23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister and ask that it be brought to the attention of the Ministers whom it may concern. Is the Minister aware that there is widespread dissatisfaction at the inordinate delay in dealing with the claims lodged with the appropriate industrial authority by the Australian Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union for interim salary increases? Is he aware that the union describes the position of its members in the following terms: -
The refusal of ihe Prime Minister to instruct the Public Service Board to negotiate with the Commonwealth Public Service organizations and the general frustration of our claims for salary justice has resulted in a development among my members of resentment and bitterness at what they feel to be the unfairness and injustice of their position.
In 1956 a postal cleric’s salary was £918 per annum. To-day it is still £918, whereas in 1956 a parliamentary member’s salary was £2,350. Today it is £2,750. The Richardson Committee’6 recommendation for increased salaries-
– Order! Is the honorable senator asking a question?
– I am asking the Minister whether he is aware that the union has described the feelings of its members with respect to industrial relations in these terms: -
The Richardson Committee’s recommendation for increased salaries was debated and implemented with alacrity whereas negotiations for salary justice for my members have repeatedly bogged down by refusals to negotiate; therefore it is contended there is ample justification-
– Order! The honorable senator is digressing. He should ask his question.
– I ask the Minister whether he will take action to have the Government discuss the matter with the object of entering into negotiations with the union for the purpose of expediting the hearing of these claims and doing everything possible (o obtain an early determination by the appropriate authority.
– I can only say that 1 am sorry to hear of the discontent that Senator Cooke alleges exists in the Postal Department. I should have thought that the procedure by which that discontent can be resolved by the competent authorities would be well established. I am well satisfied that any representations made by the union to the Prime Minister would have been most sympathetically considered by him. Not knowing just what the position is in relation to this matter, I merely say that I shall ask the Acting Prime Minister to look into the matter and see what can be done.
Felling of Trees
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister say why a number of fine, mature trees near the Administration Building in Canberra have been felled? Will the Minister give an assurance that the remaining trees in that locality will be preserved?
– I am not able to give the honorable senator an answer to the question that he has asked. I will bring it to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, and obtain a reply from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing th-.-; Minister for Immigration. Is the Minister aware that, since the publication in the most recent “ Demographic Review “, No. 100 of 6th April, 1959, of the figure 65,366 as the net migration increase for 1958, inferences have been drawn by a number oi persons and organizations interested in migration, (a) that this figure means that Australia has failed to attain its target of 115,000; and (b) that the reason for the reduction is that non-British migration has been cut so as to maintain, or increase, the proportion of British migration? To avoid misunderstanding, will the Minister make a statement clarifying the position? Will he also state what was the net migration increase in each of the last ten years?
– I think it is very necessary, in the circumstances, to have a
Statement, from the Minister for Immigration on the subject. I shall ask him to make such a> statement,, giving the- information that the honorable member seeks.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether an agreement has been reached between countries producing lead and zinc and the United States Government. What is the basis of the agreement as to the export of lead and zinc to that country, and- how does it affect Australian producers?
– The reply to the honorable senator runs something like this: There has been no agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America, or between lead and zinc producers- and- the- Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States has reduced the amount of lead and zinc that may be imported. The principal companies mining both lead and zinc throughout the world have entered into arrangements whereunder they have agreed to mitigate the situation that now exists as a. result of there being surplus production of both minerals. Those mining companies, in the various countries, have agreed to limit their production and their exports, and to take steps to reduce the quantity of lead and zinc going on to the world’s markets. I am sorry to say that I cannot indicate offhand the extent of the reduction. The effect upon Australia is that there will be some reduction of the amount exported. I have the figures on my office table, and if the honorable senator will repeat his question to-morrow afternoon I shall be- able to give them to him. The net result of the reduction is that, despite the world surplus production, despite the weakening of metal prices, despite the restriction of imparts into the United States, Australian producers are not in as unfavorable a position, by any means, as appeared likely some months ago.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether a report published in the Hobart “ Mercury “, of 7th May, 1959, arising out of a conference on national safety, has been brought to his notice. If it has, can he indicate whether or not the Commonwealth Government will favorably consider making available a grant for education in the prevention of industrial accidents on conditions similar to those that apply to the grant for the promotion of road safety? Does not the Minister agree that industrial accidents greatly affect the smooth running of industry and1 are also a blow against the economy of the country?
