22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
– On 5th August last, I announced the appointment by the Governor of New South Wales of James Patrick Ormonde as senator to hold the place in the Senate rendered vacant by the death of Senator Ashley until the expiration of fourteen days afterthebeginning of the next session of the Parliament of the State of New South Wales, or until the election of a successor, whichever first happens. I have now received advice from the Governor of New South Wales that this appointment has been confirmed by a joint sitting of the two houses of the New South Wales Parliament.
Certificate read by the Clerk and laid on the table.
– I ask the Minister for
Shipping and Transport whether he recalls the speech he made in this chamber when introducing the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill which contained these remarks -
Theindustry in this country is still comparatively new, and to enable it to develop along satisfactory lines it is necessary that the yards receive adequate and regular orders to an extent which will enable them to continue operating without interruptions and, indeed, to expand their rate of production.
Is the Minister aware that Walkers Limited will complete its only order next month, and that it has no new work to commence? Is he also aware that Evans Deakin and Company Limited will complete this month the work it has in hand, and that it has no new work to commence? I ask the Minister also whether he recalls having made this statement during the course of the speech to which I have referred -
It is obvious that if a ship-yard does not receive orders regularly, so that it is unable to plan its production well ahead and ensure that all the many tradeswhich take part in the building of a ship are occupied in due progression, there will be occasions when all of their skilled employees will not be fully employed, and it may be necessary for men to be laid off. ‘If this occurs, not only will the rate of production be affected, but also it may prove difficult for the yards to get the men back when work is resumed, and their efficiency and ability to build ships economically will be thus adversely affected.
Is the Minister aware ‘that because no orders for the building of ships have been received by Walkers Limited and Evans Deakin and Company Limited during the past twelve months, production at the yards of those companies has fallen to such a low level that hundreds of men have been dismissed, and that more will be laid off forthwith?I also ask the Minister whether he recalls having made this further statement -
With these factors in mind, the agreement provides that where the Minister, after receiving advice from the Australian Shipbuilding Board, is satisfied that orders held by the Australian shipyards for the construction of new tonnage are less than is necessary to enable the industry to continue in operation at a reasonably adequate level of production, he may give notice to the shipping companies accordingly, specifying the amount of tonnage which he considers should be ordered from Australian yards.
Has the Minister been advised by the Australian Shipbuilding Board that the orders held by the Australian shipyards, including those of Walkers Limited and Evans Deakin and Company Limited, for the construction of new tonnages are less than is necessary to enable them to continue in operation at a reasonable, adequate level of production? If the Minister has been so informed, has he notified the shipping companies accordingly, specifying the amount of tonnage whichhe considers should be ordered from the Australian yards, including those of Walkers Limited and Evans Deakin and Company Limited?
-The statement made, under guise of a question, is rather more a memory test than a quest for information. I must confess that I do not remember saying everything that has been ascribed to me by the honorable senator, although I do not doubt that, from time to time, in the full context of several speeches, I may have used the words which have been attributed to me. But I do know that this Government has paid particular attention to those factors which might assist the shipbuilding industry, and it stands to the record of this Government that since it came to office we have built not only new types of ships but more ships and greater tonnages than were built when the previous government was in office. Further, new shipyards have been opened.
I am aware of the unfortunate position in which Walkers Limited of Maryborough finds itself, but I think that, in all fairness, the honorable senator must confess that Walkers Limited, as a shipyard, suffers from a number of natural disabilities. The main one of these is that the silting of the Mary River makes it impossible for Walkers Limited to build a wide variety of ships. That shipyard is restricted as to the type and size of ship that may be built there. I also know that Evans Deakin and Company Limited, whilst still building, is now in need of orders. I do not think it is quite right to say that this company has only one ship building. I think it has at least two tugs under construction, in addition to the ship to which the honorable senator refers.
I point out to the honorable senator, and to the Senate, that there is no dearth of shipbuilding in South Australia where the Whyalla yard, and where the newly established Adelaide Shipping Construction Company have orders in hand. The Whyalla yard has orders for some years in advance. In pointing that out to the Senate, I reiterate the warning which I gave to the shipbuilding industry, and those engaged in it, almost three years ago, that if shipbuilding was to be maintained at an adequate level, then those employed in it had a direct responsibility to keep costs to the minimum. It is an unfortunate fact that the level of costs has risen higher in New South Wales and Queensland than in South Australia, where no disability is felt by the shipbuilding industry.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether, in view of the grave unemployment position on the coal fields - as emphasized by yesterday’s demonstration, when more than 5,000 people marched in protest and business premises closed down to express their support - the Government has any plans to combat the trend towards a growing army of unemployed in the coal industry.
– The Government is watching the position very closely, as it has done in the past, through the appropriate instrumentalities. There is in existence a standing organization which reviews the figures from week to week and, as far as it is practicable to do so, finds work for those who are seeking employment. The latest figures, which I have in front of me, show that, as at 6th September, only 96 persons were registered for unemployment benefit in the town of Cessnock. That figure does not include the additional 570 whose dismissal from Aberdare and Abermain collieries takes effect next Friday. I assure the honorable senator, and all those who take an interest in this matter, that we are watching the position closely and will do all that we possibly can to assist.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, by saying that I am very concerned at the great amount of glass which is being used in the construction of some commercial buildings. I consider that it will be a great menace in any future war, both to persons inside the buildings and to those who are in the streets. I therefore ask the Minister whether it is a fact that in bombed cities during the last war flying glass was considered to be one of the greatest dangers to the public. If so, has the Minister given any consideration to the great and increasing danger to which the people could be exposed in any future war as the result of the extensive use of glass in so many commercial buildings recently constructed, and still being constructed? The walls of some of these buildings are almost wholly constructed of glass. Will the Minister, with a view to reducing this growing danger, discuss the subject with the architects institutes of Australia? Will he bear in mind the fact that glass buildings afford no shelter to the staff inside - in fact, they would be death-traps during a bombing raid - and constitute great danger to people outside; and secondly, that the Hiroshima bombing proved that concrete buildings could best withstand bombing as such buildings often received only superficial damage and gave people working within them some refuge - as well as causing less danger to persons outside?
Will the Government, in the public interest, take action to ensure that federal buildings shall be constructed of the safest materials possible?
– I am quite sure that the matters raised by the honorable senator have not escaped the attention of Australia’s leading architects or of my colleague, the Minister for Defence. However, I shall bring the request under the notice of the Minister for Defence and give the honorable senator a reply in due course.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the present recession in the building industry in Launceston, Tasmania, and of the number of skilled1 carpenters, bricklayers and other tradesmen there who are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service as unemployed, will the Minister submit to the Cabinet for consideration, as two methods of alleviating this recession, that more money be made available to the Tasmanian Government to increase its home-building programme in the north of Tasmania, and that the Commonwealth act on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee and commence building the new post office and government offices in Launceston?
– The amount of money spent by the Tasmanian Government and the manner in which it spends the money are matters for the Tasmanian Government itself. That Government receives a very generous allocation from the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and can spend the money wherever it wishes to do so. I do not think this Government has any right to say how a State government shall spend its money. However, we give every encouragement to the State governments to spend their money in the best possible places. With regard to the building of the post office at Launceston, I do not know what stage has been reached, but I shall inquire from the Minister for Works to ascertain the position.
– In view of increased airways traffic, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport give an assurance that an adequate number of planes will be available for Trans-Australia Airlines to meet the ever-increasing demand for its services, not only at the present time but also in the future, particularly as the Christmas holidays are approaching? At present T.A.A. has to transfer bookings to AnsettA.N.A. and will have to continue to do so until more planes are available. Will the Minister give an assurance that enough planes will be made available to allow T.A.A. to progress and give to more members of the public the advantage of superior services?
– I was unaware that the position had been reached, presumably in Tasmania, that T.A.A.-
– On the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane routes, too.
– I do not think so.
– I do. I have been travelling.
– I beg to differ as far as the Melbourne-Sydney run is concerned, because it was only this morning that I had a look at the figures. I can give the honorable senator an assurance that T.A.A. will have sufficient planes to cater for its legitimate business.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by pointing out to the Minister that over the years a number of cars have been seized by the department under his administration. Those cars have been in the country legally. Unfortunately, rogues have managed to sell them to innocent people, who have subsequently lost the cars. That is most unjust. I ask the Minister whether the department can adopt some system whereby innocent people who purchase such cars from rogues can be safeguarded.
– I think Senator Brown has already placed on the noticepaper a question along similar lines. The department has been closely considering the adoption of a system to deal with the aspect of the matter raised by the honorable senator. When a decision is arrived at, I shall let him know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I preface it by pointing out that the annual report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30th June,. 1958, discloses that profits have risen from£708,976. for 1956-57 to £1,059,166 6s. 3d. for 1957-58. I. congratulate the Minister and his staff upon that wonderful achievement. I now ask. him the following questions: First, when does he expect the accumulated deficit of £2,500,000 to be accounted for? Secondly, is the Commonwealth line the only government line in Australia that is. operated at a profit? Thirdly, has the diesel electrification of the east-west line played any part in enabling the Commonwealth Railways to run at a profit?
– I shall reply to the specific questions first. It is expected that, if trading continues at the same scale as has applied in recent years, within the next few years the accumulated deficit will be wiped out. Of course, it should be kept in mind that the Commonwealth Railways system, like many other systems, has enjoyed the benefits of a proportion of interest-free capital which has been advanced over the years. Whilst, in that respect, the Commonwealth Railways system is comparable with other railway systems, it is strictly not comparable with most other commercial undertakings.
The honorable senator asked, secondly, whether the Commonwealth Railways system was the only government railway in Australia that showed a profit. I believe that to be so. He also asked what part dieselization had played in bringing about the transformation that had occurred in recent years. It is. a well-known fact, Mr. President, that dieselization really played a tremendous part in transforming the loss on the operations of the Commonwealth Railways into a profit.
I thank the honorable senator for his congratulations. I shall pass them on to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the staff. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to the Government and to all concerned that the Commonwealth. Railways system has continued to make progress and return a reasonable profit. Thathasbeenbrought about, not only by dieselization, but also by the successful introduction of new techniques, particularly the introduction of the pickaback system on the east-west railway, which led to a large increase in traffic.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware of the difficulties experienced by residents of the: north-west of Western Australia, and’ also by itinerant workers in that area, in obtaining unemployment and sickness benefits owing to the lack of information, application forms and so on, in those districts, and’ also because of the lack of officers empowered to register applicants for such benefits? In the absence of social service offices in the north-west of the State, will the Minister consider having information in regard to such benefits as prominently displayed in post offices as are notices in regard to taxation liabilities, in view of the fact that, often, postal officers are the only representatives of the federal departments in such areas?
-The question concerns an administrative problem. I shall bring it to the notice of the Department of Social Services and ask whether the honorable senator’s suggestion can be adopted.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Recently, whenIwas in South America, I became aware of a quickening; interest in trade between some South American republics and Australia. Particular reference was made to recent shipments of Australian coal. Can the Minister state the extent of the present coal trade between this country and South American republics and the prospects for extension of such trade?
-The question is an interesting one. Time was when Australia did a very large coal business with South America, but that trade disappeared many years ago. To-day, there is not even a direct shipping service between South America and Australia. Within the last year or so, there have been a good number of negotiations, culminating in Australia obtaining an order for coal, and one shipment of some 50,000 tons was sent. The price was right, the coal was of good-quality, and repeat business was confidently expected- by the merchant concerned. The Argentine Government has a restriction on imports, and the proposal was made that further trading would need to be accompanied by a quid pro quo in the way of purchases by Australia of Argentine products.
The merchant concerned is not dismayed by that prospect. I was talking to him about a fortnight ago and he told me that he had hopes that there would be a direct shipping service between Australia and South America shortly. He is busily engaged in seeing whether he can build up a portfolio of commodities that he can buy from South America in order to provide a quid pro quo. I should like to have a talk with Senator Laught about this matter at some convenient time, having regard to his recent trip to South America.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, relates to the current employment situation in Australia. Has the Minister seen to-day’s press reports that the level of unemployment in Australia is now declining, and has been so declining for some weeks? In view of that gratifying situation, can the Minister inform the Senate whether he. has any comparison to make between unemployment figures in Australia and those of other great trading nations, such as Britain, the United States of America and other Western democracies?
– An awful lot of nonsense is talked about the level of unemployment in Australia. The true position is that there is less unemployment in Australia than in any other country this side of the iron curtain. The figures show that the number of unemployed in the United Kingdom is 412,000, or 1.9 per cent, of the work force; in America, 5,400,000 or 6.8 per cent, of the work force; in Canada, 320,000, or 5.2 per cent.; in Belgium, 98,833, or 4.7 per cent.; in the Netherlands, 69,600, or 2.1 per cent.; in West Germany, 470,000, or 2.4 per cent. Calculated, on the same basis, the Australian figure is 62,975, representing 1.6 per cent, of the work force.
I conclude, as I started, by saying that the level of unemployment in Australia is lower than in any other country in the. world, greatly to the discomfort of Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a recent television programme in Sydney in the course of which Mr. Eddie Ward, M.P., enlarged upon the stated Labour party platform of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange by saying specifically that, if returned to power after the forthcoming general election, in addition to nationalizing banks and secondary industries his party would nationalize farms? Since this step has been the greatest factor contributing to the drop in production figures of primary industries, in addition to the lowering of wages and general living standards in Communist satellite countries, will the Prime Minister take all steps possible to publicize these facts so that farm workers who previously have not been brought face to face with the position, as workers in the banking and secondary industry fields have been, will understand their impending fate, and, indeed, the fate of the entire Australian nation, if they do not take vigorous action to see that the Labour party is never allowed to govern Australia?
– I am not aware that the Prime Minister is a television fan of the Honorable E. J. Ward, and therefore I am not in a position to say whether he saw Mr. Ward on television on that occasion, or heard what was said by Mr. Ward. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that all moneys lent to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement become the responsibility of the States, and that when the States lend that money to associations they still have to stand as guarantors in relation, to these loans to associations? If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that this Government will not infringe the sovereign rights of the States by directing the States, against their judgment, about where such moneys have to go, without first having held a conference of all the States on the matter, and with all the States agreeing on the matter?
– This would be the fast government in the world to infringe the sovereign rights of the States. It would also be one of the first governments in the world to expect a State government to honour a contractual obligation which it has undertaken. The Tasmanian Government, as a consideration for obtaining moneys from the Commonwealth Government at favorable rates of interest, accepted freely and willingly the obligation to divert, or make available, a substantial proportion of those moneys to building societies. I am sorry to say that the Tasmanian Minister for Housing leaves me with the impression that he is going back upon that obligation - that he is dishonouring a contractual obligation undertaken by the Tasmanian Government, unless the Commonwealth Government holds him to his arrangement.
-I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who represents the Minister for Primary Industry. At the outset, I wish to say that I am glad to see the Minister again in the chamber. On27th August I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in the absence of the Minister, the following question -
In view of the further downward trend in wool prices, as revealed at the opening wool sales at Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth this week, will the Attorney-General discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, the possibility of his making an early statement giving an estimate of the stocks of wool held by the major countries that normally buy Australian wool? As far as it is possible for him to do so, will the Minister also offer some comment on the likelihood of such countries buying at least their normal purchases of wool during the current wool-selling season? I am merely asking the Attorney-General whether he will bring my question to the notice of his colleague, and ask him to make a statement on the matter.
I understand that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has a reply to the question.
-The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following reply: -
The information that is available indicates that stocks of raw wool held by merchants and manufacturers in the United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States of America are lower than they were a year ago, but because of the reduced rates of wool consumption, there has probably been little change in the period of mill supply represented by these stocks.
The position is somewhat different with regard to stocks of semi-manufactured wool - tops and yarns - which have not shown any general decline. In Japan, there has been a fall in stocks of woollen yarn but not of worsted yarn in the first half of this year. In the United States of America stocks at all stages of manufacture are probably somewhat lower than they were a year ago. In most other countries there does not appear to have been much change during 1958, except in France, where stocks of both tops and yarns continued to grow until quite recently.
Apart from the stocks of raw wool and semimanufactured wool held in major consuming countries, stocks of raw wool held in some of the producing countries are somewhat higher than usual. In New Zealand and South Africa, relatively small quantities are held as a result of the operations of the reserve price schemes. However, larger quantities of unsold wool are held in Uruguay and Argentina mainly, it is understood, as a result of the dissatisfaction of sellers with prices obtainable under the exchange system existing in those countries.
It is considered likely that the major consuming countries will buy their normal quantities of wool during the current season. In spite of the fluctuation of prices, we have always sold the great bulk of our wool, the one exception being the 1920-21 season when the circumstances were vastly different from those of to-day. While we continue to sell our wool to the highest bidder, we can be fairly certain that most of it will be sold at the normal times and that the major woolconsuming countries will continue to buy the greater part of it. There may be minor changes in the proportions taken by each of them, and perhaps some Eastern European and other countries may take slightly larger quantities, but there is no reason to expect any major change in the recent pattern of purchases.
The real question, of course, is whether competition among buyers will increase sufficiently to raise the price paid for wool offered at auction. It is an extremely difficult question to answer. However, if demand by consumers for wool products improves, either because of an improvement in the world economic situation or because consumers decide to spend more of their income on wool products and less on other items, some increase in wool prices may reasonably be expected.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question apropos of that asked by Senator Laught relative to trade relations with the South American republics. As I understand it, we have no trade representation in either of the rapidly progressing and developing countries of Brazil and Argentina, although we have such representation in Trinidad, in the West Indies. Has the Minister any information which will show why preference has been given to representation at Trinidad over the more populous and progressive countries of Brazil and Argentina?
– I am not equipped to answer adequately the honorable senator’s question. We recently established - I think on the diplomatic rather than on the trade level - a post in South America. My recollection is that Mr. MacKinnon received that appointment. I also have a recollection that quite recently one of our officers from the Washington or New York establishments made a survey of the position in South America. I think we have to accept the situation that it is so long since we have had relations of any consequence with South America that we have to give some preference to the West Indies with which we are doing some business while, at the same time, hoping that the other arrangements regarding the establishment of a post in South America will be justified.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– In a letter to the honorable senator dated 30th June, the Postmaster-General furnished the information which he had sought. The answers to the questions asked are as follows: -
– Did the Minister say that a letter in those terms was sent to me?
– Yes. The letter was dated 30th June, 1958.
