22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of introduction, I point out that the published figures relating to unemployment for September, contained in a recent press statement, show a distinct improvement in the position, there being a substantial reduction in the number of people seeking employment and a corresponding, increase in the number of positions vacant. Will the Minister therefore supply the Senate with figures showing (a) the number of unemployed in the various age groups; (b) the male and female proportion; (c) the number of married women applying; and (d) the proportion of primary and secondary industry applicants? Will he also state the age of eligibility to draw the unemployment benefit, the period for which the benefit can be drawn and the conditions to be complied with?
– I am sure the honorable senator could only expect me to ask him to place that question on the notice-paper, and I accordingly do so, but I think 1 should say this: As a result of my experience of, and the discussions I have had with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service on, previous questions of this kind, I know how very difficult it is to provide figures and information relating to employment, beyond those that are made available by the Commonwealth Statistician and by the department. In other words, it is an extraordinarily difficult matter to refine the figures and the information to a greater extent than they are at present refined.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, and I point out, by way of explanation, that the Postal Department employs a. great many allowance postmasters at semi-official establishments. Is the Minister aware that, with the introduction of country automatic exchanges, a serious cut has been made in the allowances paid to many of these officers? Does he realize that these post offices have to remain open from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, and from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., on Saturdays, and that consequently these officers work a 40-hour week for an allowance of about two-thirds of the basic wage? Will the Postmaster-General reconsider the scale of allowances paid to these officers, or at least allow them double unit time for Saturday work?
– I can appreciate the viewpoint that has been expressed by the honorable senator. There is no doubt that, with the introduction of automatic telephone exchanges, there is considerably less work for Postal Department officials. However, automatic exchanges have been of tremendous benefit to subscribers in the districts where they have been installed, and the subscribers have been pleased to get them. 1 shall bring the last part of the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to state whether anything could be done in the matter.
– Has the Minister for National Development read a report that British scientists have discovered a method of obtaining atomic energy from water? Will the Minister inform the- Senate whether this discovery will have practical application and, if so, what effect it will have on the uranium, industry?
– I saw the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred and, in anticipation of a question, I discussed the matter with scientific officers who are in charge of the atomic energy exhibition that is being held at present in the King’s Hall. The reply that I shall give to the honorable senator’ is based on my own note of information that was given to me by those officers. First, I am informed that it is difficult to overstate themajor importance of the discovery, provided that the newspaper reports on it are correct. The discovery is of great significance in confirming the position of Great’ Britain as the world leader in the- development of the- peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The scientists have put it to me in this way: The discovery is a major break through in controlling the so-called thermonuclear reactions for which all the nations have been waiting. If the newspaper reports are correct, the discovery is comparable in importance with the first aeroplane flight and the development of the first atomic reactor. Apparently, the new process is in its experimental stages, and there is much work yet to be done.
The honorable senator has asked what the effect of the discovery will be upon the uranium industry. At present, what might be called the conventional atomic reactor has still to be developed to quite a material extent. Scientists hold the opinion that the atomic reactor will continue to be developed in efficiency with reduced fuel costs. It will take some time for the new process to become operative and, for some considerable time to come the new process will have no effect on the uranium mining industry. I might put it this way: With the growth of atomic power and the demand for it, the tentative view is that there should not be a slackening in the demand for uranium.
Finally, we can take some pride and satisfaction from the fact that a young Australian scientist, Dr. P. C. Thonemann, has played an important part in the research work that has led to this discovery.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Government consider setting up a committee to investigate the application of the principle of equal pay for the sexes for work of equal value? Will the Government consider also following the United Kingdom legislation of 1955 which granted progressive increases to women in the non-industrial section of the civil service and, by so doing, grant equal pay to women in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– I am not prepared to give the honorable senator an undertaking that the Government will establish a committee to pursue inquiries into the matter raised by her. As she probably knows, this Government and its predecessors have given a great deal of consideration to the matter raised by her. If there is any thing arising out of recent developments of which the honorable senator is not now aware, and if particulars are available, I shall endeavour to ascertain what they are and supply them to her.
– My question is to the Minister for National Development. Bearing in mind the pressing need to stimulate interest in technology and technical education, I especially compliment the Minister on the excellence of the display in King’s Hall of the work of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The response of children at the secondary education stage is of particular significance. Will the Minister investigate the practicability of bringing the display to South Australia and showing it in Adelaide and also at the two provincial cities of Port Pirie in the north and Mount Gambier in the south?
– I am glad to have the honorable senator’s compliment on the exhibit that is now on view in King’s Hall. A great deal of time and work by the officers go into a show like that. As to displaying it in various places, I am getting into rather deep water for, wherever it is shown, it attracts considerable public interest and I am receiving a series of applications for it to be shown in various places. However. I tell the honorable senator, as a representative of South Australia, that the exhibit will go to Adelaide. Negotiations are in train for a showing at Adelaide. I agree with the view he expresses that it would be desirable to show the display in centres where students could see it. One of the things that are really satisfying the officers of the commission is the fact that wherever the display is shown large numbers of school lads go to see it. This interest is satisfying because the officers of the commission look forward to attracting technical workers. I can only say, in the circumstances, that I shall ask the commission to have a look at the proposal to take the display to the two places mentioned by the honorable senator, but I cannot give an assurance offhand.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by stating that the present position under the regulations governing the meat supply for Canberra is that a butcher, even though he complies with all the Department of Health regulations in the killing, branding and transport of meat, still has no right to bring it into the Australian Capital Territory. He may still be refused permission by the department to do so. Some time ago, I asked the Minister for Health whether he would consider altering these regulations, and I received a reply that he would not. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health what are the reasons advanced by the department to justify the retention of the present regulation. Is the department certain that the regulations do not in any way contravene section 92 of the Constitution?
– I can assure the honorable senator that 1 shall bring that question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and obtain a reply as early as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. Is it not a fact that beds in repatriation hospitals are not available to nursing sisters of the two world wars, unless they have war-caused disabilities? Are war widows, legacy children, and others allotted beds? If they are, why is there discrimination against returned nursing sisters?
– Members of the forces are not allowed to occupy beds in a repatriation hospital unless they apply for and obtain admission to the hospital on the ground that they have a war-caused disability or that a disability has been aggravated by war service. I say “ members of the forces “, because a nurse comes within that category. A female member of the forces is entitled to exactly the same benefits as a male member. It is true that for the treatment of certain ailments war widows are allowed to enter repatriation hospitals, but only if beds are available in female wards. War widows have not the same rights as members of the forces. If they have certain ailments which are not of a chronic nature, they may use available beds. In Hobart, until recently, there was no female ward in the repatriation hospital and, therefore, Tasmanian war widows did not have the facilities for treatment that were available to war widows in other States. We now have a female ward there, and war widows get the same treatment as is given to war widows in other States. The children of deceased members of the forces, whose death has been accepted as due to war service, are able to receive treatment in repatriation hospitals on the same basis as war widows - that is, if beds are available.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a supplementary question in regard to the very fine exhibition in King’s Hall by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Has any consideration been given to the production of a documentary film of the exhibition, which could be used in secondary and technical education and for display along the lines suggested by Senator Laught? I appreciate the difficulty of agreeing to the exhibition being displayed all over our vast continent, but perhaps a documentary film of the exhibition could be used for educational purposes to great advantage.
– I shall certainly give consideration to the honorable senator’s question and discuss it with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. My impression is that the commission is holding back until the research reactor is opened next March, hoping that then it will get better results from a film showing the working of those parts of the reactor that are capable of being filmed. Such a film would be more interesting and better suited to the purpose suggested.
– 1 direct a question to you, Mr. President, as one of the presiding officers and as the chairman of the Joint House Committee. First, I should like to pay a tribute to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission for the excellence of their exhibition, and on the good work being done by the staffs in stressing the importance of the peaceful uses of atomic and thermonuclear energy and the great strides being made in the United Kingdom to turn these great scientific achievements to man’s use and benefit instead of to his destruction.
Will it be made a general practice to have large exhibitions in King’s Hall? Who will decide whether King’s Hall should be used for other exhibitions?
– The control of King’s Hall rests in the hands of Mr. Speaker and myself. We are of the opinion that members of the Parliament should be given an opportunity to inspect exhibitions of national interest. The atomic energy exhibition in King’s Hall is an example of this kind. We are always mindful of the degree of inconvenience that members of the Parliament may suffer as the result of the use of King’s Hall for this purpose, so that aspect is considered first of all. Having satisfied our minds on this score, we consider the relative importance of the proposed exhibition. We are often asked to permit such exhibitions to take place, and frequently withhold our permission. In view of the importance of the subjectmatter of the present exhibition, we could not refuse permission to stage it in King’s Hall.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I notice in a publication issued by the United Kingdom Information Service the most pleasing statement that more than 37,000 motor cars were exported from that country in August - a peak figure for that month. The article in question is headed “ Britain again is the world’s largest exporter of motor vehicles “. Can the Minister inform the Senate as to the trend in the proportion of such exports which comes to Australia?
– I am sorry to say that I cannot give the honorable senator the information that he seeks, and must ask him to place his question on the noticepaper. The really noticeable factor in the motor industry is the way in which Australia is supplying an increasing proportion of its own requirements. I will obtain the additional information sought and pass it to the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, and as
Senator Spooner held that portfolio for a very long time :he can no doubt answer it himself. 1 refer to the case of an aged person who holds a second mortgage, which the mortgagor has no hope of discharging, and is thus left without means. Is the granting of a pension to such a person left to the discretion of the Director of Social Services in each State? If so, is this fair, and is there no thought of the Government considering an amendment of the law to make possible the granting of a pension in such cases where there is no hope of the second mortgage being discharged?
– The question is not whether the applicant holds a second mortgage, but whether that mortgage has any value. The holder of a second mortgage which is valueless is in the same position as is :the owner of a motor car which is virtually worthless. The means test determines the value of the assets in the hands of the applicant. If he has been so unfortunate as to enter upon a transaction in which he has lost money, he is given the opportunity to prove that this is so.
– The Minister has not quite put the position fairly. Perhaps I may amplify my question. I have in mind the particular case of a man who held a second mortgage, the apparent value of which excluded him from the right to receive a pension. The matter has now been settled, but when he made his application for a pension he knew that he had no hope of receiving any money for several years.
– He could write off the asset as a dead loss.
– I am asking the question.
– Order! Senator Brown should state his question.
– I have tried to explain my point. Other honorable senators may explain their questions, but apparently I may not, so I shall not bother.
– Order! The honorable senator must not reflect on the Chair in that way. His action calls for an apology.
– I do not want to enter into any argument with the Chair.
– The honorable senator will apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, but at the same time I believe in my heart that it is fair that an honorable senator should be able to make the position plain so that a Minister may answer correctly. I certainly apologize; I do not want to do anything that is wrong. But this mortgage was such that it seemed as though there was no hope whatever and that it might be a year or two before this man could get his money. Meanwhile, he could not get a .pension. Is it left with the Director of Social Services or the deputy director to grant a pension? If so, is it not fair that the law should be altered so that justice can be done to individuals in these circumstances?
– I .understand the honorable senator’s question. The answer to it is that the circumstances he mentions are questions of fact. -He may hold one view about the value of the mortgage and some one else may hold another view. The whole question is this: What is the value of the mortgage? Does that value exceed the amount that gives rise to the application of the means test? Upon that matter only the department, with all the facts and figures before it, can reach a ^correct conclusion.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a question which is supplementary to other questions in relation to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s exhibition in this building. Are any tangible results being achieved in industry in response to the exhibition? Are any more industries showing a willingness to use radio-active isotopes as a means of lowering costs of production? In addition to circulating the exhibition, is the Government doing anything on the lines of extension services that are supplementary to the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to spread information about radioactive isotopes to individual industries in an endeavour to encourage them to come into line with other countries in the use of these up-to-date methods?
– The Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in truth, is still in its infancy; it lias only just commenced its activities. I think it is to be commended for what it has done in relation to this exhibition and in particular - this applies more specifically to the honorable senator’s question - to exhibitions of the use of radioactive isotopes alone. Such exhibitions have been held in Sydney and Melbourne, and at .one stage a display was taken to Launceston. There is no doubt at all in my mind that these exhibitions have had a very good educational effect on industry, as has been illustrated by the number of inquiries that the commission has received from industrialists.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether a married ex-servicewoman is entitled to a full total and permanent incapacity pension if the nature of her disabilities obviously falls within that category?
– If it is proved that an ex-servicewoman is suffering from tuberculosis and ,has served overseas, she is entitled to no less than a 100 per cent, pension. If the honorable senator were to give .me a litle more .detail about the case in which he is interested, I probably would be able to .give him a more comprehensive reply.. There are different stages of tuberculosis, and they attract different .pension rates. There is the 100 per .cent, pension
– I am referring to the total and permanent incapacity pension.
– There is the total and permanent incapacity pension and the intermediate pension.
– I have in mind a married ex-servicewoman.
– If she is suffering from tuberculosis, she would .get the pension in her own right, whether she was married or not. If the disability from which the ex-servicewoman is suffering is accepted as due to war service, and the incapacity is assessed as being total and permanent, she is entitled to receive a war pension at the totally and permanently incapacitated rate just as a male member of the forces would be.
– I desire to preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army by saying that anxiety exists in the minds of members of rifle clubs throughout Australia as to the intentions of the Government concerning the future of rifle clubs. Will the Minister urge his colleague to give an assurance that before any decision is made which will affect the present position and standing of these very desirable and useful bodies, he will consult with rifle club representatives in order that their point of view will at least be considered?
– I am not in a position to give an assurance for my colleague but, knowing his capacity and ability, I do not think he will need any urging to take the course the honorable senator suggests.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I understand that large-scale experiments have been undertaken by officers of that organization in the eastern States in an endeavour to produce rain from suitable clouds. Will the Minister advise me whether any successes have been achieved? If there is a reasonable chance of success, will he consider sending a suitably equipped plane to Western Australia, where rain is urgently needed?
– I understand that the project is still in the experimental stage, but that results have been very encouraging. As to the despatch of a plane to Western Australia, I suggest that the honorable senator make a formal request to the Minister in charge of C.S.I.R.O.
– On 3rd October, Senator Cole asked the following question, without notice: -
I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation, by saying that I understand that repatriation benefits are available to the members of the Australian armed forces who are serving in Malaya. Will the Minister inform me of the stage at which the members of the forces become eligible for these benefits? Does eligibility com mence from the beginning of training for the replacement of the troop’s in Malaya, or only after embarkation? Are the members of thebattalion that has been sent to replace the Australian troops in Malaya covered at present by the provisions of the Repatriation Act?
I now furnish the following reply: -
The repatriation benefits available to membersof the Commonwealth defence force in respect of their present service in Malaya are those provided’ under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956. Those benefits apply to members of the defence force in respect of their service in the Federation of Malaya and the colony of Singapore as part of, or in association with, the Australian contingent, British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve, or with the forces of another part of the Queen’s dominions in connexion with the Far East Strategic Reserve. Thebenefits of the act apply to the following periodsof service: -
In the case of a “ member of the forces “ who was serving in Australia at the time he was allotted for Malayanservice, the period commences at the time of his departure from the last portof call in Australia or the date of commencement of the act, whichever is the later, while in the case of a member who was serving outside Australia at the time of his allotment for Malayan service, the period commences from the date he was so allotted or thedate of commencement of the act, whichever was the later.
The period of service covered by the act terminates, in the case of a member who returns to Australia, on the date of his arrival at the first port of call in Australia, and in the case of a member who does not return to Australia from his Malayan service but isallotted for service to some other place outside Australia, it terminates at the time he arrives in the new area to which he has been allotted or, if he was. in the new area at the time of allotment, the date of allotment, or the date of commencement of the act whichever is the later. The “ members of the forces “ who have recently been sent to Malaya to replace with theStrategic Reserve those forces which have had service there, are accordingly covered by the provisions of theRepatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act.
The principal benefits available under the act. are, war pensions for members of the forces and their dependants, as defined in the act in respect of death or incapacity due to “ Malayan Service” and the provision of medical treatment and sustenance for members and certain of their depen dants under conditions similar to those that apply to members and dependants under the Repatriation Act.
Other benefits include benefits under thesoldiers’ children education scheme, funeral benefits and the benefits of the disabled members and’ widows training scheme.
– On 9th October, Senator Scott asked the following question: -
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. I preface it by saying that I understand that in the Northern Territory leaseholders who require extra capital may take advantage of government legislation by approaching banks for extra finance for capital improvements. Is it a fact that in certain instances the banks may advance additional finance, and that that advance is guaranteed by the Government through the Treasurer? Can the Minister inform me the number of advances that have been made to leaseholders in the Territory over the last two years, and also the total amount involved? If a large amount has been involved, will the Government consider widening the scope for this type of finance to leaseholders outside the Territory?
In reply, I said I would refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Territories, and obtain a reply. The following information has now been supplied by the Minister for Territories: -
The Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) provides that the Treasurer may guarantee a bank loan to the holder of a pastoral homestead or an agricultural lease in the Northern Territory, where the loan is required for the purpose of effecting permanent improvements on the lease. No guarantees have yet been given by the Treasurer under the legislation. Only one application was made and that was subsequently withdrawn. The Government does not propose to widen the scope of the Act and make it apply to Other areas. The scheme arose as a result of a set of circumstances peculiar to the Northern Territory. In the Northern Territory there is no agricultural bank to cater specifically for the financial requirements of rural industries. In Western Australia the Rural and Industries Bank and in Queensland the Agricultural Bank of Queensland have been in existence for many years for this purpose. The Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act is aimed at meeting similar needs of residents of the Northern Territory.
– Section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to furnish once in each year to the Minister for Labour and National Service for presentation to the Parliament a report on the conciliation and arbitration provisions of the act. The President’s first annual report has now been received, and I accordingly present it to the Senate. Copies of the report can be obtained from the Clerk of Papers.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
First Annual Report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for year ended 13th August, 1957.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Repatriation Bill 1957.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1957.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 638) 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 “.
– In the two minutes I addressed the Senate last night before the debate was interrupted, I observed that this Government’s term of office has been characterized by two records: First, Australia has suffered the worst effects of inflation in its history, and, secondly, the greatest amount of money ever taken from the people in taxes has been extracted by this Government. At a time when the” people are suffering severely from the effects of inflation and the Government is enjoying the highest revenue of all time, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) saw fit in his Budget speech to tell the people who are taxed so heavily, in no uncertain terms, that they should be very careful about their spending, that they should regulate their spending. The right honorable gentleman said -
Yet the Budget occupies a central position and its range of influence is wide. It was chiefly to budgetary measures that we turned when, eighteen months ago-, the economy had become unbalanced and we had to lay a restraining hand on the excessive rale of business and community spending’. The question of prime interest in budgetary policy this year is whether we should modify to any extent the measures then adopted and, if so, how far.
Apparently honorable senators- opposite believe that only the Government itself can spend money sanely and promote development. And. they claim that they are Liberal in outlook! By its budgetary measures and taxation, the Government has become all-powerful in relation to the development of this country. Private enterprise is suffering from a restriction of credit. The Government has told private enterprise to curtail its spending. This Government taxes heavily the profits of industry and also family men on low incomes in order to swell its coffers. Then the banks imposed credit restrictions, and the Government spent the money. It is most irrational.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Australian industries have been crippled?
