator’s question is the suggestion that we should give greater encouragement to the scientific education of the youth of our land. I heartily agree.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation assure the Senate that, in his projected statement in relation to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, he will give the fullest details regarding the financial transactions of the Government with that organization, and about the position in regard to those transactions upon the taking over of A.N.A. by Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited?
– Yes, I shall do that, but I make it clear that the information will not be contained in the first statement that I make, which will deal with a press advertisement. All those details will be included in the comprehensive statement that I shall make in connexion with the proposed legislation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that at present certain British migrants and all European migrants must be Australian citizens and have lived in Australia for ‘twenty years before qualifying for an age pension. Will the Minister consider reducing the specified qualifying period to not more than ten years in view of the fact that many of these migrants contribute considerably to national revenue and general prosperity during their earning years and because, through having to start from scratch to provide a home and security in the few years at their disposal in this country, they are placed in very difficult circumstances when forced to retire before their twenty years’ domicile is completed?
– The answer to the first part of the question is that I understand that twenty years is the qualifying period. As to the second part ‘of the question, if the honorable senator places it on the notice-paper, I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Immigration.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following questions: - First, what contribution, financial and scientific, has Australia made to the International Geophysical
Year? Secondly, when will the Government be in a position to make an authoritative statement to the people of Australia regarding the artificial satellite that was launched by Russia a few days ago and which is the subject of much interest throughout the world? Thirdly, will the statement explain whether, during the recent disarmament discussions between the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Russia, any indication was given that this type of earth satellite would be launched by Russia to mark the International Geophysical Year? Fourthly, what line will Australia take at the disarmament talks which are about to begin at the General Assembly of the United Nations in regard to ballistic missiles and many other stable companions?
– I am not aware of any precise contribution, either in cash or in terms of knowledge, that Australia will be making to the International Geophysical Year. I am not aware either whether the possibility of launching a satellite is part and parcel of Russia’s contribution to the geophysical year. As to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, I have no information that I can give him at this stage.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport support an investigation of the Commonwealth aid roads legislation to ascertain: (1) Whether the quantum of funds now available to the States is an ‘adequate contribution towards the general problem of financing roads; (2) whether the existing formula is fair and reasonable having regard to present-day conditions; and (3) whether an equitable system of grants reviewable at least every five years can be devised?
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred is continuously under review, not only by the Department of Shipping and Transport and by the Commonwealth Government, but by the States themselves also. This problem has become somewhat tattered and torn at meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers and at meetings of other organizations concerned, such as the Australian Transport Advisory Council. As to the fairness or reasonableness of the formula under which Commonwealth aid roads grants are distributed, I point out to the honorable senator that it has stood the test of time-
– Which test?
– It has stood the test of time and of criticism for many years with two notable exceptions - the Premier of Victoria and Senator Gorton. It will always be the aim of the Commonwealth Government to distribute these moneys by an equitable system, and the provisions of the legislation will be discussed from time to time with the State governments.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform me who is the Minister responsible for issuing instructions for the prosecution of war service land settlers who are behind with their payments? Will the Minister give me that information so that I can take up with the responsible Minister cases of persecution of ex-servicemen that are known to me?
– The honorable senator’s question follows one that he asked a week ago. After I received his first question, I went to the bother of discovering who was the Minister concerned, and I obtained the file. It is rather remarkable that the file should disclose that the honorable senator has had discussions, after approaching the Minister, with the administrative officer of war service land settlement in Tasmania. There is no information on the file or in the possession of the War Service Land Settlement Division that has not been conveyed to the honorable senator by the administrative officer in Tasmania. If the honorable senator cares to read his correspondence, he will see that he was asked to supply certain information. That information has not been supplied. It is remarkable for the honorable senator to say that he does not know who is responsible when he has been in contact with the Minister and, at the Minister’s request, with the administrative officer in Tasmania.
– Who is the Minister?
– The Minister with whom the honorable senator has had correspondence is Mr. McMahon.
– I have had no correspondence with the Minister.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral the following questions without notice: - When was the last prosecution launched by the Commonwealth under any section of the Australian Industries Preservation Act? Was such prosecution successful, and, if so, what penalty was imposed? If such prosecution was successful, at what particular restrictive trade practice or monopolistic industrial control was such prosecution launched? During the hearing of such prosecution, was any legal challenge made to the constitutional validity of such legislation?
– I am quite sure the honorable senator would not expect me to be able to answer those questions offhand, but I shall have inquiries made and supply him with the answers he seeks.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the Senate of the result of the conference held at the week-end between Commonwealth Ministers and the Premier of South Australia on the terms of the recently signed Snowy Mountains agreement? Can he say whether anything emerged which may lead to a settlement of the present differences of opinion between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia?
– There was a full, frank and open discussion between the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia. The views of the Commonwealth are yet to be finally conveyed to the Premier of South Australia, and I am not prepared to make any statement on the position at the present juncture.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by stating that the Melbourne “ Age “ of 26th February, 1957, published a news item to the effect that the Commonwealth had taken out a writ against certain shipowners. One of the owners was Huddart Parker Limited and the other the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. The writs were for a total sum of more than £1,000,000, which the Commonwealth claimed was due to it for repairs and reconditioning of two steamships owned by these companies. Has that claim yet been heard? If it has not, when is it likely to be heard? If it has been heard, has the Commonwealth recovered any of the moneys claimed as owing to it?
– As far as I am aware, this is a case which arises out of the reconditioning and handing over after the war of ships which had been used during the war period. The writs have been issued. I understand there has been no hearing yet, but I shall ascertain the present position and let the honorable senator know.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that some time ago I asked a question in the Senate relating to war service land settlement, and the Minister directed me to an officer of the department named Mr. Colquhoun. I ask the Minister now whether he is responsible personally for issuing instructions for the prosecution of certain war pensioners who are behind in their land settlement payments. As he directed me to Mr. Colquhoun, is he the responsible Minister? If he is not, can he inform me who is the responsible Minister so that I may take this case up on a ministerial level with the Minister himself?
– In this Senate, I merely represent my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. I am not responsible for the administration of the Department of Primary Industry, nor am I responsible for any administrative act falling within that portfolio. I merely represent him here. Coming to the particular case in point, I well remember that Senator Aylett asked a question and subsequently saw me and that, at Senator Aylett’s particular request, I saw my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, who thought it might help an investigation of the particular case which Senator Aylett had raised if the honorable senator saw his departmental head, Mr. Colquhoun. At the same time, the Minister asked me to arrange an appointment, which I did. Senator Aylett subsequently did see Mr. Colquhoun, and there was an exchange of correspondence between Senator Aylett and Mr. Colquhoun. Let there be no doubt at all about it. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, administers war service land settlement.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. By way of preface, I would say that reports of serious drought conditions over wide areas of Australia, particularly New South Wales, with heavy losses of live-stock expected, draw attention to the importance of fodder conservation. With reasonable foresight and planning by the States concerned, after eight or ten prolific seasons, ample stocks of stored hay and silage should be available to tide stock-owners over an extended dry period. Tasmanian farmers assert that 90 per . cent, of the farms in that State have large surplus stocks of fodder, which are sufficient to tide them over a prolonged dry period.
– Order! The honorable senator will come to his question.
– I am just coming to it. Will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain the fodder stocks held in reserve in the various States, the estimated period that these stocks will hold out, and whether they are available to drought areas? Will he also ascertain whether surplus stocks held in Tasmania, and possibly in other States, could be made available promptly and expeditiously to needy mainland States?
– I shall be very pleased to refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation on the help to be given to approved airline companies operating in Australia, will the Minister advise whether any approach has been made by Macrobertson Miller Airlines Limited, of Western Australia, for financial help to purchase suitable modern aircraft for its Perth-Darwin service?
– Macrobertson Miller Airlines Limited conducts in Western Australia what is known as a developmental service. This is, therefore, a subsidized service. It has been so subsidized for many years, with the Commonwealth advancing increasing amounts as the service has been extended. The question of replacements is under consideration by the department all the time.
– Can the Minister for National Development give us any information about the results of the conference which was held here on Saturday between the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, and Commonwealth Ministers, in connexion with the waters affected by the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– The answer is “ No “. There was a full-dress discussion which terminated on the basis that the parties to the discussion would consider the views that had been exchanged. I do not think that the Commonwealth will make any further statement on the position. The Commonwealth has stated its views to Sir Thomas Playford, and I would think that it would confirm those views to him. I see no advantage to be gained by reiterating the views that have been previously expressed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. By way of preface, I invite the Minister’s attention to the serious effects on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and the River Murray areas in general of the continuing erosion of the catchment area. Does the Minister consider it a satisfactory arrangement to have a multiplicity of bodies with controlling powers over various sections of the Snowy Mountains area? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Snowy Mountains agreement, which was recently negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria, makes provision for the Commonwealth to assume the power to. lay down and control a uniform policy to combat the serious deterioration caused by erosion?
– The Minister does not think it is a satisfactory arrangement at the present time that so many bodies have control in different ways over the Snowy Mountains catchment area. But whether or not the Minister thinks that is good is one thing, the other thing is the constitutional powers of New South Wales and Victoria. The catchment area lies within the borders of those States. True it is that the Snowy Mountains agreement raises certain objectives, or gives powers to the Snowy Mountains Authority to watch the situation, but nobody can, without the approval of the States, take that power from them. I believe in taking our problems one by one. I hope in the near future to bring in a bill to ratify the Snowy Mountains agreement. When that has been done, and when the States have ratified the agreement, I shall rate very high in priority the idea of silting around the table with the States and the various authorities to see whether we can hammer out an arrangement that will overcome the existing difficulties in relation to the catchment area and, at the same time, create a better order of things. That has to be done by negotiation. The Commonwealth has not the power to step in and do it. Indeed, the Commonwealth is not seeking that power.
– The question that I shall address to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior relates to the acute shortage of hotel accommodation in Canberra. Will the Minister say whether it is correct that police reports disclose that more than 1,000 people were forced to sleep in their motor cars during the holiday week-end that has just concluded because of a lack of hotel accommodation here? Has he considered any plan whereby the ever-increasing shortage of hotel accommodation in Canberra can be overcome. If he has done so, will he give the details of the plan?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and ask him to furnish a reply direct. If there were a report such as he suggests, it would indicate that there is something wrong with private enterprise in this area, particularly in relation to hotels.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answers: -
Requests frequently reach the Government for staffing and efficiency reviews from outside of the Public Service. As I have said, I think that this, in an enterprise as vast as the machinery of government, is an inside job, but it is worth examining just what a fullscale staffing and efficiency review by an outside body could mean. The Hoover Commission, which inquired into the organization of the machinery of government in the United States, is frequently referred to. There were two such inquiries and the reports are extremely interesting and have been very carefully reviewed by the Public Service Board. It is necessary to say, however, that the inquiries were into the way in which the machinery of government was organized. They were not into the detail of staffing and work processes of the United States civil service. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the first Hoover Commission, in spite of its limited terms of reference, took sixteen months to make its inquiries; that, outside of the members of the commission itself, it employed some 300 people organized into 24 task forces; and that its reports covered 2,500,000 words.
In the United Kingdom, over recent years, there have been a number of inquiries by committees set up to examine particular aspects of the civil service system, for example training recruitment, and, during 1955-56, pay. Staffing and efficiency checks within the British Civil Service are covered internally toy the Establishment Division of the Treasury and the departments, and by Treasury and departmental organization and method reviews, as is done by the Public Service Board and the departments in the Commonwealth Public Service. “Recently the Prime Minister announced the formation of a committee to inquire into recruitment processes and standards in the Public Service. Further, the Treasurer stated in his Budget speech that-
The Government has decided to make a full review of the functions of all Commonwealth departments and has established a committee of Cabinet for the purpose. This committee will examine the functions performed by each department from the standpoint of cost and of public need and will report its conclusions to Cabinet.
The Public Service Board is preparing material to assist the committee, and some has already been circulated. The committee will commence its meetings quite soon.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Debate resumed from 3rd October (vide page 380), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1958;
The Budget 1957-58 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1957-58 and
National Income and Expenditure 1956-57, be printed.
Upon which Senator Benn had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the Estimates and Budget Papers 1957-58 tabled in the Senate should be rejected because they are an integral part of the Government’s implementation of policies detrimental in their effects on the defences and development of Australia, on the living standards and employment of the Australian people and wasteful of national revenues “.
.- When the debate was adjourned I was pointing out to the Senate that, at the recent, congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, held in New South Wales, the representatives of the Australian working people gave us to understand, in no uncertain terms, that they were dissatisfied with the working of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that, in the very near future, the unions, individually and collectively, would take every opportunity to bargain collectively with individual employers.
This is a very important time in the industrial history of Australia. I say that because of the penal clauses that have been inserted in the act, because of the general attitude of the Government to the just claims of the worker for quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, because of the Government’s unhonoured promise to put value back into the £1, and because of the way in which the Government has ignored the loss of purchasing power in the wages received by skilled tradesmen and others down the industrial scale as far as the basic wage worker.
We have had a conciliation and arbitration system in this country since the Harvester Award of 1906. Until this Government came to office, the system provided a very fair method of solving the friction that must continue to exist between employer and employee as long as they differ about the purpose for which goods are produced. To the employer, the purpose of production is profit, regardless of all else. It is the be-all and end-all of production. To the employee, the purpose of production is to meet the basic needs of his family, in the form of food, clothing, shelter and the other things necessary to a satisfactory standard of living. Our very civilization depends upon the family unit having, not merely a basic standard of comfort, but a continuing hope as well that those standards shall be high and rising. That is the very keynote of our present society. However, we have reached a stage in industrial relations where those conditions no .longer exist. The court has found that the economy is unable to stand quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, but the workers regularly hear reports of the increasing profits enjoyed by various large organizations, and of the success of accountants’ tricks, designed to write down profits, place funds into reserves and so on. The balance is always heavily weighted against the employee.
T should like to sound a note of warning to the Government. Very severe changes will occur in the very near future in the industrial habits of this country as a result of interference with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The growing mechanization of industry - expressed in the term “ automation “ - must be so managed that its benefits will be passed on, in correct measure, to the employee.
The conference which has been just held on the subject stressed that very strongly indeed. The organized industrial unions, of this country will, in future, adopt a far tougher attitude to ensure that their just, claims are met than they have in the past. The Government will be shirking its responsibility if it does not snap out of its complacency and ensure that the anomalies and injustices created by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are removed. At present the worker is denied his just right to seek an increased wage in proportion to the constantly increasing cost of commodities. We also see an inordinate delay before claims are heard by the court, and the operation of penal clauses under which heavy fines may be imposed upon secretaries of trade unions. Many other objectionable features that this Government has written into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act may cause in the near future industrial explosions which the Government will not be able to control. I sound a note of warning to the Government at this time, when we are discussing the Budget, which provides for the economic future of this country. Just as the Government budgets for the requirements of a department, so should it provide for the needs of the ordinary individuals, who, after all, are the taxpayers who provide the money which makes a Budget possible. Their needs must be considered in the light of ever-changing circumstances and the increased cost of everyday commodities.
Later the Senate will have an opportunity, I understand, to discuss banking. This Government claims that prosperity and stability exist in the community, but I go so far as to say that, through its policy, it has created a monster within the economic system by giving the private banks such scope that, if they are allowed to continue in the way they are going at present, they will wreck the economy of Australia.
Some remarks I made last Thursday in this chamber were badly misrepresented by a Tasmanian journal. The “ Saturday
Evening Express “ distorted a reference I made to the hire-purchase system. I said that it seemed ridiculous that the Government claimed that there was stability in our economy when the timber industry in Tasmania was in the economic doldrums. I said that the demand for houses was greater than ever before. Many qualified people were willing to accept jobs in the building industry and to work on the building of homes, but although private banks would lend money to buy refrigerators, washing machines or radiators, they would not lend money to build homes into which to put those articles. My statement was badly distorted by the press, which reported me as attacking the principle of hire purchase. Ordinary working people have to use the hire-purchase system, but I do not approve of the fantastic rates of interest that are being charged. This Government has encouraged the private banks to launch out into the hire-purchase field. They are competing for money by offering investors interest rates up to 8 per cent, and 9 per cent., while the Commonwealth expects its loans to be filled by offering a rate of interest of 5 per cent, or 5i per cent.