– I have not received it.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Amounts allowed under the shipbuilding subsidy are not made as direct payments to shipowners or shipbuilders. The Commonwealth places orders for new ships as required with shipbuilders and when completed sells them to shipowners at actual cost less the amount of the subsidy, the difference being met by the Commonwealth as a form of assistance to the shipbuilding industry. The subsidy is applied to progress payments made during construction and to adjustments made after completion so that the amount expended in any one year is not indicative of the number or cost of vessels on order. The amount of £1,858,442 expended from the subsidy vote in 1957-58 comprised payments for vessels for the Australian National Line, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the Adelaide Steamship Company, and an advance to the Australian Shipbuilding Board to meet expenditure not recovered at 30th June, 1958. The amounts met by the Commonwealth as a subsidy m respect of individual vessels are regarded as confidential as between the Commonwealth and the shipbuilder.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation,, upon notice -
What arrangements, if any, have Trans-Australia Airlines and Guinea Airways made for the conduct of joint operations?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
As from 1st July, 1958, T.A.A. and Guinea Airways Limited entered into a business arrangement under which T.A.A. will provide certain ground services on behalf of Guinea Airways Limited. These services include the performance at Adelaide of passenger bookings and ticketing, airport handling, cargo service, catering and: aircraft servicing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Will the Minister investigate the claim of the South Johnstone Shire Council for reimbursement of the cost of establishing an aerodrome at Innisfail in the same way as the claim by the Inverell municipality was examined when a decision was made to pay it the sum of £80,000 this year?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The South Johnstone Shire Council has been given the opportunity and has agreed to participate in the aerodrome local ownership plan. Discussions have already been held with the council concerning the development carried out by it in the establishment of an aerodrome at Innisfail. Arrangements are being made to reimburse it the funds which it expended in doing this and which amount to approximately £24,000. Funds are included in the 1958-59 Budget to do this. Arrangements are also being made to assist the council in some further development work associated with the terminal building and parking area on a£l-for-£l basis during the present financial year.
– On 21st August last, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry the following question: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has seen the statement in a leading newspaper that the reduction in the United Kingdom bank rate last week has led to forecasts of greater market stability in the coming Australian wool season. If so, will he inform the House, whether, in his opinion, the wool market would benefit from the reduction; whether Bradford would operate more flexibly than it did during last season’s selling, when the stringent United Kingdom financial measures were blamed for some of the general price reductions; whether, in his opinion, world output of wool will be lower than last year; and what effect this would have on the Australian wool market?
I understand the Minister for Shipping and Transport now has a reply.
-The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following reply: -
I have seen the statement referred to by the honorable senator. It is difficult to assess precisely the possible effect on the Australian wool market of the reduction in the United Kingdom bank rate, on August 14th, 1958, from 5 per cent. to4½ per cent., in isolation from the many other factors which influence the general level of prices for wool. However, generally speaking, any development in wool consuming countries which lowers the cost of financing wool purchases should assist the sale of Australian wool. In reply to the question whether Bradford would operate more flexibly than it did during last season’s selling when the stringent United Kingdom financial measures were blamed for some of the general price reductions, purchases on account of Bradford would be governed not only by the United Kingdom financial measures but also by many other factors; for example, consumer demand for wool textile products and Bradford’s competitive position relative to other wool textile exporting countries. The official estimate for the production of wool in Australia in 1958-59 is 1,386 m.lb. (greasy weight), which is 2.9 per cent. below that of 1957-58. Whilst Australia is the largest wool producer and the estimated drop in production may be expected to have some bearing on total world production, which was an estimated 4,970 m.lb. in 1957-58, this could be offset to a large extent by increased production in other countries such as U.S.S.R., U.S.A. and New Zealand. Until the trends in wool production in these other countries can be determined later in the year, it is difficult to assess particularly the likely effect of the lower Australian production in the 1958-59 season upon wool markets.
– I understand the Leader of the Government has an answer to a question which I asked on the 6th August as follows -
Has the Attorney-General noted the important question of privilege arising from a complaint contained in a letter from Mr. George Strauss, a member of the Houseof Commons in London, to the Minister? In this case, the Privileges Committee ruled that correspondence to Ministers from members was privileged, but by a narrow margin the House rejected this ruling. Will the AttorneyGeneral examine the question as it relates to the Australian Parliament and issue a statement for the guidance of honorable senators?
If the answer is available, will the honorable senator furnish it now?
– The Senate will remember that this question arises out of the Strauss privilege case in the House of Commons. I have had a report made on the matter. It consists of five pages, and, with the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate the report in “ Hansard “. I inform honorable senators who are in a hurry to see the report that I shall leave several copies of it on the table of the Senate. The report is as follows: -
This matter created considerable controversy, and was the subject of a very close free vote at Westminster a few weeks ago. I need not elaborate the interest and importance for this chamber of any decision by the House of Commons on any question of parliamentary privilege. By virtue of section 49 of the Australian Constitution, our privileges, in the absence of other provision by this Parliament, are those enjoyed by the Commons as at the establishment of the Commonwealth. But over and above this legal requirement we in this Parliament are mindful and proud of the special position of the Mother of Parliaments in relation to all questions of parliamentary practice.
The history of the Strauss privilege case begins early in 1957 with a letter written by a member of the House of Commons, Mr. G. R. Strauss, to a Minister concerning the operations of the London Electricity Board. The board, which controls one of the nationalized industries, took the view that Mr. Strauss’s letter contained statements defamatory of the board and its officials. In due course, the board’s solicitors wrote to Mr. Strauss asking for a withdrawal and an apology, and stating that, if these were not forthcoming, they were instructed to issue a writ for libel. At this point, the member raised the matter in the Commons and claimed that the threat of proceedings was a breach of the privilege of Parliament.
On 30th October, 1957, the Committee of Privileges, to which the matter had been referred by the Commons, reported -
that, in writing the letter complained of, Mr. Strauss was engaged in a “proceeding in Parliament “ within the meaning of the Bill of Rights of 1688;
that, in threatening a libel action, both the board and its solicitors had acted in breach of the privilege of Parliament.
These were the specific findings of the Committee of Privileges. At the same time, the committee recommended to the House that, before deciding to act in accordance with the committee’s findings, it should obtain the opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on a technical question of law which had been canvassed during the proceedings of the Committee of Privileges, whether the House would be acting contrary to the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1770 if (in pursuance of the committee’s second finding) it treated the issue of a writ against a member of Parliament, in respect of a speech or proceeding in Parliament, as a breach of its privileges.
The Parliamentary Privileges Act, 1770 is, as its heading states, an act for further preventing delays of justice by reason of privilegeof Parliament. For certain reasons which are now part of history, the legislation was, in point of fact, designed to facilitate legal proceedings against members of Parliament. But, as the Judicial Committee decided, the act applies only to proceedings against members in respect of their debts and actions as individuals and not in respect of their conduct in Parliament as members of Parliament. The Judicial Committee, therefore, answered in the negative the single narrow question referred to it.
Thereupon, the report of the Privileges Committee came before the House of Commons on 8 July last on a motion calling upon the House to agree with the report. The debate was marked by the greatest divergence of individual opinion, not only as between members of the same party, but as between Ministers. On a free vote, the motion was rejected by a majority of only 5 - 218 votes to 213. An all-party amendment declaring that Mr. Strauss’s letter was not a proceeding in Parliament, and that no breach of privilege was committed by the London Electricity Board and its solicitors was carried by a majority of 18 (219 to 201), which rose to 23 (219 to 196) when the amendment was put as a substantive motion.
Much of the controversial debate in the Commons was directed to the question whether in writing the letter to the Minister Mr. Strauss was engaged in a “proceeding in Parliament” within the meaning of article 9 of the Bill of Rights of 1688. This article provides that “ the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament”. Supporters of the report of the Privileges Committee maintained that in the light of modern circumstances it was appropriate to regard the matter as a “ proceeding in Parliament “. The contrary view was just as vigorously put forward, and it was argued that the ordinary law of defamation should be treated as providing sufficient protection, for the reason that the defence of qualified privilege, under which the party bringing proceedings would have to prove malice, would be applicable in these circumstances. If in special circumstances a member felt he needed absolute privilege, his proper course would be to raise thematter in the House itself.
After the decision of the House of Commons, the London Electricity Board decided not to issue a writ, but to seek an independent inquiry into the matters complained of by Mr. Strauss. For the House itself, the decision created a special problem in relation to questions concerning the nationalized industries. On a previous ruling of the Speaker, such matters could not be put at question time or raised upon the ordinary adjournment motion, but had to be addressed either to the chairman of the nationalized board or to the appropriate Minister. I understand that, having regard to the decision of the House that a member in writing a letter in these circumstances was not engaged in a proceedingin Parliament and was in no position, therefore, to invoke the privileges of Parliament, the leader of the House has initiated an examination of the House’s procedures to see whether some other procedure could be devised in relation to questions concerning the nationalized industries.
So far as the Senate is concerned, it will be for the Senate itself, should the occasion ever arise, to decide whether a threat of legal proceedings against a senator in respect of written communications to a Minister involves a breach of parliamentary privilege. Happily, there seems, on our own experience, to be little likelihood of this situation arising here and, indeed, it -took very many years for a case of this kind to arise in the House of Commons. It would seem that in the past honorable senators, when corresponding with Ministers, have had regard to the principles that would be applicable in the event of proceedings being instituted against them in the civil courts in respect of their correspondence. I refer, in particular, to the special defence of qualified privilege which provides protection in respect of communications made without malice. I venture to suggest that if honorable senators continue to be guided by similar considerations, the possibility of either parliamentary or court action seems remote.
– by leave - I wish to announce to the Senate that in the absence of the Treasurer overseas the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will take over his duties, and will act as Treasurer.
– by leave - I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Australian Broadcasting Control Board- Report and recommendations on applications for commercialtelevision licences for the Brisbane and Adelaide areas.
The principal recommendation in the board’s report is that one licence should be issued in each of those States. The Government, however, has decided that two licences should be granted in each case. It has asked the board to make recommendations as to which applicants should receive the licences.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
Iask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave -agreed to -
That Senator Cooper be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill health.
Reports on Items.
-Ilay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Hairdressers’ chairs, opticians’ chairs, dental chairs, dental units.
Metal working lathes.
Staple fibre artificial silk yarn.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motionby Senator Spooner) read a first time.
. -I move -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1958-59 estimates of expenditure for Capital Works and Services ; is . £125,565,000, representing £128,4 18,000 from annual appropriations and £147,000 from special appropriations.
This bill, which shouldbe read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act No. 35 of 1958, will provide the parliamentary appropriation for expenditure on -
Details of theproposed expenditure are givenon pages 230 to 246 of the printed Estimates,in the Schedule to the present billand in the document, “ Civil Works Programme 1958-59 “, which was made available tohonorablesenators with the Budget on 5th August last. The major portionof the proposed appropriation will be spentonworks thatwere in progress at 30th June, 1958. The new works included are those of an urgent and essential nature.
Further details and explanations which may be sought by honorable senators will begiven in thecommittee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 302), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for theyear ending 30th June, 1959;
The Budget 1958-59-Papers presented by the Right Hon.Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1958-59; and
NationalIncome and Expenditure 1957-58.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
At end of motionadd the following words, viz. - but that the Senate is of opinion that theirprovisions inflictgraveinjustices on the Statesand on manysections of the Australian people - especially the family unit, and that they make no contribution to correcting seriouslyadverse trendsin the Australianeconomy”.
.- On 28th August, when the debate was adjourned, I was outlining to the Senate the problems connected with hirepurchase agreements and pointing out that in 1941 the question was investigatedby a board of inquiry whose members includedthe late Mr. Chifley. Thatboard recommended, in effect, that interest rates of up to 20 per cent. were quite in order oncertain items.Nowthat this debate is reaching its closing stages one becomes awarethat many Opposition members support Senator Kennedy’s amendment, which reads -
Ated ofmotion add the following words, viz.: - “but that theSenate isof opinionthat their provisions inflict grave injustices on the States and on many sections of the Australian people - especiallythe familyunit, and that they make no contributionto correcting seriously adverse trends inthe Australian economy “.
That is the amendment moved bySenator Kennelly, whoisa member ofthe Aus- tralian Labour party. As a member of that party, beforemoving that amendment he shouldatleasthave considered what the Labour party didwhen it wasin office in 1929-31.I donot know whetherhe remembers - I certainly do, and Ihave looked up the facts - that the Labour party introduced, on 9th July,1931, the Financial Emergency Bill which reduced the age pension from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week.
– Were we in government then?
SenatorSCOTT. - That bill was introduced in July, 1931, by the Scullin Government. This year, the Labour party is criticizing a Budget which provides an increase of10s. a week, incertain circumstances, for age and invalid pensioners.
Letus compare the conditions that existed in 1931 with those that exist to-day. In 1931, under a Labour government, the export income of Australia dropped by £40,000,000. In 1958, under a Liberal government, our export income has dropped by £1,80,000,000. But note the difference. Under the Labour administration of 1931, unemployment rose to some 20 per cent. of the total employable force within Australia.
– I think you are playing it low. You knowthe reasonfor that high unemployment figure.
-I am not playingit low. I am stating the conditions that existed ; at that time and the conditions that prevail at the present time. Unemployment in 1958 is less than 2 per cent. of the work force. Let me ; give some further facts. We find that this year unemployment in the Labour-controlled States is higher, on a percentage basis, than in the States controlled by Liberal party and Country party governments. SenatorOrmonde. who is new to this chamber, shakes his head.
– You are new to the facts.
– I am giving the Senate the facts that were given to me by the employment people. I have them here and 1 shall read them out for the benefit of honorable senators opposite. At the end of August of this year, there were 28,278 people receiving the unemployment benefit in Australia, or 1,630 fewer than in the previous month. That is a decline of 8 per cent. The number of people registered for employment fell by 2,938 to 62,975. There is now nothing like the 27 per cent, of the work force unemployed that there was when Labour was in office in 1931. At that time the export income of Australia dropped by £40,000,000 only, whereas in this year it has dropped, under this Government, by £180,000,000.
– What is the cause of this decrease in unemployment?
– Jobs are becoming more readily available throughout Australia because of the financial policy of this Government. This Government has endeavoured to keep the Australian work force employed and has achieved success to a far greater extent than any other government in the history of Australia. It is interesting to note that in the last month the number of vacancies rose by 1,928 to 18.333.
I had begun to compare the employment records of States governed by the Labour party with those of States governed by nonLabour parties. The percentage of unemployment in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania is higher than in the other States. Those three States are Labour-governed States. I notice that Senator Ormonde is shaking his head again. New South Wales has 1.6 per cent, of its work force unemployed, Western Australia 2.3 per cent., and Tasmania 1.7 per cent. In Victoria, the percentage is 1.4, in South Australia 1.4, and in Queensland 1.5. When we combine the figures and take the average, we find that the States governed by Liberal party or Country party governments have 1.33 per cent, of their work forces registered as unemployed.
– Surely you are not proud of that?
– I am very proud of our record. Let us compare that figure with that for the Labour-governed States of New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. The average for those States works out at 2 per cent., which is far greater than - almost double - the percentage of unemployment in the States governed by Liberal party or LiberalAustralian Country party governments. Those figures speak for themselves. As I have said, in 1931 the Labour party reduced the pension rate by 2s. 6d. from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week.
– During a depression.
– I have already explained that the reason for the recession was that our export income dropped by £40,000,000 in 1931.
– It was a world recession.
– There is a world recession at the present time. Our export income has dropped, not by £40,000,000, but by £180,000,000, or by four times the amount by which it dropped under a Labour administration.
– So you say that there must be another depression?
– I am not saying that there is another depression, but I am saying that at present we are going through a mild recession. I have shown that the percentage of unemployment under a Labour administration is always greater than that under a Liberal party or Australian Country party government.
– In an industrial State.
– I am talking about the Commonwealth now. If you study the records, you will see that under irresponsible Labour administration there is always an increase in unemployment, but when a responsible government comes into office, one that knows how to govern and to administer the economy of the country wisely, it keeps unemployment down to a minimum. I challenge any member of the Opposition to quote any period in the history of Australia when there was less unemployment than there has been during the term of office of this Government. I am thinking of the administration of the Chifley Government, particularly in the June quarter of 1949.
– What happened then?
– There was a coal strike. There have been strikes during our term of office, too, but during that period the level of unemployment has never been 5.7 per cent, of the work force. During Labour’s administration there was a higher percentage of unemployment than this Government has ever experienced. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said in 1945 that, even if the level of unemployment rose to 5 per cent., to all intents and purposes, as far as the Australian Labour party was concerned, that was full employment. I have spoken about the Budget on three different days, and I think I have convinced all Opposition members that this Government should stay in office.
– You have to convince the electors, not us.
– I feel confident that I have convinced you, and that you will convince the electors about the way in which they should vote. They will vote the right way, and that will be for this Government. Even though we are passing through a difficult period, because of wise administration, the level of unemployment has been lower and the recession has been felt less in Australia than in England or America.
Before I resume my seat, I wish to refer to the matter of shipbuilding. A question asked in this chamber to-day referred to the grave concern that is being caused to people who are engaged in the shipbuilding industry. While studying this matter in the limited time available to me, I discovered that the taxation allowances granted in England give companies greater incentive to have their ships built in England than is given to companies operating in Australia to have their ships built in this country, notwithstanding the fact that Australian companies are given a 334- per cent, subsidy for ships built in Australia. In both England and America companies are allowed depreciation at the rate of 5 per cent, each year for a period of twenty years, during which period the original outlay is written off. Whereas the Australian Government grants a 33J per cent, subsidy, England allows a 40 per cent, reinvestment allowance for shipowners who wish to invest their profits in the shipbuilding industry. It will be noted that a company operating in England is at a distinct disadvantage when compared with a company operating in Australia.
It is very desirable for the Australian Government to endeavour to encourage shipowners operating in Australia to have their ships built in this country so that Australianbuilt ships may carry from one part of Australia to another the goods that we produce, and may cater for our passenger traffic. At the present time, ships carry 49 per cent, of our goods at an average rate of .8d. per ton per mile.
– The private shipowners will raise freights again after the next election, and the Government will allow them to do so.
– If the honorable senator listens carefully, he will hear a lot of sane argument. I repeat that ships carry almost 49 per cent, of our goods at an average rate of .8d. per ton per mile. The highest rate, which obtains between Sydney and Brisbane, is 2.95d. per ton per mile. What is more important, the users of those goods pay 95.5 per cent, of the cost of transport, which is a much greater percentage than applies to goods carried by other forms of transport. Let us compare the cost of a ship built in England in 1937 with the cost of a similar vessel built in 1957.