– I have not seen the press report to which the honorable senator refers, but I shall- place the suggestion before, my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I am sure that both- the Minister and his department: are constantly interested in reducing the number of industrial accidents in Australian factories.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to the twenty-seventh report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which reviews the workings of the various taxation acts up to 30th June, 1957. The report, which is accompanied by a memorandum of the Commissioner, dated 1st June, 1958, was presented to the Parliament on 11th or 12th May, 1959, and extends over 383 pages of closely printed figures. Has the Minister considered the cost of this: report, and has he considered, having regard to the extraordinary volume of it, whether efficiency would be improved by publishing about one-third of these formalized figures each year so that the report could be in the hands of the Parliament earlier and at a much reduced cost?
– I shall refer the matter raised by Senator Wright to my colleague, the Treasurer, and get him to furnish the honorable senator with an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I went into the Parliamentary
Library during the week in search of a copy of the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation. The librarian informed me that no report was submitted to the Parliament by that department. I ask the Minister whether that is a fact and, if it is, why the very substantial expenditure which is involved in the maintenance of Australian airports under the administration of the department is not reported to the Parliament for consideration by members.
– Expenditures involved in airport construction and maintenance are reported to the Parliament each year through the Estimates. I confess - I am told that open confession is good for the soul - that I have never had time to consider the practicability or desirability of the preparation and presentation of an annual report by the Department of Civil Aviation. From time to time the department does present a number of other publications. Now that the honorable senator has directed my attention to this omission, 1 shall be pleased to look at the matter. Frankly, I do not know the reason for the non-presentation of an annual report.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question without notice. In view of concerted protests that have been made by amateur radio operators, who are affectionately known as “ hams “, against the proposal of the Frequency Allocation Sub-committee regarding the restriction of frequency bands made available to Australian amateur operators, will the Minister consider the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to hear the claims and report to the Parliament on the position of the 3,000 operators throughout Australia who in the past have freely maintained communications when normal systems have broken down, who have an organization known as the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network which comes into immediate action in times of distress, and who have every reason to believe that their operations will be drastically confined if the recommendation to restrict frequency bands is accepted by the Government?
– The honorable senator’s question deals with a matter that was raised in this chamber two or three days ago by a number of senators.
I think that this is probably an appropriate time for me to read a statement in replyto the questions that were asked a few days ago, because Senator O’Byrne’s question deals with the same matter. The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following information concerning Australia’s proposals for discussion at the forthcoming administrative radio conference of all member nations of the International Telecommunications Union scheduled to commence in Geneva on 17th August, 1959:-
The proposals do not provide for drastic reduction of the frequency spectrum now available to Australian amateurs and have been framed in the best interests of all users. In particular the portions of the frequency bands concerned are most urgently required to improve conditions for fixed and mobile radio services such as: -
Rural fire brigades,
Overseas Telecommunications Commission,
State and local government authorities,
Australian national broadcasting services,
Radio Australia, and
Private industrial and commercial users.
The proposals affecting Australian amateurs provide only for reduction of the existing band 3.5- 3.8 megacycles to 3.5-3.7 megacycles, the 7-7.15 band to 7-7.1, the 14-14.35 to 14-14.25 and the 50-60 band to 56-58. There are no proposals for alteration of any of the other bands now allotted for amateur use and which provide considerable capacity for expansion of their activities.
In some of the bands now available to the amateur body, observations over a long period indicate that in general they are being worked below capacity, and even if the proposals are carried at Geneva there will still be ample frequency space for existing and future amateurs to operate satisfactorily. It should be emphasized that in Australia there are approximately 3,700 licensed amateurs, whereas in the United States of America there are approximately 180,000 who have practically much the same frequency space for their operations.
The proposals for revision of the frequency allocation table were only arrived at after the most careful consideration of the requirements of all services by the frequency allocation sub-committee, an expert advisory body which was set up to consider such matters. When the amateur bands were examined representatives of the Wireless Institute of Australia were invited to be present and were given full opportunity to study proposals and preset their own views, which were given most sympathetic consideration..