– How has the Government encouraged the private banks to do that?
– The’ Government has given the private banks full authority to invest’ their capital in hire-purchase schemes. It has also altered the banking system so that the trading banks can by-pass the stabilizing influence of the central bank. 1 understand from information that has leaked out that the proposed banking legislation will give an even wider authority to the private banks.
In the time that is left to me, I should like to mention the very important event that has occurred during the last two or three days - namely, the launching of the earth satellite by Russia. I do not believe a more important event has occurred in the history of civilization than this contact with outer space. It illustrates that the scientists, with encouragement, are able to solve virtually any of man’s problems, but it raises the more important matter of our own survival. Australia is spending £190,000,000 to £200,000.000 a year on armaments, and the United, States of America and Great Britain are spending vast sums also. Are we just fooling ourselves? Are any defensive or offensive weapons that we can purchase with that money of any avail in the face of this new development - a missile that travels round the earth once in every 90 minutes? It is equipped with radio and is sending out radio signals, but it could quite as easily carry thermonuclear weapons, which could be “ homed “, in the same way as aircraft were directed during the last war, to station 2FC Sydney, Station 3LO Melbourne, Station 2CA Canberra, Station 2LO London or any American station. We are faced with a challenge to mankind. We must be prepared to get right down to the fundamentals of disarmament and admit that we have the choice of co-existence or co-annihilation. This new development brings that home to us very clearly.
I am afraid that the press is inclined to discredit the tremendously important achievement of the scientists who have launched this earth satellite, as it is called. Previously, most scientific experiments have been beyond our understanding, but now we can see this satellite circumnavigating the earth. We realize that it is in the hands of a power with which our relations during the last twelve years have been rather tense. Towards the close of World War II., the leaders of Great Britain, the United States of America and the Soviet Union decided to divide Europe amongst those three nations. They divided it into spheres of influence. Russia occupied an area bounded by what is known as the iron curtain, the United States of America occupied another portion, Great Britain occupied a portion and France occupied a further portion. Evidently the lesson of the last war was never learned.
To embark upon another war can end only as the last war ended for Hitler. Hitler was an example of how far a man’s pride can be stretched and how, provided he is backed up with a little brief authority, one can pull down his immediate surroundings in rubble before he is prepared to compromise. To compromise is the only possible way by which these conflicts can be settled. Whether war ends in unconditional surrender or in conditional surrender, a compromise is reached. Whoever is responsible for allowing the disarmament conferences to break down is committing the greatest crime arising from ignorance, stupidity and smallness of mind that the world has ever known.
– Who is responsible for the break-down?
– I have before me the text of a speech that was made in Washington on 22nd July last by Mr. Foster Dulles. He said -
Also the cost of maintaining competitive military establishments is getting so big that no nation can sustain that cost without grievously burdening its economy.
He further said -
We believe that it can be made difficult if not impossible for any nation to launch a massive surprise attack.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– At the outset, I should like to refer to one or two remarks of earlier speakers, in particular to Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin’s speech on geriatrics. I hope the Government will investigate the matter and ascertain whether something can be done along those lines to assist old people in this country. It is being done overseas, and apparently it is a wonderful scheme. I do not know much about it, but I have seen some of Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin’s books on the subject, and it seems that those who are responsible are saving aged people from becoming bedridden during the last years of their lives.
Senator Benn referred to a reduction of 270 tons in one year in the sale of butter in Queensland. The answer is that it was the result of the action of the Queensland Labour government in a fit of pique after the primary producers had refused to accept the Government’s stand-and-deliver tactics. It was in the days when Mr. Gair and Mr. Duggan had that beautiful friendship of theirs. The Government, in order to get its own back on the butter producers, lifted the ceiling altogether on the production of margarine, and it soared from 1,600 tons in January, 1952, to 5,340 tons in 1953. If the government of the day had been willing to continue to assist butter producers, it might have raised the margarine quota a little - there was a big demand for margarine - but it certainly would not have taken the lid off altogether.
Senator Poke made the rather extraordinary statement that he was astonished at the fact that two persons who were earning a certain amount of money could not obtain a full pension. He must have an extraordinary idea about what the age pension is for. Surely it is to help people who have reached a certain age and who have not been able to save during their lifetime. It is not meant to help people who already have sufficient money to live on, or are earning sufficient. I notice that there has been a tendency to suggest that the full pension is for all, but the sooner we get down to a scheme like that which Senator Wedgwood has suggested, the better it will be. She has suggested a scheme which provides for differential rates for single persons who find it extraordinarily difficult to live on the age pension and those married couples who receive two pensions and are also earning a little.
There has been a lot of talk about the pioneers who stormed Parliament House before the presentation of the Budget. Those persons who came here were not very many years older than I am, and I certainly am not a pioneer. My father was not a pioneer, but probably my grandfather was; but to put over this story about helping the pioneers of Australia in 1957 is just plain nonsense. Those people who visited Parliament. House would have been young working people at the turn of the century, and there was not much pioneering being done then. I do not mean that nowadays there is not occasionally a young man who pioneers the country in the sense that he is starting on a war service land settlement block or something of that kind, but, in general, to-day’s age pensioner is by no means a pioneer.
I listened to the whole of Senator O’Byrne’s speech with a certain amount of interest. I was interested in his reference to the satellite, particularly when he said that some day an atomic bomb might be dropped on radio station 2FC. If an atomic bomb were dropped on 2FC at half-past seven on a Sunday night when the Goon Show was in progress, it would be a great thing for the world. To put on a show like that on the Sabbath day is disgraceful. I have already written to the Australian Broadcasting Commission about it, but nobody takes any notice of what backbenchers say. I do not mind good music or a quiet play being broadcast, but not things like the Goon Show, which I am evidently silly enough not to be able to understand.
I now turn to the Budget itself. I remind myself that there is a column in the Sydney “Bulletin” entitled “Bouquets and Brickbats “, and I feel that what I am about to do can be so described. In the Budget there are certain proposals that I like and others which I do not like. Although it is a very quiet Budget, there are a number of proposals in it that are worth mentioning. There is to be an increase of the unemployment and sickness benefits; an increase of £5,000,000 from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000 for war service homes, which 1 think is good; a doubling of the sum that is made available for aged persons’ homes, which is to rise from £1,500,000 to £3,000,000; and, in addition, an increased government contribution of £2 for every £1 that is contributed by charitable organizations.
A further number of people is to be exempted from the payment of pay-roll tax. No doubt we shall gradually move towards the day when the pay-roll tax will be abolished. The number of persons who pay the tax will fall from 39,000 to 23,000, which is a step in the right direction. Hospital payments under the medical’ benefits scheme are to be raised by 50 per cent. There are two other good proposals, which have- come from the committee that was headed by a Queensland colleague of mine, the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). One is the diminishing rate of depreciation, which will make a big difference in particular to people who are working on the land. The other proposal relates to the withholding tax, which will attract investment in this country by companies in Great Britain and other countries. That will be a flat rate tax which will be withheld in Australia. The companies con:cerned will know exactly what is happening without having to wait to see what the assessment will be. According to the report of the banks on the general economic statement, things do not seem to be half as bad as the Opposition would have us to believe.
Another small but interesting provision is the concession for gifts to libraries and other cultural organizations. The relevant paragraph of the Budget speech states -
It is proposed to widen the scope of the income tax concessions for gifts to include certain cultural and industrial research organizations. These are the National Trust in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, public libraries and art galleries, the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and the Australian Industrial Design Council.
An income tax concession is to be made to those who contribute to those cultural activities. That is all to the good. In the past, we have forgotten some of our cultural needs. That is particularly noticeable in Canberra where we are struggling with a silly little doll’s house that is called the National Library. Part of the basement of Parliament House is taken up largely with books and library catalogues. Some four or five years ago, our archives were in such a parlous condition that we had to erect Nissen huts to house these books and collections such as the Nan Kivell collection. Even to-day that annexe, set as it is in the fields, constitutes a bad fire risk. It is quite possible for a fire to sweep through that area in these very dry days. Where would our books and collections be in the event of such a calamity? The sooner the Government makes up its mind about what it will do with the National Library the better it will be- for everybody.
I turn now to repatriation. I should like to ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) why repatriation patients who suffer from sudden illnesses cannot receive attention at week-ends. It is beyond my comprehension that the Repatriation Department should be so good in practically everything’ else, and yet a man who becomes sick on Saturday afternoon cannot get anybody to do a tap for him until Monday. Surely it should not make any difference whether a man falls ill on Saturday,. Tuesday or Christmas Day. If a man becomes ill on Monday, he can go to the Repatriation Hospital at Greenslopes in Brisbane, for example, and be examined^ Surely something should be done about this lack of treatment at week-ends. I know that the Minister has heard this story for a long time, but I, and others, will repeat it until we get some alteration of the present arrangement.
We have heard much about unemployment recently, but nobody on the Government side has mentioned one point to which I shall refer, and the Opposition does not appear to have thought of it. 1 refer to the fact that, since World War II., more than 1,000,000 immigrants have entered Australia and more than that number has been born here as a result of the natural increase. 1 believe our employment record of only 50,000 to 60,000 unemployed in Australia, although we have absorbed more than 1,000,000 immigrants apart from the natural increase in population, is extraordinarily good.
Of course, nobody wants unemployment. I cast my mind back to the ‘twenties whenI knew nothing at all about politics. Mr. E. G. Theodore was the Treasurer in those days and I was able to listen to him with some degree of understanding of events. The proposition he put forward in those days was a fiduciary issue of £18,000,000. I am not sure what that means even to-day, but it was an issue of money with which Mr. Theodore proposed to start a movement away from the depression.
To-day, we have an extraordinary number of big national works which require attention. There is the standardization of railway gauges, to which I shall refer later, roads which require attention, and other works of a national character to which we could devote attention. Surely, instead of paying out the unemployment benefit, we could employ many persons at the proper wages on national undertakings in time of unemployment. Not all the 60,000 who are out of work could be engaged on those projects, but many of them could be employed’, and would regain their earning capacity. There is a slight tendency for people to buy less now, and that is natural when we have 60,000 persons out of work. If they could regain their earning capacity by working on national undertakings, sales would pick up again.
As to the standardization of railway gauges, I have been amazed to learn - probably because I am not a sufficiently good engineer to understand” these things. - that an- additional pair of lines is to be constructed from Albury to Melbourne to link up with the New South Wales Rail ways at Albury. That means widening the embankments, the tracks, bridges and tunnels and will turn the project into a terrific task.
When I was a small boy, about 1905, I was at school in England. At that time, the Great Western Railway had a gauge similar to the present Victorian railway gauge. All the other railways in Great Britain had the standard gauge of 4 feet 8i inches. The Great Western Railway, which ran a service from London to Penzance and across to Bristol, decided that it would convert to the standard gauge. The company laid a third line inside the existing track, and it did not have to widen any bridges or tunnels over the 720 miles of railway. The company stopped its. trains running from Saturday morning until Monday afternoon. It had gangs of men at each set of points. The third line was put down, and the company changed over to standard gauge in three days. I cannot understand why we” cannot have a third line on the AlburyMelbourne section of the railway. I would be very glad if somebody could tell me why my ideas apparently do not fit in with those of the engineers.
– Perhaps that idea is a little too simple. The average engineer likes something more complicated.
– Nothing seems more simple to me than to put down a third, line and take one of the lines away. During the parliamentary recess, I had much pleasure in visiting establishments of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Queensland. I was welcomed at every place I visited, and the officers went to much trouble to show me everything. It was a most interesting few weeks. I went through the soil and plant laboratories, and visited the abattoirs and the Gilruth Plains station at Cunnamulla where the officers of the organization are experimenting with sheep. Unfortunately more kangaroos than sheep are now coming in there for water. I request the Government urgently to subsidize in- some- way the provision of .303 ammunition for farmers to destroy pests. The average farmer cannot afford ls. 2id. or ls. 3d. for each round of .303 ammunition that he uses for shooting kangaroos. 1 notice that the subsidy for boy scouts is to be £5,000. The amount has been unchanged for many years. Despite the fact that our population has increased, that the number of children has increased, that the number of scout groups is greater, and that the cost of running these scout groups has increased, the amount granted by the Government has remained stationary at £2,000 for girl guides and £5,000 for the boy scouts. This seems too little, especially when we realize that the Boy Scouts Association is probably the foremost association in Australia, if not in the world, in preventing boys from growing into teddy boys, or child delinquents. Not one in a thousand of the boys who go through a cub pack, the scouts, the senior scouts, and, perhaps, the rovers, will be a child delinquent. They are taken into the movement at a period in their lives when they want to join a gang, when they want to get round with other boys. They go into the scouts, they go into a patrol, they become patrol leaders and have responsibility. They also have their courts of honour, which give them a feeling of trust.
For those reasons, I should like the Government to reconsider this grant before next year to see whether it can help a little more in this direction. We are not doing so badly on our own, but we could do with a little more help than we are getting now. I remind the Senate that there is to be a big jamboree in Queensland at the end of this year and early in January of next year. This will be attended by from 8,000 to 10,000 boys from the other States. These things cost money, even though the boys themselves contribute, and I do hope that the Government will look at the matter again. I think I shall refer to it again when we get closer to next year’s Budget.
I found a very interesting passage in a speech that I made in the Senate about four years ago on the Estimates and Budget papers, and I propose to read it now because it is applicable to what I was saying a moment ago about employing our unemployed. It is as follows: -
In addition, I am worried about our lack of transport facilities in the north. In Queensland we have wonderful new railway trains, but the tracks are so bad that the new trains cannot be operated at any speed. What would happen if we had to carry materials of war and men over them? I am worried about the lack of air bases in the north of Australia. The provision of such accessories to defence in Western Australia and Queensland must be the responsibility of the Australian Government as part of the defence programme. I think the time is opportune to assist those two States and the Northern Territory by the construction of military roads. If those works were given defence priority, they would stand us in good stead even if war did not come.
I said that four years ago, and admit that nothing has happened in the meantime, although I did not think it would, because I do not suppose anybody pays very much attention to what we say here. I quote the passage because it applies to my earlier remarks about ways in which we could make use of our unemployed. If we could use the unemployed in avenues such as that, we would be getting somewhere.
I come now to the purchase of stores. I have mentioned this matter probably three, four or five times over the years in the Senate. Last time I referred to it I pointed out that fourteen sextants had been sold at one of our surplus stores sales in Queensland for £14 and not one of them could have been bought for less than fifty guineas in a shop. I suggested then that they could have been kept for use by our young cadets at Jervis Bay or perhaps sold to them or to young marine officers for £35 or £40. Since then, I have taken certain particulars from a list of articles offered at later sales. Here, I emphasize that I have no complaint about the sale of motor vehicles that are four or five years old. I can understand that, but included in the list I have taken out are 40 anvils. Who on earth would order 40 anvils that he did not want? Also in the list are 3,500 bradawls, 900 pairs of calipers, 10,000 files, 2,500 spring dividers, 4,500 taps and dies, and 4,000 cold chisels. I suggest that one of two things must be taking place. We must have either gross incompetency on the part of those ordering, because anybody who could order 3,500 bradawls or 2,500 spring dividers more than he is likely to want, must be incompetent, or if there is no incompetency, then there must be graft somewhere.
I do not blame the proprietors of disposals stores who go and buy these things. They merely buy what is offered. My point is that there must be one of two things. There is gross incompetency on the part of the Federal Government - not the State
Government - in ordering - that is, by some person or persons, or there is some form of graft going on and somebody is getting a pretty good rake-off out of it. I mentioned this matter on three, or four occasions and I shall continue to bring it up until I get a satisfactory answer.
I should like now to say a few words about the new Queensland Government. Some very interesting things have been happening up there since August. For example, since 3rd August, when the new Nicklin-Morris Government came into office, no fewer than 116 companies have registered in Queensland. That is a most remarkable result in such a short time, showing quite clearly that private enterprise has great confidence in this new Government and in the State which has got rid of the old brigade and put in a Country-Liberal Government that can be trusted.