The DEPUTY. PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- In following the brief remarks of Senator Scott, I feel I should commence my speech by saying that this Budget is disappointing and unsatisfactory. It has been so unsatisfactory to supporters of the Government that they have been compelled to damn it with faint praise. They can find little in it to satisfy themselves, particularly as it has been presented by a government that has been in office during a period of unequalled prosperity, in which time we have had splendid seasons, a booming national income, and everything that could justify people expecting provision in the Budget for a great improvement in their lot. Instead of that, we have had a conservative or stay-put budget. There has been no relief of taxation, and the expansion of social services and other benefits has been small.
The Government has justified its action by saying that it must have regard to a fairly serious fall in the national income and that within the next twelve months it must also prepare for the redemption of a large number of public loans. I suppose that, in regard to the fall in national income, which is the result particularly of a fall in income from primary products, the Government can disclaim some responsibility and can lay a good deal of the blame upon overseas conditions. But the Government cannot escape all the responsibility. It must be admitted that during its nine years of office the Government has certainly done far too little to find new markets which could have compensated for the loss of old markets for our primary products.
The Government has done absolutely nothing to deal with one of the most serious problems facing our primary producers - that is, the freights that have to be paid for the transport of those products overseas. We have the remarkable situation that, at. a time when the prices of our primary products are falling, at a time when the national income is falling, and at a time when the shipping interests tell us, as I heard them say last week, that there is a glut of shipping in the world, the monopoly which has a stranglehold on our overseas freights declares that it intends to increase those freights in the near future. The Government must accept responsibility for having done nothing to deal with that issue during its term of office.
In regard to the conversion of loans, the Government undoubtedly expects that bond holders will not show much enthusiasm about converting their holdings. The Government must again accept responsibility for a good deal of that lack of enthusiasm, because during its period of office it has failed to give the loan market adequate backing. The result has been that the market price of bonds has been so unsatisfactory that holders have been unwilling to convert and other people have been unwilling to invest in bonds. There has been a loss of confidence, due largely to the balance of payments crises of 1951 and 1952, which the Government allowed to develop, followed by recurring slight recessions and rising interest rates. The Government must accept responsibility for not seeing the harm that is being done to the loan market by hire purchase. It. has failed to take the very necessary action that is required1 in regard to investment priorities and the spending of our taxation revenues and loan funds. As a result of all these failures,, we have an- increasing cost of living and a situation in which pensioners, families, and others who are entitled to relief, receive no. relief from this Budget.
The Democratic Labour party claims that if the Government had pursued a proper economic policy it should have been possible, after nine years of abounding prosperity, to increase child endowment, togive greater maternity allowances, to give more relief to pensioners, to reduce indirect taxation and so improve the purchasing power of the housewife’s purse, and to abolish the pay-roll tax, which is a heavy burden on both industry and the consumer, and grossly inflationary in its effects. The Government also could have made selective taxation concessions, in order to assist our basic export industries and our deficient import replacement industries, as well as doing something in regard to our urgent roads problem. Instead, we have a Budget that is a complete disappointment. The Government cannot point to other factors and disclaim responsibility for the present economic situation.
Critics of the Budget, who pretend to be impartial, have attributed it to the fact that this Government feels that, electorally, it has nothing to fear. They say that this is the kind1 of budget that Labour introduced in 1949, when it felt that it had nothing to fear. The critics say that the present Government, in normal circumstances, would suffer the fate that the Labour Government suffered in 1949. Suggestions have been made that the Government feels safe because of the split in the Australian Labour party, and there is no doubt a good deal of truth in that. There have been frequent references in the press to the effect that the Democratic Labour party, by virture of the fact that it probably will poll some 500,000 or 600,000 votes in the coming general election, holds the balance of power. The surmise has been made, and the statement has often been made definitely, that my party has decided that it will record its second preferences in favour of the Government parties. I want to say, first of all, that my party is not largely concerned with second preferences; we are out for first preferences. In the recent State ejection in Victoria we polled a- reasonably good vote - an improved vote. We feel that that vote will be bettered in the forthcoming federal election, because there are a lot of people who would vote for the late Mr. Ernie Shepherd to lead a government but who would not vote for Dr. Evatt to lead a. government.
In regard to preferences, no definite decision has yet been arrived at by the Victorian branch of my party. Our federal conference has decided that each State will determine preferences for itself. In Victoria, the State to which I belong, the decision will be made on’ the day that the nominations close for the federal elections. Therefore, the position is that, as far as the Democratic Labour party is concerned, it will first of all seek first preferences, and in regard to second preferences, it will advise its supporters on what it regards as the merits of the parties opposed to it.
– Your party did give second preferences to the party led by the late Ern Shepherd at the last election.
– I shall explain that in a moment or two. Various suggestions have been made in regard to influences exercised on the Democratic Labour party in relation to its preferences. The first suggestion came from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), a spokesman for the Evatt Labour party, who made the statement in another place that the Democratic Labour party had been paid £30,000 by an oil company for its preferences. We also had the implication contained in the question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell): From where does the Democratic Labour party get its finances? He suggested that it must get its finances from sums of money paid to it by the Liberal party or by capitalistic organizations. I want to say that both the statement of Mr. Clyde Cameron and the implication of Mr. Calwell are equally baseless. Big capitalistic organizations and big business organizations are essentially business concerns. They pay their money for election funds to the parties that they think may be governments. They have not yet made up their minds that we are likely to be the next government, and for that reason they have made no approaches to us and we have received no money from them. As I have been asked where we get our money, I am only too pleased to answer. In the case of our party, first of all we had very little. In. the Victorian State election, we were able to afford one television programme and one newspaper advertisement, although I will admit that the newspaper advertisement was a pretty good one. Our opponents of the Evatt Labour party were able to put on television- session after television session, and so were our opponents of the Liberal party. Both those parties flooded the newspapers with advertisements, whereas we had the money for only one television session and one newspaper advertisement.
We have told our State candidates, as in the case of our Federal candidates, that we can give them no financial support from our central organization. They have to raise their own funds - they have to swim for themselves. They did so in the Victorian election, and they will do so again in the forthcoming federal election. Our central funds are provided in this way: We ask our members to contribute £1 a year. They also make special efforts to obtain assistance for us. In addition to that, we receive fair sums of money from about eight trade unions, including two of the. biggest in Victoria, which are affiliated with our party.
– Including Senator Hendrickson’s.
– Therefore, we even receive a contribution from Senator Hendrickson.
We have shown that it is possible to finance and run a political party in the way that the Labour party was run in the days before there were slush funds. I am pleased that we can do so, because it means that we are tied to nobody by strings. We can decide for whom we will vote, and we do so, in the case of preferences, on the basis of what is for the good of this country and its future security. We are paid by nobody and bribed by nobody. We have members who are prepared, even at cost to their own pockets, to stand in our interests.
If Mr. Clyde Cameron and Mr. Calwell are sincere in what appears, from their remarks, to be a condemnation of the acceptance by political parties of funds, or donations of thousands of pounds, from business organizations which, as is well known, contribute to both sides, I issue them with a challenge, since challenges seem to be rather popular at the moment. My challenge is this: Let them state publicly where the money comes from in what is known as the Federal Parliamentary Fund or, in less civilized circles, as the “ slush fund “ - a fund which is replenished before each general election as a result of members going around the big business organizations which are supposed to be anti-Labour and going through a process which one Labour senator in years past delicately referred to as going round the traps.
Let Mr. Cameron and Mr. Calwell explain the origins of the money in that fund. As an official of the Victorian Labour party, with my colleagues I tried in vain to find out where that money came from. We wrote to the federal secretary of the Labour party. He said that a very small percentage ot the fund came from the trade unions, or bodies from which Labour could legitimately expect to obtain funds. But every attempt we made to find the origins of the rest of the money were met by statements from officials of the party that we could not be told.
In those circumstances I repeat my challenge to Mr. Cameron and Mr. Calwell, who have attacked my party. They have said that they firmly oppose the acceptance by political parties of donations from business and capitalistic organizations. If they are fair dinkum, let them say where the money comes from that is in the Federal Parliamentary Fund. I issue my challenge with complete assuredness that we will never be told. But I want to say this: If we are going to fight this election campaign cleanly and above board, I suggest that Mr. Calwell and Mr. Cameron stop impugning the honesty of members of our party, because, if they want to make the origins of political funds one of the issues in the campaign, we shall be pleased to oblige them. Knowing what I know, 1 can say that their party will suffer far more from the discussion of that particular question than will my party.
– What about the Liberals?
– On that question, let me make this concession: Members of the Liberal party go round the traps also. There is no doubt about that.
There have been suggestions that we are bribed by the Liberal party with all kinds of concessions, privileges and the like. I have endeavoured, without success, to discover what are these concessions and privileges that we are supposed to receive. When prominent members of the Government and the Evatt Labour party are electioneering in the coming campaign a number of them will receive expense payments from the Government. Dr. Evatt will receive £8 1 0s. per day. When Senator Cole campaigns as Leader of the Democratic Labour party, which exists in every State except one, he will receive nothing per day. The Government which is supposed to bribe us, to have us in its pockets, to be giving us all sorts of concessions, is prepared to give daily allowances to leading members of the Evatt Labour party, but gives none to ours.
I have also noticed that when occasion has arisen for this Parliment to be represented at conventions and meetings of parliamentary associations, abroad, and a member of my party has been nominated for a trip, there have always been sufficient members of the Liberal party to join with the Labour party in order to ensure that the members from this side of the chamber selected for the trip are members of the Labour party. We have never been selected for such a trip. I make no complaint about that. I am pleased about it, in that it shows that the charge that the Government is bribing us is a false charge; but what would happen if the position were otherwise? Suppose Dr. Evatt received no daily allowance when campaigning during a general election, and that Senator Cole received an allowance of £8 10s. a day. Suppose that when members of the Parliament were being selected to represent Australia at functions overseas we were the people chosen and members of the Labour party were left out in the cold. What would be said then? I, therefore, say that I am unable to conceive of any of those concessions which are supposed to have been made to us. Our party is unattached. There are no strings tied to our decisions. The Government has made no attempt to bribe us, and our consciences are entirely clear.
I turn now to the really big issue which is going to be determined during the general election. T have already indicated that the decision on the allocation of our second preferences has yet to be made. I also say now that the decision will be made in accordance with the merits of the Labour party, and that unless the Evatt Labour party is able to satisfy our party in regard to certain matters that we regard as vital the possibilities of its receiving our second preferences will be rather grim. However, I wish to point out that I reject entirely suggestions that we are under any obligation to members of the Evatt Labour party in regard to the allocation of preferences, just as the members of the Evatt Labour party reject the suggestion that they are under any obligation to our party. The only obligation we recognize is to the people, and I take it that members of the Evatt Labour party would claim that the only obligation they recognize is to the people. 1 want to point out that in my own State - Victoria - in elections in which the Democratic Labour party has taken part in the last three years, on occasion the Evatt Labour party has preferred the Liberals to our party. On other occasions the Evatt Labour party has preferred the Country party to our party. On one occasion, in South Australia, the Evatt Labour party preferred the Communist party to our party. I hold in my hand, for example, a card issued by a Mr. J. C. Sexton in an election in 1956, headed “ Australian Labour Party “ which recommends voters to cast their votes in the following order Labour, 1; Communist, 2; Democratic Labour party, 3. That is the only occasion in Australian history, to my knowledge, when that has ever been done. Apparently that was the decision of the Labour party, and it was backed.
During the first general election in Victoria following the formation of the Democratic Labour party, the Evatt Labour party’s preferences were given to the Liberals. In the recent Victorian State election the Evatt Labour party selected any seat for which, by any remote possibility, a Democratic Labour party man might be elected, and gave Labour party second preferences to the Liberal party. In trade union elections, and on unity tickets for elections to a number of positions in trade unions, Evatt Labour has always given its first preferences to the Communists in a straight out fight between Communist and D.L.P. candidates. Even some members of the Evatt Labour party who are members of this Parliament have gone on to the wharfs when there was a straight-out fight for certain positions between Communists and Democratic Labour party members, and have told wharf labourers - and people concerned with elections in other trade unions - always to vote against Democratic Labour party candidates. That definitely meant that they should vote for the Communists who were already in control of the unions concerned. It penetrates even into municipal circles. In a recent election in the municipality in Melbourne in which 1 live three candidates stood, a Liberal man, a Democratic Labour man and an A.L.P. man. On that occasion the D.L.P. man put the A.L.P. man second on his ticket, with the Liberal man last. His reward for that was that the A.L.P. candidate put the Liberal man second1 and the Democratic Labour man last. In that municipality we had the spectacle of a man, who had been a Minister in a previous Labour government, hiding in a doorway until nominations were about to close to try to find out for which ward the D.L.P. man intended to stand because he intended submitting a nomination against that man, although he did not do so against any of the eleven Liberals who were standing in the other wards. In those circumstances we do not feel any obligation to allot preferences on any basis other than the good of the people, and we will determine, when the right time comes, where our preferences will go.
I have read in the press that a direction has been issued by the federal executive of the Evatt Labour party that the States shall allot their preferences in favour of our party.
– That is incorrect.
– I am pleased to hear that it is incorrect, but it is strange to hear the honorable senator’s remark when one considers that the statement was published in every newspaper in Australia and not one member of the Australian Labour party saw fit to deny it. The suggestion has been made in journals published in Victoria by supporters of the Australian Labour party that, because the A.L.P. is allegedly giving its second preferences to my party, we are under an obligation to exchange preferences. I merely point out that any allocation of A.L.P. preferences to my party means nothing because, as Mr. Tripovitch very clearly stated, as A.L.P. candidates expect to fill first and second places in most electorates, their preferences will not be counted, and he said, in effect, “ If we give the members of the D.L.P. our second preferences we- are giving them nothing “.
I point to the following decision of the Victorian central executive of the Australian Labour party which was circulated -
The central executive of the Victorian branch of the A.L.P., mindful of the fact that central control and principal activities of the Democratic Labour party are concentrated in Victoria, is of the opinion that the D.L.P. is as vicious and unrelenting in opposition to the A.L.P. as Communists, Liberals and the Country party. We resolve that, in future elections, the preferences of the A.L.P. candidates in this State shall be allotted by the Victorian central executive in such a manner as is considered by it to be in the best interests of the A.L.P. and the candidates.
That statement, if correct, indicates defiance of the decision of the federal body.
– It was never a federal decision, and you know it.
– If there was no such federal decision, why has a veil of secrecy been placed over the actual decision? A statement to that effect has been published in every newspaper in Australia. Why has it not been denied? However, coming to the more important issue, the question of unity tickets, I want to say outright that that is one of the big issues on which the Democratic Labour party will decide where its preferences will go. In my estimation, and in the estimation of my party, any man who calls himself, a Labour man and who is prepared to stand as a candidate in a trade union election on the same ticket as a Communist, has no right to describe himself as a Labour man, or to be a member of any party that calls itself a labour party. Until the split in the Labour movement, that was the attitude of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party, supported toy men such as P. I. Clarey, John Cain and others who are still members of that party.
When the Evatt Labour party permits its members freely and openly to run on unity tickets with Communists, as it has done in Victoria over the past three years, it deals a deadly blow at the vital security of this country. It is up to the Labour party to clear itself in the eyes of the people and let them know where it stands. Does the Labour party stand by another decision that we have been told has been made by the federal conference banning unity tickets, or will it continue to permit the Victorian executive to defy the federal body on this matter and threaten, if necessary, to run break-away candidates against Evatt Labour candidates?
I hope supporters of the Australian Labour party will not tell me that that is not the plan of the Victorian executive. I know that it has been the favorite proposition put forward by Mr. J. V. Stout over the years whenever his dictatorial ideas in regard to the actions of the party in Victoria have been opposed. In 1950, when I was not long an official of the Australian Labour party, I remember vividly that Mr. Stout vehemently opposed the proposal that the Labour party should support the McDonald Country party Government in return for a promise to introduce manhood suffrage in the upper house, a reform for which the Labour party had been fighting for years, and for which the Labour party would be quite justified in supporting the McDonald Government. But Mr. Stout was very friendly, and in intimate contact, with the Liberal Premier of that State, and threatened that if the executive of the Labour party was responsible for the Liberal government losing office, the unions would run break-away trades hall candidates against the Labour party candidates. Mr. Stout has made that threat over the years whenever his interests or ideas have been opposed. I shall be interested to see whether the federal body of Evatt Labour, if it goes ahead with its proposal in regard to unity tickets, has the courage to stand him up when he makes his threat once again. The New South Wales branch of the Labour party is making a pretence of dealing with this matter.
– Why do you say it is a pretence?
– Of course it is a pretence. I shall give honorable senators the evidence, In the election held in the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association last October a unity ticket, headed by Mr. W. Lane, who is president of the union, was used. During the last conference of the Labour party in New South Wales, Mr. Lane was elected to the State executive.
– Do you say he is a
– I am not saying that he is a Communist, but how can he be a member of the Australian Labour party if he stands for election on a unity ticket which the Labour party says is banned?
– Who was the Communist on the unity ticket?
– There were three - D. Ferguson, E. Harvey and E. Williams.
– Are you certain of that?
– Of course-
– It is easy to smear a man.
– As the honorable senator mentions smears, I suggest he listen to the “Victorian Labour Hour” on the radio any Sunday between 4 and 5 o’clock, when he will hear members of my party described as fascists, stooges of the Liberals, corrupt racketeers and gangsters. After hearing the volley of abuse hurled at members of my party the honorable senator should then ask himself whether supporters of his party are in a position to accuse anybody else of smearing. Last Sunday, in an atmosphere of great reverence, listeners were told that the session would be devoted to well-deserved tributes to the late Mr. Shepherd. However, even on such an occasion, the afternoon was rounded off with a disgusting attack upon my party.
In 1957, a unity ticket was used in an election in the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union. No action was taken then, or has been taken since, on the charges made in December, 1957, by Bob Bailey, formerly an Australian Labour party candidate, in regard to the Australian Labour party members concerned, J. G. Poole, K. Browning and J. Elliott. In an election in the ships’ painters and dockers union in 1957, Tom Scott, a member of the Evatt Labour party, was elected federal president of the union on a unity ticket with Communist Terry Gordon. I am sure Senator Ormonde will not deny that he is a Communist. In the Amalgamated Engineering Union elections in March, 1957, Mr. Mert O’Brien, a wellknown Evatt Labour party man, stood on a unity ticket with Communist Alan Wilson. No action was taken. In Victoria, 50 or 60 positions on the railway union executive were allocated equally between Evatt Labour candidates and Communist candidates. They did not clash once. When reference was made to that fact some of the candidates said, “ The names must have been put on without our knowledge “. They did not clash once. This unity ticket in Victoria was brought down to the editor of the railways union paper by an Evatt Labour .man who was standing for one of the chief positions. He said to the editor of that journal, “ We want that inserted in the union paper”. It contained the names of an Evatt man and a Communist. Two hours later, a full-time official of the Communist party rang up the editor, and, when the editor asked, “ What do you want?” he said, “ I am ringing up to make sure that you got our ticket “. I emphasize, “ our ticket”. And no action was taken by the Labour party in Victoria, for the simple reason that it was a matter of cold hard cash! When the unity ticket won the union election and defeated the decent Labour men led by Jimmie Neil, who had had the union, the victors decided at the next meeting that they would affiliate and pay affiliation fees to the Evatt Labour party in Victoria. And the Communists showed their supreme contempt for their allies by not letting one of the Labour men move that the union affiliate with the Evatt Labour party. One of the Communists proposed the motion - the same Communist who, from about 1940 to 1947, had successfully prevented the union from affiliating with Labour. The union affiliated with Labour only when the A.L.P. industrial groups won control of it.