The final proposals developed were arrived at in the best interests of all organizations which must make use of spectrum. The Post Office is fully conscious of the work done by the amateur body in fostering international relationships and in rendering valuable assistance at times when normal communications are disrupted, and there is a proper appreciation of the need for retention of a reasonable and workable allocation of frequencies for their purpose. However, there are other and most important obligations to many other services which play a vital part in national development and operations, and the proposals for the revision of the frequency table to be discussed at Geneva are designed to promote the best interests of the country from an overall point of view. lt is emphasised that the claims of the amateur - bodies were given full weight in arriving at final proposals. Australia’s delegates will go to the Administrative Radio Conference with completely open minds and will have to consider the opinions of representatives of other nations with the object of arriving at the most equitable apportionment of the frequency spectrum.
In addition, the Postmaster-General has informed me that two of his officers, Messrs. Skerrett and Pearson, have now arrived in Canberra. They are only too willing to meet any person interested in this matter and to answer any questions put to them. If any honorable senators wish to do so, I can arrange for them to meet the two officers.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. President. Have you seen the article in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of 13th May describing the researches of Father Celsus Kelly into Spanish State archives and Vatican archives in the course of which he discovered hitherto unpublished material that throws new light on the explorations of the Spanish navigator, De Quiros, in the Pacific, together with other valuable material relating to the early history of Australia and New Guinea? Will you consider taking steps to obtain copies of these important documents for the Commonwealth National Library to be added to the library’s collection of books dealing wi:h the history of Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific generally?
– I am aware of the very valuable work that Father Celsus Kelly has been doing, but I point out to the Senate that he has been carrying out that work in association with the Commonwealth National Library. In view of the importance of this matter, I shall have a more detailed statement on the matter prepared, which T shall deliver to-morrow.
– My question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral is supplementary to that asked by
Senator O’Byrne. The statement that Senator Sir Walter Cooper has just read was full of departmental jargon-
– Order! Is the honorable senator asking a question or is he criticizing the statement that has just been read?
– I was not criticizing, Mr. President, I was commenting.
– Order! The honorable senator will ask his question.
– That is what I was going to do, with your permission. Although the statement was rather wordy, it did not answer the question asked by Senator O’Byrne. That question related to the same matter about which Senator Hannan made a speech a few days ago. The sentiments expressed in that speech, incidentally, were shared by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I ask the Minister: ls it not obvious from his statement that Australian radio amateurs will be affected to a greater degree than radio amateurs in any other country of the world, and particularly the United States of America, by the proposed cut in the frequency spectrum? Although we appreciate the opportunity to discuss the matter with the departmental officers, is it not possible, even at this late stage, in view of the technical nature of the problem, to give the radio amateurs themselves the opportunity to discuss this matter with the departmental officers before the delegation goes to Geneva?
– I understand that a representative of the association will attend the conference at Geneva, at his own expense. It is true that he will not have power to vote at the conference, but the Postmaster-General has made arrangements for him to have a full discussion with the delegates to the conference, so that he will be able to place before them the views of the amateur radio operators. As Senator Willesee apparently is very interested in this matter, I think the best thing he could do would be to have a discussion with the officers from the department, whom the Postmaster-General has so graciously got up here for the express purpose of speaking to members.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that Messrs. F. J. and D. V. Hursey obtained a doctor’s certificate, late in 1958, showing that they were both suffering from nervous depression and, consequently, were unable to perform the normal work of a waterside worker? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether or not the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority permitted the Hurseys to return to work on the Hobart waterfront without first having obtained a doctor’s certificate showing that they were fit to resume their occupation as waterside workers? Can the Minister, on this occasion, give me a direct answer to my questions?
– Mr. President, I do not know whether or not the A.S.I.A. required a doctor’s certificate from the Hurseys before they returned to work on the Hobart waterfront, but 1 am aware that in al] these industrial matters it is common practice to obtain a doctor’s certificate if one requires to be excused from the occupation one is following, and if one desires to convince his employers that he is in fact ill. I have not heard that it is the practice to obtain a doctor’s certificate before one is allowed to return to one’s employment. This was a part of the question asked yesterday by Senator Poke which, at the time, I forgot to answer.