– Australian industries have never been permitted by this Government to live. Many major industries in Australia were in the embryo stage about the time that Labour left office. Some of them were born and made good progress, but in the main they are still relatively young. They are certainly not sufficiently firmly established to bear the present heavy taxation impost and to withstand the probable effects of the recently signed Japanese Trade Agreement.
I come now to the question of decentralization. No big, but only small and piffling- budgetary proposals have been made in this regard. The Government apparently takes pride in the fact that it has taken from the people in taxes the greatest amount of money that the economy can stand. Despite its huge expenditures, the Government has not completed one decent national project. The States have been given only a miserable dole with which to carry on their essential services. No encouragement has been given to them to undertake new developmental works, or even to complete their present huge works programmes. The Commonwealth has. cornered the major taxation, fields and left to the States only very small sources of revenue by this means. Year after year, we witness the marionette show put on at Canberra, when the State Premiers come to the Commonwealth cap in hand seeking additional money. But the policy that has been applied by this Government has never varied.
Western Australia has been treated shamefully. Frequently honorable senators have urged the development of the northwest of Western Australia. The case has been put by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who have refrained from treating it as a party political matter. They have stated firmly that they believe something must be done and that the area has been neglected. Year after year, the Government has budgeted for the expenditure of huge sums of money, but nothing has been done about the north-west of Western Australia. Submissions have been made by the Western Australian Government for many years. The Commonwealth Government has done nothing about them in a practical way and, moreover, has not replied to well-presented cases.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to submissions on various matters that have been made by the Western Australian Government and about which the Commonwealth Government has done nothing. It has no interest in the development of the north-west because it has no national outlook. Only one industry was established by the Government in the northwest of Western Australia. The Government established a whaling station therewhich was successful and showed a good profit. The Government sold it.
– Has it been shut down?
– No, but it has not contributed to the development of the north-west because the private company which is now operating the station is sending huge dividends out of the area. The money has not remained there.
– The company is paying taxes, though.
– Yes, but everybody in- Australia is paying taxes to the limit. None of the revenue is going back into national projects. The people in the northwest of Western Australia are paying heavy taxes and at least the amount of money they so contribute should be returned tothe area for development. I shall submit to the Senate a list of proposals that have- been put before the Commonwealth Government and about which nothing has been done although the Government has not claimed’ that money is- not available.
There was a proposal for the Commonwealth Government to assist financially in the purchase of a new ship for the northwest coast service. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has improved the shipping service there, but the proposition has not been tackled from a national point of view. There was a proposal to construct and complete a bitumensurfaced coastal highway from Geraldton to Carnarvon. It was proposed that the Commonwealth and the State should do the work on a £l-for-£l basis and complete it in five years. That was a reasonable proposal. The road would serve country which should be developed. The industries there include agriculture and fishing and a host of others. If the Commonwealth Government were fair about this proposal, it would construct the highway as a strategic road and finance the work from the defence vote. The road would also benefit the State, but nothing has been done about it.
A submission was made by the Western Australian Government, with estimates of the total cost and all details. The Commonwealth Government stated that if the Western Australian Government would supply full statistical information, the proposal would be considered, but this Government has not given any thought to the proposal and the submissions of the Western Australian Government have not been acknowledged.
Another proposal was for the deviation of the Point Samson-Roebourne-Wittenoom road connecting the blue asbestos mine at Wittenoom Gorge with the port of Roebourne at Point Samson. The Commonwealth Government, very grudgingly, considered that matter. It was forced to do so by debates in the Parliament, but it failed to produce a reasonable proposition and, as a result, a great industry was held back for a long time.
The Ord River dam was an immense project. The area has been surveyed and all necessary information has been prepared by the Western Australian Government in detail and submitted to the Commonwealth Government. The proposal was that a dam should, be constructed on the Ord River 45 miles south-east of Wyndham. It would have a catchment area of 16,000 square miles and a normal capacity of 2,000,000 acre feet. The dam was to be of concrete gravity type with an overflow. The maximum height above the river bed was to be 160 feet to the overflow, and the maximum height above foundation was to be 200 feet to the overflow. The planned length of the. crest was 800 feet, and the maximum width at the bottom was to be 170 feet. The project would have required the use of 240,000 cubic yards of concrete. The capacity of the dam at the overflow level was. to be 3,000,000 acre feet and the capacity at maximum overflow 6,000,000 acre feet. It was estimated that the maximum capacity for production of hydro-electric power was 19,000 horse-power.
– From what report is the honorable senator reading?
– This is a report on the proposed Ord River dam.
– Who made the report?
– It was a detailed report submitted by the Western Australian Government at the request of the Commonwealth Government. I am giving these details to honorable senators to show how efficiently the State Government had prepared this report. It is obvious from discussions that took place and correspondence that passed between the governments of the Commonwealth and the State that the Commonwealth encouraged Western Australia to go to the expense of submitting a detailed proposition. Detailed estimates were prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Government, but the State Government’s time was wasted.
A diversion weir was to be constructed 29 miles downstream from the dam. The irrigable area was estimated at approximately 200,000 acres. According to the estimate made in 1946, the main dam was to cost £2,500,000. The diversion weir was to cost £600,000, channelling of the first 80,000 acres of irrigation area was estimated to cost £800,000 and the cost of the hydro-electric station was estimated at £400,000. The total estimated cost was £4.300,000.
– In Tasmania we build our own hydro-electric stations out of our own revenue. Does the honorable senator expect us to support State works of that kind?
– Compared with the north-west of Western Australia, Tasmania would be about the size of a wart on the nose of the Minister. He lives in a comparative paradise. Tasmania has only small responsibilities in relation to its size. Surely the Minister, does not compare the grant that is made to Western Australia with the Commonwealth money that is expended in Tasmania having regard to the limited responsibilities of the Tasmanian Government for the maintenance of roads, cities and services for its small population. There is no comparison. When the Minister tries to make a comparison of this kind, it is either a sharp move on his part to try to avoid responsibilities or he is displaying a lack of intelligence.
– We spend about £8,000,000 a year with a population of 300,000 people.
– Be that as it may. after discussions had taken place on the proposals to which I have referred, the Premier of Western Australia wrote to Sir Arthur Fadden, who was then Acting Prime Minister, regarding the Ord River scheme. He made full submissions and received the following acknowledgment from Sir Arthur Fadden dated 24th March, 1955 -
I have your letter of 1st March in which you make certain proposals concerning Commonwealth participation in a scheme for the development of the Ord River region. The representations you have made are receiving consideration.
That is the last we have heard of this proposal. The matter has been followed up. I have asked for the papers to be tabled in the Senate and have tried to initiate a debate on the matter, but the Government has refused to table the papers. Nothing more has been heard about the project which was essential to the development of the north-west of Western Australia.
Last night, Senator Seward referred to the effect of the delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government on the comprehensive water scheme being undertaken in Western Australia. He told the Senate of the disabilities that had been suffered by the State because the project had been delayed. The Commonwealth Government has completely neglected the development of Western Australia. The Western Aus tralian Government made herculean efforts to induce the Commonwealth Government to develop the north-west. If the Commonwealth Government had accepted its national responsibility, then, this section ofWestern Australia, instead of being a liability, would be a great asset to-day.-
I come now to the proposal for the deep water port at Black Rocks in the Derby area west of the Kimberleys. The original approach was made by the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister on 8th January, 1952. At that time, the basic wage was £7 7s. 6d. I have copies of the correspondence that has passed between the Premier and the Prime Minister. Negotiations have been carried on continuously since then. Approaches were made first by the McLarty-Watts Government of Western Australia, and every commission or committee of investigation concerned with the project has reported that it is essential in the interests of Australia that it be put into effect.
– To dam the Ord?
– No, I have finished with that matter. I have just stated that I was referring to the proposal for the construction of a deep water port at Black Rocks in the Derby area west of the Kimberleys. The representations made by the McLarty-Watts Government to the Prime Minister have been followed up by the present Government of Western Australia. It is unfortunate that the Menzies Government will not table the papers relating to this matter, for I should like to incorporate in “ Hansard “ the sheaf of correspondence I have on the question. It clearly discloses that the lack of development in the north-west of Western Australia is due to neglect on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
There is nothing national about this Budget at all; indeed, I agree entirely with the press which describe it aptly as a small and piffling Budget. When we examine it, we cannot help but feel that it proposes to expend £1,374,000,000 on what can only be termed piffling matters.
Let us now consider what the Government has done with the money it has expended. After advising private enterprise and all private persons to watch their expenditure carefully, and not to overexpend or over-develop, this Government has expended £1,287,000,000 on defence since 1950-51. 1 have no quarrel with defence expenditure provided the money is expended wisely and we get value for our money, but so far all the Government has succeeded in doing has been to surround itself with the smells of St. Mary’s. So bad has been its approach to this undertaking that the Auditor-General has criticized the tremendous expenditure there and the Prime Minister has been unable to make a satisfactory press statement. The St. Mary’s venture is a glaring example of the reckless dissipation of public money, to say the least of it. Other items of expenditure are £421,066,491 for the Army, £334,256,118 for the Air Force, £288,519,866 for the Navy, £156,031,791 for the Department of Supply, £61,594,618 for the Department of Defence Production, £4,509,720 for the Department of Defence and £21,368,349 for Other Services. They make a terrific total. The expenditure of this money could be justified if it was made wisely, but Australia is now more vulnerable than she has ever been. That the money has been expended unwisely may be seen from the fact that Army training has been reduced considerably and our national service training scheme almost abolished.
What the Government should be doing is taking steps to decentralize our industries and our population, lt should be taking steps to encourage industries to move out from the big cities, to develop and populate that huge area which is now crying out for development. That would be the best defence this country could have against any attempt at the mass destruction of humanity with modern weapons of war. Immediately after World War II. ended, the Labour party realized the effectiveness of such a move as a means of defence and set about encouraging industries to move out from the cities. That Government had a national outlook. It was responsible for the Snowy Mountains scheme, which was fought tooth and nail by the then Opposition but about which the present Government is now boasting. The object of that scheme was to supply electricity to areas that would not be able to get it by any Other means. The Labour Government encouraged the textile industries in and around Melbourne to move out from the city at considerable expense and perhaps with great disadvantage to themselves, all in the interests of decentralization. Those industries were faced with the great problem of finding employees in the outer areas. A further disadvantage was the increase in transport costs compared with when they were closer into the city. All those difficulties and problems were overcome by the establishment of a close liaison between the then government and a sensible government policy in connexion with freight, fuel and so on.
All that good work is now being destroyed. The present Government has delivered the final blow to these industries. After having overcome their original disabilities, after having established themselves in areas outside the cities in the interests of decentralization, Australian textile industries are hit by this Government’s trade agreement with Japan.
– Japan will not be in any different position from anybody else.
– That is a foolish statement. Japan has been given mostfavourednation treatment.
– The same as China and Hong Kong.
– That may be so. I realize that we must trade with all nations. If we do not trade directly with them we shall trade indirectly with them. If we trade indirectly the buyer will pay more and we will get less for our goods. I hold the view that it is sound policy to trade directly with other nations, but it should not be done in the way in which the Government is doing it. The Commonwealth Government is extracting a huge amount from industry and from the workers by way of taxation.
– It is the lowest taxed country in the world.
– Australia is an undeveloped country; it is only just starting to develop, and the Government is pitting our young secondary industries against those of a country which is very close indeed to its production peak, a country which has the backing of great industrial nations and which has had the advice of American and German technicians in developing its industries. That country also has at its disposal huge labour reserves with very low living standards. Yet the Commonwealth Government has entered into an agreement
With it without doing anything to protect 6ur own industries against competition from those of Japan. This Government has merely said that if an Australian industry thinks it is being imperilled it may object, and has promised to step in when an industry -is in real difficulty. But the industry must *be in real difficulty before the Government will take any action. By that time it will be too late, for the industry will have collapsed,
I agree that we should trade with other nations, but at the same time we must keep that trade as unilateral as possible. We must so organize our own internal economy that the trading with other nations does not crush our own industries out of existence. We must take steps to ensure that the people who produce nothing, the wholesalers, importers and retailers, are not allowed to enjoy excessive profits or huge margins at the expense of Australia’s industries. The Government should see that there is efficient national trading. It should ensure that it gets enough revenue to help efficient industries to develop and to subsidize them in their exports, as is done by other nations with whom we cannot now compete. The Government has displayed a thorough disregard for the national economy, for the development of the country in relation to both secondary industries and, to some extent, ;primary industries. The costs of production of primary ‘ industries are gradually being forced up. Some farmers are handling terrific sums of money, but their net returns are shrivelling progressively. There is no real Government planning. Money is taken from the people and very little is given .back.
As I pointed out, the Budget for the year 1949-1950 provided for the expenditure of £566,000,000, whereas the Budget we are now considering provides for an expenditure of £1,322,000,000, which is nearly 250 per cent, of the expenditure in 1949-50. We have pleaded with the Government to adjust such payments as social service benefits to compensate for inflation, but the Government always produces, as a measuring stick, the C series index, to justify the increases it has made. Although the revenue extracted from the people is now 250 per cent, of what was collected in 1949-50, we have sought increases in pensions, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, and maternity allowance to the extent of only 128.45 per cent. Therefore, we have sought an increase in these payments which is only one-half of the increase in the Government’s budgetary expenditure. But the Government refuses to make this increase.
An examination shows that the Government has been very hard on family ,men. In relation to the unpegged basic wage, the loss in maternity allowance has been £19 5s. 4d. in the first grade, £20 lis. in the second grade, and £22 9s. 7d. in the third grade. The rise in the cost of living caused by inflation has been totally neglected by this Government in ‘relation to child endowment. This neglect has a serious impact on the man with a family, particularly df it is a large family. Under a Labour administration a basic wage earner with a wife and two children did not pay any income ‘tax or social services tax, which was .then operating. He received child endowment, which then had real value, but which has not been altered very materially since, apart from being extended to cover the first child. “Now, a basic wage earner with a wife and two children, who earns only a frugal living, suffers an impost of 10 per cent, of his income. Inflation has resulted in the incidence of taxation being extended to the lower-income groups. It is all very well to set a figure and say, “We shall tax at that figure”. Inflation forces increases in wages, and the figure which has been set is below the basic minimum which a family needs for a living, but the Government still collects the tax. That is one of the horrors of inflation.
The Government has progressively and viciously increased indirect taxation. We of the Australian Labour party say that that is the worst form of tax that can be applied, because it falls equally upon every citizen, irrespective of his ability to meet it, and irrespective of equity. It is paid by the poor pensioner in the same ratio as_-it is paid by the richest man in the community. All taxes should be levied in accordance with ability to pay. Sales tax is probably one of the most unsatisfactory taxes that this nation has ever had. The Government will make a concession in sales tax this year of £3,000,000. I suppose that very little of the concession will be handed back to the buyer by the retailer. The Government expects to collect nearly £130;000,000 from that tax,, and £305,000,000 from customs and excise. An amount of £90,000,000 more than last year’s collection is to be collected from this most unsatisfactory form of tax.
– Customs and’ excise?
– No, sales tax. Customs and excise duties are a form of indirect taxation too, and. they should be kept to a minimum. Sales tax is very unsatisfactory in its application. An article which is subject to sales tax comes from the wholesaler. He has a sales tax list, in accordance with which he charges sales tax. If he shows the amount on his invoice, somecheck can be made to ensure that he is not charging in excess of the proper amount. But a retailer may say, “ I shall, pay sales tax on this amount, but I shall fix my price at £10; although the article could be sold at £7 10s.” So he increases his margin of profit. He can do what he likes.
– If he sells for £10’ an article which is worth £7 10s., people will go next, door to buy it.
– Going next door is right out of fashion.
– Competition has never been stronger.
– It is not stronger.
– The honorable senator should have a look around Canberra.
– If you wanted to buy a pound of cheese and were satisfied’ with stale cheese, you might buy it’ cheaper at a store which had had it on the shelf for a while. In real commerce, there is no competition in relation to price.
– There is in my State.
– There is not. Prices are marked, on prescriptions fulfilled, by chemists. If you presented a prescription in. Western Australia and in Melbourne the charge would be precisely the same. If you get to know medical terms and ask for drugs by name, in some places you will find that the charge is as much as 33i per cent, less than the charge in other places. Business people have an agreement on charges and they will not break the line. Let any wholesaler of ironmongery and builders’ supplies try to break, the line! Their association prepares lists of discounts and percentages. One. trader can sell at one percentage and. another trader at another percentage. Discounts are handed: on with, strict instructions to comply, and if a trader breaks, the price structure he. finds- that he is out of the association. The associations are powerful, and once traders are out they never get back in. Distributors of British tube steel have associations and they will distribute only to people who are in their associations. Irrespective of how much you want to establish an industry, you have to pay the marked- prices, and any member of the association who breaks down the systemis put out of the association. He not only loses- trade discounts- but he is not supplied’ with- material- at all’. And who elects people to these associations? They are elected by persons- who are in the trade and who control the supply of these goods to the nation^ T agree’ with the system of having associations. If a man is an honorable trader and there is no good reason why he should be excluded from an association formed to develop the flow of- business, he should’ be admitted. But closed orders should not be’ permitted to dictate the price structure and: prevent people from breaking it. When oneexamines the percentage added to some items, one finds that they are exorbitantly high.
– They must be learning from the waterfront.
– What would they be learning from the waterfront?
– Is that no.t a closed, shop? I understood that, it was.
– I do not understand that. The Minister comes in with these inane interjections. I like to encourage him. to say more: Let him come out and say what he- wants to say about the waterfront. Why must we suffer these inane interjections when we are. discussing national policy? To return- to- my subject, no one can deny that the Japanese Trade Agreement presents a real challenge to young Australian industry. This Government has exceeded all its previous efforts to extract money from the people, but neither here nor in another place has it given any thought to the damage that this agreement might do to: our. secondary industry. The Government has not said, “ Here we have a- great industry, but we cannot compete with the shipping freight paid by another nation, and we must subsidize it. If this proves a good trade agreement we will use it to promote our own industry and enable it to compete on world markets “. I believe that trade should be free, but great nations such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia find themselves able to engage in it and still protect their own industry.
– What does the honorable senator think this Government is doing?
– If I had the time I would read the honorable senator a letter, from the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia, which -would show what the Government is doing! Has any other nation said to us, “ You may trade ad lib, and if we find that you are damaging our own industry we will ask you to desist “? The boot is on the other foot. I should like to see any nation trade with the Soviet, red China, Japan, the U.K. or America in such a fashion as to harm the industries of those countries. Speedy action would be taken at their end to put a stop to it. Other nations have sufficient intelligence to make sure before they enter upon trade agreements, that this sort of thing cannot happen. I remind honorable senators that other countries that trade with Japan take action to see that that trade does not harm heir own interests.