Unity tickets have been banned - in theory, for the umpteenth time; in actual fact they are going on - yet on 14th February, 1958, a unity meeting was held in the board room of Unity Hail, the railways union head-quarters, and the chief speakers were Dick Pauline, Evatt Labour, Jack Brown, communist, Bill O’Brien, Evatt labour and Charlie Bone, Evatt labour. And the purpose of the meeting was, of course, to .arrange the usual unity ticket business! lu addition, J. J. Brown was there. They were going to get to work to assist .the Evatt Labour in the forthcoming elections.
I now hold up a ticket for Queensland. I ask honorabe senators to cast their eyes along the line of candidates’ photographs.
They will see an A.L.P. man, a Communist, an A.L.P. man, a Communist, an A.L.P. man, an A.L.P. man, an A.L.P. man and a Communist, running in that order.
– Who put that out?
– That was put out by the unity committee. We were told in Hobart that no tickets were to be permitted to have “ Australian Labour party “ on them in the future! Here is a ticket issued in Brisbane with “Australian Labour party” on it. That is supposed to be contrary .to the Labour party’s rules, too, and there is the ticket. When one goes through the whole gamut of hypocrisy in regard to unity tickets, the only conclusion one can come to is that the party to-day has lost its integrity, that it is not prepared to keep its integrity. Under those circumstances, I see very little future for it. 1 do not say that all men on this side of the Senate favour unity tickets. I know that there are three groups. First, there is the group of honest men who do not like the tickets and who, as far as this party is concerned, would like to wipe them out. There is a second group of men who want to keep them because there is money in it.
– Who are they?
– You are one of them.
– No, Senator Ormonde is not one of them. There is money in it, and because there is money in it, and because they find it enables them to attain power and prestige in the party, those men in the second group favour unity tickets. But there is a third group. It comprises men like Senator Ormonde who, although he probably would prefer not to do anything about the matter, feels that something must be done at the present time for electoral purposes. All I want to say to Senator Ormonde is that, as one who has had long experience in the party, I was amazed to hear him say the other day that his party could not do anything really effectively to run candidates on its own because, if it did, the Communists would get complete control of the unions. I have never known a period in the history of the Labour party when it was frightened of the Communist party. I say to Senator Ormonde that even with what its supporters have in their party now, if they like to tackle the Communists in the trade unions, they can beat them. I have never seen a worse combination of weakness and cowardice than has been shown by Senator Ormonde in stating that one reason why they should’ not tackle the Communists in the unions now is that if they did so, the Communists would take over complete control of them.
– That is not true. 1 did not say that.
– It is quite true. It is certainly truer than your quotation from the “ Catholic Weekly “, which nobody has ever been able to find in the “ Catholic Weekly “.
There has been a great deal of talk in the Senate about industrial groups. I feel it would be instructive to trace briefly the story of the industrial groups in view of the falsity of many of the statements that have been made about them. The groups were instituted as a result of a need in the Labour party. The Labour party never had much difficulty in defeating communism until 1935, when the Communists under Dimitrov evolved the policy of the Trojan horse. Hitherto, they had attacked Labour and said that Labour was in many ways worse than the conservative parties. At that stage, the Communists began to pretend to be friendly, and it was at that stage that they became dangerous. But in the war period, due to the fact that Russia and Australia were allies and therefore people had kindlier thoughts towards that country, due to the fact that many workers were tired after long hours of overtime and therefore not able to go to union meetings, and due to the fact that the Communists deliberately trained men to become union officials, the Communists were able to increase considerably their power in the trade union field; so much so that at the congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1945 or 1946, the Communists, with a secret vote, were able to obtain a majority of almost two to one.
– You look at the figures.
– Do not be silly.
– You have said that before, but you look at the figures. Following that success, the Communists were able to use their power to such an extent that State and Federal governments found them uncontrollable. In Victoria, the Cain Government was stood up by the railways union and was unable to govern because of the activities of that particular body under its Communist control. I heard the assistant secretary of the Trades Hall Council, Mick Jordan, tell us on one occasion that he had suffered the indignity of sitting outside the Premier’s door for over an hour because, inside, J. J. Brown was telling the Premier what he had to do.
In 1949, the federal Labour government was compelled, because of the stranglehold of the Communists on the powerful unions, to take action which no Labour government ever expected at any time that it would have to take. It froze the funds of a union on strike to starve its members back to work; it put trade union officials in gaol; and it brought troops into the coal mine and on board ships. That is what the Labour government had to do because it allowed the unions to fall into the hands of the Communists.
I supported the action of the government at that time because it was the only action possible. The government was faced with a crisis, and it had to act in the interests of the people. But we in Victoria, at any rate, determined that that would never happen again. We determined that we would fight communism in the trade unions, and that we would destroy its stranglehold on the trade unions, because we realized that no Labour government could function if the unions were in such hands. It was then that industrial groups were set up. They were set up for that purpose.
I have noticed that Mr. R. W. Holt, in another place, is claiming that Mr. Broadby was one who disagreed with the principle of industrial groups. I do not want to be hard on Mr. Harold Holt, but I must say that he knows nothing about trade unionism. Mr. Broadby was one of the founders of the groups. He was one of three who drew up the constitution and rules of the groups. He was also the founder of the tramways union industrial group, and stood as its candidate.
– Your people smashed it.
– He did not think so, neither did Lovegrove. The groups, within five years of being set up, had had amazing success. They took out of the hands of the Communists the control of the railways union, the clerks’ union, the ironworkers’ union and a number of other unions. Many of those unions had never affiliated with the Australian Labour party, but after the groups took control they did. They assisted Labour in its work and there was a remarkable period of industrial peace. The unions were in good hands and being in good hands, used industrial action only when that course was necessary. The Government has attempted to claim all the credit for that industrial peace, but the real reason was that the trade unions were in decent hands. They had been removed from the hands of the Communists.
The groups, because of their activities, made enemies. I remind honorable senators that they fought not only communism in the A.L.P., but also corruption in the A.L.P.; and because they fought corruption they were attacked by people in whose interests it was that the existing corruption should continue.
– Give us some instances.
– When the socalled “ groupers “ became the executive in Victoria, there were areas of Melbourne where you could not hold a selection ballot; areas where people were not admitted to the party unless some one went down where they were supposed to live and verified the fact that they lived there. One of the first things we did when we came into power - and became “ groupers “ - was to go to those areas. I was one of those who went. We knocked on doors to make sure that those who were allegedly members of the Australian Labour party actually existed. We found that though certain people were supposed to live at a certain spot there was no home there but, instead, a railway viaduct. It was common knowledge that there were in the party people who paid hundreds of pounds for tickets, to ensure that those whom they favoured won the ballots. We set to work and cleaned up those areas. We cleaned up the people who were backing that system, but the people whom we got rid of for that reason are back in the Labour party to-day - not in my Labour party but in the other.
Because we attacked corruption an attack was made on us. In Sydney the same thing occurred. The executive, led by Jack Kane, went to the Premier and said that something would have to be done to clean up the Sydney City Council. The Premier said, “ If there is a royal commission it will damage the party, but at least I will bring in legislation to enable you to reconstitute the council “, and he did so. Jack Kane has told me repeatedly that people went to him and said, “ If you touch the Sydney City Council, we will get rid of you and your executive “. He did not believe them and went ahead - and he and his executive have since been got rid of. I repeat, the groups did not merely fight communism. They also fought corruption, and one of the reasons why they have been so bitterly attacked is that there were people who believed in that corruption and who wanted the association with communism to continue.
I have been amazed at the things that have been said about people who took part in the industrial groups, or supported them. I knew these people. They were good Australians. When we formed the executive of the group, the late Jack Cain asked the Premier of the day whether he could be on the executive. He said, “ This is necessary if we are ever to have another Labour government “. We went to people and asked them to take on the job of fighting communism in the unions; the job of bringing them back to Labour. It was not a very pleasant job. There was no rush of enthusiastic seekers for the task. You had to go out and urge them to do it as a duty to Australia. I saw them at work. I remember a young fellow who was brought into the office at the Trades Hall battered and bleeding because he went along as a member of a group and stood up against the Communists and the trade union. They waited for him afterwards. I have known young girls to go along to meetings of the clerks union when it was controlled by the Communists and hear the Communists use the vilest and filthiest language in the hope that they would be afraid to come again.
– Why blame them?
– All you have done is blame the people in the groups. You have attacked them right, left and centre. Nothing has been too bad for you to say about them. The people whom I have described were the salt of the earth. They had the courage and the gameness to go out and do the job that other people were not game to do.
I can see already that the coming election will be a very nasty and unpleasant election. Whatever sort of election it is we will not complain. We will fight it and will take on the Opposition on any ground it cares to choose. I believe that we will be successful because we have the young people with us. The young people are awake to the big basic issues that confront this country, and they are on our side. Therefore, time is on our side..
Within the next few weeks we will have to make a decision, in regard to preferences. They will play a big part in deciding who shall be the future government. The vital issue from our point of view will be the future security of this country. I know that people say that communism will be an issue but that it is really only a bogy. There may have been a time when it was a bogy, but any man who looks at the map - particularly of countries to the north of Australia - and says that communism is a bogy is unfit to take part in public affairs. The other night we saw films of submarines which can surface 300 miles off our coast and place an atomic projectile on any of our capital cities. Russia has a number of those submarines. Lord Louis Mountbatten has told us that Russia has the strongest submarine fleet in the world. In the light of those facts any one who says that communism is a bogy is doing a pretty poor job for his country, and for his family.
Communism has to be fought outside of Australia. I believe in fixing a line and not retreating from that line. I am sorry that the British Labour party has just decided to suggest that Quemoy should be abandoned. Surely its members realize that if Quemoy is abandoned the next attack will be on the Pescadores; and that, if they are abandoned the next attack will come on Formosa. Once you start to yield to communism in Asia you are gone, and I am sorry that the British Labour party has taken such a retrograde step.
In the forthcoming election the important issues will not be altogether like those of other elections. The important issue is the future security of this country. What is going to be done to fight communism outside, and to prevent, it from, taking control of the trade unions inside which are vital to this country I am amazed that some people should allege that Labour has no right to take any interest in, or “ interfere “ with, trade union affairs. Surely they realize what happened in 1949, when Labour let the control of the unions get into the hands of the Communists, and of the people who were prepared to work with them. Surely they realize that no Labour government can effectively govern if the unions are not in sound Labour hands. I say, therefore, that Labour can never dodge its responsibility to the trade unions. Was it interference in 1948-49 when your government - a Labour government - brought in the first legislation for dealing with union ballots and preventing the victimization of trade unionists? I honour that government for doing it. It admitted that it had a responsibility to see that the trade unions were in good hands and were properly controlled but when you hear people suggesting that Labour is not responsible for the proper control of the trade unions you wonder what stage you have reached now.
I conclude by saying that the present situation gives no pleasure to anybody who has been associated with Labour over the years, and I joined in 1925. I believe that the present split in the Labour movement is a disastrous thing for this country, but I also say that the division is a division on principle. That is how my party regards it. We are not taking our stand on any basis other than principle. Until we get people at the top who are not prepared to sacrifice their principles to get a seat in Parliament, until we get, at the top, people of principle there is no hope for Labour in this country. I have always believed that the best government is a good Labour government. Conversely, the worst government is a bad Labour government. I will continue to believe that the best government is a good Labour government, but it has to be a government of the sort that we were used to in our younger days, not a government which truckles with Communists and is frightened to fight Communists in the trade unions because of the few miserable pounds they pay in affiliation fees and levies.
– While listening to Senator McManus’s remarkable speech, I was, very naturally, giving some consideration to whether I should make some reference to his observations. I must admit that I have felt for some time that sooner or later
Senator McManus, on behalf of his party, and with that clarity we have now grown to appreciate, would tell us in his fearless way - I congratulate him on the courage with which he made his speech - just what differences exist between his party and the Australian Labour party. That time has come. Senator McManus has done that. He has explained the ideological breach - he referred to matters of principle - between the Democratic Labour party and the Australian Labour party.
Although this is not a matter which affects the members of my party personally, I think the issues are so grave, of such a national character and so important that I am strongly disposed to make one or two observations upon them. Senator McManus pulled no punches in endeavouring to show the serious breach between his party and the Australian Labour party. I think it was the most terrible indictment of the Australian Labour party that I have ever heard. Senator McManus dealt with all the problems that give rise to the matters of principle, as he called them - I prefer to call them matters of ideology - such as differences over unity tickets, preferences and party funds, the collapse of the industrial groups, and the corruption that he alleges exists in the Australian Labour party. Although those accusations do not concern my party as such, they concern this nation and I think the terrible indictment that Senator McManus has now laid before the Senate demands an answer, accusation by accusation, from the Leader of the Australian Labour party in this chamber. I am quite certain that Senator McKenna is conscious of the responsibility that now rests upon him, as leader of his party in the Senate, to answer Senator McManus’s indictment. I leave it at that. That is where the matter now firmly rests. It is up to the Australian Labour party.
– Rubbish! That was not an indictment.
– I hope the honorable senator is never indicted, if he does not call that an indictment. As I was saying, the matter is now up to the A.L.P. There are several ways, of course, of answering the accusations of Senator McManus. There is, I suggest, a wrong way and a right way. The wrong way, of course, is to get up and say, “ We have been smeared “. That is the easy way out, but that is not answering the accusations. There are accusations in Senator McManus’s speech, based on factual statements, that must be either admitted or rebutted. Proof has been given here of some terrible things. Facts have been given in support of those accusations. It is not an answer to say, in effect, “ We have been smeared “. Those accusations need to be answered, chapter and verse, by facts. I do not think that Senator McKenna will adopt the attitude I have mentioned. Some of his colleagues may, but I do not think that Senator McKenna will use that subterfuge.
– Are you not merely crystal gazing at the moment?
– I am not. It is not my party’s responsibility; it is a national responsibility. When two parties fall out and accusations of this character are made, it becomes a national question, and the people of this country are entitled, as of right, to get the answers. My point is that Senator McManus has made the accusations and that it will not be a proper answer to say, “ We have been smeared “. The answer will have to be by way of rebuttal of the facts.
– Surely you are not putting yourself up as senior counsel for Senator McKenna?
– I would hate to be in Senator McKenna’s shoes when he is answering these accusations. I would not like to be counsel assisting him, but I think enough of Senator McKenna to believe that he will probably answer them.
– You have said worse things about the Labour party than Senator McManus has ever thought.
– And they have not been answered. All that honorable senators opposite have done is to get up and say, “ We have been smeared “. They are not game to answer my accusations. I have made some accusations based on facts, and those accusations remain unanswered.
I now pass to the problems that confront us in relation to the Budget. When all is said and done, this is a Budget debate, and I propose to say something about the Budget. I think it is quite relevant to the Budget debate to refer to the retirement of Sir Arthur Fadden. I propose to do that, and, with as much emphasis as I can, to pay tribute to his prowess, his ability, and his courage during the record period that he has held office as Federal Treasurer. I think all honorable senators will admit that Sir Arthur’s has been an outstanding achievement, a fine record. Since 1949, he has, as Treasurer, seen this country of ours prosper as it has never prospered before. In that time he has seen periods of violent world inflation and has been faced with the problem of enormous development and inflationary trends in Australia. He has had to provide for enormous government expenditure on public works, defence, housing and development. All those undertakings, Sir, constitute problems which collectively would amount to a Treasurer’s nightmare. He has faced those problems with great courage and has introduced into his rather mundane office - I have always thought that accountancy was a rather mundane subject - an element of humanity and humour which have assisted us greatly in appreciating his difficulties.
It is significant that Sir Arthur is not being kicked out of office but is moving out himself. Although he has done many unpopular things, things that he personally did not wish to do, he and his policies have been accepted by the people of this country at election after election. That, I think, is the greatest tribute that anybody could pay to a federal treasurer. In those words, I pay my tribute to his gallant efforts. I believe that the nation is losing an outstanding servant. I trust that his retirement will be as long, as enjoyable and as honorable as has been his great service to Australia.
I now wish to address myself to what I think is a most important consideration which constitutes the sum-total of factors covered by the Budget papers for the current financial year. There are many ways of looking at a Budget and of analysing its contents. We have the traditional approach that is made by many people even to-day - that is, to look at a Budget as being entirely an accounting document. Such people look at a Budget as did perhaps Walpole or Disraeli many years ago. They regard it as being a national balance sheet and set of trading accounts and think that, if the debits are equal to the credits, it is a good Budget. If I may say so, that is a rather simplified way of looking at a Budget and, in these modern times, is not nearly as important as some other ways to which I shall refer later. When all is said and done, Disraeli was not concerned with a paper currency; he had gold to use when formulating a Budget. He was not concerned with the rapid deterioration of paper money, nor with the modern and very desirable social innovation called the welfare state. Moreover, he was not concerned with having to make his Budget a document that would give, in short, the highest degree of employment in the nation.
– And he did not have a Labour Opposition!
– He did not have a Labour Opposition with more experience than the present Opposition, shall we say. Many people still regard1 a budget as being a purely accounting document, but I suggest that that is the least important way of analysing a budget. There is a much more popular way of looking at a budget; that is, to look at it in a personal way to see whether one’s taxation has gone down or one’s benefits have gone up.
– That is the subjective assessment.
– That is rather subjective, yes. I gather from Senator Byrne’s rather benign appearance that this Budget is approved by him subjectively. Actually, this afternoon Senator McManus was somewhat guilty of what 1 might call subjective criticism. In the three and a half minutes that he devoted to a consideration of the Budget he complained - I do not think it was a very serious complaint - that it did not give enough and did not reduce taxation. That is the subjective or personal approach. I do not deny that it has some value in budgetary analysis, but I do not think it is important in these days of what we describe as Keynesian finance.