Another part of the question that I did not answer related to the Hurseys returning to work on the waterfront at a time when, as Senator Poke alleges, there is some shortage of employment in the Port of Hobart. I should like to take the opportunity of answering that, too, Sir, by suggesting that I have always understood that it is trade union practice in cases such as that to apply the principle of “ last on, first off “. If that is the case, I would suggest that Senator Poke’s energies could better be directed to getting rid of some of the Communist strong-arm men who have come to Hobart from the mainland and been employed since the Hurseys were employed in this industry.
– How do you think I should do that?
– The honorable senator is using an argument to try to get rid of the Hurseys.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the patients in the homes that Group Captain Cheshire, V.C., is interested in establishing be qualified to receive full hospital and medical benefits?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
At this stage Group Captain Cheshire’s visit is purely an exploratory one. He has had discussions with the Minister for Health and other Ministers and has been informed of the various types of government aid provided in the case of homes for the aged, benevolent homes and hospitals. I understand that he has had discussions with State authorities, also. The question of whether inmates of the particular institutions which he establishes will qualify for hospital benefits cannot, of course, be answered until he decides what particular type of institution he will establish.
In view of the importance of our wool industry, and since we now have drip-dry woollen materials, will the Minister suggest to his colleague that the word “ synthetic “ be deleted?
The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answer: -
I will gladly comply with the suggestion and have instructed my department that in future issues of the booklet the word “ synthetic “ is to be omitted.
Twenty-fifth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Vincent be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1351), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales [3.32]. - During the first-reading debate, honorable senators have an opportunity to discuss matters that they think it beneficial for the Senate to have discussed. At the second reading stage, the Opposition will present an amendment with the purpose of preventing the second reading of the bill on the ground that it fails to make provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and also that it makes no provision for the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants.
At the first-reading stage, we have an opportunity to go a little more fully into some aspects of the administration of this Government, after ten years in office. As I have said before in the Senate, we judge the Government on fundamental things. We may agree or disagree on the question whether radio amateurs are receiving a fair deal, but I do not think we can possibly disagree on the question whether there has developed in the community a permanent state of unemployment, a permanent housing shortage in the more populous States, and inflation which, year after year, has reduced the spending value of social service payments and has impoverished the unfortunate people who must rely on such payments. I do not think, either, that we can afford to disagree on the great defence problems that face us.
I wish to make a critical examination of the Government itself. Let us deal first with unemployment. In January of this year, there were more people unemployed in Australia than have been unemployed for more than twenty years, with the exception of a few months in 1949. In January of this year, there were more people unemployed than there were in the depth of the 1952 recession. The only other time in twenty years when there was more unemployment was during the coal strike in 1949.
– The official figure is 81,900, and, of course, any figures I quote will be official. Faced with that position, one cannot help but be extremely critical of a government which boasts that the country is prosperous, which boasts of the tremendous job it has done over the years, but which fails when put to the fundamental test of success. The disturbing feature about unemployment is that each year there seem to be just a few more unemployed than there were in the previous year. This indicates to me that there is forming in this country a hard core of unemployed, and a solution of the problem seems to be beyond the capacity of the Government.
Let me now give approximate figures relating to the number registered as unemployed in the various years. In 1956, there were approximately 31,000 persons so registered. In 1957, that figure increased to approximately 52,000. By 1958, it had grown to 64,000, whilst at the peak in January, 1959, it was 81,900; and it dropped to 69,000 in March, 1959. We find the same story in connexion with unemployment benefit recipients. In March, 1957, there were 13,000 persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, but by 1958, that figure had grown to 24,400, and in 1959 it had increased to 27,600.
– It doubled in two years!
– As Senator Willesee says, it doubled in two years. One interesting point about all this is that the total work force employed as at January, 1956, was the same as the total work force employed as at June, 1958, whilstI should say that during the same time the population had increased by at least 200,000 or 250,000. If conditions were bad, one could understand this; but the Government boasts of the wonderful job it has done for this country. I should like to give one illustration of lack of planning and foresight on the part of the Government.