When I was in Japan I saw the great extent to which American business was financially interested fh the industry of that country. American businessmen were using cheap Japanese labour for their own purposes. They were sending materials and cottons to Japan, and passing the resultant garments to the industry of the U.S.A. for finishing. Eventually, Japan was able to produce an article comparable with that of the U.S.A., and thus compete with her directly. Other honorable senators have referred to the great damage caused by the influx of Japanese goods in the U.S.A. and Canada. The effect of that influx was counter-balanced by the fact that the businessmen of those countries had an interest in Japanese industry. Australian businessmen have no such interest, and I doubt whether the Government has ever given the matter any thought.
At a time when one is appalled and dismayed by these trends one is asked to consider a Budget of vast proportions and, at the same time, listen to the remarks of Government supporters about whether a pound of butter should cost this much or that much, or whether one should go to the shop next door to buy cheese which is a little cheaper. The Budget discloses very little national vision on the part of the Government.
– Canada has denied the influx of Japanese goods to which Senator Cooke has just referred.
– I have before me figures which show what actually happened. Certain sections of Canadian industry were not concerned about it because they had protected themselves in advance by gaining a financial interest in Japanese industry. Other traders were not so fortunate. Government supporters delight in twisting my colleagues’ remarks, and in accusing us of not wanting to trade with Japan. For the third time, I must say that we do wish to trade as widely and generously as we can with other nations, but tha Government is sadly lacking in appreciation of the importance of Australian secondary industry. At present primary industry is carrying the economy on its back - not because cf the efforts of the wool-grower or the wheat-grower - but because there is a world demand for our primary produce. Only in such conditions is it possible for a government to treat its secondary industry so shabbily. Moreover, whenever a sphere of production becomes profitable, the Government pushes it into the hands of private enterprise. Very little has been done to establish new industries or to spend large sums upon national undertakings that will really assist the development of this country. I do not say that from any wish to criticize, but as giving food for thought.
I have also been asked to urge that local government be relieved of the burden of pay-roll tax. I think that the need to do this is generally recognized. After all, local government is of a semi-public nature, and is devoted to the spending of money raised from the people. Generous proposals have been made to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but the correspondence which has resulted has not been fruitful. The local government authorities of Western Australia have passed resolutions on the subject, and the Treasurer could at least extend them the courtesy of examining their proposals in detail. I very much regret that nothing was done in the Budget to meet their wishes.
I have already spoken of the Government’s sheer disregard for the submissions of Western Australian members on the subject of the north-west. It is shameful that, for so long, there has been so much talk and so little action. Perhaps, ultimately, something will be done to help the development of this part of Western Australia. This is supposed to be a chamber which truly represents the States, but we are given very little opportunity to watch matters affecting States, and the relations between them, in the way envisaged in the Constitution. Either the Government, or those in another place, are anxious to bypass the Senate - as often as possible. Matters which vitally affect State interests never come before us for consideration. Huge Commonwealth expenditure is entered upon, and huge schemes are initiated, without any reference to this chamber.
– The honorable senator said earlier that there had been no Commonwealth expenditure . on huge undertakings.
– The honorable senator would be well advised to write down what I say. I said that there had been no huge Commonwealth expenditure on great national projects.
– Does not the Commonwealth provide the money for huge State undertakings?
– I have had some experience of the way in which the Commonwealth works. It held up for at least five years a comprehensive water scheme’ for Western Australia. Nothing was done about the matter until two years ago. It will cost at least one and a quarter times more than was originally estimated - I am being conservative - because the Government delayed for three years a decision which it knew was just and equitable. Two years ago the Government said, “ All the objections have been removed. Go ahead. We will raise the ceiling and let you get on with the works “. Such action cannot be justified.
The Public Works Committee has been in existence for a considerable number of years. At one time, it moved round the country and had real jobs to do. It was quite as active and virile as is the Public Accounts Committee; it was in the news every day. But what has happened? As far as I can see, the Public Works Committee is just another marionette, just another committee that the Minister for Works by-passes on every possible occasion. He pushes out a few little projects for it to investigate, but does not refer to it anything of exceptional importance. The recommendations that it makes year after year are pushed aside. If we are to have these statutory bodies, they should be used to the full and should be able to make some impact on the decisions of the Government in relation to its various works.
– It is a very good body - an excellent body.
– But it is by-passed.
– What about the Commonwealth centre in Melbourne, which is one of the biggest works that have been undertaken? That was considered by the Public Works Committee. The same thing happened in Sydney. I could tell the honorable senator about a dozen projects that the committee has considered in the last two or three years, and no member of the committee would challenge what I said.
– The committee now makes recommendations that are not worth the paper they are written on.
– That is a lot of nonsense. The honorable senator does not know anything about the committee.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s building project in Perth has been delayed for years. That was approved by the committee but has been pushed aside. Year in and year out the Government makes promises, but still nothing happens. Television has been introduced in America, second-rate stuff has been imported into Australia, and facilities have been established in Sydney and Melbourne, with a promise that something would be done for Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. At the same time, the Government said that it was far-sighted and already had in hand plans to build A.B.C. studios in Perth which would incorporate offices and administrative quarters for television services. The Public Works Committee approved the plans, and everything was ready for construction to proceed. Town-planners who have planned the whole layout of Perth have planned their buildings to conform to the Government’s plans, yet the Government will not proceed with those plans. Although the Government might have some reason for not doing so, for the life of me I cannot see it. Nor will the Minister give us any satisfactory information.
Building materials and labour are available. -Everything is ready and there is absolutely nothing to indicate why the Government should not have proceeded with the project. So we go on with this lukewarm, milk-and-water procedure of honorable senators asking questions and the Minister rising in his place and sitting down again, and Government supporters saying how very kind he is. To sit in this place is becoming an absolute farce.
– You do not have to stay here. You can always resign if you do not think that it is a responsible chamber.
– That is your way of doing it, but I am a bit different from you. Only rats desert a sinking ship. I shall stay here and fight for the States’ rights. I know what you would do. I know your form; I know your record. If you were in a fight and found that the position was not too good, you would back out smartly. I am not of that ilk. I shall fight on to ensure that our parliamentary institution is respected as it should be respected in a democracy. The Government has only derided it. Nothing could be more inane than to suggest that, if one does not like the way democracy works or if one thinks it is going wrong, one should, in accordance with Liberal policy, get out. That is not the way to act. Australians are not made of that material. Our troops never acted like that, so why should their parliamentary [representatives do so?
– I merely suggested that you did not have to stay here if you did not want to.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! This is supposed .to be a solo performance, not a duet.
– ‘I think you clearly understand the ‘situation, my friend. I am here and’I intend to express my own opinion. But T am sorry that the Government has such a poor national outlook. The Government has had the greatest opportunity to do something for the nation that has ever been afforded to any government. Man-power, money, materials and goods are available; indeed, everything about this country is pleasant. But the Government has adopted the policy of taking huge sums of money from the community and of not putting them back into the nation. Actually, it is acting as an underwriter of State loans. It is in the horrible position of seeing that the people have lost confidence in. its stocks and bonds. At one time, a person could go to a bank and submit government scrip, hold his head high in the air, and expect to obtain an advance against that scrip; but to-day the banks refuse to make an advance. They tell you that you must sell your gilt-edged security. We have always boasted about our gilt-edged securities when making agreements.
I know of institutions that have invested money for the welfare of their employees, but when they have sold their securities to provide further amenities, they have had to do so at a distinct discount. They should have been able to lodge those securities at any bank until they matured. The situation is grave. The Government, to bolster up confidence in its own loans, has to extract money from the .public and, in effect, underwrite those loans. It is of no use for honorable senators opposite to chuckle about it. The Government should look at the position seriously and do something to correct it.
– The Government should resign.
– The honorable senator would not be very happy if that happened.
Senuator COOKE.- I do not think my colleague is any more serious than is the Minister for Customs and Excise at the moment. :Senator Hannaford. - Senator Courtice is quite happy to be where he is.
– It is good to ‘have a sense of ‘humour like that of poor old Nero and laugh at the nation’s falling stocks. Hundreds of people who invested their savings during the last war have been cheated out of those savings :because of the depreciation of .government stocks, and here in this place of privilege we laugh about it. But it has been a tragedy for the people concerned - the good people who were encouraged in time of war to invest their savings, in some cases their total savings. It was not the rich people who made the real sacrifices. Those people who invested their savings are now embarrassed when they apply for social service benefits or when they discover that they have to sell their bonds at a discount in order to obtain a home. But the Government does nothing about it. By jingo, it is a twisted sense of humour that makes us laugh!
I wish to make a further appeal to the Government, which I hope will be accepted by it not in a spirit of hostility but as a submission that is worthy of consideration and which in the past has been fobbed off. I refer to the care of our Australian natives. I know that, in the main, it is .a State responsibility and that the States have done a reasonably good job. There have been discussions about the natives who have had to get out of the Maralinga area, and it has been the subject of controversy in the press. Mr. J. J. Brady, who is Minister for Native Affairs in Western Australia, and others, have investigated the situation. When I posed a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on this subject, he obtained the fullest possible information for me and extended me the courtesy of making it available at an early date. Although there has been a lot of hedging in other quarters, I must compliment the Minister for what he has done.
Although much has been said about the degree to which the Government has protected the .rights of the natives, and despite the assurances that none of them would suffer as a result of the establishment by the Commonwealth of the Maralinga project, all that has been done has been the sending out of a couple of inspectors to wander round the area to look for natives who were not there. The (Commonwealth should compensate these natives in some way. We .could not .treat the fuzzy-wuzzy of New Guinea in the way in which we are treating these natives, because he has some property rights. Before depriving him of his property, the (Commonwealth would have -to negotiate and parley with him. It would have to find. out the -terms on which he was prepared ‘to dispose of his property and would have to pay for it. But the natives of the Maralinga area are without citizenship rights. They are nomads or detribalized natives, who can be pushed around and have no protection. We do not negotiate with them about their property. We have had assurances from the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) to the effect that they will not suffer from our activities at Maralinga, but the present position is most unsatisfactory. It should be corrected.
There is one other .matter that I want to >mention. This will be my last submission to the Senate, although there is a great deal more about which I could talk. I submit ‘-that the Government -should consider .entering a new field of social service and giving assistance to slow-learning or backward children. They constitute a growing problem in the community. I believe that -clinical examinations should be made to find out exactly what is -occurring and what can -be -done for the children. Not very much has -been done so far. Some -parents appear to look on backward children as a disgrace or some’ kind of stigma. The parents keep the children in their -homes for as long as they can, but when the -parents become old the children often -have to be placed in institutions. I ask the Government to consider whether it could pay a subsidy on, say, a £l-for-£.l basis .to institutions that are caring -for backward children, and whether medical assistance could be provided to help such children. -I suggest that the Government consider the establishment of rehabilitation training centres to which backward children .could be admitted at an early age. 1 am satisfied ‘that, with proper cane and treatment, we -should be able, if not to make these children 100 per cent, efficient, at least to bring them to a stage at which they would be capable of making some contribution to their support by engaging in useful occupations.
Mental illness is much the same as physical illness, .but we have a kind of complex about mental illness. I believe that, with , proper study and research, together with an -awakening of our social conscience .in ,respect of this problem, these mental disabilities could be eradicated to a :large degree -in .most .cases. I ask honorable senators opposite to ;make .submissions along these lines to the appropriate Ministers and to urge them, in turn, to press that the Commonwealth enter this field of social service.
I do not know how much could be done for these unfortunate children. I am not in a position to express a firm opinion on that, but I think everybody will agree that it is necessary for the Commonwealth to enter this field. These children are not mad, they are only sub-normal, but in some States they were sent to asylums, where they mixed with people suffering from acute mental illnesses. Owing to the activities of some charitable organizations, that system has largely been broken down, but in some places there are still sub-normal children in asylums, although they are segregated. In other places, the care of these children has been taken a step further- by the establishment of farm training schools and homes where the children can live under the care of a matron. But those institutions are very expensive, and it is difficult for charitable organizations to meet the cost from their funds. However, the private organizations have shown the way. They have made an admirable attempt to do something for these children. The President of the Senate had a look at some of these institutions in Western Australia recently and was very impressed by them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– We have listened for an hour to a rambling speech by Senator Cooke. I do not complain about the time that he took, because it is the right of every honorable senator to speak for an hour if he wishes to do so, but I feel that Senator Cooke will go to lunch presently with a very comfortable feeling, because he got a mighty lot off his chest in that time.
I cannot reply to all of the points made by Senator Cooke, but I shall comment briefly on two submissions that he made to the Senate. A few moments ago, he referred to the present position of Commonwealth stock. I think that I am interpreting his remarks correctly when I say that he said that we have reached the position that we cannot any longer go proudly to a banking institution with Commonwealth bonds in our pockets and say that we want an advance against them. I think the honorable senator said that no longer will advances be made against Commonwealth stock.
– The Western Australian railway employees association was refused an advance against Commonwealth bonds that it held with a face value of thousands of pounds.
– That is news to me. With due respect to Senator Cooke, I do not believe that to be the position. I only wish that I had a few thousands of pounds invested in Commonwealth stock, because I believe that I could raise money on that stock if I wanted to do so. The position may arise that I shall have to try to raise money on the small quantity of Commonwealth stock that I have. If so, I have no doubt that I shall be able to negotiate it. I feel quite certain that if anybody goes into a financial institution and asks for accommodation by way of an overdraft on the security of Commonwealth bonds, the manager will oblige him. I submit that in that respect Commonwealth stock is still gilt-edged stock, despite what Senator Cooke has said. I only wish that I had more of it. The honorable senator talked about the present value of Commonwealth stock, but I think I am correct in saying that there was a time in our history when the market value of Commonwealth stock was as low as two-thirds of the face value. That was about 1931. Honorable senators know which Government was in office at that time. There were, of course, reasons for that state of affairs, which I have no doubt honorable senators opposite could give, but there are also reasons for the present state of affairs. When we talk about the value of Commonwealth stock, we should have regard to all the circumstances that obtain in the period we are discussing.
Senator Cooke also took up the time of the Senate by referring to the alleged disabilities of Western Australia at present. Sitting here as the representative of another State, I am amazed by the treatment which the Government of Western Australia has received. Senator Cooke referred to several projects. I shall comment briefly on a few of the projects about which the honorable senator saw fit to address the Senate. He referred to the Western Australian comprehensive water scheme, which was referred to specifically by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his Budget speech. For the benefit of Senator Cooke, I will read what the Treasurer said about that scheme, lt was as follows: -
The arrangements under which the Commonwealth is assisting the State of Western Australia to finance the cost of the comprehensive water supply scheme have been reviewed, and it has been decided that assistance on a larger scale should be granted.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I reminded Senator Cocke that some of the projects mentioned by him in his argument that the Commonwealth was failing in its duty to Western Australia were presented by him in the wrong light. He mentioned the Western Australian water supply scheme, for which Western Australia receives assistance from the Commonwealth. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his Budget speech, said of that scheme -
The arrangements under which the Commonwealth is assisting the State of Western Australia to finance the cost of the comprehensive water supply scheme have been reviewed, and it has been decided that assistance on a larger scale should be granted. Accordingly, it is proposed to remove the limits on the Commonwealth’s annual contributions towards the cost of the scheme and also to increase the aggregate limit of those contributions from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. Amending legislation will shortly be introduced. In 1956-57 contributions by the Commonwealth towards the cost of the scheme amounted to £462,500. Under the proposed new arrangements the Commonwealth’s contributions in 1957-58 are estimated at £572,000. 1 confess that I have no first-hand knowledge of that water supply scheme, but, in view of the passage from the Treasurer’s Budget speech that I have just read, I do not think that it can be said that the Commonwealth has treated Western Australia unfairly in relation to it. That State is being assisted with a great water supply scheme in greater measure than the Commonwealth assists any other State. So far as 1 am aware, we in South Australia do much more than is done in any other State to provide water supply schemes from our own financial resources, including loan funds. It is often said that, if all the water reticulation pipes laid in South Australia were placed end to end, they would reach from Adelaide to Bombay, in India. I think that that will serve to illustrate strikingly to honorable senators the extent of the water reticulation schemes that have been financed in South Australia - I repeat, out of the State’s own resources.
The Senate will remember that, last financial year, as a result of a special case prepared by the Western Australian Government, and submitted to the Treasurer, Western Australia was given a special grant of £2,000,000 in addition to the funds that it is entitled to receive under the ordinary distribution of tax reimbursement moneys to the States.
– Western Australia must have been entitled to it, or it would not have received it.
– I remind Senator Ashley that Western Australian senators have told us that the special grant was needed because the gross inefficiency of the Western Australian Government had made it short of funds. It had over-spent its allocation of funds for housing, and it got into such a mess that the Commonwealth had to go to the rescue. I think that it did so very generously. The Premiers of the other States - also very generously - concurred in the special grant made to Western Australia. These facts all go to prove that Western Australia is not being treated unfairly by the Commonwealth compared with the other States.
Senator Cooke stated, also, that he had a special claim to make for Western Australia. When I began to deal with his remarks on that matter, he anticipated what I was about to say, and observed that South Australia had handed over the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. Let me say, Mr. Deputy President, that it was a sad day for the Northern Territory when it was placed under the control of the Commonwealth. When it was ceded, the Commonwealth gave a specific undertaking that the railway would be extended from Alice Springs to the southern terminal of the railway from Darwin. As a South Australian, I remind the Senate that that undertaking has not yet been honoured. The Northern Territory would have derived great advantage from the completion of that rail link. I recall, also, that, when the Northern Territory was part of South Australia, it had direct representation in the
South’ Australian Parliament, to which it sent two members who enjoyed rights equal to those of the other members of that Parliament.
– They did not do very much.
– lt is easy for the honorable senator to say that. Let me say, with all duc respect to the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), that the Northern Territory would have been developed as well under South Australian control as it has been developed by the Commonwealth.
– South Australia constructed the overland telegraph line to Darwin.
– That telegraph line, which, still gives useful service, was constructed when the Northern Territory was administered by South Australia.
Senator Cooke’s remarks highlight an unfortunate trend that is becoming more pronounced than ever in financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth. How easy it is, and how politically advisable it seems to be, for the States to lay the blame for everything, great and small, at the door of the Commonwealth! This is a most unfortunate tendency, and certain State Premiers, who blame the Commonwealth for everything, are throwing away the last vestiges of sovereignty that have attached to the States. They are throwing it away for the sake of a miserable political advantage, which they can hope to gain only temporarily. This trend in Australian politics is most unfortunate, and the State governments that are culpable should reconsider their attitude.
– They do themselves a disservice.
– They do themselves and the people that they represent a very great disservice. This leads me to say, as I have said in the Senate before, that much of our trouble is due to the iniquitous system of uniform taxation that still prevails. I realize that certain advantages stem from the system. I do not close my eyes to the practical advantages of uniform taxation, but I cannot ignore the fact that it lends itself to abuses of the kind that I have mentioned. In addition, I firmly believe in the principle that those who spend money should, be responsible for collecting it. Uniform taxation strikes at the very roots of that principle, and it is regretted by us all.