I suggest that the most important manner in which to look at a budget - I submit it is quite modern, that it has come about since the nations went off the gold standard - is to examine it to see whether it preserves the economic and social stability of the nation. I use those words for want of a better expression. Although there are many factors associated with such a consideration of a budget, I have jotted down six. Having regard to the fact that the present Budget does a rather remarkable thing in that it inflates our currency to the tune of some £105,000,000 - in other words, it injects into our purchasing power an additional £105,000,000 which was not there before the Budget papers were presented - I think we ought to consider the following factors in assessing its real worth: First, does it maintain development? Secondly, are we maintaining our immigration programme? Thirdly, does it maintain a balanced programme of capital works and housing? Fourthly, does it bring about the highest possible level of employment? That, I suggest, is a most important factor. Fifthly, is it likely to revive inflationary trends? That is another important factor. Finally, does it have regard to the most important factor of all, and one about which I want to say something, that of our problem in relation to overseas trade and overseas reserves?
I have given six factors that are not necessarily, as it were, running hand in hand in this financial race, nor are they necessarily complementary. In fact, some of them actually are opposing factors. For example, the creation of £105,000,000 worth of additional purchasing power in this country is an inflationary factor. Having regard to the importance of preserving high levels of employment, the maintenance of public works and development programmes, and so on, will that and the other factors, including the allimportant one of overseas trade and foreign exchange, bring about a balanced result? I think, Sir, that there is no easy answer to the question I have posed. We need to go through these factors, both individually and, perhaps more importantly, collectively, to see where this Budget takes us. I should like to do that in the space of time that is available to me.
In regard to the first factor that I have mentioned, I do not think I need waste very much time. It is quite clear that this Budget provides the wherewithal for the maintenance of our development programmes. For example, it continues the Snowy Mountains scheme and the programme relating to the unification of railway gauges; we are continuing our subsidies and our assistance to the mining industry, and so on. No one will deny that the Budget deals with that factor to the satisfaction of most of us.
– Provided that you are satisfied with the present rate of development.
– That, again, must be related to our resources, our capital and our man-power. Therefore, there is no easy answer to that question either.
Let me take the second factor that I have mentioned, namely, whether the Budget is satisfactory, having regard to such matters as immigration. We are proceeding with a planned immigration programme, and no one can object to the number of migrants we are bringing in.
– Does the honorable senator say that it is sufficient or insufficient?
– Since the economy has shown, over the last nine years, that it can absorb immigrants at about the present rate, surely no one would quarrel with the proposition that the Budget is catering for a balanced immigration programme.
– Having regard to the increasing national income and national wealth, should not we be able to absorb more immigrants?
– You must look at the other factors. It is. not simply a case of taking a rabbit out of a hat and saying, “ Isn’t this a good rabbit? “ We must have regard to the other factors that are involved. If, for example, overseas trading conditions were very favorable instead of being very adverse, and if our gross national product had increased by twice the present rate, I would suggest that the migration rate could be expanded; but having regard to the other factors, I suggest that we are doing very well, even extremely well, to maintain immigration at its present rate.
Let us consider the factor relating to the provision of funds for capital works and housing, again having regard to the other. factors that I have mentioned. I do not. think that anyone could complain about the amount of money that has been made available for both capital works and housing. As a matter of fact,, although the Commonwealth actually is spending less money on those vital matters, more money is being made available to each of the States. In regard to the maintenance of a high rate of employment, earlier to-day in the SenateI asked a question of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service in this chamber, and in answer, the honorable senator gave some very interesting figures. Our present. employment position happens to be about the best recorded of any of the democracies, certainly of the more important democracies. Whereas the Australianunemployment figure at the moment is about 1.6 per cent. of the work force available, we find that in the United States of America there is the rather startling proportion of 6.8 per cent. In Canada, it is 5.2 per cent; in Belgium it is 4.7 per cent., and in West Germany, a country about which we hear a lot in regard to development, there is the proportionately rather high percentage of 2.4. So I suggest that no one can quarrel with out unemployment ratio, in the context of which I am. speaking. I think that the Budget has permitted those figures and that they will be accepted as. being highly satisfactory.
The final and most important factor about which I wish to speak at some length relates to overseas trade. I do not think that anyone will deny that that is probably the most important and the most difficult of all the factors that must be considered in formulating budgetary policy. I do not need to spend a lot of time in outlining the situation, either in Australia or in the rest of the world. We know only too well just how serious our situation is in relation to world trade and foreign exchange. Our export income dropped some 17 per cent. in one year, from£980,000,000 to £815,000,000 in round figures. The value of our farm income dropped by 33 per cent. Our base metals, which are second on the list of export values, have shown a loss comparable to that of farm produce. I think that every wool farmer will have a somewhat serious expression on bis face when one mentions the present price of wool. These trading figures are serious. In many ways they are comparable to the figures that obtained, at the time of the 1930 depression, when there was serious unemployment as a consequence.
I think that the Government can be congratulated on not allowing the serious trade position overseas to affect its thinking in regard to budgetary finance, in particular to the making available of £105,000,000 as a ray of sunlight in what otherwise is a somewhat sombre document. The Australian situation, Sir, is only a reflection of what is happening overseas. No one could object to the proposition that the world is experiencing a rather serious trade recession. All commodity prices have fallen. That is not unexpected, in view of the demand that was. created by nations such as America, particularly, in building up stock piles, which resulted in the prices of world commodities increasing for many years after the end of World War II. But with the cessation of stock piling, and due to the operation of other factors, commodity prices have dropped and look like continuing to drop. I do not think that the outlook for the future is particularly bright, but that does not mean that we must despair.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The question often asked is what the various trading nations, particularly the larger trading nations, are doing or have done to arrest the recession in world trade. I remind the Senate that Australia is now one of the largest trading nations in the world. It is important that we remind ourselves that the volume of overseas trade is in. all respects complementary to the problem of foreign exchange. In a consideration of what the various trading nations have already done about the trade recession, it is perhaps pertinent for me to remind the Senate that these nations have quite obviously been aware that the present situation would one day arise. For example, for some years past there has existed a mufti-lateral trade agreement known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was established for the prime purpose of encouraging trade among the nations. Australia is a member of that agreement.
We have also in concert with other trading nations, instituted- the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank: for Reconstruction and Development. Both of those instrumentalities were; I suggest, created, specifically having regard to the possibility of a recession in world trade. Then the various trading nations have bi. lateral agreements, these again having been reached having regard to a possible rainy day. These things, are already operating, some with, considerable advantage; but I emphasize that their existence has not prevented the present trade recession from occurring.
The present weakness - and I think, that this can be demonstrated, although I do not propose to argue the matter at length - stems from the American policy of high protectionist tariffs . When one considers America’s, tariff policy in relation to the other actions of the United States towards the smaller nations it is evident, I suggest, that it is inevitable that the situation we now face should occur when world trade starts to recede. We have the spectacle on the one hand of the United States providing large sums of money under the Marshall Atd plan and making large direct payments of dollars to various countries for the express purpose of assisting their development. Capital goods have been supplied to those countries and large public works have been directly financed by the United States.. I do not know that anybody could object to that. Only the greatest appreciation can be accorded to America for her action, in that respect. But, on the other hand, when, a trade recession occurs we find the Americans closing up. They refuse topermit the nations whose development they have assisted to trade with America. The result is that we have the rather alarming situation that the smaller nations, having been assisted to develop by the United States, are now being denied the opportunity to exploit their development through normal trading channels- with the United States. I think that is the critical and important reason why we are in our present situation, with a world trade recession. In the context in which I am speaking I can refer to the remarks of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who is now attending the Commonwealth financial conference at Montreal. I think his remarks are worthy of being repeated because they are most important. He said: -
There is one salient and undeniable fact in world, trade to-day - that as a group,, the primary commodities such as food’,, fibres and metals are at a very considerable price disadvantage compared with manufactured goods. 1 pause here to remind the Senate that we are one of the nations to which the Minister is referring, because we produce primary commodities in that group, which are now at the disadvantage that he mentioned. The Minister went on to say -
In this situation, countries exporting primary commodities are almost without exception in balance of payments trouble.
The Minister continued -
This has limited, or will limit, their ability to go ahead with their own development, improve their standards of living and continue as markets for the manufactured goods of industrial countries. Generous financial aid is not enough. Dependent people are not free people. Unless the underdeveloped countries are allowed to earn enough through the prices of their primary products to increase their standards of living and proceed with their development, it is useless to expect them to have political stability.
The Minister then said -
Sugar, wheat and tin are the subject of international agreement. It is notable that these commodities have preserved the greatest price stability - even in the case of wheat, with the United Kingdom out of the agreement.
Then the Minister made what I think is a most profound and important observation. He said -
I am confident that the Commonwealth can develop an initiative which will lead to world-wide expansion of trade.
He continued -
These problems do not lie solely in the field of international trade. There are also problems of means of financing trade expansion and economic development. It is fundamental to realize that ultimately the solution of the problems confronting the British Commonwealth are not in the hands of the Commonwealth countries alone. They require the utmost co-operation from other countries, particularly the United States.
I do not think that anybody can quarrel with those observations, Mr. President. They epitomize what I have been trying to say, which is that the root cause of the present trade recession can be traced to the policy of the United States. I suggest that the remedy must also be required to flow from the United States.
I do not profess to be an authority on world trade or finance, but, having said what I have said, I should like to postulate three possible courses of action that are available to the nations concerned. In the first place, I suggest, there should be a modification of the functions of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, for the purpose of stimulating trade in addition to assisting development. The stage has been reached at which, by means of these fine instrumentalities, development has been achieved in the smaller and somewhat backward countries, but I insist that those instrumentalities are doing nothing to stimulate trade. It is quite futile for a country to provide capital goods and have no market on which to sell them. The functions of those instrumentalities must be reviewed. That is the first problem to be overcome by the trading nations. To Senator Anderson, who has just interjected, I say that the function of the International Bank is the development of the nation through its capital goods, not the stimulation of trade. Those are two distinct avenues of finance.
I suggest in all humility that we must eventually face up to the absolute necessity of stabilization schemes for all essential commodities, particularly base metals. The Minister himself has referred to the fact that we have world marketing and stabilization schemes in respect of sugar, tin and wheat, and it is significant to note that those three commodities have not fallen in price to any great extent. It is likewise significant to note that the prices of all other commodities, which are not subject to stabilization schemes at the international level, have fallen drastically in price. As part of a world trading pattern we must face up ultimately to the importance of stabilization schemes for all commodities.
– Does the honorable senator think that is possible?
– We have succeeded in setting up a stabilization scheme for tin production.
– What about timber?
– We have also done it with wheat, gold and sugar. If we can do it for those commodities we can do it for all commodities.
– What about wool?
– Wool-growers in my own State of Western Australia are discussing at great length a stabilization scheme for wool at the international level. Whether we like it or not, we may be forced to enter into some sort of international marketing arrangement and stabilization scheme for wool. On the one hand we cannot complain to America that, because of her policy in regard to trade, she is provoking a trade recession and, on the other hand say, for the very same reason, that the Americans must play the game but we need not do so. We could well be forced into accepting some stabilization scheme for wool.
The third suggestion I make is that the United States, in revising her trade policy, must be prepared to agree to an increase in the price of gold in terms of dollars.
– Why must it be?
– If the honorable senator will be patient-
– The United States cannot be forced to do anything.
– I suggest to the honorable senator that this debate is not one that should provoke interjections. If he will be so kind and patient as to remain silent, I shall endeavour to rid his mind of its misconceptions. I shall quote from an article that appeared in the “ South African Journal of Economics “, entitled “ The Role of Gold To-day”, written by Mr. R. F. Harrod on behalf of the International Monetary Fund, which is sponsored by the United Nations. The speech was recently delivered in South Africa. Mr. Harrod is one of Britain’s leading economists; a Nuffield Reader in International Economics; a member of the Council of the Royal Economic Society; joint editor of the Economic Journal “, and a well-known author of books on economics. He was economic adviser to the International Monetary Fund for several years. Mr. Harrod was asked by the fund to investigate the causes of the world trade recession and to find a solution to the problem. The article is most informative and commences in these terms -
When I joined the research staff of the International Monetary Fund for a temporary spell of service in 1952, it was put to me that I should consider the reasons why the imbalance of the rest of the world with the United States had become so much more severe since the second world war At a fairly early stage it soon began to stand out that the biggest single cause of change in international pattern of payments was the great shrinkage in the value of shipments of newlymined gold …. It will not suprise you to learn that this finding, which I presented as a matter of hard fact, did not win favour in all quarters. I found that into the criticisms directed against it a certain moral animus appeared to enter. It seemed to some positively perverse to argue that things had gone wrong, simply because one had not offered to pay more to people who dig out of the ground a substance destined only to be locked up in a safe. . . .
It is far from my purpose to-day to enter into this moral debate, or indeed to dwell upon the role of the distribution of newly-mined gold as a means of balancing out the annual trade in goods and services. I wish to dwell rather on the more fundamental role of gold as furnishing a supply of liquid reserves. I would only add in relation to the current imbalances of payments that I have no doubt that the changed position of newlymined gold in the overall pattern remains a main cause of the chronic difficulties of Europe on her dollar account. Deprived, to a large extent, of this convenient method of balancing off her running trade deficit with North America year by year, it was incumbent on her-
Mr. Harrod refers to Western Europe ; to reduce her imports from that area, to increase her exports to it or to capture by multilateral settlement from third party countries sufficient dollars - as she had formerly captured sufficient gold - to pay for her excess of dollar imports. She has by manful efforts increased her exports to the dollar area, but not by enough to compensate for the diminished value of the annual supply of newly-mined gold becoming available for monetary use.
He concludes with this very significant and important observation -
It is, of course, up to the Americans to solve our problem. It falls to them because they happen to be the major holders. … In these circumstances, raising the price of gold would do two things. First, it would place all other nations in a more comfortable position as regards their reserves. It would thus enable them to adhere more fully to the principle of multilateral trade and non-discrimination, of which the Americans themselves have been the foremost advocates. It is an odd thing that the Americans should be so keen on multilateralism, and yet be unwilling to take the one step - raising the dollar price of gold - which could make the multilateral system permanently viable. The second result would be to raise the commodity value of the United States own reserve. To double the dollar price would raise her net reserve from about five months dues-out to ten months dues-out. It is odd also that a nation should have the power to double the commodity value of her own reserve by a mere stroke of the pen, to the applause of the world, and yet be unwilling to do so.
That is a most important contribution to the solution of the problem of world trade. Mr. Harrod was deputed by the International Monetary Fund to look at the problem, and he has suggested a way out. That solution is not unique; in fact, I have advocated it in this chamber on more than one occasion over the last five years. The solution to the problem that has been suggested must be adopted if the trading nations of the world are to solve the difficulties of the present recession. I have referred to the Minister’s very able observation on this matter of the Ottawa conference, and in that context I think there is a responsibility on the nations of the Commonwealth, at the Montreal conference, to state the facts of life so far as they are concerned - and I suggest they are more or less as I have repeated them - to the United States of America and to point out as forcibly as possible that the solution of our problem lies very largely in the hands of the United States, and that, without the co-operation of the United States, there can be no final solution to our problem. It is their responsibility, also, I submit, to point out that the isolationism of the United States - because this is a matter of isolationism in economics - can only lead to a recurrence of the evils we are now experiencing as nations.
That is the summary, I suggest, of what is open to the trading nations of the world as a permanent solution to our problems. I have given three lines of activity that I think can be followed. The first is a reorganization of the International Monetary Fund for the purpose of facilitating trade. Perhaps I could elaborate that statement by saying that I see no reason why that fund could not make available to the trading nations large reserves by way of overdraft for the purpose of paying off current accounts and facilitating trade. Bankers do it with private traders, so long as the security of those private traders is good -enough. If a nation’s security is good enough, I see nothing wrong with the granting of short term overdrafts by the International Monetary Fund for the purpose of enabling countries to pay off short calls or -unexpected calls on overseas reserves. That is what I mean when I suggest that the International Monetary Fund, and its associate Bank for Reconstruction and Development, be given power to stimulate world trade.
I also believe, as I have said already, that we must get down to taws with the other trading nations and discuss stabilization schemes for world commodities. Finally, I think the United States of America has got to get down to taws and do some thinking about ‘her responsibility to the rest of the world with regard to stimulating and maintaining a higher level of trade for those nations to whom she has been so generous in the past in matters of development but not with respect to trade.
That really concludes what I have to say in regard to what I think is the most important factor giving rise to a consideration of the Budget - our problem in regard to overseas trade and the related problem of shortage of overseas reserves. I believe that the Budget has been framed with due regard to that important factor. I believe that the framers of the Budget -have taken a most courageous step in injecting £105,000,000 into the purchasing power of this community-
– From where?
– Paper money, having regard to the great potential of Australia and her capacity for repayment.
– A new toryism
– It has nothing to do with toryism; this theory is over a generation old and was not propounded by a tory or socialist. A very great Liberal by the name of Keynes first propounded it. As a matter of fact, we adopted the Keynesian philosophies relating to public finance long before the socialists ever heard of them. This is merely another illustration of how we are so far ahead of socialist thinking in relation to public finance that you people believe, with all due respect - I believe you honestly think so - that it is something new. It is not new. It is now regarded as good finance, and we have been preaching it for years. But at the same time, it does not get away from the fact that it is a courageous policy because we are in fact backing the future of Australia in production and potential to make good this advance of £105,000,000.
In another context, of course, it is one of the greatest hand-outs -that any Budget has made - £105,000,000 for nothing. If the Government had been prepared to say to the taxpayers, “ Here are tax remissions to the extent of £105,000,000”, I think Senator Hendrickson would have applauded. But I do not hear any applause from him when the Government is prepared to .get into debt to the extent of £105,000,000, having regard to the facts .as I have related them.
– What has forced it to get into debt?
– If my friend had been listening to what I have been saying, he would have understood by now. If he does not understand by now, he never will understand. I believe that the attitude of the Government, and the policy of the Government in injecting that money into the economy and so endeavouring to get round a problem which is not one of its own making but one resulting from international trade recession, are most courageous, and all that any sane government could be expected to do in the circumstances. I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget.
.- I support the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly. I support it, not out of party considerations, but purely and simply because I realize, as I know the huge majority of people in Australia do, that this is the most barren Budget ever introduced into this Parliament. If one believed in superlatives, one could describe it as a tragic tragedy.
It has been amazing to hear the pathetic attempts made by Government supporters in this chamber to bolster this Budget. They have gone as far afield as New Zealand and England in their attempts to do so. It is a wonder to me that some of them have not been up in Alaska with the Eskimos, for they will do anything in an attempt to divert attention from the real issues at stake. A number of Government .supporters have taken up a .good deal .of their time in eulogizing Sir Arthur Fadden upon the introduction of his last Budget.