Since 1952, there has been a reduction of approximately 6,000 or 7,000 in the number of men employed on the coalfields. Everybody knew that this position would develop. It is the inevitable result of the encouragement of coal owners to mechanize the mines, and it was freely prognosticated for many years that there would be a decrease in the number of men employed on the coalfields. At Cessnock alone, there ane over 1,000 miners unemployed to-day. That is the sort of planning that this Government does. It lacks the ability to plan ahead wisely.
Here it is interesting to note some of the press comments about the Government’s failure to face up to the position and do what I and the great masses of the people feel should be done to meet the fundamental needs of the community in this day and age. I should say that the fundamental objective of the democratic system, which has been developed over hundreds of years and which means in this country representation by opposing political parties who campaign at elections and who accept the results of those elections, without bloodshed and with full consideration of the views of others, is that all people under the care of the government in this welfare age shall be employed, housed and paid wages of a standard that will give them comfort and security as well as enable them to rear families and give those families better education than the parents had. In other words, the objective should be an ever-improving standard of living.
But, as the honorable member for Wentworth in another place pointed out a few weeks ago, the standard is deteriorating. He stated that he was amazed, upon examining the figures, to discover that the standard of living in Australia was lower in 1957 than it was in 1956. That is because this Government has allowed the value of the £1 to drop and has neglected to do what it should have done in all justice - restore the value of the £1 by increasing the incomes of not only Australian workers but also the pensioners who so urgently need every little bit. On the score of employment, the Government has proved a failure. When we are able to say to a Government in 1959 that it has allowed more people to remain unemployed than were unemployed at any period in the preceding twenty years, it is indeed a severe condemnation of that government. We now have 65,000 unemployed. The figure may have dropped to 50,000. There has been a drop each month since January, but the significant feature is that unemployment at any period so far this year has been higher than it was in the corresponding period last year.
Now, we have a housing lag which, next to employment, is of most importance to the people of the community. It is hard to say exactly how many houses are needed, but examination of a few simple figures will disclose a tremendous lag in housing.
– You are speaking in respect of New South Wales?
– I am speaking in respect of Australia. Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, indeed every State is suffering from a housing lag. In some States it is greater than in others. Figures supplied to me by the Department of National Development and other government agencies disclose that approximately 1,300 homes are built each week. According to those statistics also, there are approximately 1,400 marriages each week. Further, approximately 1,600 immigrants arrive in this country each week, if we take as a basis the Government’s target of 115,000 immigrants annually. In addition to that, there are 4,000 babies born each week. And only 1 ,300 houses are being built each week!
More important even than that is the changing emphasis on the age groups. The age group from which most marriages are made is that from 19 to 24, and by 1967, this age group will have increased by 55 per cent. Whatever lag in housing we may be facing to-day is being accentuated each year. The lag will become an intolerable burden unless very strong action is taken to remove it. It is not as though the community cannot built more houses. Back in 1952, 80,000 houses were built, but in 1957. only 67,000 houses were built. The latest figure that we have is a little higher than that for 1957, but a comparison of 1952 and 1957 shows that we are building 20 per cent, fewer houses now than we did in the earlier years. That shows that there is no problem, in the technical or physical sense, in providing houses. There is no shortage of timber, bricks or tiles. There is no shortage of men to make furniture. There is no shortage of other things that go to make a home comfortable - carpets, furniture, radio and television. Generally speaking, all those things are in over-supply. lt is useless for the Minister, when confronted with the housing problem, to adopt the usual negative attitude and to say that the main trouble is in New South Wales. The problem may be more serious in that State but, after all, it has the greatest population. It is of no importance whether the problem is more serious in New South Wales than it is in, say, Western Australia. The fact is that the problem is equally serious for all unfortunate families which are unable to find houses, wherever those families may be. It is no good throwing everything back on to the State Governments. There are certain things that the Commonwealth knows it must accept if a complete job is to be done. Only last week the Commonwealth, in bringing down the Commonwealth aid roads legislation, made a half-hearted1 attempt to accept its responsibility on roads. The Commonwealth Government must make more than a halfhearted attempt to accept its responsibility on homes.