I could discuss these matters at great length, Mr. Deputy President’. I deeply regret that Senator Cooke worked the parish pump1 as he did, and tried to lay at the door of the Commonwealth Government all the blame for the things that are not being done in Western Australia, and should be done. I remind him that Western Australia receives its full share of the tax reimbursement moneys that are distributed among the States. Indeed, last financial year, it received more than its share of grants from the Commonwealth, as I have already indicated. In addition, it receives a due share of the loan funds allocated by the Australian Loan Council, and, in recent years, underwritten by the Commonwealth. Western Australia, like South Australia and Tasmania, is a claimant State. As such, its disabilities are examined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and, from time to time, grants are made to help overcome those disabilities. As a representative of a claimant State, I may say that this procedure gives those States certain advantages, because the Grants Commission apparently works on the principle that, if the standard of services generally in a claimant State is not better than the standard’ of services generally in the larger States, budget deficits incurred in the claimant State over a period of two years should bemade good by the Commonwealth. My home State of South Australia! enjoys the benefit of the procedure adopted by the Grants Commission, but it has an unfortunate side. There is a tendency on the part of a State such as Western Australia to lean more heavily than it should on Commonwealth resources. Has not Western Australia a State government? Is not the Western Australian Government prepared to accept the fact that water conservation, housing, education and health are among its prime responsibilities? If the Western Australian Government expects the Commonwealth Government to do all that Senator Cooke has suggested, it might as well close its doors and hand over its sovereignty, lock, stock and barrel, to the Commonwealth government of the day.
Senator Cooke reminded the Senate that a record amount will be collected by way of taxes-. That is- time. The estimated yield from taxation in this financial year, according to the Budget, is £1),300,000,000. Expenditure is expected to exceed £1,200,000,000. Opposition, senators invariably suggest that the Government should spend more money in one way and another, but particularly on social services. Let us consider how the Government approaches the expenditure of the money that it proposes to raise by taxes. The picture is very disheartening. This year, the Commonwealth will be obliged’ to spend £190,000,000 on defence. 1 hope that I would be the last to suggest that that expenditure is too large. When we consider the amounts that are to be spent proportionately by our friends and allies, perhaps we ought to be ashamed that we are not making greater provision for defence. It is all very well for Opposition senators to suggest* that the money is wasted and for them to’ refer to the St. Mary’s project. That matter has been well aired in another place and 1 am surprised that Opposition senators had. the courage to raise it again here.
Because of the shortage of loan funds, the Commonwealth works programme is financed, of necessity, from revenue. As there is no alternative, surely honorable senators would, not suggest a reduction of the vote of £122,000,000 that has been allocated for that purpose in this financial year.. As I have said, the Commonwealth backs the States’ loan programmes. That has. been done for several years, with great credit to the Commonwealth. Government. That action shows that the Commonwealth Government recognizes the urgency of the State works programmes. That recognition is demonstrated by its willingness to underwrite State loans and make contributions from revenue in periods when loan funds are not available. I hope it will not be necessary to continue the practice of financing State works from revenue indefinitely, but at present there is no alternative. It is. difficult to estimate how much will be required from revenue for that, purpose this year, but the amount is likely to be £100,000,000.
War and repatriation services are estimated’ to cost. Australia this year £129;000’,000. In that connexion I wish to compliment the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper)’ on- the excellent way in which he administers the expenditure of that money. A very fine service is rendered to those who merit the gratitude of the nation. Nobody would suggest that the vote of £129,000,000 should be reduced-..
Expenditure from the National Welfare Fund is expected to total £244,000,000. Far from suggesting that that provision be cut down, we find’ honorable senators saying that it is not large enough. They want to give more and more to age and invalid pensioners. We all agree with that proposition; so that item cannot be reduced. Payments to the States in one form or another- from revenue will amount to about £267,000,000. Tax reimbursements will total £190,000,000 and expenditure by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, £19,500,000. Commonwealth aid’ road grants will total £34,000,000 and, in all, the States will receive, as I have said £267,000,000. I do not say that the States are not entitled to that money.
Bounties and subsidies will: account for £18,000,000 including: a. subsidy for the dairying industry and £13,500,000 for a gold-mining subsidy.. The vote for war service land settlement is £8,000,000. Expenditure on business undertakings including the. post office;, railways and other undertakings which arc rightly controlled by the Commonwealth. Government, will’ total £110,000;000 and £19,000,000 is to be: expended on our Territories. If. honorable; senators- consider the votes- on: those irreducible items* they will find them to be’ close foi the total expenditure that the Commonwealth Government will undertake in this financial, year..
– Would they amount to 60 per cent.?.
– The- percentage would be much higher. I have’ not referred’’ to every specific item, but if the honorable senator adds the items together, I believe he will find that I have covered about 80 per cent, of Commonwealth expenditure. I am appalled when I consider the situation. J cannot see much hope of reducing those items unless more loan money becomes available to enable us to reduce, our commitments from revenue. I cannot see any hope- of a> big reduction of taxes for the. same reason. We- cannot have it both) wayS If we want increased expenditure on1 the various items, to> which. I have referred, we cannot reduce taxes. I am deeply concerned when I face the fact that there seems to be no practical way of reducing taxes in view of our current demands.
– The main thing is to spend the money wisely.
– I agree, but I would be interested if the honorable senator could justify a suggestion that the money is not being spent wisely.
– Immigration and development tend to increase the yield from taxes and might assist to lighten the load.
– The more we develop our resources the greater will be the flow of wealth to the Commonwealth. That might offer some hope for reduction of taxes. At present we are faced with liabilities associated with development. Much of our expenditure by State governments is designed to assist development. There is a hope that Commonwealth revenue will become more buoyant as the result of development and expansion now taking place and that we shall be able to reduce taxes accordingly, but at present I am sorry to say that I am not very hopeful. The Treasurer referred to the buoyancy of the economy and the fact that it had gained greatly in stability and strength. I notice that honorable senators opposite are not very keen on debating their amendment to the motion for the printing of the Budget papers or upon giving reasons why it should be supported. In the absence of such evidence from them, I am prepared to accept the Treasurer’s statement that the economy has gained greatly in stability and strength. I have tried to analyse the position for myself in a humble way, and I am convinced that one cannot dispute that statement.
We have added over £200,000,000 to our overseas reserves in the last financial year. That, in some respects, must reflect the buoyancy of our economy. I realize, of course, that the £200,000,000 increase in our overseas funds has been brought about principally by two factors. I am sure honorable senators opposite will say “ Hear, hear “ to the first of them. It is that up to the present we have been blessed with bountiful seasons and good prices. Such conditions have enabled us to produce and export commodities very satisfactorily and has had a big bearing on enabling us to say to-day, as we do, that our overseas reserves have been strengthened to the tune of £200,000,000.
The other factor that has an influence upon the increase of the overseas balances is the fact that we still have import restrictions - more is the pity! I am sure there is not one person in Australia who wants those restrictions to continue for one moment more than is absolutely necessary. Indeed, there is a clamour both inside and outside this place for a ‘ considerable modification of the severity of import licensing. However, while I am sure that the very thought of import restrictions is anathema to the Government - it certainly is to me - I must admit, when I face up to the future, that I believe it would be a mistake to abolish import restrictions at the present time. Even if we are to try to whittle them down and give greater scope under the import licensing system, we shall have to approach the question cautiously.
– You say that it is a very difficult problem at the present time.
– I do not, particularly in view of the conditions confronting us. I believe that while it is true to say that our economy is greatly strengthened, there are certain weaknesses in it. I am sure they are apparent to every honorable senator. We still rely to an alarming degree on returns from the sale of our primary products overseas. We rely not only upon the volume of primary products that we export but also on a continuance of high prices for them. Therein, I think, lies the great weakness of the Australian economy. I am not a pessimist, but I cannot help feeling at the moment that we might have this truth brought home to us very shortly, and in a very unpleasant way. If we are to judge from present signs, we cannot confidently expect another good season. I think it is too late now to rely on another buoyant season anywhere in Australia. If good general rains fall throughout Australia, it may be possible for us to have a fair season, but I think we have gone beyond the stage at which we can say we could have an average season. If the season is below average, then the volume of exports will be restricted, if not during this financial year, then certainly in the next financial year. 1 read this morning statements of stock losses in New South Wales, and I accept those statements as being correct. I am certain also that the cereal harvest throughout Australia will not be good by any means, lt is my firm opinion that there will be a great shortage of cereals for export.
– Would you say we could be faced with a serious financial crisis by this time next year?
– I am not saying that at the moment. Many things are completely unknown and unforeseeable, but I am suggesting that we have weaknesses in our economy because of our reliance on the export of primary products, and those weaknesses certainly will become more apparent by this time next financial year. I. do not want to be an alarmist. I always like to think things are not as bad as they seem, but we must face facts. [ commend the Government for its efforts to increase our exports of secondary production.
– To what extent has it succeeded?
– I cannot answer the honorable senator’s question. I am saying the Government is doing its level best to promote the export of such things as motor cars and other secondary products. For instance, it has established the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to assist manufacturers to find markets overseas. I cannot think of any greater effort the Government could put forward to induce these people to export secondary products. I think that the real difficulty is that costs of production inside Australia make the export of secondary products just about prohibitive.
– Whose fault is that?
– It is not altogether our fault. The honorable senator loves to rush in and say it is solely the Government’s responsibility. It is nothing of the kind. Let us all step in and take our responsibility in this matter. It is so easy for honorable senators opposite to sit in their places, as they have done for over ten years, and talk about inflation being the sole responsibility of this Government. Let me remind honorable senators opposite again that in the last year in which they were in office inflation had begun. They had the experience of a 10 per cent, inflation before they left office. 1 do not like having to mention this, but they have asked for it, and there it is.
– You can blame the war for that.
– The honorable senator can blame anything he likes. The fact is that there was 10 per cent, inflation before the Labour government left office.
– We were attempting to combat it, but you are doing nothing.
– Rubbish! It is much harder to put out a bush fire once it has got started; once it starts, it takes more than two or three men to put it out. There are factors for which we certainly are not responsible. The 10 per cent, increase in 1949 was not our responsibility. Again, the 40-hour week is not our responsibility. I do not say it should not have been introduced, but it certainly helped to increase the spiral of inflation. Honorable senators opposite can say what they like, the fact is that we did not get the production in 40 hours that we got in 44 hours, although they claimed that we would. Do not accuse me of saying we should not have the 40- hour week. I am not saying that; I am simply saying at this stage that the introduction of the 40-hour week hastened and did nothing to cure the problem of inflation which had already begun when we came into office.
The same may be said of the £1 increase in the basic wage. Do not accuse me of saying that increase was not justified. It was an award of the court, and I am not in the habit of criticizing court awards, but it did help in spreading this fire which we have been at our wits’ end ever since to put out.
– The Government has to take the responsibility.
– It is so easy for Senator O’Flaherty to sit there and say that, but I suggest to him that things would have been much worse if the Labour government had been in office during the same period. The Labour party would not help us. All that its members have done has been to sit opposite and criticize us. We are willing to accept offers of help, but all honorable senators opposite can do is suggest the imposition of prices control. To them, that is the great panacea for all our ills. It is the only thing honorable senators opposite have ever suggested as being the cure for inflation, and I suggest it is no cure at all.
I have been diverted by interjections from what I proposed to say. I believe it is true to say that the cost of production of our commodities is the greatest deterrent to exporting our secondary products. Unfortunately, because of the same cost factor, we are also approaching that difficulty in the export of some of the primary products on which we rely so absolutely at the present time. We are rapidly coming up against the same factor in connexion with wheat. We have already gone past it in respect of egg production. The same may be said of dairy products; in fact, the only product we can export with any degree of success financially is wool.
– And minerals.
– And minerals. I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. That is a great weakness in the Australian system. The price of wool seems healthy at the moment, but there is no guarantee that it will remain at that level.
– It .dropped by 6 per cent, yesterday.
– That is quite true. This time next year we shall find that ,the volume of our primary products available for export is considerably reduced, and the price is still uncertain. I want to give honorable senators some figures in regard to the wheat position, which I hope they will find interesting. Some two years ago it was suggested by very prominent people in Australia that we ‘were over-producing wheat and that the acreage sown should be restricted.
– Senator Kennelly said that.
– It was said .by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board.
– Some very prominent members of the Australian communityadvocated that policy, and Senator Gorton might be quite right in saying that it -was advocated by certain leading members of the Opposition. I took all of my courage in both hands when I stood here and said that that was a fatalist policy, and that nature would take its course as it .has always done. I remember honorable senators opposite saying that this was a do-nothing Government which left everything to chance, in the hope that it would be all right. I am not rejoicing in the fact that my prognostications have proved correct. Unfortunately for Australia they have. In wheat production, we have had two extreme seasons. Last year we had an extremely wet season. This year, unfortunately, we have had an extremely dry season. It adds up to the result that whereas two years ago we had an embarrassingly high wheat surplus, the estimated carry-over at 1st November will be no -more than 40,000,000 to 45,000,000 bushels. It will probably be less than that, if wheat is used in any quantity for feeding stock.
However, let ,us assume that the carryover will be 40,000,000 bushels. The crop about to be reaped is estimated to yield about 70,000,000 bushels. That estimate must be reduced daily. I think that New South Wales, the great wheat-producing State of the Commonwealth, estimates that it will not reap more than 4,500,-000 bushels this yean. That State, .which usually reaps 40,000j000 bushels .or more in a year, is down to -4,500,000 bushels, which will be its lowest yield -since 1929. That is disastrous. Other States are similarly placed, although perhaps they have not suffered quite so severely. It is : hard to make an estimate :for South Australia. The estimate that was made a month ago has since been steadily ‘reduced. If in South Australia we leap 10,000,-000 .to 15,000,000 bushels this -year, we shall be extremely lucky, although our usual production is from 25,OOO,0OO to 30,000,000 bushels. Victorian production will be very much down, because producers there are experiencing the same climatic conditions as we in South Australia are experiencing. The one bright hope, of course, is Western Australia, as it always !is in so many respects. That State ‘hopes to reap a crop which may reach 30;000,000 bushels. If we reap 70,000;000 bushels of wheat- ;I do not think we shall - a’fter the harvest we shall have 1-10,000,000 bushels with which to get through the next year. Home consumption for all purposes usually accounts for about ‘70,000-000 ‘bushels. If we feed wheat to sheep, as we shall have to do in the autumn, we shall use much more than that amount for home consumption. But if the home consumption is only 70,000,000 bushels, 40,000,000 bushels will be left for export.
– We shall not have as much as that for export.
– I agree.I am very doubtful that we shall. But that is the most hopeful estimate, and I think it is too optimistic. At the most, we shall have 40,000,000 bushels for export. Normally, we export without difficulty 100,000,000 to 120,000,000 bushels. Those figures illustrate perfectly well the point I have tried to make this afternoon, namely, that our exports, on which we rely so much, will be considerably reduced in the case of wool, meat, and wheat, and, to a lesser extent, barley. If Senator Kennelly and those who spoke for him in this matter had been heeded,we should have had no wheat for export. I make a forecast - alarming though it is, and surprising in a great wheat-producing country like Australia - that this time next year we could be out of wheat. It comes as a shock that 1 can say that of a country like this.
SenatorBenn. - We may be able to import some from Japan.
– I am sure that we shall not be able to import wheat from New Zealand at the price at which the Government supported by the honorable senator exported Australian wheat to New Zealand. My friend from South Australia, Senator Mattner, reminds me that it would not be the first time we had imported wheat - possibly from the Argentine. But God help us if we have to import wheat! However, that is the position in which we might easily be. I suggest - this is again a humble opinion - that before the Australian Wheat Board embarks upon a policy of exporting wheat, even if it has 40,000,000 bushels to export, it should hesitate, because there is no guarantee that next season will be any better than this season, and a safe carry-over has always been a minimum of 60,000,000 bushels. I am sure I do not need to tell the board its business; it would not thank me for doing so. That is the approach of a humble layman. I think the board would be wiseto refrain from rushing into the export of what looks like being an inadequate surplus of 40,000,000 bushels of wheat which we shall have on our hands until the nature of next season can be assessed. I realize that I have dealt very inadequately with this Budget. I have looked on the dark side.
– There is no other side.
– There is another . side. The Budget has provided very great concessions, in spite of what honorable senators opposite have said. I am sure that those persons who benefit from the concessions will greatly appreciate them. I do not propose to go into those concessions, which relate to sales tax, company tax and so on. The Australian community does not need me to traverse that ground again. I conclude my remarks by suggesting that we cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment. It has not been debated here. It was proposed, and very little reference was made to it. No case has been made out in support of it. I certainly reject it out of hand. The Treasurer is to be congratulated on having introduced his tenth Budget. This shows that the Government has retained the confidence of the people over a record term.
SenatorCourtice. - You are becoming a bit dubious now.
– No. That is one thing on which -I am very certain. The Government has enjoyed the confidence of thepeople for a record continuous term, which has enabled the Treasurer to present this record series of Budgets. I see no reason for a decline in that confidence. The amendment proposed by the Opposition refers to the effect of the Budget upon development and other matters. Let the Opposition prove the effect that it alleges. Inevery respect we have gone through a period of record development in Australia, and it is idle for the Opposition to suggest that this Budget does anything to arrest that progress.
– Insolvencies are increasing every day.
– How many are there?
– Ten or twenty every three or four days.
– I challenge the Opposition to prove its contention, and thus justify this amendment. The people have stuck to the Government during several elections over the last eight years, and there is no likelihood that their confidence in it will recede. This Government deserves the admiration of all for its courage in resisting those pressures which are placed upon all governments from time to time. Instead of seekin’g political advantage the Government has steadfastly pursued its course and has refused to be pushed into doing something that it did not consider good for the country. By and large the people of Australia recognize that fact. The Government has undergone periods of stress and strain and has emerged with its flag flying, and I believe that Australians generally will be prepared to trust it for several more years at least.
– Senator Pearson’s invitation prompts me to say at once that I intend to show why my colleagues and I support this amendment. Senator Pearson did not have the text of the amendment before him, and therefore 1 shall enlighten him upon it. We ask that the Estimates and Budget papers 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 resources. It is, of course, necessary to move an amendment of that nature because the procedure adopted with bills is not appropriate.
I was very interested to hear Senator Pearson’s remarks and I hope to refer to them at some length. I point out that the Government’s policies of the last twelve months have had the very unfortunate consequences set out in our amendment. I want to refer first to our export problem, t thought for a while that Senator Pearson intended to refer to the weakness of relying solely upon primary production for our export income - a theme that I have long been waiting for Government supporters to develop. Senator Gorton’s interjection reminded him that if there is one product that we can sell abroad it is our minerals. I hope that my remarks on this score will be of interest to Senator Pearson in particular.
The more I consider the Budget papers the more I feel that the Government is missing a golden opportunity to take a great step forward in bringing our young country to nationhood, lt is taking a timid step when it should be taking a bold step. Senator Courtice pointed out the other day that the Government’s policies may be all very well for some of the older countries of the world, where production has reached its maximum, and where the extent of mineral and other resources is well known. Such policies ought not to be followed in young, expanding countries like ours - especially in view of Australia’s peculiar position in world affairs. The Government could well heed the old adage that opportunity knocks but once. If it did, we should now be reviewing a vastly different Budget, and should have reached a set of conclusions very different from those reached by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and his officers.