We must get down to basic realities and realize that the people of Australia looked to the Government to bring down a budget that would grant them some relief in this difficult time. I mention, in particular, that great body of people, the pensioners and others who are forced to live on social service payments. The Government, in an attempt to placate these people, or in an endeavour to put up some sort of a front, proposes to grant an increase of 10s. a week to certain types of pensioners. I hasten to make it clear that this is only an attempt by the Government to divide the pensioners while at the same time granting a sop to the landlord’s of the country. The Government proposes to grant an increase of 10s. a week to single pensioners who are paying rent and to married rent-paying pensioners entirely dependent upon the pension, only one of whom is in receipt of a pension. Can it be suggested for one moment that landlords will go to the bother of ascertaining whether their pensioner tenants are eligible for this 10s. increase? It is perfectly clear that the granting of this increase of 10s. to these - pensioners is purely and simply the Government’s way of giving all landlords the all-clear to increase the rents charged to all pensioners. That has been fully borne out by the fact that the Liberal Government of Victoria has already indicated that it intends to increase the rent of pensioner tenants who occupy housing .commission homes. It has already increased steeply the tram and rail fares, and the charges for gas and electricity. Two or three years ago that government ceased making quarterly cost-of-living adjustments. This has all added to the burdens of pensioners and workers generally.
What is the ‘true position in Victoria? At the last election the Liberal government obtained 38 seats in a house of 66, polling a primary vote of 37 per cent. only. Therefore, fourteen or fifteen Liberal members are in the Victorian Parliament -only because they obtained the preferences of another party. I say quite definitely and objectively that the party which gave its second preferences to Liberal candidates is to blame for the burdens which the present Victorian Government has placed upon workers and pensioners alike. The fare increases in that State have raised, by ‘as much as £1 a week, the cost of getting to work. Workers’ weekly tickets, which had been available for many years and had been a great boon, are no longer issued. That alone has increased workers’ fares terrifically.
Senator Wedgwood, who is always interested in social welfare, made great play upon what the Menzies-Fadden Administration had allegedly achieved in that field. She described its programme as magnificent, and referred especially to increases in pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and to pensioners’ rent assistance. I have already dealt with the matter of rent assistance, but would point out that in Victoria, at any rate, 47 per cent, of T.P.I, personnel will not be entitled to Id. increase. The ceiling rate is still £15 15s., and the T.P.I, rate is in the vicinity of £11. The difference between the two is made up by other social service payments. On the one hand, pensioners will get a 10s. increase but on the other it will be taken off their social service benefits. I repeat, 47 per cent, of T.P.I, personnel will not receive a net increase of Id.
– It is political trickery.
– It is political dishonesty! The Government, with the assistance of the press, makes out that it is giving a 10s. increase in T.P.I, pensions, and usually succeeds in deceiving the people.
When he first spoke Senator Scott spent most of his time in New Zealand, and he did not look too well when he landed back here. Even to-day he insisted on going back as far as 1931. He said that a Labour government had reduced pensions in that year. That is a half truth, and a half truth is often worse than an untruth. What he says is correct, but it does not give the full story. In 1931 a Labour government was in office, but it was not in power. Every one - including Government supporters - knows that everything which the Scullin Government attempted was defeated in this very chamber by an anti-Labour majority. Whenever it attempted to alleviate the distress and poverty of the unemployed and help the farmers - I emphasize that for the benefit of the cuckoo party here - it was defeated by the combined’ opposition of the then United Australia party and the Austraian Country cuckoo party. It is absolutely dishonest to make comparisons of that kind, as Senator Scott did.
Again, Senator Scott said that in 1931 the national income had decreased by only £40,000,000, as compared with £180,000,000 in 1958. Here again, we have not been given a true comparison, for due account has not been taken of the changing value of money. In 1931, £40,000,000 had a much greater purchasing power than does £180,000,000 to-day. That is the result of the inflation which we have known under the Menzies-Fadden Administration. I would remind Senator Wedgwood that every social service on the statute-book resulted from the work of Labour. For instance, the first Commonwealth social service was provided in 1909 by the antiLabour government led by Alfred Deakin. However, that government was in office only as a result of Labour support given on condition that it introduced an age pension of 10s. a week, based on a permissible income of 10s. a week.
– It was, nevertheless, introduced by an anti-Labour government.
– If the honorable senator will listen for a moment she will not be tempted to make wild statements in future. In 1910, the Fisher Labour Government introduced invalid pensions. In 1912, it introduced a maternity allowance without a means test of any kind. No new social service was introduced by the Commonwealth in the next 29 years. Anti-Labour governments were in office for more than three-quarters of that period, including the depression years. Labour was in office only during the Scullin regime, and then it had a hostile majority in this chamber. In 1941 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave a strong hint that if some form of child endowment were not introduced the basic wage would be increased substantially. The Menzies Government, listening to that warning, provided an endowment of 5s. per week for the second child and subsequent children. Even so, let me point out that a Labour government in the State of New South Wales introduced child endowment many, many years before that.
Although a Labour government was in power in the Commonwealth for most of the war-time period, and although it was preoccupied with the heavy task of carrying out the war, it still had its eye to the future and introduced further social service legislation. For instance, it introduced widows’ pensions for four classes of people. That legislation was introduced during the early period of Labour’s term of office from 1941 to 1949. The first class of widow, the A class, includes widows of any age with a dependent child or children; the class B widows are widows of 50 years of age or more; and the class C widows are those under 50 years of age without a child or children, but who are in necessitous circumstances. Class D has reference to a woman whose husband is serving a substantial gaol sentence. lt was a Labour government that introduced unemployment and sickness benefits, which have been of inestimable value to the unemployed, and about which I will have something to say later. The honorable senator who is interjecting always reminds me of the well-known song, “ You’d be far better off in a home “. Funeral benefits also are to the credit of a Labour administration. A benefit of £10 was provided for the burial expenses of age or invalided pensioners, thus eliminating the distressing fear that haunted many pensioners that they would be buried as paupers. I might interpose that that rate of £10 still stands; it has not been increased since then.
I have a great list of social service benefits here that I could read for the benefit of honorable senators. The wife’s allowance is another thing that was introduced by a Labour government. So also is the child allowance, which is payable in respect of the first child of a person entitled to a wife’s allowance. There was a special benefit provided which enables the Social Services Department to deal with some of the anomalies that were not directly provided for in the actual legislation. Hospital benefits also were introduced by a Labour government, to relieve the plight - so often desperate - of so many persons each year who, afflicted with illness and consequent loss of earning capacity, were faced with the additional burden of heavy hospital expenses. A Labour government introduced the hospital benefits scheme. It provided that, through payments to and arrangements with the States, free accommodation and medical treatment could be given to patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals.
As we go along we come to pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits and mental hospital benefits. This latter eliminated, through the payment of money by the Commonwealth to the States, the necessity for a charge to be made to unfortunate persons who were inmates of mental institutions. Then there are our rehabilitation services, which, I think everybody will agree, probably have no equal in any part of the world. The rehabilitation scheme introduced by a Labour government provided for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. A remarkable job has been done in rehabilitating, not only fit persons who were demobilized from the services, but also people with disabilities, so that they could be absorbed in productive and remunerative employment.
Then we consider tuberculosis eradication. A great deal of money was provided by a Commonwealth Labour government in connexion with a nation-wide plan to eradicate tuberculosis.
– More money was paid to the States by the Menzies Government.
– There can be no real comparison between what was paid by the Labour government and what was paid by the Menzies Government. The honorable senator knows that. She knows, for instance, that an age pensioner in 1949 received a greater percentage of the then basic wage than an age pensioner does at the present time. We must have regard to the purchasing power of money at any given period. It is sheer hypocrisy and political dishonesty to say, as so many honorable senators opposite say, that the pensioners are receiving more money to-day than they ever did before. Admittedly more money is being paid* to them to-day, but the value of that money is less than the value of the money they were receiving in 1949.
University scholarships were provided by a Labour government. Child endowment was greatly extended by a Labour government, but i point out that the rate of child endowment being paid to-day is the same as when the Labour government left office. No increase whatsoever has been made. Those are only a few of the social service benefits that have been made available to the people of Australia by Labour governments right throughout the history of this country.
Before going on to deal with some statements that have been made in connexion with unemployment, let me first draw attention to statements made by Senator Cole and, at an earlier hour to-day, by Senator McManus. Senator McManus talked for a long time - understandably so, as he was making a pre-election speech - on unity tickets and the fear complex of communism. I am not speaking derogatively about him. He is entitled to his own opinion, but let me point out that he knows just as well as we do that there is no difference between t he attitude of the Labour party to-day t owards communism and its attitude at any other period. I challenge him or anybody else to point to any member of the parlia- mentary Labour party, here or in another place, who has even Communist tendencies. We are just as much opposed to com- munism as any persons in this community.
Senator McManus, in my view, made some amazing statements. For instance, he said, dealing with Communist tendencies, that the late John Cain was closeted with J. J. Brown for quite a long time, with the result that another union official could not gain admittance to the room for about an hour. Surely the Premier of a State is entitled to confer with officials of a union, whoever they may be. Responsible public figures are entitled to see the Premier of a State on certain matters.
The point I wish to make is that at that particular time quite a number of people who are now very prominent supporters of Senator McManus’s party were not only members of the Australian Labour party, but were Ministers in that Government. Why did they not reveal the position then? Why did they not make some protest about the position at that particular time? Then Senator McManus went on to say that nothing else matters except communism.
-I did not say that at all. I said that nothing matters but the security of the country, which is a very different thing.
– You said that nothing else matters except communism.
– I never said that.
– Let us be realistic. What do we propose to do to combat communism? The only thing that will combat communism in this or in any other country is to build up and maintain conditions in which communism will not breed. Further than that, Senator McManus said that communism must be fought outside Australia. It is amazing to me how vociferously patriotic a lot of people get when they are past military age. There are too many pistol-packing Percys in the community at the present time. They are always ready to pack the pistols for the other Percys. In short, there are too many people in the community who are prepared to lay down my life for their country.
Let us be realistic about the whole affair. If we are to defeat communism, we will defeat it here by maintaining in Australia conditions in which communism will not breed. You talk about the Asiatic countries that have come under the spell of communism! What have we done to keep those countries away from communism? Again, let us be truthful and realistic about the matter. Over the years, we - I mean the Western democracies - have done nothing but exploit those countries. It will be remembered that a few years ago there were international settlements all around Shanghai. There was the French settlement, the English settlement and the American settlement. They were not there for the good of the Chinese; they were there to exploit the Chinese. We have driven Asiatic countries into the arms of communism. The only thing we propose to do now is to be adamant in our refusal to recognize them. If they come here in force, presumably all we shall do will be to send them a note saying, “ It is of no good your coming here. We will not recognize you.” We must be truthful about the whole thing, and we must view it in its proper perspective.
– But not on a unity ticket.
– You will be on a unity ticket at the election. You will get your preferences from the Corns.
– Let us deal briefly with the question of unemployment.
– Senator McCallum is on a unity ticket. He got the Coms’ vote.
– I hate to be interrupting these people, Mr. Deputy President. Let me say a few words about unemployment. We had the spectacle in this chamber to-day of a “ Dorothy Dixer “ on this subject being thrown at the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) by Senator Vincent. What happened? We got the same inane reply from the Minister that we get to every question we ask about unemployment. His reply was to the effect that, although we had a percentage of unemployment in Australia, it was much lower than in other countries.
– Is not that right?
– Is that of any satisfaction to the 66,000 people in Australia who are unemployed? If you were one of the 66,000 unemployed, would you be quite satisfied to go home to your wife and say, “Darling,I am out of work, but for God’s sake don’t say anything about it. You will embarrass the Menzies Government.”
– After the election, you will be doing that very thing.
-That may be so. If the people of Victoria have any political sense, they will not get rid of me, but the people of Western Australia could well do without you. I believe in the words of the old song, “ Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see.” I shall indulge in a little prognostication and say that I will be here when you are not.
The unemployment situation in Australia is serious. Even if there were only 1,000 persons unemployed, it would be very serious for those people. Do honorable senators opposite mean to say that it would console those who are unemployed if they were to read in the press that Senator Spooner had said that we ought to be thankful that the percentage of unemployment in Australia was much less than it was in England and America? He did not mention the Eskimos; I do not know what the percentage is in their country. But would that statement pay the rent of our unemployed? Would that pay their grocers’ bills or their butchers’ bills? What we want in this country is full employment, but you peopleare not in favour of full employment. You are always bemoaning the dangers of over-full employment. Let me remind you of a statement that was made by your own leader.
– Which leader?
– The one who poses as leader.
– Or Sir Arthur?
– No, Field Marshall Menzies. In a leading article in the Western Australian “ Wheatgrower “ of 24th April, 1946 - you would not dispute that, Senator Scott, I suppose?-
– The leading article contains this statement -
Mr. Menzies coolly stated that a pool of unemployed was necessary to discipline the workers.
– Who said that?
– Mr. Robert Gordon Menzies.
– In 1946- not very long ago
– Where didhe say it? In what paper did it appear?
– I have told you. I know you are very dense but I did notthink you were quite as dense as that. It was in the Western Australian “ Wheatgrower “ of 24th April, 1946, We know that in January of this year there were 75,000 persons unemployed, and in June 66,000. But we were told that there were quite a number of jobs available. That does not make common sense, because if you have1,000 people unemployed in Melbourne and there are jobs available at Oodnadatta, Alice Springs or somewhere else, in order to cover the unemployment situation you could say that there were a certain number of jobs available without saying where they were. Senator Pearson expressed the fear that we might indulge in making promises before this coming election.
– Yes, and I am still afraid of it. Not only am I afraid; I know you will make them.
– Fancy this Government being afraid of anybody making rash and pie-crust promises! Let us remember the promise that was made in 1949 to put value back into the £1!
We have been told, too, that in 1931 about 30 per cent. of the work force of Australia was unemployed. It will be recalled that in1941 when the Curtin Labour Government assumed office, following Mr. Menzies’s inability to govern the country and after he had disagreed with his own party, the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes said that Mr. Menzies was not fit to lead a flock of homing pigeons. I think that was an insult to the pigeons. I would sooner have compared the government of that time with geese, because neither that government nor the geese stuck to their propaganda.
In 1941, when the Curtin Government assumed office, there were no fewer than 200,000 unemployed people in Australia. That was after two years of total war! On the last occasion on which we met in this chamber, when an Opposition senator referred to the deplorable condition of our defences after two years of total war, Senator Hannan asked by way of interjection, “What did Mr. Curtin say?” What an inane question to ask! Is it conceivable that the Prime Minister who took over from Mr. Menzies when we were in the midst of a total war in 1941, the Japanese having entered the war, and when we were threatened with invasion, would go forth and make it known to the press and therefore to the enemy that our defences were in a deplorable condition? Of course he would endeavour to cover up! But every one knows that at that time the Labour government had to start from scratch.
On 19th August last, I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, in connexion with unemployment, in the course of which I asked -
Is the Minister aware that the comparatively huge number of 66,000 people were registered as unemployed at the end of June last? Does he know that the registered number of unemployed fell many thousands short of the actual number of people out of work? Can he indicate what satisfaction or consolation it is to those who are unemployed to be told continually that they form part of only a small percentage of the total work force? Will the Minister indicate whether any action has been taken, or is contemplated, to absorb these unemployed persons?
I received the sort of inane answer that I have mentioned earlier to-night. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in this chamber, replied -
I refer the honorable senator to the statement issued yesterday by my colleague, Mr. Harold Holt, which indicates that during the month of July the number of persons seeking employment fell from 67,100 to 65,900, while the number of jobs available-
He did not say where - increased from 15,900 to 16,500. Mr. Harold Holt most carefully points out in his statement that the number of those registered as seeking employment constitutes only 1.6 per cent, of Australia’s total work force of 4,000,000 persons. In other words, the number of unemployed in Australia, contrasted with the total work force, is probably lower than in any other country in the world. 1 repeat that an answer of that kind does not give satisfaction in relation to a very important matter such as this, nor it is any consolation to those who are out of work. We say that it is the bounden duty of this Government to maintain full employment throughout Australia. It could do so and it should do so. There are many public works projects which the Government could undertake to absorb unemployed workers.
In this respect, it is only necessary to consider our defence programme. Of course, as I said earlier, we have a lot of pistol-packing Percys who think that defence consists of eighteen-year-olds parading on drill grounds, doing form fours, or form threes, or whatever it is they do at the present time. They fail to realize that a defence programme, in this age of scientific progress, means more than eighteenyearold youths doing parade ground exercises, designed purely and simply as training for military careerists. We have to appreciate that defence involves much more than that.
There is another stock answer that is given to questions that honorable senators on this side of the chamber raise from time to time. The answer is: “ That is a matter for the States “. We heard it to-day from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in reply to a question asked by an honorable senator from Tasmania. The Minister said that the matter about which the question had been asked was a State responsibility and that the Commonwealth would not interfere with it. However, the crux of the question was that the State of Tasmania was not getting sufficient money from the Commonwealth. In this respect, defence comes right into the picture. We know that at the meetings of the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth Treasurer presides. The representatives of the State governments come along and ask for amounts that they regard as the irreducible minimum, but they never receive sufficient funds to carry out the public works that are entrusted to the State governments. It is the responsibility of the National Parliament to see that the States receive sufficient finance for their works programmes. Who can deny that integral parts of the successful defence of this country are roads, rural industries, water conservation, transport, and power supplies? The standardization of railway gauges also comes to mind in this context. Whenever members of the Opposition, both here and in another place, ask questions in the Parliament about those matters, they are told that they are the responsibility of the States. I suggest, Mr. Deputy President, that such matters are inextricably bound up with the defence of Australia, and that nobody with any common sense at all would deny that assertion.
When we think of such matters as housing, transport, power supplies, and water conservation and irrigation, our minds go back to the days of World War II. when the American forces in the South-West Pacific area, particularly, depended upon the primary production of this country. Troops must be fed, and secondary industries must be kept going to supply the needs of the forces. What could be more important to a defence system than a national roads scheme? I have here a note from the chairman of the Victorian Country Roads Board which states that expenditure on roads in Victoria alone should be £38,000,000 a year, whereas the current finances available amount to approximately £30,000,000. A further statement dealing with the roads of Australia as a whole points out that funds for roads are £30,000,000 a year less than they should be. That estimate, given by a planner, was reported in the Melbourne press of 28th December last.