In addition, thirteen new building societies have opened offices there, so that as the years go on we shall have less and less trouble in respect of people wanting to build and being unable to get money.
This move has been helped tremendously by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is also the Commonwealth Minister in charge of housing, because it will be remembered that the new housing agreement with the States contains a clause which compels State governments to help building societies. Prior to the Queensland election on 3rd August, there were only three building societies in the whole of Queensland. One was the Brisbane Permanent Building and Banking Society, the other a Toowoomba society and the third an organization operating in the north. I know from personal experience that we had only three because I can remember how the people were wandering around trying to get the finance to build a house. At that time, the banks could not let them have it. This new move will be a great boon to Queensland. There is now in Queensland, and there has been for the last three months, a feeling of relief that one can almost feel physically, at having got rid of the old brigade and put in its place a moderate and hard-working government. Mr. Morris, the deputy leader there, has already made contacts overseas with a view to obtaining contracts for Queensland.
Another important improvement is the free-holding of land. That is of tremendous importance to the Queensland people who will now be able to own their own piece of land after having held it for years under leasehold tenure. The new title will be something like the old Torrens title, which I understand, was the simplest form of title in the world.
Recent developments in connexion with housing there are of great interest. Some honorable senators will remember that some years ago we debated in the Senate the Zillmere housing project. It was pointed out then that the State Government had acted disgracefully; but we have now come to the end of our trouble. The new Queensland Government is proposing to spend £150,000 on repairing these houses and fumigating them for borer. That will be the end of the trouble.
– Is that all - £150,000?
– I think £150,000 is quite a lot of money.
Now I have something nice to say about somebody. It is about the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). As honorable senators know, 1 have been trying for a number of years to have things done for Queensland’s fishing industry and her fishermen. At long last, about four months ago, the Commonwealth Government chartered a ship which has been surveying right up the Queensland coast. It has made tremendous strikes of prawns. This proves without any shadow of doubt that the suggestion I have been making for a number of years that we have a permanent survey ship was a good one. I am very pleased that the Minister is making a start in that direction. I shall not be satisfied until we have our own properly fitted survey ship, on which scientists can sail, so that we will be able to obtain the information we need. We are constantly crying out for more exports to balance our trade. The fish in the Coral Sea are just waiting for us to catch them, but we must find out where they are.
The Queensland Government has also asked the Federal Government to allow the mother of pearl industry to be brought back to some semblance of usefulness by the employment of Japanese divers. Over ihe years, under the administration of the Queensland Director of Native Affairs, the mother of pearl industry has been almost, completely killed. In the first place, the former Queensland Government established an Island Industry Board at Thursday Island. This board controlled the best of the native divers - and even they are not very good. Legislation was brought in which forced the private pearler, the lugger owner, to provide everything, including pay, for the crew of the lugger before it sailed, but gave him no power of punishment if, in a trip lasting a month, the crew fished for only two or three days and went to Friday Island, Wednesday Island or St. Paul’s Island to have a rest before coming back, having been paid for the whole month. The consequence was that the European lugger owner was going out of business. In addition, when buyers in New York found year after year that they could not get proper mother of pearl they turned in other directions. I know that one firm turned to plastics and saved 200,000 dollars a year. Each time that something like that happened a potential market for mother of pearl in the United States was lost. The Western Australian Government has had enough sense to avoid that happening and for a long time it has permitted Japanese divers to operate from Broome. I am very glad that the new Queensland Government proposes to bring these divers in.
The Stevedoring Industry Act, which was before the Senate last year, is now bearing fruit in Queensland. At one time, there were many heartburnings and people wondered whether it was going to do much good, but it is almost solely due to section 7 of the act that we have been able to commence bulk loading projects in Queensland. The one at Mackay is already finished and working. It loads ships at the rate of from 550 tons to 600 tons an hour. Similar equipment is projected for Lucinda Point, and possibly Mourilyan, Cairns and Townsville. It is very definite that it will be installed at Bundaberg. So on the Queensland coast we shall have a series of bulk loading installations which will cut down the cost of handling. This may not actually reduce the cost of sugar, but it will save the cost of sugar from rising, which is really the same thing from the consumer’s point of view. To me it is really interesting, after the debate we had and the views that were expressed, to find that this is one of the things that was made possible solely by section 7 of that act.
Some time ago, when I was speaking on defence, I had got about half-way through my remarks when it was time to go on to something else, and I did not get a chance to finish. What I wanted to do was to reply to something which Senator Toohey had said. He suggested that conditions in the services were so poor that recruits could not be attracted. I took the trouble to find out the conditions existing in the Royal Australian Navy. Having gone to a fair amount of trouble, I might as well talk about that matter to-day, because it is relevant to the Defence Estimates. A lad who enters the Royal Australian Navy at the age of seventeen receives £638 a year, plus £250 for board and lodging, making a total of £888 a year. That is not bad for a lad of that age. In addition, he receives 42 days’ leave a year. Suppose he is promoted to A.B. at the age of 20. He immediately receives £855 a year, plus board and lodging, making a total of £1,105 a year. He receives 42 days’ sea-going leave each year, or 28 days’ leave if he is at a shore establishment. If he likes to work, study and pass examinations, when he is about 28 he may be made a petty officer. Then he would receive £1,045 a year, plus board and lodging, making a total of £1,295 a year, and would still be entitled to 42 days’ leave. Later, as a chief petty officer, at 35 years of age - which would be a fair average, unless he was particularly bright - he would be getting £1,450 a year. He would also receive additional amounts for good conduct or special service badges. It is a good, clean life. Sporting activities would be laid on for him, and he would have 42 days’ leave a year. If he remained in the Navy for twenty years, he would get out at 37 years of age, with gratuity of £360, plus nine days’ pay for each year of service, making a total of £600, together with a pension of approximately £220 a year. If he served for 30 years - many men do, just as others serve for 30 years in other walks of life - he would be discharged with a gratuity of £360, plus nine days’ pay for each year of service, making a total of £720, plus a pension of £380 a year. He would still be a young man.
– That is not too much though, is it?
– I do not say that it is too much. I say that it is more than comparable with what he would get ashore. In addition, he would have been, in my opinion, on quite reasonable pay, competitive with the pay he would get ashore. He would have had the certainty of employment, because as long as he looked after himself he would never be discharged, except for some disability. The whole point is that Senator Toohey said that recruiting was lagging because Service’ conditions were not good. I say that they are particularly good. What the honorable senator said would have been true of my day. Service conditions then were particularly bad. They were not much better then than they were in Nelson’s day.
I thought I would bring that matter up, because it is rather interesting. It is also very interesting to consider the people who are running the Navy at the present time. The Minister, Mr. Davidson, is a Queenslander. Vice-Admiral Sir Roy Dowling is a Queenslander. The Deputy Chief of Staff, Captain Gatacre, is a Queenslander. Rear-Admiral Clark, the third naval member, is a Queenslander. Four other members of the naval staff are Queenslanders. There is no doubt that if you get the right people in the right place, you get the right results. The other point that I wanted to raise concerns the allocation of money. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the respective percentages of the total defence votes of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and Australia that are allocated to the three services. Australia expends 30 per cent, of its total defence vote on the Navy, 38 per cent, on the Army, and only 32 per cent, on air defence. The United Kingdom spends 40 per cent, of its total defence vote on air defence, compared with 48 per cent, in the United States and 52 per cent, in Canada. I think I have directed attention on three previous occasions to the difference between the way in which we allocate our defence vote and the way in which defence votes are allocated in the other countries I have mentioned, and I have no hesitation in saying that we spend too much on our Navy and Army and not enough on air defence. I assure the Senate that it gives me no pleasure, after 40 years’ service in the Navy, to say that I firmly believe that our defence allocation should be more in line with those of Canada and the United States. Instead of spending 32 per cent, of the defence vote on air defence, we should be spending about 52 per cent, on air defence, as is done in Canada.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I think this is a good Budget. Of course, there is nothing spectacular about it. I am sure that we can look forward to something even better next year, when a general election will take place.
.- This Budget, in common with past Budgets presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is based on a money-centric conception of the Australian economy. This means, in effect, that the Government would have us believe that the availability of money - and money alone - must be the deciding factor at all times as to what can, or cannot be done in the interests of the people employed in primary and secondary industries. In my opinion, fundamentally that conception is responsible for the unemployment - preventable unemployment - and consequent poverty of from 50,000 to 60,000 workers at present. There is any amount of work to be done, and plenty of the necessaries of life for all. As far as I am able to judge, no approach at all has been made to this problem by supporters of the Government. Senator Kendall has directed attention to effects and to the ideal, but he did not attempt to show cause why there should be unemployment or poverty in the community. It has been stated that about 60,000 workers are unemployed and are seeking employment. There is a deplorable shortage of houses for the workers. I have before me the second report of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which was circulated in Sydney on 23rd September. At page 31 it has this to say about unemployment, following an exhaustive survey -
There is no housing whatsoever for a considerable portion of our people, which means they are forced to live with other people under crowded conditions, thus adversely affecting the social and economic lives of at least a further similar number.
When there is a shortage of housing, and men, women and children are crowded together like animals in a paddock, economic and social conditions deteriorate accordingly. That statement points to the origin, to a large extent, of the increase of teenage delinquency. Men, women and children behave a great deal better when they are adequately housed than when they are crowded together, as they are in the cities. The report went on to say -
The estimated number of persons for whom there is no housing varies according to factors influencing the estimator.
Senator Spooner’s Department of National Development estimates the Australian housing shortage to be 115,350, of which there are 60,000 short in New South Wales.
The New South Wales Housing Commission says that the State shortage is 150,000, just two and a half times greater than the shortage estimated by the Commonwealth department.
I emphasize that the figures that have been supplied by the Commonwealth and the State do not agree. The report continues -
On the basis of these two sets of figures it is safe to say that there is somewhere between 115,350 and 298,375 households for whom there is no housing.
This state of affairs is the inevitable result of the Government implementing a policy of money-centric conception - money alone. There is nothing wrong, in the view of the Government, if thousands of our men, women and children are housed like animals in our capital cities. There is much stagnation in trade and industry - a fact which is conveniently overlooked by the Government and those who support it. Honorable senators need not accept my word for this state of affairs. I have before me a cutting from the “ Financial Review “ of 5th September, with the heading “ Budget Spells Goodbye to Hopes of Real Help for Industry “. It reads -
Sir Arthur Fadden’s eighth Budget, presented this week, kills any hope of a substantial lift in the private business share of Australian resources. There were all the basic conditions for a worthwhile effort to reduce taxation. But the effort was not made and the moment has passed.
Those words appeared in a publication which for all practical purposes is solidly behind the Government, but that publication cannot shut its eyes to the facts. The “ Financial Review “, of 3rd October, in an article headed “ Inflationary boost to mask a two-year fall in retail purchases “, stated -
The retail trade, facing the implications of a two-year decline in purchases per head of population, is being forced to rely more heavily on immigration and rising prices, two inflationary bogies, to keep up its turnover figures.
This does not decry its own efforts at trade stimulation. But the fact remains that while retail sales in 1956-57 were about 4 per cent, in value above those of 1955-1956, the gain was more than discounted by a 6 per cent, rise in retail prices, as measured by the interim retailprice index.
I imagine that most people would accept that publication as one produced by men who constantly study the economic position, but the Government has not given any explanation of the deterioration in business activity described therein. The Government has displayed either a lack of knowledge, or a lack of the necessary moral courage to enable it to face the truth. To-day, we see developing unemployment, poverty and trade stagnation.
Let us look at the position in Melbourne. I suppose that what one can say of Melbourne one can also say of Sydney, with added emphasis. The following appeared in the “ Age “, of 7th September, under the heading, “ 1000 people fed here every day “:-
One thousand people are fed every day in the various activities of the Melbourne City Mission, it was reported yesterday at the mission’s 102nd annual meeting in Melbourne Town Hall.
These range from about 300 down-and-out, homeless men at the regular breakfast every morning to the babies in the Mission’s maternity home.
In the “Age”, of 31st August, 1957, the following appears: -
City’s homeless men will be at the same address tonight. Behind the bright, prosperous facade of Melbourne’s City there is an army of homeless men who, when night comes, glide like ghosts in search of any nook that will give them a bit of shelter where they can have an uneasy sleep.
I turn now to a report by Brigadier R. Darlow, territorial men’s social secretary of the Salvation Army, and Major W. Exon, manager of the Salvation Army’s “ Open Door “ centre for homeless men. They describe how they saw, by torchlight, a part-time worker aged 60, whose earnings were not sufficient to enable him to live in a boarding house, sleeping in a disused water tank. They also reported the following: -
A man of over 65 in a little corrugated iron shed out in the scrub. He had a terrible cough.
Huddled under some shrubs on the Yarra bank were two new Australians, one a recent arrival, unable to get jobs. Had been sleeping out like this for a considerable time.
Brigadier Darlow added -
These were . very fine types of men - Hungarians.
Jobs are becoming very hard to get. We gave the men overcoats and hot refreshments, and now have placed them in one of our institutions, and they are receiving social service.
A man wrapped up in papers for warmth, in a local school toilet. He was taken to an Army home.
Another man, a T.P.I, of World War I., who had lost both feet, sleeping in a public toilet. Was receiving a pension but had nowhere to live. He was extremely clean and tidy, and had plenty of self-respect.
Asked why he chose such a place instead of rinding some tarpaulins to sleep under, he said these would be too dirty.
In a North Melbourne -street, a fine old man of 74, just walking aimlessly. “ I am walking about to keep warm “, he told Brigadier Darlow, adding, when asked why he did not go somewhere to sleep, “ There is no place to go “.
Then reference is made to the Gill Memorial home, which already has 325 men under its roof. The report continues -
In the daytime the men go to the Army’s “ Open Door” centre “in North Melbourne, where it is warm and friendly. They sleep in arm chairs, then at night face the same cold, weary prospect of rinding somewhere to spend the hours till morning.
Then the report describes how such men are often found huddled in doorways throughout the city. This sort of thing, which is really happening to-day, is conveniently ignored by the Government - though it is the direct result of the Government’s own policy. Government supporters tend to consider these matters from the viewpoint of whether money is, or is not, available. Their attitude is, “ If money is not available, let them starve “. Both Senator Kendall and Senator Spooner have said, in effect, “ There are 50.000 or 60,000 unemployed, but what does that matter? “ All this is done, in the name of Christianity, in this glorious, political democracy!
What is needed is an intelligent understanding of what I would call a goods-centric conception of the Australian economy, as against what might be described as a moneycentric conception. Let us think for a moment of the material resources of the country. Are they sufficient for the needs of the people? Is there sufficient land on which to build the houses that we need. Is there sufficient material of all kinds? ls there sufficient labour to build those houses and provide the necessaries of life? The answer, in each case, must be in the affirmative. That being so, why are these things not done? That is the question which Government supporters should answer. We are told that money cannot be made available for these things, but millions can be found with which to build palatial offices, skyscrapers, hotels, clubs, and residences. This field is, of course, highly profitable for investment, so little money is available for the building of workers’ houses. It is not as profitable as hire purchase. The dominating idea of the Government in preparing the Budget is that if money is not available, let the people starve. The Government and its supporters can see nothing wrong in that. Children are growing up under conditions which have a most demoralizing effect, but that does not matter to the Government. Then what happens? These young people commit a breach of the law and are punished. Actually the position is that society prepares the crime and punishes the criminals, young people who have never had a chance to learn any better. Yet honorable senators opposite say that this is a good Budget and is a tribute to the intelligence and understanding of those who framed it!
I ask honorable senators opposite what alternative they have to propose. Are they going to allow the casualties of their own callousness or ignorance to increase, or are they going to make a more intelligent approach to solving the social problem as it could and should be solved? Do the lives of people, particularly young people, mean anything to them? Do they just look at the world from their own point of view, not from the other fellow’s point of view? I speak as one who has been through the mill - who knew what unemployment was back in 1893, when people migrated from the eastern States to the west because of the appalling poverty that existed, due to the deliberate maladministration of bankers supported by the governments of the day. There has been unemployment and poverty ever since. In addition to up-to-date reports from accepted publications, I have my own experience upon which to call. I do not see any effort being made to bring about any change for the better.