The Budget is based on happenings in the previous financial year, and likely happenings in the next twelve months. One would think, from this Budget, that we had just passed through a very doleful period in Australia’s history, a period of stagnation which had forced these timorous steps upon the Government. I suggest that that is very far from the truth. I do not want to go deeply into the figures, because this usually confuses every one, including myself. I shall be content to refer to a few of the more vital statistics, which show that in the last year we have had very stable and prosperous conditions.
As Senator Pearson has said, our export income reached an all-time high. In view of the peculiarities of the Australian economy, to which Senator Pearson referred, that was no mean achievement. Wool brought a record price and, without breaking down the figures, one speedily reaches the conclusion that Australia ought to be very proud of its achievement. All this should have prompted the Government to draw up a much bolder policy for the future.
Our net income rose by 6 per cent, and our population by 2i per cent. Those should have been encouraging signs for the Government. They brought with them the promise of more money for its coffers - for the development of our young country. Our greater population gave us more people to use in that work, and more people to pay taxes. Those were healthy signs, but on this favorable base, created by the natural development of the country, a very unstable superstructure has been built.
The press of Australia forecast very accurately what the Budget would contain. I felt that, in fact, the Government would rectify some of the anomalies that it had created in the little Budget of 1956. I want to make the theme of my address the fact that the Government, unless it is so stubborn as to bring down a supplementary Budget, has missed its opportunity, and is failing to honour the obligation imposed upon it by the measures it adopted in March, 1956. At that time, for reasons which the Prime Minister put cogently to the people, expansion was retarded and a blow was struck at public confidence. My great criticism then was that, whatever the necessity for this action, it was perpetuating something that was tantamount to the rolling strike in industry - the “ on again off again “ type of economy. I have always felt sorry for the businessman who has tried to expand his business since the war. He has been confronted with the relaxation of import controls and then, overnight, with the harsh re-application of those controls. I do not think that anything could be more frustrating to a businessman than continually rising costs on the one hand, and chopping and changing by the Government on the other. All these things are quite out of his control, and a complete change of circumstances may occur within a period of eighteen months or so. I noticed the other ‘day, in glancing back, that the Prime Minister when presenting the financial statement - later known as the little Budget - attempted to justify the imposition on the motor industry of a 30 per cent, sales tax - a harsh penalty - in these words -
We are well aware of the benefits which will ultimately flow from this great industry, but we are convinced that proper counter-inflationary action requires that some temporary restraint should be laid upon it.
This morning, Senator Wright pointed out that the last financial year was a record year for the export of motor cars from England, and he asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade what proportion was applicable to Australia. When he is furnished with a reply, I think he will find that, because of the harsh sales tax provisions, the motor industry was not even interested when, a little while ago, the Government lifted import restrictions to some degree. I think he will discover that, even when the more severe import restrictions were in operation, the distributors were unable to sell the cars that were coming in. That was because the sales tax had pushed cars up into the category of luxury goods. I say as clearly as I can that there rests upon the Government an obligation to restore to industry the cuts that were made in 1956 on the say-so of the Prime Minister and not of anybody else.
If the Government says - and it has said - that these controls must be continued, it should be trying, while we still have a period of peace and prosperity, to take steps to develop Australia rapidly. Unfortunately, the Government’s policy has done much more than restrict the sales of such things as motor cars. It has had the effect of restricting not only expansion but also production. We in Australia still have an acute housing problem on our hands. I do not think any nation can boast of the fact that so long after the last war its citizens are not provided with such a basic thing as housing. During the last financial year, the production of bricks fell by four per cent. I thought about this matter when I first entered the Parliament, and I remember being bedevilled by the fact that the one thing that militated against an expansion of the building programme was the supply of bricks. When I searched for a reason, I discovered that it was not easy to find a suitable clay deposit, to find the necessary finance, and to establish a brickmaking undertaking. It is an expensive industry to establish, and an unpleasant industry to work in.
– It is difficult to obtain labour for brickmaking, too.
– Yes, it is difficult to obtain labour for brickmaking. It is one of the most arduous forms of employment. We all regret that, when brick production should be expanding, it is receding. It might be suggested that this is one of those industries that are very slow to expand; but it will be noted that the production of sinks, baths, and other similar manufactures has fallen accordingly. The production of refrigerators has fallen by 22 per cent., and of washing machines by 13 per cent.
– In what period was that?
– I am referring now to the last financial year, the period under* review. I am trying, to make the point that the Treasurer, in his review of the economic situation when presenting the Budget, laboured under a misconception. I suggest that he should have presented a vastly different budget.
The matters that- I have mentioned are serious enough in themselves, but what strikes at the heart of us all is that, although last year there were 200,000 more people to feed in Australia, we consumed only the same quantity of food. Now we are being confronted by something that we never wanted to see rear its ugly head again in Australia - malnutrition. If more people eat the same quantity of food; then’ the consumption of each person is lower. That fact is not blazoned in headlines. We all remember the depression- days when people were out of work, and that some time elapsed before the marks of malnutrition were apparent. It was only when one mixed with people who were suffering from malnutrition that one realized the deprivations that existed. The warning- bell of unemployment which has been knelling for so long, and to which the Government has turned- a deaf ear, took on a more strident note over the last- twelve months. The unemployment level rose to an all-time high of 50,000 persons.
The first note was struck in Western, Australia about eighteen months ago. The unemployment was the outcome of peculiar economic, circumstances which do not fall within the scope of this debate.. We have repeatedly been told that the percentage of unemployment is low, that the situation, will clear in time. Before last winter I said that the unemployment figure would rise during the winter months, but the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service said that that would not be so. He has- only to examine the trend to discover that that is exactly, what did happen. Any one should have known that that would happen. The unemployment situation was accentuated during the winter, but over the last month of two it has taken up a little again.
The- chimes warn of the growing nature of the unemployment situation. If there was only- a- pocket of unemployment, as was the case in 195<1.. I would- have remained silent on the matter, because I know that in modern economics, as desirable as it may be, it i& difficult to have full employement all the time. I warn supporters of the Government not to be fooled by the seasons. The number of unemployed is now approximately 50,000, and by about March of next year another 60,000 people will have joined the work force. That challenge would have been better met by a more courageous Budget. We have, too, the problem that has been created by the Japanese trade agreement. I have never yet heard any one suggest that the negotiation of the agreement would improve the employment situation. The fact is that the agreement must place further pressure on it.
There is no need for the Government to wait for another twelve months before it seeks, to rectify the effects of its little Budget of 1956. My annual complaint about Liberal Budgets has been that they seek to strike at those people in the community who are least able to bear the burden, in particular the family man. When a government increases the sales tax on motor cars, washing- machines and refrigerators, and when it allows the rate of building to drop back, it strikes, not’ at the wealthy people but at that very desirable citizen who remembers his own struggles and who is trying to give his family some of the things that he did not have in his lifetime. Every Budget this Government has presented, particularly the little Budget of 1956, has had the effect of pushing those things which I have mentioned a little further away from the family man. In past years, I have had to make my defence on the last rideau of food, employment and shelter. Is it not the function and the privilege of governments to try to bring such things as cars, washing, machines, refrigerators and houses, within the reach of the many and not confine them to the few? Instead of seeking to afford, the ordinary people in the community the benefit of those things, the Government is forcing them back to the last rideau of food, shelter and housing.
If a- Labour government had’ implemented budgetary control, import control, a credit squeeze and other forms of control, I wonder what kind of cry would have gone up about the effect on industry of interference by. governments and about the denial of the right of free enterprise? These effects have been produced by these very weapons themselves. One would have thought that the Government in its hour of travail and trouble would have turned to its true love, but it has not done so. I read this most interesting line in the “ Financial Review “ which, as its name indicates, is not the official organ of the Australian Labour party -
The failure of the Liberal dream, the managed economy is here to stay.
I thought that summed up the position perfectly. I have no quarrel with it except to say how strange are Government senators. When it comes to their hour of trouble, they turn to all those systems that they have .derided so much during the years. This, I think, is further indicated when one looks at the shift in employment figures. The shift in employment figures applied to government industries is important indeed, particularly when related to unemployment because there is always a grave danger that government employment outside the Public Service, which is not a recurring type of work, will be more vulnerable to unemployment than private industry. But we find that during the period under review, civilian employment fell by 5,000 while government employment increased by 8,000. There is occurring a shift into the more vulnerable sector of the economy, which could be offset by a decrease of unemployment.
– To what period is the honorable senator referring?
– The last twelve months.
– Is the honorable referring to local government, State government, or Commonwealth government employment?
– The figures refer to the whole range of government employment. I have them all before me. Employment on Commonwealth works has not increased in the same degree as on other governments’ works, but nevertheless the whole of those works are as vulnerable :as anything the Commonwealth does.
During the period I mentioned, private investment fell by £193,000,000, while government investment rose by £36,000,000. Another comparison shows that in 19511 -52 private income represented 19 per cent, of the .gross national product, compared with 16 per cent, to-day. Why did the Government adopt its present attitude? I know that governments do not do things irresponsibly. The only reason I can possibly think of is that the Government feared another upsurge of inflation. Of course, galloping inflation is something that has to be watched.
As Roosevelt said, the greatest thing to fear is fear itself. The one -thing we do not want to see is a period of violent deflation. As I examine the position, I think that the Government has been far too timid, because all we have is this increase in unemployment, and there is nothing more rapidly deflationary than unemployment.
Although 1 find it hard to understand the building industry figures, they show that non-dwelling construction, such as insurance office buildings and the like, has fallen back. In Western Australia we suddenly reached an over-sufficiency of housing. There was then less competition for timber and bricks, but there was then a violent crop of other building construction. There was a rapid change. That is the trend you get when you try to move away from any type of building at all. However, the Government can still use certain weapons, controversial though they may be - such as import restrictions - to apply its economic policy. Something can be done through that channel, if the position suddenly deteriorates. The Government also has available the weapon of bank credit restriction. In view of the timidity of the Budget, I hope I am not wrong in this assumption. If there were another surge of inflation, the Government could use these means to counteract it.
As I mentioned a little while ago, there has been an increase in government spending. As the Government has taken over all kinds of investment, an obligation rests heavily on it to see that public money is spent wisely and well. It has always been the cry of the honorable senators opposite that the Government does not need to worry about this aspect, because private enterprise can do the job much more efficiently. But as the Government is drawing so much money away from private enterprise, it must -be twice as vigilant in its oversight of expenditure.
I now desire to make some reference to the very interesting report of the AuditorGeneral. I do not pretend that this is the first time this document has been quoted in this chamber. In reviewing the economic situation, there are certain documents that cannot be ignored without leaving a gap in the story. I have not gone through the Auditor-General’s report page by page; I have merely thumbed the pages and marked four or five paragraphs. On page 34 there is a very disquieting comment. I mention it because I think it is high time that this Parliament took more cognizance of the Auditor-General’s reports. I know from experience that when a person who is sent out to investigate a matter makes an adverse report, to which nobody pays any attention, he becomes very discouraged. Matters such as this have been mentioned in this chamber in previous years and the matter is therefore all the more urgent. I recall that last year Senator Benn dealt very effectively with criticisms that had been made by the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General, on page 34 of his latest report, dealing with the Australian Capital Territory brickworks, commented as follows: -
At the date of compiling this Report, the financial statements of the undertaking were not available for audit. However, a preliminary review of the books and records indicates that unsatisfactory features mentioned in previous Reports, including ineffective control over production, and failure to raise charges for depreciation on plant and equipment, or for interest on capital, are still evident.
One does not need to be an accountant to realize that such things as charges for depreciation on plant and equipment, and interest on capital, are fundamental in bookkeeping.
At page 35 of the same report, the Auditor-General stated -
Following comment in the Annual Report for 1955-56 regarding inadequate accounting for forestry activities, Treasury has communicated with the Department of the Interior regarding the establishment of a satisfactory system of accounting. However, at the date of preparation of this report satisfactory financial statements have not been submitted for audit.
I make the suggestion that if the AuditorGeneral mentions this matter again next year, the Treasury should communicate with the appropriate departments. Then We might get somewhere. One would think that we had only set up business as. a> Commonwealth Government during the last few years.
At page 41 of his report, the AuditorGeneral stated, referring to the register of assets for the Department of Civil Aviation -
Reference was made to this subject in four previous Reports.
The Department is now proceeding with the compilation of a Register of Assets.
The department was still preparing a register of assets after the matter had been mentioned by the Auditor-General in four previous reports. I want only to establish the point that it is about time we took these reports a little further and, perhaps, established our own committee of review in order to ascertain what action is being taken when, year after year, the Auditor-General finds occasion to make such adverse comments. The Auditor-General made reference to the Trade Commissioner Service, in his observations about the Department of Trade, at page 45 of his report. He stated -
As mentioned in previous Reports, payments are being made to Trade Commissioners and Assistant Trade Commissioners of amounts in excess of the maximum prescribed in the regulations under the Trade Commissioners Act 1933-1936.
I am advised that amendments to the regulations designed to correct the position have been prepared by the Department of Trade and forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Department for final drafting. Meanwhile, two years after the matter was first mentioned in the AuditorGeneral’s Report, the excess payments are still being made.
If there is one thing about which we have had considerable discussion recently, it is the fixing of salaries. If we have not enough salary and wage fixing bodies in Australia now, we shall never have enough.
– But that is not the point. The payments referred to in the
Auditor-General’s report continue to be made without legal authority.
– That is true. That takes the matter just one step further. However, if the honorable senator does not mind, I shall not allow myself to become bogged down in this report, for fear that the Standing Orders would prevent me from dealing with other things that I want to discuss. I emphasize that I have not carefully raked through the Auditor-General’s report. The matters that I have mentioned came to my attention merely on casually thumbing through the report. I say, in all seriousness, that, as we are taking over more and more responsibility for the /financial affairs of the nation, we as a Parliament are taking on to our shoulders an increasingly heavy responsibility to supervise those affairs more carefully.
Another matter in which I am very interested is mentioned by the AuditorGeneral at page 66 of his report, in his comments on the defence services, under the heading “ Losses or Deficiencies of Public Moneys or Property “. There, the Auditor-General mentions action that was taken by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate. He commented -
At paragraph 105 of the previous Report-
That was his report for the financial year 1955-56- reference was made to the need to introduce uniform conditions into the regulations of the three Armed Services, to provide, in certain circumstances, for recovery of losses of public moneys or property.
An examination of the position obtaining in the Royal Australian Navy following upon the disallowance of the relevant Air Force Regulation on resolution of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances as previously reported, resulted in the repeal of Naval Financial Regulation 143a, which had provided for the recovery of such losses in that Service.
With the repeal of the two regulations, no provision now exists to cover the liability of Navy and Air Force members for loss, damage or expense caused to the Commonwealth by their neglect or misconduct. Consideration is also being given by the Department of the Army to the repeal of Australian Military Regulation 294a which, although inadequate, does provide a means of recovery from army personnel in certain circumstances.
The position is under investigation by the Treasury and Service Departments.
In passing, Mr. Deputy President, I should like to say that it is slightly incorrect to state that the Air Force regulation referred to was withdrawn by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. It was withdrawn by the Minister after representations had been made by the committee. Be that as it may, the fact is that for some fourteen years, that regulation had been travelling about in the Department of Air trying to find a resting place so that the very things for which the Auditor-General has asked could be done. Naval Financial Regulation 143a has now been repealed, and, in the Air Force and the Navy, there is no provision for the recovery of moneys that may be lost as a result of pilfering, damage or other events.
– It may be another fourteen years before anything is done.
– That is so. I make the point that, as we accept more and more obligations in these matters, that is just not good enough. After all, the Parliament is the watchdog of the people. I think, that before another twelve months have passed, we shall have to take action, if we are not to be recreant to the trust placed in us.
I now turn to another matter. A proposal for an inquiry into the Public Service has recently been widely publicized. Such an inquiry has been mentioned frequently since this Government took office. I recall that a Cabinet sub-committee was appointed - I think in 1950 - to investigate the Public Service, and that it recommended that the number of employees be reduced by 10,000. I criticized the proposal at the time, and pointed out that it would be left to the departments to implement the reduction, and that the wrong employees would be put off. I think that honorable senators will find, if they examine the records, that most of those who were dismissed were the real workers who were digging trenches for the laying of telephone cables, and so on. In my view, they were the very people who should not have been dismissed, because I do not think that Australia’s record in the provision of telephone services since World War II. is one in which we can take pride. In addition, telephone services earn revenue for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and nothing should be done to prejudice their expansion.
I understand that another departmental inquiry into the Public Service is now to be made. I say, with all the emphasis at my command, that this inquiry should not be undertaken only by Commonwealth public servants. Many men in this Parliament could give excellent service in such an inquiry. In addition, there are in the business community many men whose names come readily to mind who might well be asked to serve on a body appointed to inquire into the Public Service. I am sure that in the Public Service itself there are many men who are doing outstanding work for Australia, and who would command very high salaries- in any other’ walk of life. It is only fair to them that their great record of public service should be noted. However, I am equally sure that the Public Service generally has fallen a long way behind modern business administration in efficiency, and I think that the Government is again missing a wonderful opportunity to improve the efficiency of the service. I say this without any desire to play party politics. 1 merely wish to see the best thing done. A regrettable feature of public life is that most of the suggestions that one makes are taken to be statements of criticism instead of suggestions that are intended to be helpful. 1 think that, for the good of the Public Service itself, and’ for the sake of its efficiency, any inquiry into it by men who are really big Australians would benefit it.
There was an inquiry in the Taxation Branch following blatant abuses in South Australia, and there is ample evidence before the Government that the Public Service requires investigation. We now have a golden opportunity to inquire into it, with the object of assisting it to honour the trust placed in it with respect to the spending of public moneys. I point out that, at the present time, a great deal of money is being drained from the private sector of the economy to finance various activities of the Public Service.
These considerations occur to my mind immediately on an analysis of the Estimates and Budget Papers. I turn now to a matter that, was mentioned by Senator Pearson in answer to an interjection made by Senator Gorton. I refer to the suggestion that our export trade depends on the threat of war. We should now return to industry a little of what we have taken from it. The Treasurer has budgeted for fairly buoyant revenues, and the period of peace we are now experiencing affords us a golden opportunity to extend our export trade to markets into which no previous Commonwealth Government has taken action to enter.
I understand that Senator Cooke referred to the north-west of Western Australia. I shall not traverse the ground covered: by him. I am much impressed with proposals made in. relation to- mining. I suppose that it. is because I was- born and bred in the outback, that, my mind turns constantly to those industries, on which, the development of the outback areas of Australia depends. I shudder to think of the centralized kind of community that we should have if it were not for those industries. I urge the Government to consider very carefully the measures taken in Canada to promote stability in the mining industry. Remarkable development is taking place in mining in that country because of the taxation policy that has been adopted. Strange to say, Mr. Deputy President, there is one taxation proposal that the Government could adopt with great benefit to the mining industry, and. without great cost to its revenues. This measure would be welcomed by any government or treasury.