Despite what has been said to the contrary, New South Wales has done a very big job in providing homes. The housing commission of that State has built 51,000 homes in the last twelve years. The co-operative societies of New South Wales, with the aid of a State guarantee in respect of £134,000,000, have built more than 104,000 homes in the same period. The State Government increased its advances to co-operatives to 95 per cent, of the money needed.
In common with one of the State Ministers, I believe that we should have, not only a national roads council, but also a national housing corporation or council so that that problem might be tackled on a national basis also. My mind goes back over the history of housing in Australia and lingers for a moment on the gentleman who is now relaxing as he travels to the United States of America to meet the President of that country, and other important people. I may add that he appears to have moved out at a very fortunate time. I suppose that one could regard him as being primarily responsible for the Richardson report, but somehow Labour seems to be carrying the burden.
– Is it such a big load to you?
– lt is hardly a load at all, but it is much less of a load on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who, having started it all, has gone overseas on a luxury liner. Away back in 1945, that same gentleman proposed a censure motion on the Labour government of the day on the ground of its alleged failure to carry out an effective housing policy. That happened in May of that year. The European peace was not declared until that month, and peace in the Far East was not declared until 15th August. While we were still at war, the present Prime Minister, who was then in opposition, attempted to censure the Labour government of the day, which was really prosecuting a war that his party had proved totally incapable of prosecuting itself. That was the painful position of the Liberal-U.A.P. Government of the early days of the war. The name has changed but the same old faces linger on.
It is interesting to reflect that the present Prime Minister thought this problem so tremendously important in those days that he attempted to censure the Labour Government while Australia was still at war with Japan in the Pacific. This gentleman has been Prime Minister since 1949, during what should have been the ten greatest years of this country. Because of his maladministration, his failure to control inflation, his permitting value to escape from the Australian £1, they have not been our ten greatest years. Nevertheless, one might have expected the right honorable gentleman’s Government to have solved the problem of building homes for the Australian people.
I want to tell the Government that the day has gone when one can bring migrants out here and expect them, like our fathers and grandfathers, to battle along, walking the streets until they get a job and building their own homes after years of endeavour. If our democracy stands for one thing, it is that we attempt to hold and lift living standards. If we bring people here from other countries we should give them an opportunity to build their own homes as soon as they can afford them - which should be within a reasonable period after they come here. We should make it as simple as possible for them to become properly settled in this country. However, as I have said, the housing shortage is worse now than it has been for many years. We have to worry about not only our present problem, but the future problem that is indicated in the short survey of statistics to which I have drawn attention. It reveals that to-morrow the position will be much more serious. To me it is incredible that this gentleman to whom I have referred could, after moving a censure motion on housing while the war was still on, have done so little about it when he had an opportunity to do something himself.
If the Opposition has done one thing, i! has been to make a world statesman out of the prime Minister in the last ten years. 1 do not say that there is anything for us to be proud of in that. We have given him an uninterrupted term of office, without any great effort or great legislation on his part. He has remained in office because of Labour’s own problems. The people have not been able, in the last couple of elections, to vote in a clear-cut fashion. However, time passes quickly. In politics it passes very quickly, and some Government supporters who may think that they have a future here should remember that if the Australian Labour Party vote and the Democratic Labour Party vote had been combined at the last election, this Government would have gone out of office.
– You mean, if you had won more seats?
– I cannot answer interjections unless I hear them clearly. If the votes for the Australian Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party had been given to Labour in the electorates in which candidates for both parties stood, Labour would have had a substantial majority of between nine and twelve seats.
– Who said that the Democratic Labour Party was composed of former Labour supporters?
– Ninety-five per cent, of it is Labour.
– That is nonsense.