It is true we have age pensions to-day, but what has happened? As soon as age pensions were granted, they were more or less cancelled out by increased prices. That sort of thing has gone on ever since pensions were introduced. The Government proposes to increase the age pension by 7s. 6d. a week, but the increase will be cancelled out by the arbitrary and unchecked increase in prices. The Government will stand silently by and allow these unfortunate men and women who have given the work of a lifetime for the benefit of the nation virtually to wither away, with hardly enough on which to live, in what can be described as a pauper’s hell. By its policy of inaction the Government condones that sort of thing. Honorable senators opposite cannot expect to have the respect of intelligent men and women who understand the position. Dozens of men whom I knew when I was a young man tell me that to-day life is not worth living. They are too old, they are not wanted and they are left to die.
In my young days, I had a good deal of experience of the aborigines. I have never known aborigines, particularly when there was plenty of water and game about, to treat their aged parents as we treat our aged people in what we call a civilized country: An aborigine had a positive freedom of access to the means by which he lived. If there was plenty of game and water, he helped himself to them, but the freedom of access of the unemployed worker to his means of livelihood is virtually nonexistent. He has no freedom of access to the means by which, he. can live, other than by way of the dole or charity. The freedom of the aborigine in the circumstances I have mentioned was much greater than that of the wage-worker of to-day, who, if he. cannot get a job, has- to exist as best he can on the dole.
As I have said, the increase of 7s. 6d. which the Government proposes to- make in age, invalid and war pensions will be cancelled out by boards of directors, who control supplies. They will increase prices. They can increase their profits without con sulting anybody but themselves, but if wage-earners adopt a similar stand and demand an increase in wages, that is a crime from the Government’s point of view. Even if they should succeed in obtaining an increase in wages from an arbitration court, again the increase is cancelled out. Actually, their standard of living has not been raised.
As a tradesman, I enjoyed a much higher standard of living years ago than I would enjoy if I were working to-day, receiving a wage six or seven times as much. For example, I never worked for more than a day in order to pay for the weekly rent of a cottage with four rooms and conveniences. My pay for a day’s work then was 10s. To-day, if I were a tradesman receiving £20 a week, I would have to pay £4 a week for a room.
– A day’s work would pay for the weekly rent of a house to-day.
– I could not get a house for £4 a week.
– The honorable senator is living in the wrong State.
– Thousands of people want houses, but cannot obtain them.
– In Tasmania, £4 a week is the average rental for government houses.
– That may be so, but I am speaking of the. overall position. I am not speaking of- a few fortunately placed or highly skilled workers. We must consider the overall position. Because two or three people in Tasmania are doing all right, it does not follow that everybody in Australia is doing all right.
– There are plenty of houses in Victoria at a rental at £4 a week.
– I ask the Minister to tell me where they are.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! Senator Cameron is making the speech.
– Senator Henty has made a bald statement and thinks he can get away with it.
– Excuse me for saying so, but the Minister for Customs and Excise has the habit of speaking first and thinking afterwards. I am quite certain that,, if he thought first, he would, not- make such, stupid statements. He. should first satisfy himself about the facts by personal examination. Quite a number of people argue that, because a particular instance is favorable, the general situation is favorable; but that is not so.
The overall result of the Government’s approach to the economy is that the economy has become unbalanced and debts are piling up. The national debt stands at nearly £4,000,000,000, and the interest bill is approximately £136,000,000. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said quite recently in another place that that is a charge, not merely on the bondholders, who receive their interest, but on every citizen. The right honorable gentleman said that it was the first charge, but I say that it is the first and the last charge on men and women who are employed in essential, industries and. services. It is they who are carrying the community on their backs. This rising indebtedness is being borne by people who have not sufficient money to buy a piece of land or a house, and who use hire-purchase finance to buy the things they need. They are mortgaged body and soul for the rest of their lives, particularly if they are paying off a house. And that is what we call democracy!
The working people are providing all the interest to which I have referred. They are providing the interest that is received by the bondholders and those who control the banking and financial institutions. They provide all the profits of the monopolies. Of course, profit is unpaid labour. If the men and women who are employed in industry were paid according to the wealth they create by their labour and the use of machines, there1 would not be any profits for anybody else. Boards of directors and bankers do not create profits. Their profit is the extent to which they are allowed by law to appropriate the wealth that is created by the workers, and which is considerably in excess of their wages.
Let me now direct attention to a statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as recorded in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The report reads -
The- Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, said to-day that the answer to inflation was not only greater production, but the development of the highest possible competitive skill in management and techniques.
That is a statement which, unfortunately, many people are willing to accept; but the answer to inflation is to control the people who are responsible for it. The people who issue paper money considerably in excess of the value of goods produced and charge interest on it are the people who should be controlled. Production was never greater than it is to-day. Present-day workers, using machines, produce more expeditiously, more abundantly, and more cheaply than ever before, with the result that primary and secondary industries all over the world have surpluses which cannot be disposed of. That is why the Government sent the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) overseas.
– Are not the workers producing more cheaply to-day, and in greater quantity?
– I said that they were producing more cheaply than ever before, because there has never been a time when they produced so much in such little labour time. But they are paid only for the time they work. In days gone by, everything was produced by hand. The slave of those days would be on a job for months, whereas the machine slave of to-day is on a similar job for only a day or two. Whether it is assessed in terms of labour time or gold, which are the two most reliable measures of value, production was never cheaper than it is to-day.
The problem of production has been solved. It is the problem of distribution with which we are now confronted. I said earlier that the workers produce so much more, but they get so little for it. When an employer does not want his employees any longer, they are sent out onto the street. Why is that kind of thing allowed? Why should there be the poverty in Melbourne to which I referred, and which also can be seen in Sydney? It is because the problem of distribution in accordance with the needs of the people has never been faced up to by this Government, and it is never likely to be faced up to. Profit is sought before the satisfaction of the. needs of the working people.
I was interested in Senator Kendall’s remarks about excessive production in government departments. That is. to be expected; Surplus production is the order of the day everywhere. It is not confined to government departments, but is to be seen in privately controlled organizations also. The creation of surpluses automatically causes unemployment, because when surpluses cannot be sold the employer says to his workmen, “ I cannot sell these things. You will have to go “. Surpluses have been responsible for wars. In fact, the last two wars were waged for the purpose of placing surpluses at the expense of other nations. Honorable senators may recall that in 1951 the “ New York Times “ said of the situation in Korea, “ If peace comes, it will be disastrous for business “. Another wellknown writer said that the Korean war was a godsend in enabling the United States of America to get rid of its surplus products and the farmers were much better off than they would have been had there not been a war. Senator Kendall has referred to surpluses. In the past, those surpluses have been responsible for war. The alternative propositions are widespread unemployment and, possibly, revolutionary war within the national borders or war outside the national borders, simply because the commodities that are produced for sale have not been sold.
Senator Kendall said that the unemployed could be employed on railways and national works. Of course, they could be employed on standardizing the railways or improving roads or on many other works that are needed. They are not put on to that work because it is not profitable to do so. If it were profitable, it would be done.
As I have said, the Budget is, as usual, based on a money-centric system of Australia’s economy. ‘ Nothing will be done by the Government or by the monopolies - particularly by the monopolies - to relieve the position to which I have directed attention if they can possibly avoid doing anything. All sorts of appeals are made to the people. We see persons in the streets of Melbourne and Sydney trying to raise a few shillings to help the children or somebody else. The payment of a dole is only a safety-first proposition. If the dole were not paid, the position would be very much worse than it is from the point of view of the Government. The overall position is that the gaol population is increasing, the slum population is increasing and, most tragic of all, the mentally ill population is increasing. All this indicates that neither the Commonwealth Government nor any of the State governments is attempting to do anything really worth while in the interests of the people as a whole. Everything that is done is in the interests of the owners of land and capital.
The unemployed are not owners of money for investment. They can do little or nothing to help themselves. Those who are the owners of money and can invest it can help themselves. The only persons who are considered in the scheme of things are the owners of land and capital. When I speak of capital I refer to buildings, supplies, stocks and money. All those can be used. What we may expect is a situation similar to that which occurred in the 1930’s. If we are successful in avoiding another war - and I hope we are - we will certainly have another depression.
What was the approach to the problem during the last depression? The approach was to reduce wages, pensions and governmental expenditure. A few of us, including Senator Kennelly, opposed that proposition. The late Mr. Maurice Blackburn and I finished up in the High Court of Australia because we opposed the Victorian Premier of that day. I am not questioning the then Premier’s sincerity, but he lacked knowledge of what was best to be done. I do not make any reflection on men as traitors, but I do say that those who are in a position to act are really ignorant of the situation to which I have directed attention.
Men who are expert tradesmen, expert professional workers and expert in other callings, whether waterside workers or soldiers, have little or no idea of what is known as social science. They cannot be told. The result is that, when a position such as that which is developing now comes into being, they are at their wits’ end to know what is best to do. Generally, those responsible do the wrong thing in the name of the government or some other authority. Therefore, I view the position much more seriously than does any supporter of this Government. If supporters of the Government studied the position, particularly in the light of employer and employee relationships, and creditor-debtor relationships, and if they endeavoured to adjust those relationships, the position would be very much improved.
I have read with interest 25 pages of the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), lt is simply a mass of generalities and categorical statements which we are supposed to accept without question. It is something like the leading articles that have appeared in the press since the press came under the control of a monopoly. The situation might suit the Government for the time being, but it cannot escape one law - the law of cause and effect. In the affairs of mankind, the law of cause and effect operates effectively as it does anywhere else. If the Government allows the effects to which I have directed attention to make a bad position become worse, its task of bringing about necessary adjustments will be much more difficult. When the Government fails to adjust itself to conditions, it must pay the penalty one way or another.
I have been through all this before. I remember conditions in 1893, when I was a boy. There was chaos and starvation. In 1907, conditions were not much better. The position was the same in 1910. Between 1914 and 1918 we had war. We had starvation and everything else in the 1920’s. The position became worse in the 1930’s, and lasted from 1931 until about 1936 or 1937. Professor Copland, Professor Shann, Professor Melville and Professor Giblin were telling the people and the government what they should do. They were mainly responsible for the Premiers’ plan, the implementation of which made the position worse. In 1939, the position was saved. The war saved their reputation and the position for the time being, but it will not be saved for all time.
If I have succeeded in making the Government alarmed or uncomfortable by saying what I have, I hope honorable senators on the Government side will give the position serious thought. It is of no satisfaction to me personally to draw attention to these things. The position is tragic. I ask honorable senators opposite to imagine how they would feel if they were unemployed or were age pensioners to-day. Would they be satisfied, or would they say that nothing more could be done? Unemployed and pensioners are coming to me every day and ‘ certainly say that something more can and must be done. But many people say that. The press tells us that pensioners should receive more, that the increases should be made retrospective and so on. Leading members of the Church say the same thing. But beyond that we get nowhere.
I have in mind a very fine publication by the Catholic Church last month drawing attention to the present housing conditions, and to the state of affairs in Queensland as the result of the Government’s immigration policy. It says, by implication, exactly what I am saying now much more bluntly. We urgently need a sustained move to improve this state of affairs. If the Government cannot do that, then the law of physics will operate beyond a certain distance. Quantitative differences will force into being qualitative changes; that is to say, when the present minority becomes the majority - quantitative - then the position will be such that just qualitative changes will be made. The Government will be driven into doing something better than it has done. Instead of going forward in its present fashion, it should be doing these things now in order to justify the position it is privileged to occupy.
.- Addressing oneself to the Budget, one cannot find much that one may properly describe as inspiration in the speech just delivered by Senator Cameron. I feel that it is somewhat of a reproach to the Parliament that this second chamber of the Parliament, on such an important matter as the Budget, has been drooling away for the past hour on matters that seem to me to have no constructive element whatsoever. I think we are approaching a stage in federal parliamentary life where this chamber will have a special province, and a special opportunity to make a contribution to the nation on behalf of the people.
The Parliament is faced with a special challenge in this decade. Anybody who takes the time to reflect on the processes that are developing must realize quite clearly that Parliament is being challenged, and if it takes the Budget of the nation, the instrument dealing with the people’s finances, no more seriously than we have just been witnessing, then present representatives will be found guilty of failure to face up to their responsibilities.
Let me say, first, that I was somewhat dismayed upon finding that at least a fortnight before the presentation of this budget to the Parliament there were disclosures in the public press of at least two important items of financial policy. Honorable senators will be interested to be reminded that the Prime Minister of Britain has just been confronted with allegations of similar matters by representatives of the Opposition in the Old Country. Whether there is prima facie evidence, the Prime Minister is determining at the moment; but there are suggestions of leakage of financial information over there. In the Old Country, it seems to be still a matter near enough to the conscience of those who have control of the executive government to take seriously. I remind myself of what happened in 1936 when Mr. Thomas was accused of having inadvertently - not deliberately - failed in his duty to conserve Budget secrets. At that time a committee consisting of two notable members of the British Bar, who have since been adorning the judiciary, was set up. The forthright, robust terms in which that committee censured that breach of public duty were a heartening reminder of the duties of public life.
For myself, I feel that a degree of responsibility is wanting when more serious consideration has not been given to the fact that there was pre-publication of two important items of financial policy contained in this Budget. When we contemplate what has happened, when we read the Auditor-General’s report and when we consider the two things together, it provides a challenge to this chamber and the Parliament as to the way in which the Estimates and proposals for the fiancial expenditure are treated. We should give thought to these matters when the Estimates come before us later in the month.
Here, let me say that I trust that they will not come before us too late for us to have ample and proper opportunity to debate them and to deal with them in a responsible fashion. I trust that anybody who reads the Auditor-General’s report will alert himself to what I regard as the corroding trend that is taking place here with regard to sensitiveness to the duty of conserving public finance. The AuditorGeneral’s report has many references to unsatisfactory financial practices, repeated deficiencies in accounting and wastful methods of which, I submit, any responsible parliament must take cognizance.
With those few preliminary remarks, I wish to say one or two words about this Parliament as a parliament. To show that one’s concern is not simply the lamentations of the provinces I mention that I have been heartened to find recently a book, on the flyleaf of which there is an excellent quotation which I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate. It relates to the trend that is taking place in the British Parliament. It summarizes the situation there, and, I think, presents to the members of this Parliament a challenge as to whether they are going to guard our parliamentary principles in the spirit of British tradition and as we inherited them. It is quite obvious that there is a growing trend, due to various political forces, whereby not only the Parliament here but also the Parliament of Great Britain is being threatened with insignificance in the face of an expanding executive.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– To enable Ministers to make certain statements before they go to a Cabinet meeting, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill gives effect to the Government’s intention of increasing the rates of pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits and of liberalizing the means test for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries. Age, invalid and widows’ pensions will be increased by 7s. 6d. a week. Unemployment and sickness benefits will be increased by 15s. a week for an adult or married person, by 7s. 6d. a week for unmarried minors aged eighteen, nineteen and twenty years, and by 5s. a week for those aged sixteen and seventeen years. The additional benefit for a dependent spouse will be increased by 7s. 6d. a week and the additional benefit for the first child by 5s. a week. The amount of income which an unemployment or sickness beneficiary may receive from outside sources without reduction of benefit will be doubled in the case of an adult or married person to bring it to £2 a week, and will be raised to £1 a week in all other cases.
This will be the sixth occasion on which a general increase has been made in pensions since December, 1949, when the Government first assumed office. It is the second occasion on which generous all-round increases and liberalizations have been made in unemployment and sickness benefits. Honorable senators will do well to reflect on the remarkable economic development of the nation over those years which has made it possible to continue with an expanding programme of social services. The success with which the national economy has sustained the large increases in social service expenditure since December, 1949, bears witness not only to the creditable efforts of our Australian producers, but to the essential soundness of the economic policy pursued by this Government.