The development of mining has many benefits apart altogether from those gained by that industry. In this context, I call to mind the Kalgoorlie water supply scheme, which was undertaken in order to provide a water supply in a very dry area. If Kalgoorlie itself died to-morrow, and no more ore was taken out of the goldfield there, the water supply would continue to serve the agricultural holdings that have been developed in the surrounding district. South Australia has such places as Moonta and it benefits economically from Broken Hill as well as from the superphosphate and other industries. I was interested in the report that was issued last year by Mr. S. B. Dickinson. He was employed as Director of Mines in South Australia, but I believe he has left that position.
– He has gone to private enterprise.
– Many public servants have done so because of the attractions that are offered to them. Mr. Dickinson made this comment in his report -
Many governments show an appalling lack of interest in the problems associated with the development of new mines. On the other hand, some mining people believe that the development of the mining industry is not the concern of governments. Whatever these differences may be. it cannot be overlooked that there is a lack of interest and appreciation of the importance of the mining industry in this great economic crisis. As a consequence, the development of new mines is not proceeding in Australia as it is in other parts of the world.
Briefly, the Canadian tax concession scheme provides for three years of tax-free operation during the initial development of a new mine. After that period, with one or two small exceptions, a mine’ is brought into the normal field of taxation. Those who know anything about mining realize that the revenue from the first three years’ operation goes back into the mine. Mining is not a. fly-by-night venture. A company cannot afford to abandon a mine at the end of three years because of the capital it has put into the venture. Nothing is lost by encouraging mining with tax concessions such as those offered in Canada. Mr. Dickinson stated in his report -
H would almost certainly lead to the establishment of a large copper mine, two major leadzinc mines, a second aluminium industry, a new steel industry and many other smaller mines at a much faster rate than, would be the case under the present taxation policy.
– That would not affect the gold-mining industry.
– No, but it would encourage prospecting, and a prospector who goes out looking for one mineral is always likely to find others. The Tariff Board referred, to the discovery of bauxite at Weipa in Northern Queensland in its annual report. The board pointed out that this discovery would not only make Australia less dependent on imports of aluminium, but would finally eliminate imports altogether, and enable us to earn money overseas. Mr. Dickinson mentioned a new aluminium industry in Australia, and indications are that one would have been established even without the benefit of tax concessions, but anything that we can do to develop exports and make Australia less dependent economically on wool and wheat is worthy of consideration.
The development of mining could revolutionize our overseas balance of payments. There is a. basis for comparison between Australia and Canada. Both cover vast areas. The climatic conditions in both can be very severe, and minerals are spread throughout both countries. Australia has been richly endowed by nature in- that regard, and, as Mr. Dickinson has said, successive governments have not paid, much attention to the development of minerals. If we can develop our mining areas, we shall achieve true development where it is most needed.
I have mentioned the north-west of Western Australia. The more I consider that area, and the outback areas of Queens land, the more firmly I am convinced that they can be developed only by mining. I am reminded of the Wittenoom Gorge, where a thriving township now stands on what was previously virgin ground-. All sorts of services follow the establishment: of a settlement in such areas. Since 1945, new capital amounting to about 2,000,000,000 dollars has been invested in the Canadian mineral industry. That is not chicken feed in anybody’s language.
Canada has found oil and, in that, respect, it is different from Australia but, excluding oil, mining investment in Canada is estimated to incur an annual expenditure of 100,000;000 dollars. Actually, the concessions given to the industry would cost the Canadian Government practically nothing. In 1945 salaries and wages paid in the mining industry of Canada totalled 185,300,000 dollars. In 1952 the amount had risen to 453,000,000 dollars, and the Government is getting the benefit of the resulting increased tax revenue. Corporation taxes paid in 1945 in Canada totalled 43,900,000 dollars. In 1952, that tax revenue had risen to 103,000,000 dollars.
I suggest seriously that this field of development could be encouraged with very little cost to the Government. Once the mining industry is developed, we are likely to find many new metals. The use of metals is widening as science develops new engines which require harder metals to resist heat. This is a golden opportunity for the Govenrment to enter new fields without danger to its revenue, and with benefit to the economy.
Senator Gorton referred recently to medical services in Australia. I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health regarding the cost of medical services that we are receiving in return for payments to friendly societies. I asked whether the Minister believed that the people were largely unprotected in this connexion, and whether he would examine some other scheme which would remove the present burden from the people and protect them in times of serious illness. I asked him whether he would, try to eliminate theadministrative delay and the heavy cost involved in the present clumsy scheme. I believe that Senator Gorton supported my viewpoint.
The replies that I received were most abrupt; in fact, they were abrupt to the point of arrogance. The Minister’s replies were a blunt negative and a statement that he had no intention of examining any other scheme. When a government or a department will not listen to any suggestions, we have reached a dangerous position.
– On what day did the honorable senator receive a reply?
– Three or four weeks ago, when I examined some of the relevant figures, I found that I could not agree with the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). I made inquiries about certain abdominal operations. I have in my hand a bill for £50. The department informed me that this was not an excessive charge. The Commonwealth’s payment in that case was £.11 5s. That had to be matched by a similar amount from the society, so that the total contribution towards the cost was £22 10s. This was a bill for a normal operation; the patient was out of hospital within a week or ten days. That still leaves a little over half to be paid.
I mention this case merely to support Senator Gorton’s argument and to emphasize that my view is that we should not be fiddling and fooling around with these small payments of 10s. or 15s. Surely the small bills are the obligation of the citizen. I cannot see any objection to the Government’s saying to the citizens of Australia, “ You are to be responsible for the first few pounds of medical and hospital expense in any one year. If you want to insure to cover that, that is entirely your own business, but if your expense exceeds a certain amount you can come to the Commonwealth and we will protect you “. After all, what is the family man’s main concern? It is not the cut toe or the scratched foot that a child might suffer and for the treatment of which the bill is only 15s. or £1 ls. The citizen will stand that expense willingly. But under the present system, when he receives from the doctor a bill for £1 ls. he goes along to the organization to which he has contributed. Perhaps he has taken with him an account rendered. If he has, he is told he must go back and get the original bill. He is then obliged to worry the doctor and, by the time his claim is settled, the administrative costs incurred, together with the doctor’s time, far exceed the 13s. 6d. or 15s. he may receive.
– And sometimes there is a loss of wages incurred in collecting the money.
– That is so. The present scheme is cumbersome. Already there are indications that it will become more and more expensive and it still gives no protection to the family which may have paid into it for perhaps twenty years and then fallen upon bad times. If, in that bad year, a major operation to any member of the family becomes necessary, this misfortune overtakes the family at a time when it is completely unprotected. I suggest that it would be simplicity itself to evolve a system under which the average family would accept responsibility for the first few shillings of expense in any year, and if a member of the family underwent a major operation, the family could produce the receipts for the bills already paid and the department could then accept responsibility. It is estimated that the adoption of such a scheme as I suggest would effect a saving of from 70 per cent, to 80 per cent, in administrative costs. It would avoid the waste of expensive departmental time in the initial stages and it would do away with all this fiddling and fooling about with small claims.
Senator Pearson finished on a rather unfortunate note when dealing with inflation. He blamed the Labour government for the inflation that he suggested was with us in 1949. He blamed the Labour government for starting what he called a bush fire that could not be put out. Without going into the politics of the whole question, I think he rather missed the point. A tremendous world-wide inflation was raging in 1948-49. Every country in the world was caught up in it. From then on, it became a battle to hold inflation down, but, unfortunately, during the period under review inflation in Australia has been worse than in any other country. I know it may be argued that it is possible to have an inflationary trend at any time; but other countries have been able to battle with inflation and hold it in check much more successfully than has been done in Australia.
I should like to conclude on the note on which I started. I feel that the Government had an obligation to endeavour in this Budget to give back to industry the things that it took away from it by the little Budget of 1956. If the Government did not want to do that, then I suggest it has a golden opportunity now to do the many things to which I have referred and which are crying out to be done in a young country such as this. As Senator Courtice said the other day, the Government’s policy may be quite all right for a staid old European country but it is not the type of policy to apply to a young, expanding Australia. I say earnestly to the Government, “ In 1956 you brought down a little Budget which rocked the Australian economy and which took away from the Australian citizens those things which I, for one, believe should never have been taken from them. I invite you now to be courageous enough to bring down another little Budget, admitting you were wrong, and admitting that prospects are now bright and you can proceed to do those things which this country has been waiting for so long for some Commonwealth government to do.”
– I rise to support the Budget and to add my tribute to that of those honorable senators who have congratulated Sir Arthur Fadden upon this, his tenth, Budget. As honorable senators know, eight of those ten Budgets have been consecutive. That alone is an eloquent tribute to the Treasurer and a government which, by its wise administration, has rightfully gained the confidence of the people.
From what I have read, and from what 1 have heard during this debate, I am confirmed in my opinion that for the last eight years honorable senators opposite have been making the same gloomy forecasts as they are making to-day. They have predicted that primary industry will languish, that chaos will reign in the business world, that unemployment will be rife, that the aged and the infirm will suffer hardships and nothing will be done to alleviate their distress.
What has been the actual record of the period under review? No one can deny that our primary production is at an alltime high. No one can deny that the business world of this country is enjoying undreamed-of prosperity, nor can it be denied that this Government’s policy for the maintenance of full employment has been most successful. It must be admitted also that this year’s Budget makes further provision for the aged and the infirm. No one, not even honorable senators opposite, will join issue with me when I say, as I have said many times previously, that the whole basis of our prosperity is the state in which our primary industries happen to be. This must be so because the wealth earned by primary industries is ploughed back into secondary industries. Both sides of industry are linked, and in this country they have together enabled the economy to progress. I can well imagine that some of my critics will say, “ But you cannot deny that you have had eight, nine or ten wonderful seasons “. I am not denying that. We are very grateful for that fact, and we take no credit for the good seasons; but I remind honorable senators that good seasons do not necessarily mean a stable economy, because I well remember the time of record harvests when farmers and graziers went bankrupt.
– And the workers were out of jobs.
– That is so. Those conditions were reflected throughout the whole of industry. I therefore advise our critics not to argue that no credit is due to this Government because it has enjoyed ten good seasons. When we are discussing these matters, it is good to remind ourselves of some of the actions taken by this Government to promote economic stability in the country.
– That is what we want to hear.
– I shall be very pleased to tell the Senate something about what happened in 1950. At that time, the whole world was starved for wool. America was financing almost every nation to bid at auction for our wool, with the result that prices soared. Finally, the stage was reached at which America said, “ We have had enough of this. We demand an appraisement system. Why should we continue to finance countries to outbid us at auction? “ So a system of wool selling that has made this country was in jeopardy. But did this Government accept what appeared to be the inevitable and surrender its auction system? Of course, it did not It sent its then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to England and America, and. for six long weeks, with the force of his logic and weight of argument, he strove to preserve for this country the wool-selling auction system. How successful he was has been reflected in the primary industries of this country, because, for the first time in decades, the increase in wool prices lifted thousands and thousands of farmers and graziers out of the clutches of people to whom they have been subservient financially for generations. That was the greatest shot in the arm economically that .this country ever had. So I suggest that that is one instance of where this Government, because of its sagacity and wisdom, appreciating the value of our primary industries and their effect on secondary industries, took a bold - step .and made a decision which has been of great advantage to this country.
With that background of achievement, surely this Budget is worthy of consideration with a somewhat open mind. But honorable senators opposite again demand lower income tax, abolition of certain taxes, reduction of others, and greater contributions to the National Welfare Fund. We all agree that that would be a most admirable policy to pursue if pursuing it were possible, but the advocates of that policy .completely lose sight .of the fact that any Australian government to-day is faced with certain inescapable commitments which are absolutely vital to our survival as a nation and to our economy. They also forget that because the greatest proportion of our wealth springs from primary industry, even one drought, such as that which is already rearing its ugly head throughout the country, can have a very devastating effect upon our economy. The Government, in its wisdom, realizes that these things can happen, and that it has an obligation to mitigate their effect upon the stability and economy of the country. So I make no bones about saying that the Budget provides for stability and permanency and, for that reason, it is worthy of our support.
Strangely enough, honorable senators opposite, while advocating reductions in taxation and .greater contributions to the National Welfare Fund, have suggested time and again that we reduce the vote for the defence of this country, which is one of our largest, and, I suggest, the most inescapable of our commitments. No one would suggest other than that this world is suffering a most uneasy peace. No responsible government in the free world .can close its eyes to the fact that there are nations which are determined at any cost to pursue a policy of domination and to force their wretched ideologies upon other nations. No responsible government can remain aloof from its responsibility to protect its people against such designs. I say at the outset that I believe that this Government, through its national service training scheme, has laid the foundation and basis of a bigger and better Australia. The fact that we have in our midst to-day thousands upon thousands of young -men, trained and disciplined, is a good -thing for Australia, ft is a good thing for the individual, loo, and it is a matter for regret that circumstances demand that we must relinquish, to a very great extent, the training which is of such value to our young people.
We, :as a government, have been criticized for concentrating on the .production of conventional weapons. Australia is a small country with very limited resources, but in a global war who would be brave enough to suggest that we would be immune? So the Australian Government, in its wisdom, has .collaborated with big and powerful allies, and it has been determined - I believe rightly so - -that Australia shall .pursue a course of ‘increasing its potential for the -production .of what we call conventional weapons. I was amazed last night to hear Senator Cole say -
I think the Navy has .had its day so far as the defence of Australia is concerned.
I should like to dissociate myself completely from that point of view. Any one who realized the length of our lines of communications and the fact that we have to get vital raw materials to this country, in peacetime, as well as in war-time, could not fail to appreciate the implications of a statement that the Navy is redundant. I recommend that Senator Cole, and any one else who has the same view, -take advantage of an opportunity to see the next display of the Royal Australian Navy for the benefit of those who are interested. I had the great privilege in March of .this year, in company with some of my colleagues, of seeing the naval display outside Sydney Heads, and if I was impressed with nothing else, I was thrilled to see those pilots of ours who took their bombers off the deck of the aircraft carrier, and in the short space of 110 feet after being fired from a catapult, reached 90 miles an hour. Out they went, one by one, to do their tasks, and they came back with the same precision and skill, landing exactly where they were supposed to land. The wings of their aircraft were folded and the machines were lowered into the hold of the ship. It seemed to be as simple as shelling peas. Any one who saw that demonstration must have realized that for all time the Navy will be one of our greatest protective weapons.
In this country there is a great deal of muddled thinking about nuclear war. Many well-meaning but, I suggest, misinformed people, repeatedly espouse the view that all nuclear tests should be banned and that the atomic bomb should be banned. I am convinced that it is the greatest possible deterrent to war. While the Soviet continues to stockpile atom bombs, and increase her fire power by every means available, the Western democracies must do likewise. It is well known that a submarine could now stand 300 miles off the coast and, with one warhead, create in a capital city chaos, annihilation, misery and suffering hitherto undreamt of. Such a warhead would make a crater 200 feet deep and a mile wide, and bring ruin to an area with a 20-mile radius. We hope that these things will never happen, but who would be so brave as to promise that they will not happen while the present leaders of Russia, determined to dominate the world, remain in power.
I am pleased that the Government has taken the first step of establishing a civil defence school at Mount Macedon. The school is doing a splendid job. It has collected people from responsible positions in all walks of life and has explained to them what nuclear warfare can do to a country. Moreover, it is preaching a policy, not of despair, but of hope - that there is a defence against these weapons. If that is so, I think the time has come for the next step - the perfection of plans at least to alleviate the effects of an atomic attack.
I should like to state what I consider to be the factors operating in favour of such a plan. The fire bridage services of Victoria are very well organized. They are directed by the Country Fire Authority, which comprises ten men - two representing the municipalities, two representing the Forestry Commission, two representing the urban fire service, two representing the rural fire service, and two representing the underwriters. The Country Fire Authority directs fire-fighting in the rural areas of Victoria. It controls a unique organization - a force comprising more than 1,000 registered brigades, with a strength of more than 100,000 firemen. So keen are its members to equip themselves and perfect their organization, that they have appointed their own captains and lieutenants and have been willing to undergo discipline and training. They have even put their hands in their pockets to buy equipment, and now have more than 300 two-way radio sets. This fine body of men is prepared at any time to give service to the State in which it operates.
I suggest that here we have a ready-made organization which can be of real service in the event of an atomic attack. It is perfectly obvious to any one that help to the stricken city areas must always come from the rural districts. I am not familiar with similar organizations in other States, but I am assured that they are capable of giving a similar service. I suggest that a better emergency force would be hard to find, and that its development would be in no way costly.
I pass now to the second huge and inescapable expenditure which the Government must face. I refer to social services, which, in the next full year, will cost this country £244,000,000, or one-fifth of the total revenue - a not inconsiderable sum. Opposition senators are fond of saying that the present purchasing power of the £1 makes existing pensions very . much lower than they were in earlier days. Some of my colleagues have suggested that, in fact, the pension is worth a great deal more than it was. I have reason to believe that my colleagues are correct, but I am not greatly concerned about whether they are or not What I am concerned about is whether the proposed expenditure of £244,000,000 is sufficient to meet the requirements of those in need, and is also the maximum that we, as a nation, can afford.
– It is not!
– The only way in which the pension can be increased is by the imposition of heavier taxes, but this is the very thing that honorable senators opposite have decried. The time nas arrived when governments should specialize. This is the age of specialization. The man “who prepares himself for a special task eventually reaches the top of his profession, and I believe that the Government must adopt the same approach to these problems For that reason I believe that, notwithstanding the obstacles and executive problems which it creates, the Governmentmust now look to the needs of the single, aged person who has not a home of his or her own. I have in mind the old lady who is living in a remote place and is handicapped by lack of transport - the kind of person who has no one to worry about her needs. I believe that something could be done in .the matter if the Minister were given greater discretionary powers. A certain sum could be set aside in each Budget for the alleviation of such cases.
The same may be said of the civilian widow, who often lives in conditions of great hardship. I know of nothing more distressing than the case of a widow who is trying to bring up a family of young Australians in the proper manner and, at the same time, devote part of her efforts to obtaining a job. The day of specialization is at hand, and I hope that the Government will have a very good look at this problem.
I want now to make a plea for the fishing industry, of which we hear very little in this chamber. Its very character warrants its being placed on the same basis, for income tax purposes, as Other fields of primary production. It is a fluctuating industry, and one which involves a certain element of personal risk. On occasions, fishermen are obliged to redesign their gear and equipment completely to enable them to chase the kind of fish that they want. Their income varies to such a degree from one year to the next that they are worthy of consideration. Senator Willesee has told us to-day about certain income tax concessions that have been granted to the mining industry. Last year, the fishing industry netted us no less than 5,000,000 American dollars. Surely such an industry can be expanded and developed. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to place my plea for a concession for the fishing industry before the Treasurer.
At the risk of boring the Senate, I wish to refer to one of the most pleasing paragraphs in the speech of the Minister for
National Development. Referring to payments under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation, he said -
Payments under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation are expected to reach £34,000,000 this year, or £1,782,000 more than in 1956-57. The existing Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation is due to expire on 30th June, 1959, and the Government proposes to review the whole question of Commonwealth assistance for roads before that date. In the meantime, however, the Government has decided that some further assistance should be provided for roads.