– The percentage vote for the D.L.P. was very small, but it was large enough - because the preferences went away from Labour - to bring many Government supporters into this Parliament and to keep here other supporters, giving them an opportunity to continue to mismanage the work of government, as they have been doing for so long. 1 should like to give one short illustration. Just before the last election, a loan of some £15,000,000 was floated in London. It was over-subscribed and the Prime Minister, in his customary manner, proceeded to tell Australia and the world that the only reason for this was the tremendous confidence which he and his Government enjoyed at home and abroad. Strangely enough, at the same time that Mr. Menzies was boasting of having had a loan of £15,000,000 oversubscribed, the New Zealand Government was on the London market and was filling loans three or four times as great as the loan he got. But Mr. Menzies said, in that home-spun style of his, that the success of the loan was evidence of good housekeeping. Do honorable senators recall the squire walking around his property just before the last election seeing that the fences were in good order, that the pastures were satisfactory, that the homestead was all right, and that the housekeeping was good? The right honorable gentleman said that the housekeeping was good, because out of the tremendous British money market of thousands of millions of pounds he was able to get a loan of £15,000,000 sterling. There is one thing that the Prime Minister has - that is, that turn of phrase, that simple home-spun style of presenting his points.
The right honorable gentleman said that the fact that the Government got a loan of £15,000,000 was a complete answer to those who said that there was something wrong with the Australian economy. He continued -
I confess that this sort of balderdash annoys me. because it stems from one of three reasons: lt is said for political gain, it is said from sublime ignorance which parrots the cries of others, or it is said in a deliberate attempt to undermine the confidence of Australians in their country.
That was all very well at the time, but a few short months later the right honorable gentleman went back to the London market for another loan of only £12,000,000. What happened? That loan was 60 per cent, under-subscribed. That is an example of how the right honorable gentleman’s great utterances come back on him. His statement immediately before the election was the height of pomposity. As one financial writer said, apparently the loan was over-subscribed- because financial interests in Great Britain reckoned there would be a change of Government. Proof of that is found in the fact that, Mr. Menzies having been returned to office, the further loan of £12,000,000 that he sought to raise on the London market was subscribed only to the extent of 40 per cent. The London press carried the headline “ Loan flop “.
But that does not worry the right honorable gentleman. He is now on a higher level. He is not now referring to balderdash or good housekeeping but is visiting the heads of State in several countries and is doing what he does best. If we could only keep him at it, he could be an asset to this great country. If we could only keep him talking and prevent him from doing anything else, his great qualities of oratory could be well employed for Australia. Following the success of the £15,000,000 loan, the Prime Minister said -
To float an overseas loan, a country has to have stability, prosperity, and a future without question marks.
I repeat that three months later, when he went to the same people to raise loans totalling only £12,000,000, they were only subscribed to the extent of 40 per cent. That fact speaks for itself.
The half hour allotted to me is passing very quickly. There is ever so much one could say about this Government and which I think should be said. The more frequently it is said, the sooner we may shake the Government and its Ministers out of the complacency into which they have sunk. When the Government’s actions are judged in the light of our living standards and of the degree of social security accorded to the people, the only verdict open is that it has failed.
Let us consider what it has done in the provision of social services. Child endowment rates have not been changed for ten years. Can any one defend that state of affairs, particularly when we are crying out for more babies and when we are spending millions of pounds a year to bring migrants to this country? One of the first things that a government of the sort I would like to see in office should do is to look after the mothers and fathers who are prepared to accept the responsibility of bringing up large families.
The maternity allowance has not been changed since 1943, when it was raised from £15 to £17 10s. The unemployment and sickness benefit remains at £3 5s. a week for a single person, £5 12s. 6d. for a married person, and 10s. for each child. The Government is asking a young fellow who is out of work through no fault of hi& own - there is not .005 per cent, of the people who do not want to work; that percentage consists mainly of people who are in gaol and who want to live by stealing - to try to battle along on £3 5s. a week. That is only half of the rate of workers7 compensation. I think there should be some rough alinement between the two figures, or that at least the unemployment and sickness benefits should be sufficient to allow a person who is out of employment to eat. It would cost a single man £3 5s.. for meal’s alone for seven days a week.
The Government feels that it is secure for three years. It hopes that what is happening now in the Australian Labour Party will continue to happen so it caa ignore the pleas of the people and turn its. back on the age and invalid pensioners. The relationship between the pension and the basic wage has deteriorated during the last few years while this Government has been in office. The standard of living has/ declined, as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said, to such a degree that nowadays 50 per cent, of retail sales are made on credit. Why are they made on credit? It is not because people want to buy on credit, but simply because they have to mortgage their wages increasingly to get into their homes and buy what, to my mind, are the necessaries of life. T do not refer to television sets, but to such essential items as sheets, blankets, and simpleitems of furniture. All these things add up? to the fact that we are suffering from raging inflation under the administration of an ageing Prime Minister who is rapidly fallinginto disrepair. The tragedy of the situation is that the Government still has three more years of office. But mark this: We, too, have three more years in which to prepare, to face the Government at an election. The.people will then elect the Labour Party tor office, because the years during which this’.