Too much stress cannot be laid on the fact that a liberal system of social services can be maintained only by a sound economy. Social service payments represent a diversion of our national production to those who, through age or incapacity or some other cause, are unable to provide a sufficient livelihood for themselves or their dependants. Our first and most important task is therefore to ensure that the amount of our national production is adequate to meet the needs of the community as a whole and that it will remain adequate in the coming years. The task of maintaining a system of social services involving an annual expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds would not be an easy one even for a nation with population many times greater than that of Australia. The progress which has already been made under the direction of the present Government is, I think, a sufficient witness to the ability of our economy, when guided by wise statesmanship, to continue both to maintain and1 to improve the system in future.
The new maximum general rate of age and invalid pensions will be increased by the bill to £4 7s. 6d. a week, which is more than twice the maximum rate of pension which was in force when the Government came into office. This, however, does not take into account all the pension increases which have been granted by this Government. Last year special increases in pension were granted to pensioners with two or more children. It is for this reason that I have made use of the phrase “ maximum general rate “, for it is now possible for the pensioner with two or more children to have a higher maximum rate than the pensioner with no children or with only one child. Of course, a child’s allowance of lis. 6d. a week remains payable for the first child. Thus, the new maximum rate payable to an invalid pensioner with three children will be increased by the bill from £5 to £5 7s. 6d. a week, in addition to a child’s allowance of lis. 6d. ‘
Widow pensioners in all four classes will receive the full increase of 7s. 6d. a week. In the case of a class A widow, that is, a widow who has the custody, care and control of one or more children under the age of sixteen years, the maximum general rate will be increased from £4 5s. to £4 12s. 6d. a week, which is £2 5s. a week higher than in December, 1949. If the widow has two or more children the new maximum general rate will, of course, be subject to the increase of 10s. a week for each child after the first. The new maximum rate for widow pensioners in the other three classes will be increased to £3 15s. a week. This group comprises mostly class B widows, that is, widows who are at least 50 years of age (or in some cases 45 years of age) and who have no children under sixteen years of age. The increase for these widows will bring their maximum rate to more than double what it was when Labour was last in office.
The extent to which the position of the pensioner has improved under the present Government’s administration will be especially evident if account is taken of permissible income, that is, of the amount of income which a pensioner may receive from outside sources without a reduction in the rate of his pension. Thus, when the bill becomes law, the amount which may be received by way of pension and other income will have increased since December, 1949, in the case of a single age or invalid pensioner, from £3 12s. 6d. to £7 17s. 6d. a week; in the case of a married couple, who are both age or invalid pensioners, from £7 5s. to £15 15s. a week; in the case of an invalid pensioner with a non-pensioner wife and no children, from £6 6s. 6d. to £13 2s. 6d. a week; and in the case of an invalid pensioner with a nonpensioner wife and one child, from £6 16s. 6d. to £14 4s. a week. The improvement becomes progressively greater as the number of children increases. For example, an invalid pensioner with a nonpensioner wife and four children will now be able to receive pension and other income amounting to £17 4s. a week as compared with £6 16s. 6d. a week received under Labour’s administration.
Even more striking is the improvement in the position of the class A widow. In 1949, such a widow could receive pension and other income amounting to only £4 2s. 6d. a week, regardless of the number of her children. Under this bill a widow with one child will be able to receive up to £8 12s. 6d. a week, and a widow with four children up to £11 12s. 6d. a week. These examples do not take into account the child endowment which may be received in addition to the pension and other income mentioned. Nor do they bring into consideration the liberalizations in the property means test which have been made by the present Government since 1949.
The Government has, moreover, introduced measures which have assisted pensioners in other ways apart from the pension itself. There is, for instance, the pensioner medical service, which was introduced in 1951. This enables some 685,000 persons, including pensioners of various kinds and their dependants, to receive free medical and pharmaceutical benefits. The right to participate in these benefits adds to the value of the pension and relieves the pensioner of the financial anxiety of meeting doctors’ and chemists’ bills.
Another beneficial measure of this kind was the Aged Persons Homes Act. Grants of over £2,200,000 have been made to churches, charitable and other organizations to assist them in providing homes for elderly people. With this assistance accommodation will be provided for 3,590 older people. During the current session of Parliament a bill is being introduced to provide for the payment of such grants to be on the basis of £2 from the Commonwealth for each £1 found by the organization. The present basis is £1 for £1.
Even without these additional services, however, the pension has shown a marked increase in real value since the present Government took office. This will be quite clearly demonstrated if we compare the purchasing value of the proposed new pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week with that of the pension which was in force in December, 1949. To do this I will apply the C series retail price index, which is the best or perhaps the only yardstick for the purpose.
The index number for the September quarter, 1949, the last issued before the Labour Government left office, was 1428, and the maximum rate of age pension was then £2 2s. 6d. a week. The index number for the June quarter of 1957 was 2572. Based on the index, a pension of £3 16s. 7d. a week to-day would have the same purchasing power as the pension payable under the Labour administration. The bill before the Senate raises the maximum general rate to £4 7s. 6d., thus giving age and invalid pensioners a minimum of 10s. lid. a week more purchasing power than the 1949 pension. This does not take into account the increased amounts payable where there are children. Nor does it take into account the other liberalizations and other benefits to which I have already referred. It should be clear to all, therefore, that the Government is constantly striving not merely to maintain the living standards of pensioners but to raise them to the fullest extent possible.
The bill removes an anomaly which now places blind war pensioners at a disadvantage compared with war pensioners who are not blind. An upper limit is now placed on the total that may be paid by way of war and civil pensions to blind persons. Its purpose was to prevent a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who was not blind being placed in a worse position than a blind ex-serviceman. The effect of the present provision is to prevent a blind ex-serviceman from receiving any increase that may be made in his pension rate because of children. In some circumstances he can be worse off than if he were not blind. This was not intended. The bill will place the blind and the non-blind in a similar position.
Age and invalid pensioners who are inmates of benevolent homes now receive 28s. a week of their pensions. They receive 24s. 6d. if they are widows in class B. The authorities of the home receive the balance of the pension towards the maintenance of the pensioner. The amounts payable to these pensioners will be increased to 30s. 6d. and 27s. respectively. 1 turn now to unemployment and sickness benefits. Honorable senators will recall that the rates of these benefits were doubled by the Menzies-Fadden Government in 1952. This year, as I have indicated, further substantial increases will be made. An increase of 15s. a week - from £2 10s. to £3 5s. - will be made in the rate payable to a single adult or married minor. The additional benefit for a dependent spouse will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £2 7s. 6d. a week. The total benefit for a married person with no children will be £5 12s. 6d. a week - an increase of 22s. 6d. a week. The additional benefit payable for one child, now 5s. a week, will be doubled. The total benefit for a man with a wife and one or more children will become £6 2s. 6d. a week - an increase of 27s. 66. a week. For unmarried minors, rates will be increased from £2 to £2 7s. 6d. a week for those aged between 18 and 21 years, and from £1 10s. to £1 15s. a week for those aged 16 and 17 years. The new rates of benefit will be, on the average, approximately two and a half times as great as they were when the Government took office.
In addition, for the first time since their introduction, a general increase is made in permissible income. Without reduction of benefit, £1 a week may now be received from outside sources by an adult or married person. The amount for unmarried minors, aged from 16 to 20 years, varies from 5s. to 1 5s. a week, depending upon age. For an adult or married person permissible income will be doubled making it £2 a week, and for unmarried minors it will be raised to £1 a week irrespective of age. The increase in permissible income proposed by the bill will be especially helpful to sickness beneficiaries who are members of friendly societies. Payments of up to £2 a week received from such societies, or from similar approved organizations, are excluded from the operation of the means test, with the result that up to £3 a week may at present be received from the friendly society without a reduction of benefit. The higher premissible income now proposed will enable the societies to increase these payments to £4 a week without causing any reduction in the rate of sickness benefit except in those cases where other outside income is received. This will enable a married sickness beneficiary with a dependent spouse and one child to receive a possible total income of £10 2s. 6d. a week, not including child endowment.
Two other amendments will permit a couple, where one is a pensioner, to receive the increase in the pension rate without the other party suffering a reduction in unemployment or sickness benefit. Where a wife receives a civil or service pension or allowance of £2 a week or more no additional benefit is now payable to the husband. Where her pension or allowance is less than £2 a week the husband may receive, by way of additional benefit, the difference between her pension or allowance and £2 a week. The bill provides that a pensioner wife will be regarded as dependent or partially dependent until her pension or allowance reaches £2 7s. 6d. Subject to the means test, additional benefit will be paid of the amount by which her pension or allowance falls short of £2 7s. 6d.
The second amendment relates to the special exemption where the wife of an unemployment beneficiary receives a civil or a service pension. At present up to £2 a week of that pension is excluded from the means test in assessing the husband’s unemployment benefit. This exemption is raised to £2 7s. 6d. a week. Thus a married couple where one is a pensioner will receive the benefit of both the increase in the pension rate and in the unemployment benefit rate. They will in addition enjoy the higher permissible income for unemployment benefit.
Over 610,000 pensioners will receive an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. Those with incomes between £7 10s. and £7 17s. 6d. a week, now excluded from pension ,will become eligible for some pension. The upper limit for married couples will be £15 15s. a week and this will be increased if there are children. The new rates of pension will be payable from and including the first pension pay-day after the day on which the bill receives the Royal assent. The increased rates of unemployment and sickness benefit will become operative as soon as the Royal assent is given to the bill.
The proposals included in the bill will cost £8,830,000 for 1957-58 and £12,775,000 for a full year. The total cost for this financial year of all benefits under the Social Services Act will amount to £200,784,000. The total cost of all benefits payable from the National Welfare Fund, including health benefits, and services costing nearly £43,000,000 will be £243,572,000. This compares with £74,600,000 in the last full year when Labour was in office. Though we are conditioned to think in terms of vast sums, the figures I have quoted cannot fail to impress with their magnitude. Yet the true value of our social services cannot be measured in money terms. It is measured by the succour that is given to those who are in need of it. The bill before the Senate advances us further towards the goal of social security. Mr. President, I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Toohey) adjourned.
– by leave - By statements to the press, chiefly in the form of advertisements, Mr. P. W. Haddy, former chairman of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, has sought to make public what he describes as “ the facts about A.N.A. “.
The picture presented by Mr. Haddy is in some respects both misleading and incomplete. In assessing the reasons for the financial difficulties of A.N.A. he takes no account of that company’s responsibilities for efficient management and operation, complaining that “ all the great powers of the Treasury were used to smash us “.
This, and other equally dramatic state-* ments ignore the earnest efforts of the Government to maintain conditions of effective competition on the trunk routes, and thus ensure the continued existence of a highly efficient air transport industry.
Quite apart from the substantial benefits already conferred on A.N.A. by the Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952, the Government proposes, as the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, informed Parliament recently, to introduce further measures to eliminate instability in the industry. In the case of trunk route operations, in addition to continuing the benefits of the 1952 agreement, it is proposed, with the approval of the operators concerned, to strengthen the rationalization provisions of the agreement. Legislation for this purpose will be introduced in the very near future. There is nothing in Mr. Haddy’s statement to indicate the important fact that this policy was made known to his board - as it was to all other interested parties - before any decision on the sale of A.N.A. was made.
While little purpose would be served at this stage in correcting all the misleading statements in Mr. Haddy’s advertisement, some demand correction - for example, his claim that dollars were supplied lavishly to buy aircraft for Trans-Australia Airlines while A.N.A. were refused permission to use even sterling currency. He made no mention of the fact that since 1951 A.N.A. has been allocated 10,000,000 dollars for the purchase of DC6 aircraft while T.A.A.’s dollar expenditure has been limited to the cost of spare parts for DC3 and Convair aircraft. The fact that the Government guaranteed the loans making the purchase by A.N.A. of its six DC6 aircraft possible is treated as inconsequential and no mention is made of the fact that, A.N.A. having defaulted in repayment of these loans, the Government facilitated an extension of the time in which A.N.A. could discharge its obligations to pay outstanding instalments.
Again there is the claim that, despite the agreement which gave A.N.A. equal access to government business, it had not in fact obtained an equal share. The reason, I believe, is simply that T.A.A. has provided pressurized aircraft and more attractive schedules on the routes catering for the bulk of this type of business. I shall be most surprised if A.N.A., under its new management, fails to attract a much greater share of this business.
The main purpose of Mr. Haddy’s advertisement appears to be an effort to discredit the Government for rejecting the various proposals for a holding company. To reveal clearly the attitude of the A.N.A. board to this key issue it is necessary to give some precise facts. Initially, Mr. Haddy suggested as a basis for negotiation a holding company, having an issued capital of £15,500,000- T.A.A. receiving £7,000,000 in shares; A.N.A. shareholders receiving £6,500,000 - half in shares and half in cash; and other operators £2,000,000. It should be clearly understood that whereas T.A.A.’s assets have a net worth of approximately £7,000,000, A.N.A. assets are encumbered to the extent of £3,600,000, and have a net worth of £3,000,000 to £3,500,000 so that the relative shareholdings in the holding company proposed by Mr. Haddy bore no relation to the net worth of the assets of the two undertakings. Subsequently Mr. Haddy, in a letter to me dated 5th June, 1957, submitted a revised proposal that a holding company be formed with an issued capital of £12,000,000 in which A.N.A.’s holding should be £4,500,000 and T.A.A.’s £5,500,000 but that A.N.A.’s shareholders should retain city and suburban properties and investments valued at approximately £2,000,000. He further stated that “the aim and object of the holding company should be to pay 8 per cent, after making proper provision for depreciation, taxation and similar contingencies “.
I should add that in a “ last word “ offer, Mr. Haddy advised me by telephone that his board would agree to a holding company in which A.N.A. held £3,500,000 worth of shares and T.A.A. £4,500,000 worth, but again with a proviso that A.N.A. shareholders would withdraw properties and investments having a current value estimated at £2,000,000 and that the Commonwealth should remit tax estimated at £500,000 payable in respect of the withdrawal of the investments. These were the precise proposals which Cabinet rejected at the Brisbane meeting referred to by Mr. Haddy in his advertisement.
There were overwhelming reasons for this decision. The savings resulting from rationalization stated by Mr. Haddy to be £2,000,000 - which in my view were greatly over-estimated - would only accrue if all trunk route operators participated and particularly, of course, the expanding Ansett company, which had already placed orders for modern pressurized Convair Metropolitan aircraft. Mr. Ansett, the subsequent purchaser of A.N.A., made it quite clear from the outset that he would not, in any circumstances, join the proposed holding company, .stating that -
The holding company would be tantamount to a giant monopoly that could only result in a slow and cumbersome approach to problems that would be far more efficiently solved where action is driven by the need for profits and a reasonable return on shareholders’ funds.
However, quite apart from these fundamental objections - the destruction of competition and the creation of a monopoly - the financial basis of Mr. Haddy’s proposal was quite unreasonable. He sought, even on the basis of his “ last word “ proposal, a shareholding of £3,500,000 in the holding company after withdrawing investments worth approximately £2,000,000. In other words he sought on behalf of A.N.A. shareholders the withdrawal of £2,000,000 in assets, plus £3,500,000 in shares in the holding company, in exchange for shares which were subsequently sold to Ansett Transport Industries for only £3,300,000! It is difficult to believe that there could have been any real expectation that the Government would accept such a proposal.
The essential fact is that a private enterprise group with wide experience in transport has been prepared to purchase all the shares in A.N.A. and to carry on under the very conditions which the former shareholders were unwilling to accept. I am confident that the highly skilled staff of A.N.A., under the driving force of its new managing director, Mr. Ansett, will provide effective and profitable competition.
Debate resumed (vide page 404).