I hope that the people who will undertake that proposed review will take into consideration what I regard as being the urgent need to develop a plan for subsidizing the various States on a known basis. Country municipalities have laboured for years, and are still labouring, under a great difficulty in that in one year their grants are cut and in the next year they are increased. The result is that they cannot plan their works on an economic basis. If they knew from year to year the minimum they could expect, they could plan their operations as any efficient businessman would.
– Are they not at the mercy of the State governments?
– They are to a very great degree; but I believe that the Commonwealth, by virtue of its legislation, is in the position to exercise some influence over these things with the States.
– Forty per cent, of the money goes to the municipalities.
– That is so. I am hoping, too, that the proposed committee of review will have a look at the formula that is being used for the distribution of petrol tax collections. Again at the risk of boring honorable senators, I remind them that for every ls. tax that Victoria pays it gets back 4d., and that for every ls. which certain other States pay - for the sake of keeping the peace I shall not mention their names - they get back ls. 7id.
– Think of your poor distressed brethren.
– I should be quite happy to think of my poor distressed brethren if my poor distressed brethren spent their ill-gotten gain, shall I call it, in the best interests of the States they represent.
– We in Western Australia do.
– I suggest with great respect that Western Australia is one State which should not buy into this argument. I was particularly sympathetic towards the Western Australian case until I had the opportunity of looking at the bridge across the Narrows. Believe it or not, I had great difficulty in finding fair-minded people in that State who would support even that project.
– A Labour government undertook the project.
– I am not concerned about the government; I am concerned about the principle of the thing. We in Victoria demand that our citizens in the metropolitan area and in country cities shall, from their own pockets, pay for private street construction. One of my city council colleagues was obliged quite recently to pay approximately £800 for private street construction because, unfortunately for him, he occupied a corner block. Hardship is being forced upon many thousands of people in Victoria. It does not matter whether a person is on the basic wage or is in receipt of a substantial income, if he is in a private street construction area the law demands that he shall pay his quota.
For that reason, I object very strongly to the formula that has been adopted. I do not want to start a States war, but I make no apologies for saying that, when the other States are doing that much to help themselves and still cannot develop their areas, I shall be happy to agree to their being given a slice of the petrol tax collections to which they do not contribute, but not before then.
I believe this to be a sane and realistic Budget. It is designed to meet any emergency, and I believe that it will maintain for Australia the proud position that she has achieved among the nations of the world.
– I hope to speak for a little while without any heat or without “ doing my block “ as I occasionally do. I have made a few notes of what Senator Pearson and Senator Wade have said, and I should like to reply to them. I do not wish to get into holts with those gentlemen or to take up a CodlinShort attitude. Honorable senators probably know the old Dickens story in which there was one character named Codlin who said he was the friend and another named Short who said he was the friend.
– The book was “ The Old Curiosity Shop “.
– I thank the honorable senator. I read the story about 50 years ago. It contained a very pertinent statement indeed by dear old Dickens. I have been a member of the Senate for 25 years and have been very happy to have been here’ and to have made such good friends on both sides of the chamber. I recognize the fact that we are all honorable men.
I shall reply now to Senator Wade’s statement in relation to defence. I think every man and every woman in this chamber is heartily in agreement with the statement that we must defend Australia to the full. The Australian Labour party believes in the defence of Australia. But Australia is in a very perilous position. I am not referring to the action of any particular government as being the cause, but to world events.
Senator Pearson became rather doleful and ran contrary to the opening words of the Treasurer’s Budget speech. However, I do not wish to pursue that matter at the moment. In a debate on the Budget, as in debates on bills which the Senate cannot amend, we have the opportunity of roaming all over the place. I used to say that we could roam from Dan to Beersheba, but now I shall say that we can roam the world and even go into outer space. We have a wonderful opportunity of dealing with many matters. Just for the sake of light amusement, I went through one or two copies of “ Hansard “ and I discovered that members of the Parliament had been very busy in their research. It is unfortunate that the results of their activity in earnest research and their efforts to convey those results to members of the Parliament cannot be conveyed to the public. I should like to see some system whereby those who want to read the speeches delivered in Parliament can do so. There is much valuable information in these speeches, and I am not one to detract from their value. Although this splendid information is in “ Hansard “ many people in Australia do not know that they can procure a copy of “ Hansard “ for a few pence. Honorable senators would be wise to devise a scheme whereby “ Hansard “ could be placed in the hands of all who wish to read it. I know that we ourselves can send out 30 copies. I once had a friend who asked me to send him “ Hansard “. He was a printer. Later I went to his printing office to see him and found a pile of “ Hansards “, none of which had been opened. Nevertheless, there are many people who have no idea how they can procure a copy of “ Hansard “. During this debate, honorable senators have spoken on a wide range of subjects, some of which I have listed. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall incorporate the list in “ Hansard “.
It is as follows: -
Burdekin Valley scheme.
Snowy Mountains scheme.
Australian National Airways.
Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool.
Joint Coal Board.
National superannuation scheme.
Diesel fuel tax.
Cost of living adjustments.
Credit restriction policy.
Fitzroy River basin.
Equalization of Adelaide with Eastern Standard Time.
Honorable senators will notice that the last subject in the list refers to the synchronization of Adelaide time with Eastern Standard Time. It may seem to be a minor matter. Some honorable senators smiled when Senator Laught mentioned the matter. I spoke to Senator Laught to-day and told him that I thought it was a very sensible suggestion. It is only a minor matter, but it tends to show the stupidity of our democracy. If we can have a thing like that altered it will be all to the good.
In our speeches we range all over the place. I have a note which reads, “ We can range from the love-life of the ephemera to the religious significance of the hallucinatory mushroom “. It is rather amusing, but I have read an article in “ People “ on the hallucinatory mushroom. It is well worth reading. We can talk on such a subject and discuss it in a sensible and interesting way. Over the years, the Standing Orders have been amended in order to limit the time of speeches. Previously, members of Parliament were permitted to speak at great length. I read of one fellow in Austria who spoke for 48 hours and then collapsed. No wonder! Originally in this Senate there was no President. If an honorable senator was moved to utter a few words of comfort and cheer, he would rise in his place and the Clerk would point to him. Not a word was said, but the honorable senator would then get up and speak.I remember listening to Joe Gander in the other place. The Clerk pointed to him and he then spoke right round the clock. He had something to say about every member present, and he mentioned the way in which the work they were doing was affecting them physically. I cannot remember all he said, and it would not be fair of me to be humorous at the expense of certain sitting members.
Just as a newspaperman may write about nothing, so politicians can talk about nothing. Having been a member of a debating club, I know that debaters can talk about nothing. I recollect that one of our longest and brightest debates was on the question of whether grasshoppers should wear green waistcoats. On another occasion we debated whether the Parliament should pass a law to compel hens to lay square eggs in order to facilitate the packing of eggs. Honorable senators may laugh, but that subject promoted a wonderful discussion. One man was opposed to square eggs being laid because he contended that eggs would stand on their own bottoms and the egg-cup makers would soon be out of work. However, when we are talking about matters of great moment we can speak for hours, even on one subject.
I should now like to deal with the manner in which Parliament is being derided. I remember an occasion when a certain pressman did not have a subject for his Saturday article. That was 25 years ago. He said to old “ Mitch “ - I shall not mention his real name - “ Mitch, I am stonkered for something to write about on Saturday “. “ Mitch “ replied, “ What about these two beer bottles? “ The pressman asked, “ What can I write about them? “ At that time Canberra was a “ dry “ area. The pressman duly wrote an article vilifying members of Parliament who went to Queanbeyan on Saturday evenings, brought liquor back into the Territory, and left the empty bottles under the trees. I mention this only to show that we can be derided by people outside Parliament who have a set against us.
If Parliament is to improve it will need to take notice of its organization. I have wondered whether that is possible. Are we able to control our capacity to talk? Of course, I know that I could sit down, but the point is that we must act more intelligently. Recently, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) suggested in another place that alterations should be made in the parliamentary set-up. He said that we should not have general speeches in committee. When we go into committee, many honorable senators deliver virtually second-reading speeches.
Of course, Parliament has changed since the days of Gladstone and Disraeli. On one occasion, when I wanted to write some articles on the history and development of Parliament for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I went down into the storeroom of the Library and dug up some English “ Hansards “. The speeches in the days of Gladstone and Disraeli were entirely different from the speeches of to-day. Parliament in those days was more of a social institution, and it was a great step-up in the social hierarchy for any one to gain a seat in Parliament. To-day, Parliament enters more into the active life of the people and the economic affairs of the country. It has widened its activity. The debates have become more complex, and a greater volume of business is dealt with.
If we are to win our battle against the totalitarian states, we shall have to change our methods and general organization, in order to keep in line with modern development. As we have failed to improve the standard of Parliament, we have seen grow up in our midst the practice of giving greater power to the executive. The executive is controlling the Parliament more and more, with a result that less work is being done by members of the Parliament. The more work that is done by the executive, the more powerful it becomes. Parliament, physically, as Mr. Green wrote four years ago in an article in the “ Canberra Times “, has become really a government secretariat. During the period of nearly eight years in which I was President of the Senate, Ministers constantly tried to obtain for themselves and their staffs more accommodation in Parliament House.
I think that members of the Parliament should insist on their rights, and also on the development of the committee system. Our good friend Senator Cameron says that we in this chamber are underworked. There are many young men in the Parliament who would like more work to do, and, by developing the committee system, we could give them’ more work to do. I recall reading on one occasion that George Bernard Shaw had said that much parliamentary work should be done by an elected committee of three, one of whom should go home ill, and another of whom should retire, in order to allow all the work to be done by one man. I do not advocate that, but you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, know as well as I do that the committee system is highly developed in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
Some time ago, I read Lord Snowden’s autobiography. It held particular interest for me, because, as a boy, I had often listened to Mr. Snowden, as he then was. He deserved his elevation to the peerageHe was highly capable, and had a wonderful mind. Immediately after a Budget had been brought down, he could discuss it in detail, and, by the skilful use of figures, could demonstrate the fallacies in the statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His brain had a wonderful capacity to handle figures.
Lord Snowden contended that parliaments of 500 or 600 men could not possibly do all the work required of them in these modern times, because they could not analyse bills thoroughly and effectively. Therefore, he advocated that the general principles of bills should be dealt with by the whole house, and that the clauses of measures should be considered in detail by committees specially appointed for the purpose. He suggested that men of ability should be specially selected for appointment to these committees, and that such a system would afford them the opportunity to develop special knowledge and ability in the various matters dealt with. I should add that these committees were intended to be joint committees. Lord Snowden believed that, after the details of the clauses of bills had been considered by these committees, the respective parties in the parliament would often accept the findings of the committees. He suggested that such a system would be of a very great benefit. I mention the matter merely in passing. I think that we, as believers in the parliamentary system, should do everything in our power to develop the capacity of the Parliament to do its work efficiently. We should also provide work for those who are anxious to give public service.
I am aware that members of the Parliament make speeches, and that no one listens except when their speeches are broadcast. Our remarks are embalmed in “ Hansard “, but because we have been unable to promote the wide reading of “ Hansard “ by the public, practically speaking, the energy that we expend in making speeches in the Parliament is wasted. Indeed, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I believe that very few people will learn anything of the remarks that I am addressing to you now. It is disconcerting to a member of the Parliament for him to realize that he is virtually beating the air.
I turn now to another matter. Perhaps 1 am becoming almost a philosopher, but that does not matter. We hear from both sides of the Senate - for we, on this side, are just as culpable - arguments about what respective governments did, and a great many figures are cited. We on this side of the chamber tell Government senators what the Labour governments led by Mr. Chifley or Mr. Scullin did, and Government senators in turn tell us what the government led by Joe Lyons did. Any one who has occupied the presidential chair of the Senate for eight years, and has served in this chamber for 25 years, as I have done, appreciates a speaker who will address himself to the matter under discussion without dealing in the sophistry that can be embodied in the presentation of statistics, and who does not sneer at his opposite numbers across the chamber, or make poor jokes at their expense. One comes to appreciate a speaker who addresses himself directly to the facts, and discusses them objectively without recrimination. That is what I am trying to do now.
I say, without bitterness, that we all believe in what we call democracy. We who belong to the Australian Labour party say that, although we have a political democracy in this country, we do not have an industrial democracy. Nevertheless, we all believe in democracy. We in Australia must develop loyalty to our democracy. It is of no use for us to deny that there is loyalty to the government in many totalitarian countries. Throughout Russia, there is loyalty to the Kremlin. According to the members of the delegation that has recently returned from a visit to Peking and other parts of China, there is intense loyalty in China to the Peking regime. For the first time in many centuries, China has a unified government, which commands intense loyalty from one end of China to the other. All our incantations and criticisms, by which we give vent to our hatred of totalitarianism - I do not advocate totalitarianism - cannot gainsay the fact that, in Russia and China, there has been loosed a mighty force that carries all before it.
I admit that we, in our democracy, have done, and are doing, wonderful things. It is one of the greatest things of all to belong to a country of free men and women. However, without hatred, recrimination, or abuse, and without any desire to gain political capital, I put it to honorable senators, as intelligent men, that we cannot inspire in the workers of Australia greater enthusiasm for our political democracy if they are able to read in the press that vast monopolies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited have given to their shareholders what I shall describe as a donation of £8,000,000 worth of shares. When that sort of thing occurs, the worker does not feel that he is part and parcel of our political democracy, because he considers that the economic machine does not benefit him. He feels that he is an outsider. I do not suppose that many workers read closely about financial affairs in the newspapers, but how can we expect them, when these things are known to them, to be enthusiastic about our political democracy? Perhaps I should say that I do not blame companies for paying huge dividends to their shareholders. I do not wish to be misunderstood in this matter. I have never visited the totalitarian countries, but I understand that the workers in them are told, “ The harder you work, the more there will be for you “. By contrast, in our democracy, the harder they work, the sooner many of them will be unemployed, and the more profit companies will make.
How can we expect the workers to be enthusiastic about our political democracy when, only a few days ago, they were told by the capitalist press that many farmers and city dwellers could not obtain financial accommodation to enable them to continue their legitimate, pursuits, and when one of the most prominent bankers in Australia announced that any one seeking financial accommodation from a bank could go to a special counter where hire-purchase finance would be made available at an interest rate of 20 per cent? I cannot tell the workers, from the public platform, of the glories of democracy when they know that those things happen.
How can we raise enthusiasm among these people when the housewife is tied up with time payment commitments for furniture or a refrigerator, and when a man is paying for his home? How can we expect enthusiasm when not being able to raise a drube, a penny piece, to invest, they read big advertisements in the press telling them that if they lend money to this or that particular trust they will be paid 12i per cent, interest. All of this interest comes from the workers eventually, and if a worker is struggling to pay off his, home and furniture, we cannot expect him to wax enthusiastic over such advertisements. How can we expect people to become enthusiastic when we know that they are battling for a financially exploiting class? How can we tell them that they must fight for and enthuse over Australia’s advancement simply because they are part and parcel of a glorious system which permits such activity?
Along the south coast of Queensland there is an area named Surfers’ Paradise,but called by some people “ Surfers’ Pales-tine “. It is a delectable spot, though itcould be improved in many ways and brought up to the standard of resorts id other parts of the world. To-day, it is merely, in a general way, a part of Queensland where investors and speculators are making a lot of money. The workers of Queensland have been robbed of one of their seaside resorts because the cost of living at Surfers’ Paradise has put it beyond the reach of the ordinary citizen. Surfers’ Paradise is dominated completely by money hogs and speculators. I read this paragraph about it in the press recently -
Tn Orchard-avenue, a 40-perch block has been sold eight times in the last two years. The price has risen from £2,500 to £10,500.
I could tell honorable senators of a personal experience. I had to reside at the seaside because of my wife’s illness. I bought a place, altered it and worked hard on it. Subsequently, when I sold it, I had qualms of conscience because I thought I was robbing the buyer.
– That will be the day!
– Honestly, I had qualms of conscience. I do not mind honorable senators laughing because I am full of humour myself. At the time, I said to my wife that I thought the price was too high. That was eight years ago. Now the price asked for that property is £12,800, or three times as much as I received for it. That price may have been all right for .a successful man. I know of one man who had acres of land at Oak’s Estate in the district between Southport and Coolangatta. Unfortunately, he could not pay the charges levied by the local authority and he was forced to sell it. Sales proceeded very slowly. To-day, the land is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. He is one poor devil who missed the bus.
Can we expect the workers to be enthusiastic when they see beautiful seaside places being taken over by the rich from all parts of Australia at such fabulous prices that the workers cannot afford to live there? In the totalitarian countries these things are handled differently. I am not advocating that, even under present conditions, we should give up our democratic system, but I am told that, in those countries, provision is made to safeguard the interests of the workers and to rouse their enthusiasm. I could expand that theme and cite sport as a further example of an activity in which enthusiasm is aroused. In the totalitarian countries, the masses are roused to enthusiasm about their athletes and sportsmen. This enthusiasm stimulates desire to excell. We recall the prowess displayed by Kutz and others who visited Australia for the Olympic Games last year. We must put our minds to these things if we are to defeat the totalitarian States. However much we hate the politics of the totalitarian States, and the methods they have adopted over the years during which many thousands have been slaughtered, we must realize that they have some things that we have not got.
We see divisions throughout the world. France is divided and governments there remain in office only a few weeks. We see instability in certain of the democratic countries. We have seen it in Australia in our own Australian Labour party. I will not go into that matter, but I will say that, in the main, a false impression has been created regarding the divisions inside the Labour party. I could enlighten the Senate on this matter, and explain to honorable senators how developments and mental approaches, shall I say, to various problems within the party have led one section to the right while another section has maintained the spirit of the old Labour platform and has fought against the intrusion from the right. However, that is by the way.
I also want to say, without attacking honorable senators on the Government side - because I have a great respect for them in my heart - that we believe they are battling for the maintenance of the status quo. They are prepared to make slight reforms only when the mob begins to get reckless. When I was a boy in England, the governing class made reforms because they were necessary to keep men and women at work. A sop was thrown to the workers but the governing class would not get off their backs.
I speak not as one who is trying to retain his job, but as an intelligent man, when I say that I believe the Labour movement is dynamic. The Australian Labour party seeks to reform the economic basis of society. Naturally, there must be divisions among us when we are fighting, for these changes. We realize that the economic systems, like trees, are born, grow, decay and die. Vast changes are taking place in economic systems throughout the world.
To-day, willy nilly, the greatest capitalist nation in the world has to act as a socialist country in order to help others to maintain their systems of government against the encroachment of totalitarianism. Millions of dollars have been given away by the United States of America. Australia supports the Colombo plan, through which splendid work has been done. We should take notice of that great writer, Denis Warner, who has spent many years in SouthEast Asia. He said last week that, instead of sending a few diesel engines to SouthEast Asia, we would do better if we allowed more Asiatics to come to Australia to participate in our education system. I admire Mr. Warner and have read many of his books. The Australian ^people, and particularly the Australian Government, should take more notice of men like him.