It is an amazing fact that thousands of people are either killed or injured on the roads of this country every year, due entirely to the faulty nature of the roads - not to excessive speed, or to driving under the influence, but entirely to faulty roads. The Australian Road Safety Council has issued some revealing figures in this respect. They refer to the twelve months ended 31st December, 1956, the latest period for which figures were available. They show that accidents involving casualties owing to loosely gravelled road surfaces numbered 704, with twenty persons killed and 1,022 injured. Accidents involving casualties owing to wet and slippery road surfaces numbered 805, with 34 killed and 1,142 injured. Accidents involving casualties owing to obstructions in the road numbered 138, with two persons killed and 169 injured. Accidents involving casualties due to other road faults numbered 494, with eighteen persons killed and 682 injured. The totals for the year, of accidents involving casualties through faulty roads alone, numbered 2,141, with 74 killed and 3,015 injured.
To show that the figures that I have just given are almost static and that no improvement is being made, 1 point out that similar figures, for the twelve months ended 31st December, 1954, showed that there were 6,192 accidents due to faulty roads, witu 2,298 accidents involving casualties, 73 persons killed1, and 3,082 injured, lt can be seen, therefore, that there has been practically no improvement in the position over the years. 1 should say that those accidents were caused purely and simply by the neglect of the Commonwealth in failing to make available to the States sufficient funds with which to keep our roads in proper repair and to provide for the degree of co-ordination that should exist between the Commonwealth and the States. I think it will be agreed, Mr. Deputy President, that it is vitally important that there be agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. There is nothing to prevent agreement being reached, provided that the money is made available. The Commonwealth Parliament must accept responsibility for the condition of our roads because it holds the purse strings. There is no excuse whatever for Ministers to say, when these matters are mentioned, that they are the responsibility of the States.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention, Mr. President, is the operation of the conciliation and arbitration legislation. Only recently there appeared in the Melbourne press a report from Adelaide which indicated the feeling of the trade union movement generally regarding conciliation and arbitration procedure. The report said that the confidence of the trade union movement in the conciliation and arbitration system was being weakened by attacks on the trade unions under penal legislation. This opinion was expressed by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is becoming increasingly a weapon that is being used by the employing classes against the workers, unfortunately very often, I suggest, with the connivance at least of this Government. The conciliation and arbitration legislation, with its penal clauses, and the terrific financial burden which some of its provisions impose on the trade unions, is a burden on the unions. The legislation provides for court-controlled compulsory union ballots when these are demanded by the members of trade unions in accordance with thelaw. The cost to the unions of holding such ballots is tens of thousands of pounds, and in many instances union funds are being gravely depleted. If courtcontrolled ballots are to be continued I suggest that the National Government should foot the bill for them.
Another position which I regard as serious arises from the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Sub-section (9d.) of section 152 of the act deals with the inspection of the registers of trade union members by persons authorized by the Industrial Registrar. It reads -
A person authorized by the Registrar may inspect, andmake copies of or extracts from, the register of members of an organization or a part or section of that register during such periods as the Registrar specifies during the usual office hours observed at the office of the organization, or the office of a branch of the organization, at which, or at premises in lieu of which, the register, or the part or section, is kept, and an organization shall cause its register of members, or each part or section of that register, to be at allrelevanttimes available forthe purposes of this sub-section to persons so authorized. . . .
Thepoint . I want to make isthat there is apparentlyno discretionary power resident in the Industrial Registrar -regarding the giving of permission for inspection of registers. The sub-section uses the words “ A person authorized by the Registrar “. It goes on to provide that a person, once havingbeen given the authority by the Registrar,may inspect the register. But the discretionary power regarding that inspection of the register resides entirely with the person to whom the authority is issued, andno discretion is given to the Registrar inconnexion withthe issue of the authorization.Obviously the Registrar would insist on the common-sense requirement of a reasonable excuse on the part of the applicant for wanting to inspect the register of trade union members; but the point to be considered is that no power of discretion reposes in theRegistrar in connexion with the individuals whomay seek authority to inspect.
I am not referring to this matter only in general terms, because I can give the Senate a specific instance to support my argument. Not long ago, a case was brought to my notice in Melbourne concerning two persons who were authorized by the Registrar to inspect the register of members of a trade union. One of those two persons used to belong tothe union concerned, although for many yearshe had not worked in the industry covered by the union, and he was well known to the union’s officials. He was a man with a fair list of convictions including convictions for larceny and breaking and -entering. -I suggest that the present practice in relation to the issue of authority to inspect trade union registers is dangerous. At least the (Registrar should be given some power to satisfy himself concerning the bonafides of an applicantfor authorityto inspect.
It is obvious that a person who obtained authority to inspect the register of a trade union could use that authority for the purpose of satisfying motives of revengeor spite,or other personal motives. Honorablesenators may remember that not very long ago this country had an example of the use to which the knowledge of a person’s address may be put by some one who has a grudgeagainst that person. In the case Ihave in minda New South Wales police constable, his wife andchild were killed by somebody who hadagrudge against the constable. People obtaining from the Industrial Registrar authority toinspect trade union registers could be actuated by a spirit of revenge or spite, or even by criminal motives. This authority may be issued to a person withoutthe Registrar’s first satisfying himself whether or not the person is a person of good repute. Even in the Public Service it is recognized that the addresses of employees must not be divulged. So I think it behoves ‘the Government at least to examine sub-section (9d.) of section152 and see whether it is possible to add to it a provision that the Registrar, before issuing an authority to inspect, shall have power to satisfy himself that the applicant is a person of good repute. As it is, the field is wide open for people who may have ulterior motives, including even criminal motives, for inspecting the register of a union.
I shall not deal now with other matters that I intended to raise, because I shall deal with them when we are debating the Appropriation Bill 1958-59. However, there is one thing of whichIamabsolutely certain. That is that this Government hashada unanimous verdict fromthe people - a unanimous verdict of disapproval, disgust and discouragement over the Budget. This document has been described as a barren Budget. I think the people who called it by that name have been considerate to the Government: It could be given much worse names than that. I have moved extensively about the country since the Budget was introduced, and have encountered absolute disgust in every section of the community with this Government, which is obviously basking in what it believes to be the spotlight of security. Because it considers that it is safe in office whatever it may do it has become arrogant and totally without regard for the best interests of the Australian people. I am certain that when the electors get the opportunity they will give the Government a shock. As Senator McManus said, in 1949 after a similar kind of Budget had been brought down, the people rejected the government that brought it down. I have not any doubt at all that the people will reject this Budget. I know perfectly well that the Government will trot out the little red rabbit of communism as it has at each election since 1949, but I am quite certain that the people will not be fooled as they have been fooled in the past, and that the Menzies Government will go into its rightful place - political oblivion.
.- Mr. Deputy President, before I make my contribution of the Budget debate I crave the indulgence of the Senate to pay my tribute to my retiring leader, Sir Arthur Fadden, on this, the occasion of the presentation of his eleventh Budget, which constitutes a record. I venture to say that long after records have been forgotten Sir Arthur Fadden will be remembered as a statesman who always chose the courageous course to pursue. Irrespective of any criticism of his policy, he set his course and never deviated from it. For that alone I suggest he has earned the reputation of a statesman. But even long after he has been forgotten as a statesman, I believe he will be remembered as a great humanitarian. That is the highest tribute that any person can wish to receive. As a member of the party that he has led with such conspicuous success for the past eighteen years, I express my gratitude to my colleagues who have been most generous in their appreciation of the services that he has rendered to Australia.
Following the usual pattern, honorable senators opposite have attempted to become vociferous in their criticism of the Budget. It is the same old story that we have been hearing year after year. Criticism, of course, is the prerogative of the Opposition; but the people whom Opposition senators represent have the right to expect from them something more than destructive criticism. We have heard a series of speeches designed to knock the prosperity of this great country. However, the present gloomy forecasts of honorable senators opposite will be revealed in the history books as being as devoid of foundation as have been their- gloomy prophecies over the past ten years. Of course, every member of this chamber would welcome increased pensions and child endowment. Of course, every member of this chamber would be delighted to see a reduction in taxes, and speaking specifically, the abolition of the obnoxious sales tax. In actual fact, those are the objectives of this Government, but it has been courageous enough at this particular stage in its history to pursue a policy that it believes to be in the best interests of Australia. No responsible government and no responsible member of Parliament would advocate any policy other than one designed to serve the best interests of the country.
In an endeavour to present a case, honorable senators opposite have directed a twopronged attack on the Government, but both prongs relate to matters over which the Government has no jurisdiction. Almost every honorable senator opposite who has participated in the debate has dealt at great length with the anomalies of the hirepurchase system. That is the first prong. We agree that anomalies do exist, but are Opposition senators so naive as to tell us that they do not know that the Government has no constitutional jurisdiction in the matter? If they are so naive, I remind them that every adult in Australia knows full well that the control of hire purchase lies fairly at the door of the State governments. It is amazing that people have the temerity to come into this chamber and criticize the Government for something over which it has no jurisdiction when the States controlled by Labour governments have taken no action whatever to cure the very ills to which they refer. It is interesting to record that the first State to take any positive action to cure the anomalies that exist in this system was Queensland, where a Country-Liberal party Government is in office. The next State to take such action very soon afterwards was Victoria, in which a Liberal Government is in office. However, the States controlled by Labour governments are so far back in the field that they cannot be sighted. Yet honorable senators opposite, for reasons best known to themselves and at which one can only guess, try to discredit this Government on a matter over which it has no control.
The second prong of the Opposition attack relates to the falling incomes of the farmers. Of course, that is a very serious matter but, after listening to these newfound champions of the primary producers, 1 am bound to say that their knowledge of the position is so lamentably lacking that I shall tell them something of the matters that really affect the incomes of the primary producers. During the early stages of this debate, when a supporter of the Government referred to the drought through which we have just passed, the interjection boomed forth from the Opposition - “ What drought? “ Have these new-found champions of the primary producers no knowledge of the tremendous stock losses that occurred in Queensland and New South Wales? Do they not know that in Victoria the fodder reserves were down to the last straw? Do they not know that rain just saved that State from a catastrophe? Yet the interjector asked, “ What drought? “ Even that would not be so bad if Opposition senators were not now posing as the champions of the farmers.
I shall give an even better example of the lack of knowledge of honorable senators opposite. Senator Hendrickson, in his search for a stick with which to beat the Government, quoted the case of a wheat farm in northern Victoria that was purchased for £105 an acre. Instead of being a stick with which to beat the Government, as Senator Hendrickson hoped, the price quoted was the most wonderful tribute that any member of this chamber could pay to the Government, and was a telling indication of the confidence of the primary producers in the administration of this Government. Would you, Sir, think that a wheatgrower in Australia would pay £105 an acre for wheat land if a Labour government occupied the treasury bench, bearing in mind always that every wheat-grower and potential wheat-grower in Australia remembers the last occasion when Labour was in office? They remember that the last time Labour occupied the Treasury bench, wheat was sold to New Zealand for 5s. 3d. a bushel when the world parity was about 9s. Would the wheat industry risk paying £105 an acre if a Labour government were in office to-day? I suggest that it would not. I suggest also that the case put forward by Senator Hendrickson is not indicative of the real attitude of the wheat industry towards this Government, and. with the greatest respect, I prefer to quote from the Melbourne “ Sun “ of last Friday rather than from Senator Hendrickson’s statements. The Melbourne “ Sun “ of that date contains the following report on the sale of a wheat property: -
A rich Horsham district wheat property which has been owned by one family for 80 years was sold at auction to-day for a total of £41,000.
The property, 20 miles north of Horsham and six miles from Wail, was offered in three lots. Lot 1, the homestead block of 618 acres, was sold at £34 15s. an acre . . . Lot 2, an area of 236 acres, was passed in at £29 and later sold at £32 an acre. Lot 3, an area of 320 acres, was sold for £37 15s. an acre.
I submit that is irrefutable proof that the wheat industry has complete confidence that this Government does realize the difficulties besetting the industry. Difficulties of great magnitude confront the industry, but it knows from experience that this Government’s policy has been in the best interests of the industry. I am confident that on the 22nd November next, the industry will again place its confidence in a government whose record has been one of realistic approach to the industry’s problems.
At this late stage in the debate, it is extremely difficult to introduce new matter, and for that reason I propose to confine my remarks to two points. First, I wish to draw the attention of honorable senators opposite to the real reasons for introducing this realistic budget. It appears to me that so much time has been spent in dealing with matters over which the Government has no jurisdiction that I can well spend five minutes in pointing out the real reasons for the courageous action of this government in bringing down a budget calculated to serve the best interests of Australia, rather than a vote-catching budget.
The second point I want to make is that the problems confronting the primary industries are so complex that nothing less than the fullest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments will suffice to meet them.
– In what way?
– I hope to develop that statement as I go along because, I suggest in all seriousness, it is a matter to which the governments of Australia will have to give the fullest possible consideration. This Budget highlights, perhaps as never before, the dependence of our economy upon our rural industries. I say “ dependence “, knowing full well that when our rural industries are solvent our secondary industries are buoyant because our overseas trade balances are then favorable. lt has been said many times during the debate, although I am afraid the fact has not yet registered in some quarters, that our export earnings fell by £175,000,000 last year compared with the previous year and that farm incomes dropped by £130,000,000. This fall was due to many factors, the first being, as I have stated, the drought about which many honorable senators opposite have not as yet heard. The drought did have a most depressing effect upon farm incomes, but that was not the sole reason for the drop. However, I should like to say, in passing, that, because of the necessity for maintaining our overseas balances through the export of primary products, governments must give very serious consideration to remedial measures so far as farm incomes are concerned.
– What have they got to do?
– If you will be patient, I will tell you what we are doing.
– We should like to know.
– And I should like you to know, because I suggest, with great respect, due to your complete lack of knowledge of those things which are so vital to the economy of this country, you are not doing yourselves justice. If you will be good enough to bear with me, I will try to help you.
World prices for butter have fallen by 28 per cent., those for metals have fallen by 35 per cent., and those for meat have fallen by 16 per cent. Whilst prices for sugar and grain have remained fairly stable, there has been a continual stock-piling of wheat overshadowing world markets. This fall in world prices for commodities is not just a passing phenomenon of trade which happens for no particular reason, lt is due primarily to two major factors. The first is the American recession, which, I believe and hope, is only temporary. The second, of course, is the tightening of credit restrictions in the United Kingdom. The sweeping rise in interest charges which traders were suddenly called upon to pay also had a tremendous effect upon the position. All these factors had a great impact upon our wool market. Those are the main reasons why it is not possible to include in this budget those concessions which we would1 all like to see.
There is another reason, and I have not heard one honorable senator opposite ventilate it. It is again a matter over which the Government has no control, and it is one which has a very serious effect on world markets. I refer to the unequal price supports for agricultural products. The level of price supports for wheat throughout Europe has had a very serious effect on flour markets which, for many years, we have regarded as our own.
– Why are you rationing flour to-day?
– I suggest, with great respect, that the honorable senator sounds to me like a man who thinks by the inch, talks by the yard and therefore, as a sequel, will be removed by the foot.
For Australia to be driven out of her flour markets in Ceylon, Malaya and Indonesia by subsidized French and German wheats is a travesty of natural trading. These are all factors over which the Government has no jurisdiction but which, for all that, are prompting this Government to take very positive action, as I shall prove in developing my argument. I have not noticed that honorable senators opposite have paid very much attention to the disastrous effect the fall in wool values has had on our economy and, in order to be helpful, I have gone to a great deal of trouble in preparing something by way of visual education which, I believe, will be of some help. I suggest that the graph I am now holding in my hand tells far more eloquently than I could the history of the market for wool, the market for a product that provides 50 per cent. of our export income.
In 1950-51 the wool sales opened at approximately £150 a bale. When the ninth sale had been reached our wool was bringing £250 a bale. I remind honorable senators that the price per bale is the only thing that really matters. How often do we hear the parrot cry that the farmer is always in trouble though he gets £100 a bale for wool? Such people read the headlines and fail to understand that a price such as that may be offered for one bale of special lamb’s wool which two or three buyers want for a certain job. These people come to the false conclusion that the wool industry is necessarily always sound. At the end of the 1950-51 season the demand for wool dropped off somewhat. I suggest that the last sale of the season is never an indication of the true worth of the wool market because it covers bits and pieces, and is more or less a cleaning up sale.
SenatorO’Byrne. -Wool is bringing an average of £60 a bale.
– If the honorable senator looks at the graph which I have in my hand he will revise his figures downwards. In the year 1957-58 prices started at about £70 a bale. I should like, Mr. President, with the concurrence of honorable senators, to have this graph incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– I should first have to examine the graph. It is not customary to approve of the insertion of a graph.
– I should like to have is incorporated if that is possible. The 1956-57 wool market started at about £95 a bale and remained steady, rising slightly until the last sale. It would be right to assume that in that period the wool market was fairly stable, but last year told adifferent story, a story which, honorable senators opposite seem to forget, proves conclusively that the Budget before us is the only one that the Government couldhave produced.
Last year wool prices started at about £95 a bale and followed a tortuous downward path until finally they reached about £53 a bale. When we remember that wool provides about 50 per cent. of our overseas earnings we realize that this matter demands our earnest consideration.
– What isyour view on the stabilizingof prices?
– I will come to that directly.I shall ‘be only too happy to answer any questions which may spring from the new interest which honorable senators opposite are taking in the wool industry, which means so much to Australia.If we put the industry in its proper perspective we will realize that, for the sake of the country, everything possible must be done to assist it. Any success in reducing costs of production in the industry must be of great value to everyone. We lose sight of the fact that the greatest threat to the industry is that presented by synthetics. A sum of £1,600,000 is to be spent on wool research and extension work in 1958-59. The quality of our work is excellent, but I make bold to say that it could be improved in quantity. The Commonwealth Government contributes 4s. a bale, and the grower 2s. a bale, to the cost of such research. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done a wonderful job in lowering costs of production. Myxomatosis is estimated to have saved the wool-grower £50,000,000, and scourable branding fluid another £1,000,00. Even the moth-proofing preparation developed by the C.S.I.R.O. costs only a halfpenny per lb. of cloth.
If we are to maintain our position in world markets every encouragement must be given to the C.S.I.R.O. to play a major role in the wool industry. If any further fall in world prices occurs the Government might be well advised to do what it did in the post-war years - pay a subsidy upon superphosphate. That provided the greatest shot in the arm that the industry had ever had.
– When was that?
– In 1951-52. The industry has progressed tremendouslyever since.