.- Before the adjournment I referred to the functions of this Parliament, and to the trends in parliamentary government. I said that I had been rather interested to come across a statement epitomising the work of Professor Keeton on the passing of Parliament in England. In it, the following appears -
During the past 70 years Parliament, though still nominally supreme, has progressively conferred on government departments wider powers of law-making and also the power to adjudicate on breaches of the rules the departments make. In this way, the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts is steadily being curtailed. During the same period the legislative powers of the House of
Lords have been so seriously reduced that it is no longer an effective partner in legislation. Party discipline has intensified, so that a government may rely upon a firm majority in the House of Commons to give legal force to the measures it proposes. Such measures now control every phase of the national life, and require to be financed by taxation which is penal in incidence.
It is the thesis of this book that, in consequence of these developments, the sovereignty of Parliament is in danger of becoming a fiction, and that all the necessary machinery for a Cabinet dictatorship already exists.
More than twenty years ago the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart of Bury, first drew attention to the threat to the traditional liberties of the subject, by publishing his epoch-making book, “ The New Despotism “. Professor Keeton develops and underlines the late Lord Hewart’s theme. The threat of the Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy has increased, is still increasing, and must be curtailed.
That is a statement which leads me to believe that the advocacy over the last two or three years in defence of the rights of Parliament has not been misguided.
If we are to defend our liberal democracy, I believe it is essential that the rights of the individual citizen should be governed, not by executive edicts such as import restrictions, made at the discretion of an individual officer cloaked with officialdom for the time being, but by a rule of law for which the Parliament is responsible and which should be interpreted, in its application to individual citizens, by independent courts. In a federal system such as we have in Australia, where the courts of the land have to adjudicate, not merely on the application of the law to individual citizens, but also on issues as between State and Commonwealth governments, defining the powers of those governments, it is doubly important that we should defend the independence of the judiciary. In making that statement I rely, not on my own preconceived notion, but on the words of Lord Simonds, one of the most distinguished of the Lord Chancellors of England. In the Boilermakers’ case in 1957, he said -
On the other hand, in a federal system the absolute independence of the judiciary is the bulwark of the Constitution against encroachment, whether by the legislature or by the Executive. To vest in the same body executive and judiciary power is to remove a vital constitutional safeguard.
Those are the words of a Lord Chancellor of England. They are the expression of a tradition, some of it blazoned with blood shed, extending over 300 years. The reason I bring those words before the Senate a second time is that the Government at present holding office, dedicated to a liberal democracy, is the Government that was defeated by those words - the Government which took the responsibility of initiating an appeal to the Privy Council to overturn a decision made by a majority of the justices of the High Court of Australia, establishing the constitutional independence of our judiciary, the guardianship of which is essential to -the protection of the individual rights of the common citizen - one of the planks of a liberal democracy. I can neither explain nor understand that executive act.
We now pass into the sixth year of our experience of import restrictions, the like of which, from a constitutional point, are without precedent. That system, autocratic in the extreme, gives to one Minister and his officers the right to issue a licence to one trader engaged in external trade and to refuse a licence to another. It gives them the right to impose conditions of a completely indefinite ambit on one trader and to impose other different or no conditions upon another. It gives them the right to vary those conditions, once imposed, whether before or after import - the right to impose such conditions and to refuse or to grant a licence, without appeal, except, since the intervention of the committee of which Senator Wood is the chairman, to boards of an advisory nature. To show the theme of the thoughts of the present Executive, I ask honorable senators to note the answer given to a question which I placed on the notice-paper the other day. I asked what was the constitution of the advisory boards of reference, the method by which they were to be constituted, and whether regulations were to be made giving them some constitutional basis. There is no suggestion that the Executive will descend to that very lowly form of compliment to the Parliament. It is just by a letter from the Minister that the officer of the board gets his summons. On what terms or security? On what basis of self-respect? On what principle of independence? Those things are left solely to the discretion of the Minister. It is complete executive autocracy, in defiance of any supervision by Parliament.
Finally, the import restrictions rules provide that the Minister may revoke or vary a licence at will. From his decisions there is no appeal. That is a system of trade rationing as between external traders, the like of which never occurred in this country during war-time. Then there was some semblance of equity and an absence of discrimination between persons subject to retail or wholesale rationing. I would be prepared to concede the legitimacy of the operation of such a system for a six or nine-month period of emergency such as occurred at the beginning of 1932, when, as the result of an avalanche of imports from England, this country was threatened with insolvency. In those circumstances, executive action is appropriate; but to continue it for some 5i to six years is, I think, beyond all contemplation to any real Liberal who has respect for the laws for which the Parliament is responsible. If that system is to be imposed and continued by a Liberal government, there will be no defence to the kind of autocracy that its alternative will impose on this country in due course.
Therefore, while the opportunity is still before us, I feel that this Parliament has a bounden duty to make it plain to the Executive that, as long as our national finances require import restrictions, we should establish a system of law governing the restriction of imports so that those persons who are affected in their livelihood and trade will not be subject to the individual executive act of an official or a Minister but will be entitled to carry on their trade according to law. There are difficulties in. the practical application of that thought, but, given goodwill and purposefulness, it is not impossible.
If anyone looks at the debates in this chamber during the first 21 years of the operation of customs tariff following federation, he will see that this Parliament dealt with every item in the tariff schedule. I invite the Senate also to look at the debates on the legislation that was submitted to the Parliament to establish the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board is a body of some independence. Its existence is guaranteed by its competence and, I should say, in the light of one or two of its most recent reports, its courage. It is only an advisory board, but by its achievement it has gained recognition and everybody whose trade is affected by the taxation element of import restric tion has a right to apply to it and everybody who objects has a right of public audience. The recommendation in each case is publicly submitted to the Parliament for approval, a form of machinery which is to be recommended when compared with this secret, individualistic, executive and complete power which the Minister arrogates to himself under a system of import restrictions.
I speak as I do because I am not prepared to surrender my time in the Parliament to become, as it were, a rubber stamp, lo be used to approve policy or a sponge to absorb policies which I was never elected to support, and which, before the people who elect me, I would repudiate as being anathema.
The next matter about which I wish to speak is taxation. Having regard to the defence that the High Court has given against the nationalisation of industries under section 92 of the Constitution and having regard to the split industrial power, which is a great economic weapon, taxation is the great instrument for socialising wealth. When we start an era of inflation - the value of people’s incomes to-day is, let us say. 50 per cent of the value of the same incomes in 1949 - and maintain the same graduated scale of income taxation for those inflated incomes, it seems to me to be a fairly ready conclusion that we are subtracting from the individual earner a greater proportion of the actual value of his earnings than was subtracted in 1949.
I note that in the financial papers that have been presented to us, the emphasis, in regard to this subject, is upon the percentage of gross national product. I direct the attention of the Senate to the 35th report of the Commissioner of Taxation which was prepared on 1st June, 1956, but was not, I am sorry to say, available to this chamber for consideration until 21st May, 1957. Although I sought the report which reviewsthe period ending in June, 1957, which I have no doubt the Commissioner has prepared, I was informed that it could not be released to any one until it was cloaked with parliamentary privilege, printed and presented to the House. I mention that as. being in marked contrast to the service that we have received from the Tariff Board’ and the Auditor-General in recent years, the- reports of both having been available to us at the commencement of our consideration of the Budget.
If honorable senators look at the report of the Commissioner of Taxation to which I have referred, they will note on page 14 that the figures have been brought down only to the taxation year 1954-55, and that the total Commonwealth taxation revenue is expressed in terms of a percentage of the gross national product. The figure dropped from 20.8 per cent, in 1949-50 to 19.3 per cent, in 1954-55. The intervening figures are not available, but if honorable senators look at page 6 of the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1956-57 which the Treasurer was good enough to supply to us with the Budget papers, they will note that he said that total taxation receipts increased by £115,000,000 in 1956-57 following an increase of £85,000,000 in 1955-56. The total revenue of £1,273,000,000 represented 23 per cent, of the gross national product, compared with 20.8 per cent, in 1949-50. It is difficult for people who are dedicated to a policy of taxation reduction to accept such an increase.
I am bound to say that it occurred to me that the gross national product was not the best basis for a consideration of this matter. If the Senate refers to page 1 of the White
Paper, it will note the interesting line of thought in the computation of the national income. Added to the items of national income are indirect taxes and allowances for depreciation. When those two odd items are added to the national income, we get a figure which the Treasury calls the gross national product. So that if you increase sales tax and customs and excise, you have a more favorable base of the gross national product to produce a percentage which looks like a tax deduction. That appears to me to be unreal.
I make this statement in the hope that the Minister - one of whose representatives has done us the honour to listen to our debate to-night - will see fit, at the conclusion of this debate, to give the Senate some explanation if the views I am submitting to the Senate are in any way ill-founded. I thought that the gross national product might not be the appropriate base, so I sought from the Commissioner of Taxation the figures showing net tax payable as a percentage of the taxable income and the actual income of individuals. With the consent of the Senate, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ first, the table that appears at page 14 of the report of the Commissioner of Taxation. The table is as follows: -
Further, so that that will not be regarded as misleading, I shall also incorporate in “ Hansard “, with the consent of the Senate, the table that the Commissioner of Taxation has been good enough to supply to me showing the net tax payable on incomes of individuals as a percentage of the actual income and the taxable income. This table is as follows: -
The figures for 1949-50, because of their constituent items, are not strictly comparable with the figures for the years that follow. The table shows that the net tax payable in 1949-50, expressed as a percentage of the taxable income, was 10.36 per cent. In 1950-51 - I emphasise again that the figures are not strictly comparable - the percentage was 17.24. It has been steadily reduced, and in 1954-55 it was down to 11.89 per cent.
It may be that, although the same graduated scale is still being applied to the inflated incomes, the scale is modified in its application because of increased concessional deductions. It may be that a case could be made out, by comparing the actual incomes with the income tax paid by individuals, to show that the percentage in the aggregate has grown less by reason of the concessional deductions. If that case is supportable, I would be most obliged to the Minister if he would support it in his reply.
But the figures I have quoted, showing that total Commonwealth taxation revenue expressed as a percentage of the gross national product was 20.8 per cent, in 1949 and is expected to be 23 per cent, this year, cause some disquiet. Because I take the view that it is all-important to prevent an undue proportion of the people’s earnings from being transferred either for Government expenditure or for investment in Government works - that is to say, a transfer of them to public ownership - I think it is important that we should note what the trend is in the percentage of the people’s incomes that is being taken to-day for Government purposes, compared with 1949-50, when this Government commenced, its term of office and responsibility.
Further, in relation to taxation, I have long since expressed my antipathy to the viewpoint that seems to be acceptable to the Treasury that the taxation power should be used for the purpose of draining off excess spending power. Others could express it in another way by saying that you use the taxation power, on the basis of this theory, for the purpose of reducing the people’s independence. Robbie Burns, that arch-capitalist to whom I have referred before, that product of the Scottish furrow, said -
Apply yourself with all your energies, all for the glorious privilege of being independent.
Independent, that is, mainly of governments. The major complaint I have with regard to this Budget is this: If one looks at it, one sees that we have come to the stupendous figure of £1,300,000,000 and that last year, of that amount, about £300,000,000 was used for capital works, about £105,000,000 to defray the cost of Commonwealth capital works and £197,00,000 transferred from the revenue of the Commonwealth to the Consolidated Loan and Investment Reserve. Of that latter amount, £91,000,000 was applied to underwrite State loans insofar as the loan market proved incapable of yielding all that was required for State loan expenditure.
There are many contributing factors to the want of confidence in the loan market. One is that we have espoused the welfare State with such zeal that people are beginning to wonder whether it is to their benefit to make savings and retain them, especially to later life. Secondly, when taxation becomes penal, there is a natural British resentment against producing for waste by government departments. Are we going to preserve any distinction between earnings and capital? I address myself especially to this side of the chamber in this proposition.
– To this side?
– Yes, to this side, and in deference to Senator Gorton, I turn a full circle to face him. I refer to this side of the Senate, where we make a marked distinction between taxation of capital and taxation of income. I believe we still retain an antipathy towards forced loans and confiscation of capital, which the people of England fought against in the 17th century. The man of this generation has a right to earn his degree of independence and to prevent his ability to contribute to his individual family savings from being diminished by demands to finance from revenue government capital works to the extent of £300,000,000 in one year. Confidence in the loan market has disappeared because of government management of the loan market. It is not for me to pretend, either, that I understand the manoeuvres of the Treasury again in that matter, but it is quite obvious that, unknown to the public, artificial support is given to the loan market for the purpose of creating the appearance that bonds are of such and such a value. The use of this practice would be to prohibit the individual, as Lord Kylsant if he were now serving his twelve months in the Second Division for disobeying these practices, would eloquently bear witness.
So we have to make up our minds whether finance for capital works is to be extracted from the people’s earnings. If savings were not voluntarily contributed, then, insofar as taxation, is required, the individual who does contribute it should be given the equivalent of a savings certificate to operate as his individual asset as against the Treasury, and so establish his degree of individual independence.
By the same token, I notice that the Budget increases by £13 a year the allowable deduction for a dependant. For a wife the deduction is increased from £130 to £143, that for the first child from £78 to £91 and that for the second and subsequent children from £52 to £65. Mr. President, I wish some of the Ministers would practise in the Maintenance Court just for one week. No magistrate in Petty Sessions orders maintenance for any child to-day less than 30s. a week even if there is a family of six of them to support. To say that £65 is a proper deduction for tax purposes for a child’s maintenance to-day when the Government’s purpose is to foster the right of the family man to live, is to say less than I would aspire to. If any improvement in the income tax structure could be made, there is none which I should think would command greater commendation than an adjustment of the deduction for dependants. If they were £78 and £52 in 1949, as I think they were, they should be at least double that amount to-day for the promotion of the family and to give to the man who has the community responsibility of keeping a wife and rearing children the appropriate relief from income tax.
On this question of financial independence, it rejoices my soul that the Budget is accompanied by an announcement of an intention to bring in legislation at last to create an independent banking system in the country. I am on record, I am pleased to notice, on looking back, as having expressed the hope last year that there would be a completely independent banking system. Do honorable senators recall the words of Senator Spooner to-day in answer to a question with relation to the coal industry? He rejected the idea that we have a government instrumentality which, with its left arm, is trading in its own right for its own profit and, with its right arm, is imposing its authority and jurisdiction upon the government trading agency’s competitors. On the same principle, the banking legislation that the Treasurer recently announced is constructed not to weaken the banking system but so as to strengthen it, to make its application equal in its incidence to a government trading agency as well as to private trading banks; not that we lose any sleep over enthusiasm for the altruism of any of these agencies. We sponsor them and support them because they are the expression of the financial citizens of independence where one’s savings and one’s credit may be managed without inroads being made by governments except as Parliament provides.
The next aspect of this financial system to which I wish to refer is the imbalance that is being created in favour of this federal Parliament in relation to finance vis-a-vis the States. Uniform taxation was introduced in 1942. lt seemed to be a deprivation of the States of their legitimate rights to legislate for taxation on income. The remarkable thing over the last 50 years is how both sides of Parliament seem to look to the incomes of the people as the primary source of revenue. Fifty years ago, it was hardly thought of, and if this practice is continued with the severity - I was trying to get my mind off the word “savagery” - that has been displayed, we shall see a withering of our community’s effort because that will be very much to the detriment of the real worth of our community.
Therefore, when the States were deprived of their right to legislate to impose taxation on incomes, surely they are entitled to a field of financial revenue so that they can, on their own responsibility, discharge the functions for which their electors elected them to State parliaments. It is, I think, militating strongly against the real prosperity of Australia when the Commonwealth Government took, in 1956, the role which it criticized the Curtin Government so strongly in 1942 for having adopted, and supplied exactly the same line of advocacy before the High Court as the Commonwealth Government of 1942. Nothing in that respect had changed, except the government. I want to make that clear. But I want to say, too, that I do not disagree with the view because the demands made on the Commonwealth revenue are such as to make it impracticable and, I think, inequitable to re-divide the income tax field. But that is not to concede that the States should not be given an independence, for a perusal of the Treasury papers will disclose that last year, a total of £244,000,000 including grants to the States, tax reimbursements, special financial assistance and supplementary tax reimbursements was conceded to the States out of Commonwealth revenue. Add to that the subventions out of Commonwealth revenue in aid of the States’ loan programmes, amounting to £91,000,000, and we have a grand total of over £330,000,000. That is to deny the States any financial independence and responsibility.