I should like to refer to one other matter. If no one is listening to me, at least it will be recorded in “ Hansard “. I refer to the subject of propaganda. The Russians have beaten us all along the line in this propaganda race. I do not think the Russians are as far ahead of us generally as fearful people say, but there is no doubt that they are ahead of us with the dissemination of propaganda. We must admit that their latest effort - the launching of “ Comrade Sputnik “, the satellite, into outer space - was a wonderful achievement. Professor Barf J. Bok was highly elated the other night and said that we should not take any credit from the Russians, even though we hate their system and even though we realize how hundreds of thousands have been sacrificed.
I do not know whether honorable senators have noted one article that has appeared in a small, unstable and not altogether dependable newspaper. It furnishes excellent propaganda as to the future. It predicts that when greater progress has been made with the launching of projectiles into outer space, the bodies of men such as Len in and Stalin will not be placed in a mausoleum where thousands of visitors can see the departed gentlemen, as happens now. The paper forecasts that the bodies of great men and leaders who pass into oblivion will be placed in a projectile and sent round the world in outer space. The article suggests that Professor Talkinof has invented a system, not entirely independent of radio, under which living leaders could eulogize the departed great, their voices being made to reach every home in the world, and all would be required to bow the knee to the departed gentlemen.
I do not know whether, as the projection of satellites becomes cheaper, burials and cremations will cease and all our dead will be projected into outer space. Such a method -should certainly be cheaper than burials and cremations, provided the projectiles could be produced cheaply. But that is by the way. I think it is only a fairy story.
I should like, if I may, to have recorded in “ Hansard “ two newspaper articles, one of which refers to the Russians. I should like it to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ because I feel that the Australian people should be made fully aware of the fact that the professional propaganda and intelligence departments of America and England have misled us. For many years, we have been imagining that America has been well ahead of the Russians. In to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ there is an article that I feel is worth recording in “ Hansard “. It is written by a staff correspondent whose name I should like to know, because the article is very interesting. The heading is, “Why Soviet Leads the Space Race “, and reads -
In the space of a few months the Russians seem suddenly to have forged far ahead in scientific achievements.
By the way, also contained in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ is an article relating to a United Kingdom report of a system for using hydrogen power, and I should like that article recorded in “Hansard “ also. The article relating to Russia’s leadership in the space race refers to atomic secrets and gives the following reasons for Russia’s leadership -
The Rusisans are now training more scientists than the West.
The reason why I wish to read these articles is that I think that they are very important, and it is a pity that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and other newspapers of similar standing do not go into every home in Australia because these facts should be shown to the people. The article continues -
The Rusisans can direct scientists and resources to a project with a singlemindedness and ruthlessness possible for democracies only in war.
The Russians have that advantage. They organize their scientists and require them to concentrate on one problem, and have success when success eludes the democracies. The article goes on to say -
America’s refusal to share nuclear secrets with her allies has hampered what could be a joint Western drive.
That is true. The article continues -
Inter-service rivalries have further slowed American progress.
At one time, I was a member of a Public Works Committee which was required to make inquiries in connexion with the building of a hospital. I suggested the erection of a joint hospital for the Army and the Navy, but both services got on their high horse. The Navy did not want to have anything to do with the Army, and so on. The article continues -
Private industry, with better pay, drains scientists from research projects in Western nations.
Loyalty probes, particularly in the McCarthy era, excluded or discouraged many eminent scientists from national research work - the most notable being Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, denied access to secret information by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission as “ a bad security risk “ in 1954.
A totalitarian Government, under no need to raise the living standards of voters, does not have to fight for every penny spent on research.
We have to fight like the very devil in this country for money for the education of our children, yet, at Surfer’s Paradise, a £1,000,000 hotel which looks like an American prison is being erected. The article continues -
Some of these points can be enlarged.
The writer then goes on to mention the number of science graduates, and the number taking post-graduate courses as research scientists per million of population in Russia and America. He points out that the Americans are educating more in this field than are the Russians, and finally he says -
The totals, are important. Russia has 12,000 pure science graduates, America 23,500 and Britain 5,800. The totals of graduates with degrees in applied science-
Applied science, mark you - are 22,000 in the United States, 60,000 in Russia, and 2,800 in Britain.
No wonder the Russians are forging ahead! We must take cognizance of this fact. Instead of just blabbing about totalitarianism, we have to recognize what the Russians are doing and realize that we democracies have to do six times better than we are doing now.
Can democracy save itself? Can parliament save itself? Is there too much division? Is there too much political rivalry? Is too much stupidity uttered in Parliament, published in the press and spoken on the public platform instead of parties getting ‘ together on at least the basic questions of education and defence? We are all aware of the danger confronting us. Let us all fight towards a common end. Let us defend Australia. I suggest that education is one of the biggest factors in developing an effective defence.
Before resuming my seat, I should like to quote a further article from to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ dealing with a United Kingdom report of a system for using hydrogen power. It reads -
Scientists at Harwell have discovered a way of controlling the energy which gives the H-bomb its terrific blast so that it can be used to fuel homes and industry, according to the- Daily Express science correspondent.
That is very good news.. Unfortunately, it will, take from fifteen to twenty years to perfect. The report continues -
By using a machine called Zeta 2, they had shown that atoms of heavy hydrogen could be fused together under controllable conditions with the liberation of great heat.
Those persons who live for the next twenty years will see wonderful development throughout the world, and I hope that they will see the end of the possibility of war. Perhaps by then, even here in backward Australia, the government of the day will be able to find homes for our aged people.
I believe in education, including visual education. I remember appealing to Mr. Chifley some years ago to make use of motion pictures, which were non-political, to show to the people of Australia what had been done under our democracy. Russia is ever ready to promulgate her conception of what a totalitarian state should be and to foster the belief that the totalitarian state is far better for the people than is democracy. I suggested to dear old “ Chif “ that we could spend a few pounds on giving a demonstration of what has happened in the field of social services since the early days when poor aged people were thrown out of their homes and had to live on charity or starve to death on the streets. I suggested that we should put in pictorial form, without any mention of politics, the evolution in the democracies of social services for the aged. Mr. Chifley said, “ I would be opposed to using government money for this particular propaganda “. I replied, “It would not be political but it would be a propaganda effort on behalf of democratic government, and it would not matter whether it was done by a LiberalAustralian Country party government or a Labour government. We are fighting for democracy. Why should we not utilize all our modern educational forces to bring to the public what democracy means to them?” Unfortunately, I was not successful in my efforts. When Senator Seward spoke yesterday and mentioned the vile things that were being shown on television, a thought came back to me. I have a pamphlet here which gives particulars of programmes. I think that Senator Seward enumerated some of them, but with the concurrence of honorable senators I shall incorporate them in “ Hansard “. The pamphlet reads -
I am pleased to have that incorporated in “ Hansard “ because I think it is necessary that the public - even the ,few members of it who read “ Hansard “ - should know about these things.
Most of the television stations are controlled by men who are active investors or entrepreneurs. They have invested their money and instead of educational films, as are shown in totalitarian states, this sort of vile material is televised in order to persuade people to watch. I see nothing wrong with a democracy’s using television for the education of its people. Why should the Parliament not enact legislation which would give the right to Labour, Liberal or Australian Country party governments to televise films? What a splendid thing it would be if we could show how the social conscience has been developed in this country with the resulting advances in our treatment of the aged. The films could be made very interesting. At one time I wrote six scripts for use at picture shows, to demonstrate the work of democratic government, but T shall not go into them now. I see no reason why a democracy should not use these modern inventions for the purpose of educating the people and strengthening democracy. No money would be made out of it. Instead, it would cost money, but we would be offsetting the effects of the vile programmes that are ruining many of our youth and producing delinquents in the same way as they were produced in America.
I could say a thousand and one more words on the subject, but I shall let it rest at that. I appeal to all thinking members of the Parliament for the use of television to fight totalitarianism and to show that we, here in Australia, by the exercise of our combined intelligence, can establish democracy strongly without fear of being destroyed by outside forces which rule people who have lost their freedom and are dominated by a few dictators.
– The motion before the Chair, in short, is that the Estimates and Budget papers be printed. I think it would be well, in order to refresh our memories, to read the amendment that has been moved by the Labour Opposition. It reads as follows: -
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 “.
I think it can be fairly said that the amendment is couched in extremely extravagant terms. In my view, not one word that I have heard from the Opposition benches has substantiated one whit the sentiments expressed in the amendment. We have heard some rambling speeches from honorable senators opposite. We have just listened to one from Senator Brown, whose main concern appeared to be that, even though not many senators were in the chamber, at least his words would be recorded in “ Hansard “ for the benefit of people who read it. Senator Brown did make one point that I think was worthy of attention, when he said that the world seems to be divided into two camps - the totalitarian camp and the free world. He pointed out that we cannot ignore the great achievements that have taken place in the so-called Iron Curtain countries. I will not trouble to deny that those countries have made great achievements, but so has the free world, and we cannot ignore that fact. But what has been the expense to those people behind the Iron Curtain? What has been the price they have had to pay down through the years? I say, without any hesitation, that the progress of the free world has been as great as, if not greater than, that of the totalitarian states, but the people who do not live behind the Iron Curtain enjoy those freedoms which are denied to the people of Russia, China, and the satellite countries that are under their domination.
The Budget debate is the most important in this Parliament. I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words concerning the Budget recently introduced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and should like to congratulate him upon his very fine record as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Over the years he has served Australia well, and the present Budget is no exception to the rule. I refer to the rule of serving the people by producing a sound and stable economic policy. I hope that the Treasurer will continue to act in that capacity for many years to come.
What the Opposition proposes to bring forward in support of this extravagant amendment I cannot imagine. The amendment suggests that the Budget should be rejected because it implements policies detrimental to the defence and development of Australia, and the living standards and employment of the people, and is wasteful of national revenue. Let us briefly analyse that statement. Admittedly, the Government has spent a great deal of money in building up Australia’s defences. However, any one who suggests that money has been wasted on defence is not in possession of the facts. When the present Government assumed office Australia was quite defenceless. All three services have since been put on a sound working basis, and would now be capable of rendering valuable service in the event of an emergency. Therefore, I suggest that Opposition senators cannot substantiate that part of the amendment. The same may be said of development, for defence and development go hand in hand. Australia’s development in the last few years has been nothing short of phenomenal. Here again, the amendment falls to the ground.
How any one could suggest that our living and employment standards have been detrimentally affected is beyond imagination. Our living standards have never been as high as they are to-day, and our employment figures are unrivalled throughout the world. Therefore, the amendment is completely wide of the mark, and would not gain the support of any thinking person.
I should like to refer to the latest report of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The bank has conducted an economic survey, the results of which support to the full the Government’s contention that it has legislated to preserve a balanced economy. I ask the indulgence of honorable senators to permit me to read that portion of the report which refers specifically to the survey made of the economic position. On page 4 of the report the following appears: -
The year 1956/57 was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy.
The growth and development characteristic of the post-war period continued, but on a sounder basis and with a considerable easing of inflationary pressures. More stability developed in the labour market and the rate of increase in prices slackened, reflecting levels of expenditure more in accord with the flow of resources available.
Australia’s international balance of payments benefited from the marked improvement in export income, due primarily to an increase in the wool clip and to significantly higher wool prices. Import restrictions, too, became fully effective during the year. As a result of these developments and also of the continued inflow of capital, international reserves, which had fallen to a dangerously low level, recovered to a more satisfactory position. As a consequence, the Government relaxed certain import controls to a welcome degree. However, the continued need for some restrictions tempers the satisfaction to be derived from the improvement in our international position and emphasizes the continuing importance of improving Australia’s relative cost structure and of influencing the pattern of development so as to strengthen the capacity of our industries to export and to compete with imports.
With the emergence of greater stability in the internal economy, the Central Bank was able to take some steps to allow a greater degree of flexibility in credit policy, following earlier measures to halt the growth of inflationary pressures. The aim of credit policy continues to be to ensure that development continues at the highest rate practicable at current rates of saving and overseasinvestment in Australia, without allowing the pressure of expenditure to re-emerge on an inflationary scale.
The checking of inflation has brought more competitive conditions generally and there has been more evidence than in recent years of variation in the profit experience of individual businesses. Some enterprises have passed through periods of difficulty. In some cases there have been the temporary problems of adjustment after a period of inflation but, in other, the difficulties seem to be more fundamental and to reflect the fact that, in a reasonably balanced economy, the capacity of businesses to adjust themselves to changing conditions of demand and to competitive costs is of first importance.
The correctness of the report is fully confirmed by the condition of our economy. I was interested to receive the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure for 1956-57. It gives in more detail the principal economic factors operating in Australia, and supplies further proof that the bank’s survey is reliable. The White Paper shows clearly that Australia has a balanced economy, lt deals first with national income which, last year, increased by £277,000,000, or roughly 6 per cent. Ours is an expanding economy, as is indicated by that increase of the national income from a total of £4,409,000,000 in 1955-56 to £4,686,000,000 in 1956-57. It will be noted that the rate of expansion coincides roughly with that of the previous year, which was 6.5 per cent.
The White Paper also deals with the important question of wages and salaries and indicates that the total amount of wages and salaries, which is included in the figures for the national income, has risen by approximately 6 per cent. also. In the previous year, the increase was 9 per cent., but I am glad to say that it has declined to the more realistic figure of 6 per cent. The total for 1956-57 was £2,807,000,000 compared with £2,659,000,000 in 1955-56. It is a pleasing fact that in 1956-57 wages formed a greater proportion of the national income than they did in the previous year. According to my understanding of the White Paper, wages and salaries, including supplements to wages and pay and allowances for members of the forces, rose from 55 per cent, of the national income in 1948-49 to 60 per cent, in 1955-56, which shows that the people who are on wages and salaries are getting a larger share of the national income. That is all to the good.
Company income has risen by 3 per cent, as against a rise of 5 per cent, for the previous year. The total stands at £545,000,000. I am pleased to note also that there has been an improvement in relation to farm income. In 1955-56, the value of farm income rose only by £2,000,000, but in 1956-57 there was an increase of £60,000,000, or 13 per cent. The gross value of rural output, as shown in the White Paper, was £1,156,000,000 in 1955-56 and £1,260,000,000 in 1956-57. Of course, that has been brought about largely by the increase in the price of wool, and it has had a marked effect on Australia’s internal prosperity.
These figures are clearly indicative of the fact that we in Australia are enjoying a high degree of prosperity. Any suggestion that we are carrying out a policy that is detrimental to the welfare of the Australian economy is sheer nonsense.
The Senate has listened to speeches by Opposition senators, but I am glad to say that I have heard only one or two of them. I wish to refer in particular to the doleful’ story that emanated from Senator Cooke, and which was very depressing to listen to. Senator Cooke is a Western Australian, and a man for whom I have quite a high personal regard; but I really do not think that he believes many of the statements hemade about the shortcomings of the Government. I note that he has just returnedto the chamber. I believe he was talking with his tongue in his cheek when he referred to all the tragic events for whichhe said the present Government is responsible. The Labour party’s prognostications about the dire effects that this Government’s administration would have on the country have been heard times without number. The disappointing aspect of it must be the fact that none of the Opposition’s forecasts has been proved correct. The Government has been in office since- 1949-50, and the country has enjoyed a splendid level of prosperity. I repeat that not one of the things that the Labour party suggested would happen as a result of our economic policy has come to pass. I challenge Opposition senators to name one thing, that they forecast which has come to pass.
– The first is inflation.
– The decline in the bond rate.
– Honorable senators opposite are always talking about the Chifley golden age, about the wonderful period of prosperity that existed during the term of office of the Chifley Government. But they conveniently forget about various conditions that existed then, at least during the latter years of the Chifley regime. I have quite vivid recollections of what happened in the so-called golden age of the Chifley Government when there was no difficulty in raising loans on the Australian market. Opposition senators conveniently forget that there was no avenue for investment at that time, and that people were only too glad to put their money into Commonwealth loans. Industry was stagnating. When the Chifley Government was in office, capital and private investment was practically nil. The people had only Commonwealth bonds in which to invest their funds. What has transpired since then? There has been almost a revolution in a way in which private investment has succeeded in galvanizing industry.
– It has galvanized industry all right, but not into production.
– Let us think of the enormous amount of private development that has occurred. Let honorable senators opposite go through their own States and see what has taken place in regard to private development. Let them come to South Australia, if they like, and see what has taken place in that small State with its climatic and other limitations. There has been an enormous amount of private development.
– What about the nationalized electricity undertaking?
– The nationalization of the electricity undertaking was only a fleabite compared with what has taken place in relation to private development. In the Hendon industrial area a great deal of work has been done by private enterprise. The people have grasped the opportunity to invest their money in private enterprise, with the result that Government loans, bearing only low rate of interest, have been a drug on the market. We know that the Chifley Government was able to get all the money it wanted on the Australian market. This Government has been able to obtain money from overseas, which has been a splendid thing for Australia. As well as obtaining dollars, it has encouraged investment by private overseas firms. This has all helped to develop our country. Honorable senators on this side admit that in the framing of recent Budgets the Government has made provision for capital works to be financed out of revenue. I do not apologize for that policy. I think it a very wise one, and I am reminded that the same policy was adopted by the Chifley Government. At the same time we have witnessed a change in the Australian economy. The Government is not financing all of its capital works out of revenue. I personally feel that it is wise to finance some of these works in this way.
I have already referred to some of Senator Cooke’s observations. He created a rather depressing atmosphere in this chamber. In contrast, we heard a very good speech by Senator Willesee. He made constructive suggestions in regard to developmental work, and I must say that he was not outright critical of the work that the Government has done. The honorable ‘senator acknowledged that the Government has achieved some success in the development of Australia, and he referred, particularly, to the north-west of Western Australia. I think that Senator Seward, also, made some reference to that area. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the north-west of Western Australia to see for myself what the country is like. I tried to assess its potentialities, but I would not be so bold as to suggest that I know the answers to the problems of the north-west. It is a large and a very poor area, but it has certain potentialities. As large streams flow through it, water conservation there may be practicable, but I do not wish to indulge in making suggestions to the Western Australian Government, or for that matter to the Commonwealth Government, on how the problems of the north-west can be solved. I think that the greatest advantage could be obtained by the development of its mineral resources. Great strides are being made by mining interests, particularly in the search for oil.
There is evidence of great advances in the pastoral industry. I am, perhaps, better able to assess the potentialities of that industry than those of the other undertakings I have mentioned. The land adjacent to the Fitzroy River could be developed, but. without making a much closer investigation, I could not say the extent to which its economical development is possible. I was interested in the Liveringa Station rice project along the banks of the Fitzroy River. In the future, I am sure that these matters will exercise the minds of the people of Australia. Of course, the climate in this area is severe, and, except along the coast, the rainfall is uncertain. In the final analysis, I believe that mineral development will be the greatest factor in populating the north-west, but I do not think it will ever carry a large population.
The Western Australian Government has not accepted its share of responsibility for the development of this area. Why should the Commonwealth Government be expected to shoulder all the responsibility?
– The South Australian Government gave the whole of the Northern Territory back to the Commonwealth.
– That happened in the past. If the Western Australian Government cannot develop the north-west of Western Australia, why does it not hand it back to the Commonwealth? I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Cycle and tricycle saddles.
Diesel fuel pump test benches and metal working machines and appliances.
Rubber tyres and tubes.
Slide fastener tape.
Unground ball and roller bearings.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 5.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571017_senate_22_s11/>.