Honorable senators opposite have been vocal in condemning the Government for allegedly failing to extend credit to the rural industries. That is remarkable when one considers Labour’s attitude to the recent banking legislation which displayed a new approach to primary producer problems. For the first time in history the farmer was offered credit on his credibility rather than on his assets. That move was defeated by
Labour. It is sheer hypocrisy for honorable senators opposite to bemoan the Government’s alleged failure to provide credit for the farmer. I repeat, Labour defeated legislation which would have been of untold benefit to primary industry. On 22nd November the Australian Labour party will stand condemned for rejecting legislation which primary industry had welcomed.
Previously, I have made reference to the fact that subsidized flour from France and Germany was capturing markets that were traditionally Australian. I should like to read a press statement made on 6th August by Mr. Soon Yeow Chong, a leading wheat merchant of Malaya. He said - and I suggest with great respect that this is not a fit subject for levity - that Germany and France were increasing their flour exports to Malaya in order to earn sterling, and that the exports of their heavily subsidized product to Malaya was a very serious threat to Australian flour. To-day Australia is the biggest seller of flour on the Malayan market - as, indeed, it should be, for that country is our next door neighbour. At the risk of being parochial I am going to refer to another serious matter that affects the wheat industry, an allied industry to the flour industry. I have not heard one honorable senator opposite raise his voice to discuss the serious condition of the flour-milling industry, which affects people whom honorable senators opposite claim to represent. There is a chain of flour-mills located in western Victoria and eastern South Australia. Horsham has a threeunit mill, with a 25,000-ton capacity. The mills at Nhill, Charlton, Murray Bridge and Rupanyup have a two-unit capacity. The Horsham mill to-day is working one shift at half capacity. Charlton is also working one shift per day at half capacity. The mills at Nhill, Murray Bridge and Rupanyup are reduced to maintenance operations, with three operatives only. Those mills are situated in the heart of the greatest wheat-growing district in Australia. The stage has been reached where the industry is so seriously embarrassed that the mills are working short time, yet not one constructive suggestion on this issue has come from the Opposition.
– Have any come from the Government?
– I shall take great pleasure in telling you what the Government is doing, but I want the people to know that the Opposition has no real interest in industry in country areas.
– You missed out two important mills.
– I have said enough to illustrate my point. When the mill at Horsham works three shifts per day, it employs 60 men with a wages bill of £1,200 a week. To-day it is working one shift, with a wages bill of £400 a week.
– Shame on the Government!
– Shame on the Opposition for taking no interest in this indus-‘ try! What I have just said tells the story of what is happening in the flour-milling industry to-day.. I have given honorable senators those figures quite frankly and bluntly so that I may enlighten them as to this Government’s attitude to this problem. With their limited thinking, I presume that they will suggest that this is a problem with which the Government cannot contend.
– We hope it can.
– It can, and it is determined to do so. This state of affairs has not been brought about as a result of Government inaction. I remind honorable senators that it has arisen because of the actions of France, Germany and other European countries, which are subsidizing their exports to our traditional markets. I remind them too that the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was the first statesman in the world to raise his voice in criticism of a policy that was affecting primary exporting countries. That same Minister for Trade, while on his way to the trade conference in Montreal, succeeded in concluding a flour agreement with Malaya. He also succeeded in finalizing an agreement with Ceylon. If the record of this Government, and of the present Minister for Trade, can be taken as a guide, this Government will deal with the present situation and improve our markets from time to time.
– Will the mill at Horsham be back to three shifts a day?
– That is our objective. I now wish to comment on the Colombo plan. I believe that Australia’s participation in that plan is to be highly commended
To some extent 1 wish to relate my remarks on this matter to our flour problem. In passing, I should like to say that geographically we are Asian, although our democracy is Western. For that reason, a very heavy responsibility rests on Australia in the Pacific. I believe that the contribution we are making to the Colombo plan through the Asian students we bring to this country is just about the best contribution that we could make. We bring these people here, show them our way of life and offer them our educational facilities. They become the best ambassadors that we could send to their countries.
But I believe that we can do more than that. We have a system under which we have been making plant and machinery available to these countries. The finance used to supply that plant and machinery could be used to supply these people with flour. We as a nation must realize our tremendous responsibility. Senator Cooke laughs, but this is no laughing matter. It is a very serious matter which affects his children and my children, because the future of the Far East is something that no man is brave enough to foretell. Any action that this country can take to achieve a better relationship with and a better understanding of these people is the correct action to take. If we can do anything to improve our relation with these people by sending shipments of flour, then we should do so.
Honorable senators opposite have criticized the Government because of the plight of the dairying industry - a most valuable industry to this country and one which needs remedial attention. I would remind the Senate that over the last nine years this Government has made available £140,000,000 to consumers by way of subsidy. That is a very substantial sum of money, but the point I wish to make is that if we are going to have a long-range policy for the benefit of this industry, nothing less than complete understanding between the Commonwealth and the States will suffice. To-day we find the Commonwealth Government subsidizing the dairying industry to the extent of £13,500,000 a year, but on the other hand we find the State governments encouraging the use of margarine. This country will never solve its problems while that state of affairs is allowed to continue.
The medium we should use for cooperation between the Federal and State governments in this matter is the Australian Agricultural Council. There should be a common policy for all States, with an emphasis on priorities. Australia to-day is forced to sell on a highly competitive market. Any added cost may lose a market and any saving in cost may gain a market. Let me give just one example of what 1 mean when I speak of State and Federal co-operation. Recently a milk processing factory at Warrnambool decided that it would ship its goods through the fastdeveloping port of Portland. It sent a consignment of goods by road to Portland, saving 30s. a ton. The Victorian Transport Board heard of this matter and issued an edict that in future any goods sent to Portland from that factory were to go by rail. That action reduced the savings in costs by 7s. a ton. I agree that that is not a considerable amount, but it illustrates the point I want to make - that is, if that state of affairs is allowed to continue and is multiplied throughout the length and breadth of this land, we will not have a chance to meet competition from nations that are self-contained and compact in their overseas trading relations.
I believe that the industry itself must plan to meet competition on overseas markets. I understand that some exporting countries go to great lengths to meet the needs of importing countries. In fact, one country packs eleven different grades of butter! 1 stand foursquare behind the quality that we produce; I suggest that it must never be lowered. But I cite that fact merely to indicate that the industry has a responsibility to try to help governments to meet the situation that is arising.
I have endeavoured to show to the Senate that I believe this Budget is the only budget that could have been produced by a responsible government in the present circumstances. A government that would be prepared to jeopardise the economy and the stability of this country in order to catch votes would be an irresponsible government. But the history of this Government is not one of irresponsibility. From time to time this Government has made courageous decisions which it felt were in Australia’s best interests and which history has proved conclusively were right. The people endorse the action that has been taken by this
Government on the major issues that confront it to-day. I have tried to emphasize that, because of the complexity of the many problems which confront our exporting industries, nothing less than the closest co-operation and understanding between the Federal Government and the State governments will do justice to our great primary industries.
.- The great confusion of mind and timidity of thought of honorable senators opposite have been illustrated by the speech of Senator Wade, during which he outlined some of the real difficulties that are facing our primary industries, which constitute the basis of the Australian economy. Instead of directing his criticism to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, he could have directed his attention more effectively to those who really have been responsible for the present state of affairs. Anyone who wanted to make a virulent attack on the Government could take the “ Hansard “ report of the honorable senator’s speech and could go onto the hustings to-morrow and convince the farmers that this Government had given them the shabbiest deal that they have experienced since an anti-Labour government was in office during the depression years. I would go so far as to say that the farming community of Australia has never been in a similar situation since an anti-Labour government was in office during the depression years, and that, because of uncertainty in every field, it has never been able to plan ahead to such a limited degree as it is at the present time.
Senator Wade said that those engaged in the wheat industry know the history of this Government. Let us consider that statement for a moment. This Government has been able to ride on the wave of prosperity that the wheat industry assisted to create. The Government has done nothing to prepare for the rainy day which has inevitably come as a result of the turn of the economic wheel. I can recall that, during the debate in this chamber on the banking legislation, we pointed out that the Australian banking system, and for that matter the banking system of the whole of the Western world, provided an umbrella on a fine day but took it away from one on a rainy day. Certain honorable senators opposite said, “ Oh. no! Tt will give you protection on a rainy day.”
The rainy day is here for many of the wheat farmers to whom Senator Wade has referred. The honorable senator said that wool was bringing £53 a bale. I have no reason to disagree with him, although I believe that on the average it has improved a little. But under the haphazard, slapdash selling system that is now showing itself in. its true light, the price of wool is in the lap of the bidders. If this Government had made provision for the rainy day that has inevitably come, Senator Wade would have been able to say that it had done the right thing for the primary producers.
The position to-day is that the wool industry is faced with an average price of between £50 and £60 a bale. The costs of freight, labour, machinery, fuel and the countless other things that are inevitable in running a primary producing venture are reaching a stage where a very big proportion of the farmers will have to go to their brokers in the coming financial year and say, “ We are afraid that we cannot expect to be able to get sufficient finance to run our properties for the coming year.” The wool brokers will have to say to many of them, as they have said before, “You will have to cut down here and cut down there.” The primary producers will be back exactly where they were in the years of the depression. So I say that Senator Wade’s contribution to the debate illustrates, as perhaps no other speech has illustrated, that there is a lot of camouflage in the Budget papers. There is a lot of whistling in the dark, and [ shall produce evidence later to support what I have said.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) spoke of great prosperity, but the report of the Commonwealth Bank which was placed in our hands to-day paints a very different picture. The bank’s report reveals that changed conditions abroad are having a tremendously important effect on our trade balances and that the future of our overseas markets is very uncertain. To-day’s issue of the Melbourne “ Age “ contains the following report of the attitude of the Australian delegation to the economic conference that is at present being held at Montreal in Canada: -
Subsidized agriculture, dumping by Iron Curtain countries, give-away programmes by the United States - these have all but destroyed the traditional markets of Australia and other Commonwealth countries.
The Australian! delegation is determined to explore all possibilities for correcting this situation.
Senator Wade said that Germany and France were subsidizing- their’ primary products, but we are subsidizing, our butter,, our sugar, and quite a number of other commodities.
– We have a home consumption price for wheat.
– That is quite true. No indication is given by the Budget Papers that any effort will be made by the Government to put a floor under our export wheat prices or our export wool prices. I warn the Government that if the position continues to decline as it has declined over the last twelve months - and, according to the report of the Commonwealth Bank and the press reports of overseas conferences, there is no great likelihood of an improvement taking place - we could slide very sharply, not into a recession, which is a fancy term, but into a very bad depression, because of our reliance on the proceeds of our primary industries.
The Budget that has been presented to the Parliament will give- the people of Australia no great cause for confidence in the future. It makes no appeal to the public because it is so negative in its approach. Supporters of the Government have stressed that it is a safe Budget, that it maintains the status quo, and that it does not do anything spectacular; but in times like these, surely something spectacular is needed. We see slipping away from us the standards of living that have been achieved in this country. One of the greatest things that a young and virile nation can have is ability to plan for the future, to know what it will do next year and to be able to plan its programmes accordingly, whether in respect of agriculture, business undertakings, or secondary production. This Budget makes absolutely no appeal to people who are involved in any of those activities. Neither does it make any appeal to the parents of children who are growing up in this country. They find it increasingly difficult to meet the high cost of clothing, and everything else, with a fixed basic wage. They find it extremely difficult to cope with the demands of children who have grown up in this era of great and expanding prosperity and who know no standards other than those to which they have been reared.
Parents of children these days are findingit increasingly difficult to uphold those standards, and because that is so, many standards have been lowered. Therefore, I say that this Budget can have absolutely no appeal to the parents, of the younger generation;, that very important section of the community. Not only does the Budget fail to provide a blue-print or plan for the people, so that they may regard the future with confidence, but by design, the Government has attempted to give the impression that “Things will probably get bad, but don’t worry about it. They will work out all right.” That is not good enough, and for that attitude the Government deserves the strongest censure’. No government should have the temerity and the audacity to bring before the Parliament such a negative document as this Budget.
I wish now to have something to say about the employment situation. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) periodically issues news, releases. One such release, entitled “ Notes on the Employment Situation at the end of August, 1958 “ was released at 9 p.m. on 15th September; that is at 9 o’clock last night. So if there is any document that can be used as an authority on this subject, it should be this one. In the course of the document the Minister, in discussing employment features in the State of New South Wales, refers to - reduced seasonal employment in some fish, meat, fruit and vegetable canneries but increased seasonal employment in some soft drink and margarine firms;
What a mighty statement that is to appear in a survey of our national employment problem! He went on to refer to - reduced employment in some motor assembly and accessory plants, iron and steel works . . television firms and ship-building and repair yards;
Yet, right in the middle of this report there appears the statement about increased seasonal employment in some soft drink and margarine firms “. I want to know, Mr. Acting Deputy President, whom the Minister for Labour and National Service thinks he is fooling by wasting the taxpayers’ money with a document of this nature. It does not mean a thing. The figures are patently inaccurate, because later in the publication it is stated that there has been “ a decrease of 799 in the numbers receiving unemployment benefit, mainly in the Sydney, Newcastle andi Cessnock areas “. You may remember, Sir, that in Cessnock yesterday there was a march of unemployed miners that was reminiscent of the days of the l-930?s, when, forces were at large that could have destroyed the Australian way of life, lt was during that period that forces which believed that the Australian economic system was unable to cope with the demands necessary in a country which offered great possibilities for development and advancement,, were at the zenith of their power. We saw a period of great unemployment. Then World War LI. began, and many unemployed people were absorbed by the war industries. After the war, we saw the cycle beginning again, with the build-up to the boom that most of us remember. Consistently, over the last eight, nine or ten years, we on this side of the chamber have been trying to impress on the Government that the very seedbed in which communism germinates is unemployment.
I have here a copy of to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, from which I shall, read in order to enlighten some honorable senators opposite and also to confirm my statements. Last night at 9 o’clock, the Minister for Labour and National Service issued a statement to the effect that there had been a decrease of 799 in the numbers receiving unemployment benefit, mainly in the Sydney, Newcastle and Cessnock areas.
– On what date?
– Last night, 15th September, 1958, at 9 o’clock. But the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ report published in to-day’s issue under the dateline “ Cessnock, Monday “, reads -
Clergymen, businessmen and mine workers marched together at Cessnock to-day to a meeting of protest against unemployment on the coalfields.
More than 3,000 coal-field residents took part in the meeting at the Cessnock Sports Ground.
It was the biggest meeting on the coal-field since the 1949 coal strike. . . .
Among the 1,500 people who marched through the town to the meeting were the wives and children of many of the 600 men who lost their jobs in Cessnock mines last week.
– Many of them! It did not say all of them.
– Many of them were the wives of 600 men who lost their jobs in the Cessnock mines, last week. I want to contradict the Minister for Labour and National Service. I have been waiting for an opportunity to nail the stupidity of the Government’s statements on the unemployment position.
– But the unemployed men do not draw benefit until they have been out for a week.
– It is not a matter of whether they have been out for a week. This statement is just a camouflage to cover the true position. The Minister mentions places where these payments are being made. He mentions six places in Victoria.
– Where payments are being made?
– Yes. There are 56 centres of unemployment in Victoria. He mentions 23 centres in New South Wales, and nine in Queensland. There are 109 centres in Queensland where there is unemployment. He mentions two places in South Australia - Adelaide and Port Pirie - and six in Western Australia - Perth, Fremantle, Midland Junction, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie and Northam. He mentions three places in Tasmania - Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. Not a mention of one of the biggest cities in Tasmania - Burnie on the north-west coast! Not a mention about the north-east coast and the rural areas of Tasmania!
So we have this document, which is supposed to be a guide to the unemployment position, a presentation of statistics on employment. It contains statements about reduced employment in the fish, meat, fruit and vegetable canneries, reduced employment in the motor assembly and accessory plants, iron and steel works, television firms, shipbuilding repair yards and so on; but increased seasonal employment in some soft drink and margarine firms. It is nearly sickening when you see it in its true perspective. Now we have another of these very interesting contributions by the Minister about Victoria. His statement is that there is - reduced employment in some television firms, motor vehicle and accessory plants, foundries, woollen mills, clothing factories and engineering works;
But at the bottom of the page he gives, as an offset to that position, the fact that there are - more vacancies registered for women, principally for clothing machinists and servant workers;
The Minister is having these statements printed at great expense yet, when an analysis is made, it is found that there is little substance in them.
The “ Newcastle Morning Herald “ substantiates my statement about unemployment, and speaks of the 6,000mineworkers in that area who are protesting against increasing unemployment in the coal industry. It is a matter of very great concern to everybody in Australia to think that this Government has known, that Senator Spooner has known -because the Government and the Minister have been reminded consistently and repeatedly in the Senate - about what would happen when mechanization was introduced to the coal-mining industry. When we put before the people of this country a referendum seeking to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate on terms and conditions of employment, there was a great cry from the present occupants of the treasury bench about conscription of labour. There is nothing more cruel, there is nothing more inhuman than this form of conscription of labour depriving men of their traditional jobs, making no provision for their training for alternative work and, finally, having no alternative positions, even in the unskilled field, in which their services can be utilized. The Budget does nothing to alleviate that situation in the coalfields.
As to the position in Tasmania, I shall refer again to the figures given by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The statement informs us that there is - reduced seasonal employment in fruit canneries and other food processing firms; increased employment in some basic metal plants, but reduced employment in some textile and motor accessory firms;
Senator Henty knows that the main firms in the northern part of Tasmania -Repco and the other motor accessory firms -have been putting people off over the last two or three weeks or a month. He knows that one of the largest industries in the City of Launceston is working short time. Some textile firms are working three days a week, and some three days a fortnight. But the Minister for Labour and National Service, in his report, makes no mention of those trends. When you see the queues at the unemployment bureaux you realize that the position is worse than it has been since before the war, and to have statements such as this, in which the responsible Minister glosses over the whole position, is nothing short of dishonest.
-Do you say that unemployment is worse than since before the war?
-Since before the war. The unemployment position is the worst it has been since 1939.
-Tell us about Bell Bay.
-I will mention that subject later, because I have something to say about Bell Bay which can open a very interesting discussion. I shall be very pleased indeed to meet the honorable senator on the platform at Bell Bay during the coming election campaign, and to point out to him that the design of the whole of the construction of the Bell Bay aluminium plant was such that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was never intended to be able to compete in the world market against the international aluminium cartel. The design of the plant makes it uneconomic to produce for the Australian market only. The plant must expand its markets in the international field in order to be able to survive. The report of the Public Accounts Committee on the industry refers to wastefulness and shows that all the way through the purpose was never to allow the Australian Aluminium Production Commission to compete economically in the world market.
-Order! In con formity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580916_senate_22_s13/>.