I would think that one of the greatest challenges to us in political life to-day is to see to it that finance is redivided between the Commonwealth and the States in a manner commensurate with their legislative responsibilities. We remember how, in 1928, the States had gravitated down that easy descent to hell. They were bankrupt, but Earle Page rescued them and secured an amendment of the Constitution, under which the Loan Council was established, so that there would be responsibility in arranging their loan requirements. But we have made inroads into that and now, due to our superior jurisdiction for revenue requirements, we make ourselves Grandfather Christmas. It started in 1951, with all the good intentions in the world, as have many pleasures that I have experienced. If we look at the Budget speech, we see that in 1951-52 special Commonwealth assistance was £152,000,000; in 1952-53, £131,000,000; in 1953-54, £74,000,000; in 1954-55, £49,000,000; in 1955-56, £88,000,000; and last year, £91,000,000. The grand aggregate for the six years was £588,000,000, in payments from Commonwealth revenue as special Commonwealth assistance. How can the States claim any independence while that degree of financial subjugation is taking place?
I content myself with having adverted to those facts, which I believe show that if the Parliament exercised an independent parliamentary supervision over the Executive, was insistent upon ensuring that people’s Tights shall be governed by judicial action in the interpretation of laws, not by arbitrary decisions, and then saw to it that it exacted a revenue only sufficient - not more than sufficient - for its legislative functions, leaving . the State governments, according to the will of the people who elect them, to raise revenue for their requirements from fields other than income tax, we would get an independence in the Commonwealth structure that would enable this country’s economy to be conducted with much greater advantage to the people in the future than it has been conducted in the past seven years.
– We have just listened to a very interesting speech. I believe it was one of the most interesting that we have had for quite a long time, and with a major portion of it I agree. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Wright’s remarks in alluding at the outset of his speech to the leakages that occurred, not only in one newspaper, but in almost all the leading newspapers of this country, prior to the presentation of the Budget. It is true, as he said, that Mr. J. H. Thomas suffered for his indiscretion in that way. Another instance that comes to my mind is that of Mr. Hugh Dalton, whose only mistake, I understand, was that as he was going into the House of Commons to deliver his Budget speech he made a casual remark to a friend. He had to resign from the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in that government. Here it seems that disclosures are made with impunity. It is no good saying that the people who earn their living in the press gallery of the Senate or of another place are thought readers. We all have reason to believe that a tip is given, whether wilfully or accidentally in the course of conversation. In this case, let us consider the 6d. in the £1 reduction of company tax. That meant a considerable amount so far as the share market was concerned. If I remember rightly, an alteration of the depreciation allowance was also intimated. I welcomed the concern that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) expressed in relation to this matter. I would be the last to accuse any Minister of disclosing Budget secrets, but if we are to instil in the people the respect for parliaments and the system under which we are governed that we want them to have, let us hope that we have seen the end of these leakages. I hope that we have, but I am afraid that before I can believe that that is so we shall need to have two or three more Budgets presented without leakages occurring.
– It need not necessarily be by a Minister.
– That is quite right. I do not stand here in judgment on any one, but the fact is that it did happen and that it brings Parliament into ridicule. Some people get into the financial box seat - if I may use that term - to the detriment of others, because I am entitled to suspect that the information was used in other ways and in other places before it reached the press.
I regret the method by which the Government has carried on this debate. I think that the Budget debate is one of the most important debates, if not the most important debate, that takes place in either House during the year. Yet in the Senate any speaker, irrespective of who he may be, will have very little chance that the mass of the people will be able to hear his remarks. While I did not agree with all that Senator Wright said, I should have been very happy to listen to his speech even if I had been out of Canberra. I hope that the business of the Senate can be so arranged that in this debate we shall not have the experience that we had when we discussed another important subject, the Japanese trade agreement. On that occasion, the debate on the administration and development of Canberra continued, if I remember correctly, until 8.40 p.m. I do not think that that was done accidentally. I think it was done purposely to keep the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) off the air at the time when most people listen.
– Oh, no!
– I believe it was. The Government can run this chamber as it wants to run it. There is a very good saying in politics that a lucky person is he who has the logic and the numbers. The wise person, when he wants to get legislation passed, always keeps his numbers. I believe that that is what the Government is doing in the running of this chamber. But that practice has a habit of rebounding. The people are entitled to hear the voice of the Senate. Let us face the facts. I doubt whether Senator Wright’s excellent speech will receive much publicity in the press of the various States. If the people had been able to hear Senator Wright’s speech to-night, the value of this institution would have been enhanced.
I was interested in Senator Wright’s opposition to the present method of restricting imports, but I cannot say that I agree with him altogether on one score. I would want to know whether his method would work. I agree with him up to the point that some officer, however well meaning and capable he may be, can injure a person in his business and thereby injure his employees when he has the right to say “ This is your quota “ or “ This is not your quota “. The honorable senator said that all these matters should be discussed in thin chamber, and the principles laid down here. All I am saying is that if he could satisfy my mind that the proposal would work, this is one occasion on which I would be against executive action, leaving out the other occasions on which I have been opposed to Senator Wright’s contentions.
The honorable senator spoke about the provision of £300,000,000 for capital works. I am not opposed in these times to financing capital works as much as possible from revenue, but I believe that even if the £104,000,000 for capital works was put back into circulation and the necessary money raised by loan - which the Government could not do - the inflationary spiral we have had, particularly since 1949, would be increased. I am opposed to the Commonwealth’s practice of collecting revenue of £91,000,000, allotting that money to the States, and then charging them interest on it.
– It is too costly.
– If a private individual did that sort of thing, I know what he would be called. If it is good enough for the Commonwealth to use its £104,000,000- -or whatever the amount is - on the Snowy Mountains scheme, PostmasterGeneral’s Department works and other capital works, having collected the money as revenue without cost, why charge the States interest on their allocations from the same pool? I sometimes wonder just where we are getting to.
I come now to Senator Wright’s allusion to the proposed banking legislation. We shall have something to say about that at the appropriate time. Referring to uniform taxation, Senator Wright said that a scheme should be devised in order to impose on the States a degree of responsibility in their respective spheres of government. In the main, this matter concerns only the States. If uniform taxation were abolished to-morrow, I think it could be taken for granted that Victoria would gain about £5,500,000, that is, if the Legislative Council adhered to the same percentage of taxation on incomes. Having had some experience, I know there is always a doubt as to what legislative councils will do. However, I understand that New South Wales would gain just over £2,000,000, and that Queensland would lose somewhere around £8,000,000.
I have been rather amused to hear certain people in Queensland - on both sides of the political fence - say that they want to do away with uniform taxation. I look at the practical side of it, and I could not imagine a government in Queensland wanting to assume responsibility to find £8,000,000. And then there are the other three States. With the greatest respect to those States and their representatives here, I point out that they could fall back on the Commonwealth Grants Commission. So let us face hard facts. I am concerned with the government of the States. I am concerned that year after year the representatives of the States come to the Australian Loan Council with a schedule of works. I am amazed that wiser councils cannot prevail, leading to the determination of an order of priority in which works should be undertaken. We all know of instances in which State works have been started, but not finished because more money could not be found for them. If uniform taxation were abolished and the Commonwealth retained the income tax field and the States imposed indirect taxes, such as sales tax, I would not care to be the Treasurer of a State. The rates of an indirect tax might vary in the different States, and that would not help the development of the nation as a whole.
It is up to the Commonwealth and the States to put their faith in a joint committee that will examine public works generally and say which should be proceeded with in the interests of the nation. We do not want to see a repetition of the works council that we had a year or two ago. It recommended that the States should receive about £228,000,000, but the Federal Treasurer said, “The sum is £200,000,000. Take it or leave it “. That sort of thing cannot be justified on any ground, and it may very well be responsible for the present absence of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States on this matter of works priorities. 1 hope that Senator Wright will not take my remarks amiss. I enjoyed his speech and thought that I should at least spend a few minutes referring to those matters upon which I did not agree with him. 1 want, now, to deal with the Budget as we find it. It gives little to the many, and much to the few. The Government is running true to form, lt always looks after its friends. I must give Government supporters credit for at least having the courage of their convictions. I think honorable senators generally will agree that the figures bear out my contention. The concessions for the many include an increase of 7s. 6d. in war pensions - an additional outlay of £4,100,000. There is a similar improvement in age and invalid pensions, and in widows’ pensions, an increase in the unemployment benefit from 22s. 6d. to 27s. 6d., and improved hospital benefits, involving an additional outlay of £15,900,000. The subsidy in respect of homes for the aged is now to be £2 or every £1 raised by any organization, be it religious, charitable or governmental in character. The allowable expenditure is to be £3,000,000, but I remind honorable senators that while the subsidy of £1 for £1 applied, only £751,000 of the allowable maximum of £1,500,000 was spent. No one would oppose the Government’s gesture, which, indeed, has been translated into fact, but a subsidy of £2 will not be called for unless the particular body can raise £1. As Senator Wright has reminded us, the total Budget amounts to £1,300,000,000. lt would have been better to forget this additional grant, because last year only one-half of the amount set aside was taken up. It is problematical whether, even with the greater inducement now offered, the Government will spend more than it allowed for this purpose last year.
The concessional income tax allowance for a dependant has been increased by £13. This is certainly the luckiest government that I have ever known. I have in my hand a paper which is owned by the Murdoch chain. The headline reads, “Budget aids family man”. The average man, picking that up, would think that he was about to get something. In fact, he will be better off by the amount of tax that he would pay on £13. The taxpayer who gets £20 a week would benefit by the magnificent sum of ls. Id. a week - and few people receive that salary nowadays. We can forget about overtime and twilight shifts - they are not as abundant as they were. Naturally, the man who pays 12s. in the £1 tax will benefit a great deal more.
– Even he will benefit by only about 3s. a week.
– He is at least twice as well off, but I agree with Senator Wright that even he will not get much. I am glad that we appear to have so much in common to-night. I hope that Senator Wright will feel as cordial when I have concluded my speech.
The sales tax on some items is to be reduced. It may not be of great importance, but I am certain that the public are wondering why the sales tax on household items, which the people need so greatly, is to be reduced from 10 per cent, to 8i per cent., while that on travel goods is to be reduced from 25 per cent, to 12i per cent. I was about to refer to the sales tax on handbags, but as I do not wish to court trouble, I shall pass that matter over.
I hope that when the authorizing bill comes down, the Government will be able to tell us why these reductions in sales tax vary so greatly. Apparently some one got the ear of the Minister on this matter of travel goods, but those words of advice were not still ringing in his ears when he began to consider what should be done about the sales tax on cosmetics. Did he think, “ We were wrong some years ago. We will attempt to rectify our error now “? Sales tax concessions are to cost the Government £4,000.000 annually.
The total concessions for the great mass of the people amount to £34,000,000. The most significant omission from the Budget is any reference to child endowment. The Government either agrees with the principle of child endowment or it does not. If it does not, it should at least be courageous enough to say so. The only alteration that it has made in child endowment since its introduction has been the payment of 5s. for the first child. The Government should at least increase child endowment so that mothers can buy as many loaves of bread, or pairs of shoes, as they could when it was first granted. The Government should stop fooling the people. After all, money is more than a token of exchange for the goods that one wants. You will forgive me, Mr. President, if I quote from trie “ Hansard “ of another place the words of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). They are most interesting. He said -
When we came into office eight years ago in 1949, we set down a nominal scale of family endowment which has not subsequently been increased. I find, on consulting the papers, that in December, 1949, the C series index figure was 1,466. In June, 1957, the latest date for which a figure is available, it had risen to 2,901. It had nearly been doubled. That means, in point of fact, that the effective value of family endowment has been halved.
Does the Government want to do away with child endowment? Honorable senators opposite know why child endowment was brought in. It was introduced in order to help industry. In 1940, Judge Beeby said that unless the Government was prepared to do something for the family man, it would risk a very serious increase in the basic wage. The value of child endowment has been halved. I find it amusing when J have to quote one by the name of Wentworth, but the quotation suits my argument and the case I am submitting.
– Instead of being amused, the honorable senator should pause in respect.
– I suppose it would be more kind if I did, because he has helped me.
– I know the sense in which the honorable senator speaks.
– Apparently the Government is prepared to spend £11,000,000 this year on bringing new settlers to Australia, but it is not prepared to help our own people. My party has never been opposed to immigration in principle, but it is fearful of bringing people to Australia when there is no work for them. Honorable senators from Victoria will agree with me when I say that Victoria has received more immigrants than has any other State. It makes me wonder when I see the large number of newcomers to this country walking about streets of Melbourne. A small percentage of them may be on shift work, but the major portion are not. The Government has to face the fact that although there is a dearth of work here for unskilled men, it is bringing unskilled men to Australia, lt will not enhance its electoral prospects by continuing to spend large amounts of money to bring immigrants to Australia without providing homes or jobs for them. The Government is spending £11,000,000 on immigration this year, but nothing on child endowment.
Later, I shall deal with the £40,000,000 that industry will obtain under this Budget. As I have said, the great mass of the people, from 80 per cent, to 85 per cent., are to receive approximately £34,000,000 and the other 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, approximately £40,000,000. I think it is unwise to spend so much money on immigration at the present time. Honorable senators opposite may, quite logically, reply that if we do not take immigrants now, we will not be able to get them later. That may be so, but I would rather put the brake on. I say that for one reason only - namely, that the Government cannot house or feed these immigrants. Just as they swelled the ranks of the unemployed in their own countries, so they will swell the ranks of the unemployed here. I for one do not want to see that happen.
The Government could have saved some portion of the £40,000.000 hand-out it intends to give to one class of the people. When all is said and done, those people are like the members of this chamber, lt would not matter much to them if they did not receive a tax- reduction of sixpence in the £1; they would eat the same as before. What does industry get out of this Budget? It gets a depreciation allowance totalling £26,400,000 and a company income tax reduction of sixpence in the £1. It has been said by honorable senators opposite, “ Well, we increased company tax by one shilling when the horror Budget was brought in, and we are now taking a half of that off “. If that is the Government’s argument, why does it not halve the other imposts of the horror Budget? It should be fair. If the argument is that the Government is handing back a half of what it took in the horror Budget by way of company taxation, why does it not hand back a half of the other taxes it put on?
– The honorable senator. I take it, is referring to the little Budget?
– I thank the honorable senator for his correction, but it was something pretty horrible to each and rail. The Government is granting payroll exemptions to firms paying less than £200 in salaries. If I had a say in the matter, I would have imposed some tax other than the payroll tax, which is helping to innate our price structure. I believe that the Government will never live down, in the minds of people who think, the policy it has adopted. It promised to take controls off and let industry have its head merely for the sake of winning an election. It has done more harm to this country than honorable senators opposite ever dreamed could be done. At the present time we are experiencing in certain parts of the country a bad season, but it costs the rural producer the same amount of money to plant his wheat in a bad season, and harvest a much smaller crop, as it does in a good season when he gets a bumper crops. By taking away controls, by letting land values become inflated and the price of stock, whether it be dairy cattle, sheep or other stock, rise to great heights, the Government has landed itself in the position where, unless there is an excellent season and excellent prices overseas, the economy, not only of the individual, but of the nation, will break down. If it were not for the high price of wool, honorable members opposite would not have such an easy mind with regard to the economy of this country.
– What have bad seasons to do with the pay-roll tax?
– I said the payroll tax added to the cost structure.
– How does that affect the farmer in bad seasons?
– I did not say that it did. The imposition of pay-roll tax and the abolition of controls have put the cost structure up to its present level. If it were not for our good fortune in obtaining an extra £60,000,000 or £70,000,000, if my figures are correct, in the last wool cheque, the Government would have been in trouble.
Let us get back to the fact that 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, of the population will get £43,600,000 of the benefits that are proposed in the Budget and that 80 per cent, to 85 per cent, will receive £34,000,000. Government supporters never tire of telling us about how much better off everybody has been since this Government assumed office. Let us look at the facts. I submit that during the last twelve months the standard of living has fallen. In support of my submission, I propose to prove, first, that the value of the average wage has fallen in that period, as contrasted with an’ increase of prices; secondly, that there are relatively fewer people in employment to-day than there were a year ago; and thirdly, that the quantity of goods consumed to-day is less than the quantity consumed twelve months ago. If I prove that those three contentions are correct, I submit that I shall be correct in asserting that the living standards of the vast majority of the people have fallen.
Let us take the question of wages and prices. According to “ Treasury Information Bulletin No. 7 “, at page 26, the average nominal weekly wage rose by 3.7 per cent, between June, 1956, and June, 1957, but in the same period the retail price index rose by 4.7 per cent.
– That does not prove anything.
– Just wait a moment. I am quoting from a Treasury bulletin. I have stated the percentage increase of wages and prices.
– But it is necessary to relate those percentages to a common basis.
– Having given those percentages, I say, with the greatest of respect, that, in the period referred to, real wages have fallen. I again emphasize the fact that money is only a token of exchange; it is worth only what it will buy. On those figures, it now buys 1 per cent, less than it did twelve months ago.
– It does not.
– In the period from June, 1956, to June, 1957, there was a basic wage increase of 10s., so, even taking into account that increase, the mass of the people are worse off.
Now let us consider the number of people who are employed. In June, 1956, the total number of males in employment was 2,083,000, and in June, 1957, 2,072,000, a decrease of 11,000. The comparable figures for females are 760,900 and 764,400, an increase of 3,500. In June, 1956, the total number of persons in employment was 2,844,100, and in June, 1957, 2,836,900, a decrease of 7,200.
– A decrease of approximately 7,500.
– I suppose that Senator Scott, in his half-hearted interjection, asked, “ What does that matter? “
– I did not.
– That was the intention.
– The honorable senator can read our thoughts now!
– 1 do not want to be rude, but it is the old, old story of certain people stepping in where angels fear to tread. The significance of those figures is that there has been an appreciable decline in the employment of males over the last twelve months but an increase of 3,500 in the number of females employed. I ask myself whether that has anything to do with the fact that the female basic wage is now 75 per cent, of the male rate.
Senator Vincent interjecting,
– I shall deal with the interjections if they are audible. I missed that one. So the total number of persons employed fell by approximately 7,000 during that period although - and here is the catch - the population rose by 220,000. Now let us examine the statistics for 1955-56.
– Can the honorable senator give us the 1949 figures?
– We can deal with 1949. Labour established something between 1941 and 1949 that honorable senators opposite ran away from.
– Go on!
– Yes, you did. It is easy to sail a ship in calm waters, but the waters became a bit rough and the Government did not like the change. Even though the Government had the numbers here and in another place, it walked out. Government supporters do not like to hear that, but it is true.
– In 1949?
– You walked out in 1941.
– Give us the 1949 figures.
– You were all right in the calm waters! I was saying that the total number of persons employed fell by approximately 7,000, even though the population had risen by 220,000. As a result of that increase in the population, as revealed by the Government’s own documents, the work force would have increased by approximately 80,000 persons. That figure includes new arrivals in Australia and the natural increase of the work force. One would have expected that there would have been a greater increase in the work force but, unfortunately, that was. not so.
The Government has claimed that the people are better off. I do not know whether the people suffer less under an anti-Labour government when they are out of work and hungry. They are still unemployed and hungry and they are still unable to meet their commitments. That is what worries them.
The third point I wish to make is that the consumption of food has fallen. Again, I cite the figures that have been distributed by the Government itself. The Opposition claims that the people have bought less food, clothing, furniture and household goods. We maintain that the consumption per head of population fell in 1956-57. I have in my hand a table of figures taken from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. They are the Government’s own figures. The White Paper shows that the value of food bought rose by 5 per cent, but prices increased by 5 per cent. also.
– Yes, they did. If Senator Mattner had read the speech of his leader in another place, he would have learned that his leader agreed that the consumption of food has fallen in Australia. I will have something to say about the portion of the right honorable gentleman’s speech in which he said that the people were buying beer instead of food. He did not even follow up the statement of the Treasurer, which showed that 3 per cent, less beer was drunk. I would like to see much less beer consumed, and many people know that, but it ill-becomes a Prime Minister to say that the people are buying more beer and less food when he knows that those statements are not true. Maybe more money has been spent on beer, but that was only after the little Budget was presented last year. The Government was good enough to take 50 per cent, off the company tax that it had imposed, but it did not reduce other imposts by 50 per cent.
The sale of clothing, footwear and drapery increased by li per cent., but prices rose by li per cent. also. The only increase in sales in 1956-57, compared with 1955-56, applied to tobacco. Sales of tobacco increased by 12 per cent, and the price rose by 7 per cent., so there was an overall gain of 5 per cent, in sales. I remind honorable senators that I am citing the Government’s own figures to show that in every other commodity - food, clothing, footwear and other essential items - the people bought less per head of population last year than they did in 1955-56.
I believe I have shown, on the Government’s own figures, that the real value of wages fell last year by 1 per cent. The Government’s figures show also that there were relatively fewer people in employment last year compared with the previous year. I contend, therefore, that the statement that has been made on behalf of the Government that the people are better off is not borne out by the Government’s own figures.
I wish to refer now to another question that will be used undoubtedly by honorable senators on the Government side to bolster up their case on the Budget. I invite honorable senators to study carefully statements that have been published in the last report of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Government supporters have already seized upon this statement and no doubt others will quote from it. It includes this statement -
The year 1956-57 was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy.
Those words are contained in the last report of the Commonwealth Bank at page 4. I shall give two reasons why that statement cannot be accepted on its face value. I believe that the person who has written the bank’s report is not a very reliable authority, and I hope to prove that also. The report states at page 12 -
Compared with previous years, sales of food and groceries increased significantly.
Even the Prime Minister debunked that statement. He said that that was not so. On its face value, the statement in the
Commonwealth Bank’s report can be taken to mean only that more food and groceries were sold compared with the previous year. That is not true. While sales increased by 5 per cent., prices rose by 5 per cent. also. Therefore, there was no real increase in purchases.
– Not necessarily.
– Senator Vincent can have a go on Thursday. He can speak for an hour and try to prove that what I have said is wrong. He cannot argue against my contention.
– Yes he can.
– The point may be argued, but not successfully.
– The honorable senator must reduce those figures to a common base before he can disprove them.
– The report of the bank states that sales of food and groceries increased significantly in the last year. The figures show that between 1954-55 and 1955-56, sales of food increased from £802,000,000 to £883,000,000. That was an increase of 8.8 per cent, or, in terms of money, £81,000,000. Between 1955-56 and 1956-57, sales increased from £883,000,000 to £923,000,000 which was an increase of 4.5 per cent, or £40,000,000. In view of those facts, how can we place any reliance on a report which says that compared with the previous year the sales of food and groceries increased significantly?
– It is probably true, though.
– If it is true, the official figures that I have quoted are wrong. How can it be said that the sales of food and groceries increased significantly if they increased by only £40,000,000 in that year compared with an increase of £71,000,000 in the previous year? I believe that the words used are nothing more nor less than economists’ terms. The report continues, “ More stability has developed in the labour market “.
– Hear, hear.
– All the honorable senator and his colleagues strive for is a pool of unemployed. Their policy is to quieten the workers, to reduce the amount of fight in them, to compel them to put up with things that they would not stand in normal times. Honorable senators on the Government side certainly run true to form on all occasions. How can they say that there is more stability in the labour market when their own figures disclose that there are at least 50,000 in receipt of the unemployment benefit, and when the average person claims with confidence that the true number of unemployed would be almost double that number?
– Give us the figures for 1949.
– Can the honorable senator think of nothing but 1949? Can he tell me how many were unemployed in 1949?
– There were four times that number of unemployed.
– The honorable senator simply thinks of a number and says it. He gives no facts, nor does he quote official figures. He merely picks a figure out of the air and says, “ Here it is “.
– It was at least 7 per cent.
– I ask the honorable senator to produce facts. The Government claims that we now have a healthy economy. It is healthy for one class. The Government has looked after its friends to the tune of £10,000,000, as I explained earlier. What is the position of the working man? The living standards of the masses have fallen, as is proved by the Government’s own figures.
– You have never known of a better period in our history.
– Is that not encouraging for the 50,000 people who, the Government admits, are unemployed? Regardless of any period in history, the fact is that they are unemployed.
– And some of them are unemployable.
– Now the honorable senator says that the departmental officers are allowing unemployment relief money to be paid to unemployables. He does not know much about the officers.
– They are there.
– The honorable senator is one of those who are fortunate enough not to be worried about unemployment. We say also that the number of houses built was 10,000 less than in any other year since this Government took office. At one time the Government argued that it was not lack of money but shortage of materials that prevented houses from being built. At least 1 give it credit for discarding that line of argument. (Extension of time granted). I thank the Senate for its courtesy. This has been a wonderful season for the wool-growers. I wish them more good seasons for they benefit not only the wool-growers but also the country. We are all sincere when we wish the woolgrowers prosperous seasons, and if we on this side are prepared to wish them well and to hope for good seasons and satisfactory prices, the Government should at least show practical consideration for the unfortunate masses. If it does so, it will make this a much better world.
There is one other matter in the Budget to which 1 wish to refer because it relates to one of the worst things any government could do to its own undertaking. 1 was delighted when the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) made a statement this evening in answer to an advertisement by one, Mr. Haddy, on behalf of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I think we all agree that when the Minister had finished there was not much left of Mr. Haddy’s advertisement.
I am amazed to read in the Budget that the Government proposes to tax aviation kerosene. What is the reason for that? Is it in order to bring Trans-Australia Airlines back to the field? I think the figures show that the Government expects . to derive £400,000 from this source, and it is my firm opinion that over £300,000 of that money will come from T.A.A. I know the Government does not like T.A.A. The Government’s actions towards certain other instrumentalities have shown that, but it is not game to get rid of T.A.A. at the moment.
– If we do not like A.N.A. and if we do not like T.A.A., whom do we like?
– I give the Government credit for looking after its friends. How many other airlines in this country use aviation kerosene? The only other airline using it is Butler Air Transport Limited. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong but I am informed that only two airlines use it. Next year, T.A.A. proposes to use thirteen Viscounts.
– The Electra aircraft will use it.
– But the Government does not expect to get much out of them because, according to the figures supplied by T.A.A. that organization will be paying £300,000 of the tax of £400,000.
– It is not quite that. I dispute the figures.
– The Minister is welcome to dispute them. I understand in 1959 T.A.A. will dispense with the DC3 aircraft on normal runs and will fly Fokker Friendships in their place. I believe that the Government has taken this action in order that T.A.A. will be more agreeable to a rise in fares. The Government has, by its actions, already hindered the development of T.A.A. I believe that to-day its service is not as good as it was. I am one who eats extremely seldom on a plane, but in my view the sickly-sweet biscuits that T.A.A. is giving to passengers are bringing its service more into line with the service that was given by the deceased A.N.A. and is given by Ansett. The present prestige of T.A.A. was built on service. Why spoil it? Why be mean and. petty? Why reduce it just because the service of others is poor? Other airlines had the opportunity to buy Viscounts, but the management of T.A.A. did buy them. Before the Government became arrogant in office, it studied the welfare of the people’s assets. If the Government followed its previous decisions and was courageous enough, it would sell out the people’s airline. There is no reason, in principle, why it should retain T.A.A., in view of what it has done with other government instrumentalities. The only reason is that it. is fearful of the people’s anger.
Of all the taxes and imposts referred to in this Budget, the tax on aviation kerosene is the one for which the Government should be most ashamed. If all the airlines were using aviation kerosene’, the Government might contend that the tax was only for the purpose of raising revenue.. A Government senator asked, by interjection, why T.A.A. should be better treated than other airlines. That is not the question.
– It certainly is.
– The other major airline decided to buy a certain type of aircraft. It was in the air transport business because it hoped to make money. Whoever advised that company, unfortunately, did not give the best advice. A business error was made which was so tremendously costly to A.N.A. that it went out of the skies. Now, in order to help the people who bought A.N.A., the Government is deliberately, for one reason only, penalizing the people’s airline so that it will agree to a request by Ansett-A.N.A. for an increase in fares, or perhaps the Government wants T.A.A. to suffer a deficit so that the Government may say, “ It is losing. Give it away to some one else “. The Government cannot say that in a Budget of £1,300,000,000 it is worrying over £400,000. I do not suppose the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) had any say in it. I regret that the tax is to be imposed. I would like to alter many of the provisions of the Budget, and if I had my way this would be the first to be altered.
– By way of contrast to the doleful tale we have heard from Senator Kennelly for the last hour and a quarter, I add my congratulations to those that have already been given to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the presentation of this, his tenth Budget. The Treasurer has given very strenuous and solid years of treasurership to this Commonwealth. I think that all honorable senators will agree that last year was most strenuous. The regrettable illnesses of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and his absences overseas, placed a very heavy burden on the shoulders of the Treasurer, who is the Deputy Prime Minister. We are all very pleased indeed that he has been able to present this budget to us and we commend him for the work that he has done during the last year.
It is a matter for general satisfaction that the Treasurer was able to report that the national economy recovered considerably during last year. On his own statement - and he is the one who knows the steps that had to be taken - inflation has been curbed. We have added more than £200,000,000 to our overseas reserves. Our import controls are being slowly relaxed. I am one of the many who felt that the import controls’ were very severe, but it was difficult in the circumstances to suggest any other measure in their place. I am very pleased that the Treasurer suggests that import controls will be relaxed gradually. I read a very interesting article by Mr. W. S. Kelly, O.B.E., of Tarlee, South Australia, who was a member of the consultative committee which in 1954 recommended some of our import controls. He has completely changed his mind about that sort of thing. In an address, which has been very widely circulated and keenly appreciated, he made the following statement: -
Restrictions on imports were a crude method of trying to control trade, and Australia must not blunder into the imposition of more restrictions should the tide of overseas funds turn against us again.
The question I want to discuss with you is whether this kind of control of imports is going to continue indefinitely, relaxation being granted when our luck is in, and the application of the screw when our luck is out, or whether we can find some more sensible method of controlling our balance of payment problems.
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I shall detain the Senate for only a few minutes, in order to point out that the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) made an erroneous statement when replying to a question I had asked him. At the outset, I should like to make it clear that I appreciate the interest that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) displayed in putting me in touch with Mr. Colquhoun, an officer of the War Service Land Settlement Division in connexion with a case in which I am interested.
I asked the Leader of the Government a simple question. I asked him to inform me who was the Minister responsible for issuing the instruction for the prosecution of a war service land settler who was behind with his payment. I was unable to get the information until Senator Paltridge answered my question. I needed the information so that I could interview the responsible Minister with a view to obtaining justice for this war pensioner - nothing else! The Leader of the Government replied to the effect that I had not supplied to Mr. Colquhoun certain further information that he required. That statement was incorrect. I challenge the Leader of the Government to bring the file into this chamber. I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of the case to-night, but I am willing to debate this matter with Senator O’Sullivan on the motion for the adjournment each evening if he wants it that way. I prefer to take the matter up personally with the responsible Minister who, I feel sure, has not issued instructions for the prosecution of the ex-serviceman. There are certain things that I want to find out first. At least, I want to be fair. I asked the Leader of the Government a civil question. I know that Ministers are not obliged to answer questions, and that he could have told me to go and jump in the lake. It would have been preferable for Senator O’Sullivan to refuse straight-out to answer questions by Opposition senators than to give me the answer he did. If he has the interests of ex-servicemen and others at heart - I feel that he probably has - he should have given me a straight-forward answer to my simple question, to enable me to try to get justice for this ex-serviceman.
The Leader of the Government can have it whichever way he likes. I just want to help an ex-serviceman who, I claim, is not getting a fair deal, but I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of the matter here to-night. If the Leader of the Government wants to debate them, it is for him to say so.
– If Senator Aylett will read “ Hansard “ to-morrow morning, he will find that in my answer to his question this afternoon I told him the name of the responsible Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571008_senate_22_s11/>.