Government has administered the country afford an illustration of what can be done by conservatism.
I conclude my remarks by quoting two passages from the Sydney press which, in three or four lines, get across the message that 1 have been trying to get across for the last 30 minutes. Dealing with the questions of employment and housing, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said -
On both these vital issues of employment and housing, the Opposition can literally say that the Government has not only taken no steps whatever to correct trends which are proving contrary to its -expectations, but that it has not even deigned to offer a word of explanation of its inertia ….
That was the word I was looking for. The Sydney “ Sun “ said -
If there is one thing you can rely on the present Federal Government for when any sort of real crisis approaches, it is complete and absolute inertia.
It added -
It is clear to every one now, if it wasn’t before, that the men at the controls are adept at handling only one instrument - the brake - and reading one signal - the stop-and-do-nothing signs.
– We have listened to a speech from Senator Armstrong which was intensely critical, but which, in my view, showed a lack of any element of constructive thought. Apparently he hopes that in the course of some three years his party will gather strength to such a degree as to be able, if given the opportunity, to govern the country effectively, but I am astonished when he tries to bolster that hope by looking at the waves that have already broken on the political rocks and by trotting out the old shibboleths. When he had the presumption to speak of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the terms of criticism which he used, it brought to my mind the picture of the ant and the elephant. In my view, his speech showed that he had no conception of the problems that confront Australia at present.
This debate gives us an opportunity to express our views on matters which will be engaging the attention of the Government during the next few months, when the annual Budget will be in the course of preparation. I should have thought, therefore, that this was an occasion upon which anybody with a constructive thought in his mind would express his views about what should be done in the next twelve months to correct the imbalances in our economy that have appeared during the last twelve months. I intend to participate briefly in the debate in the hope that what is said here now will be considered by those members of Cabinet who have the responsibility for the preparation of the Budget.
We live in an island continent. We are dependent for our export earnings upon, in the main, our primary industries - not only our agricultural industries, but also our mining industries. It is upon our agricultural products that we mostly depend. I say that notwithstanding the ever-increasing efforts of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to expand our export trade in secondary products. In view of the difficulty of finding markets for our secondary goods even in countries so close to Australia as New Zealand and the Asian countries, and of the impact of the present very unusual export policy of the United States of America, Australia’s task in expanding its exports of secondary products is a very hard one. I do not think myself that in the next five years our external trade in secondary products will be able to make a significant contribution to a solution of our balance of payments problem. Therefore, over that period our balance of payments will in large measure be governed by our ability to sell agricultural products overseas. Minerals - of which I would not dare to speak in the presence of Senator Scott - will play their part, but they are of a much more speculative nature than agricultural products and are much more dependent upon - to me - inexplicable vacillations of the world market. The major problem confronting us is to expand and maintain export markets for our agricultural products.
The problem facing this country in the next year and the succeeding year will be to see that the production of Australian farms does not wane, in quantitative terms, for want of incentives. There must be a sufficient margin of prosperity in the farmlands of Australia to ensure that a sufficient quantity of farm products for export will be available. Therefore, it filled me with dismay, or near despair, to hear Senator Armstrong contend that Australia’s greatest need at present is to expand social service benefits. The returns to people engaged in the farming industry are a great disappointment to them. From the point of view of net income, the returns are nearing vanishing point.
I have before me some figures which show what has been happening in relation to Australian retail prices, export prices and wage rates. 1 shall take the three years 1956, 1957 and 1958. Retail prices in this country, taking a base figure of 100 for the year 1952-53, were 113 in 1956, 115 in 1957 and 118 in 1958. In those three years, export prices - I am using a base of 100 as at June, 1939- were 461, 403 and 336. There was a fall in export prices from 461 in 1956 to 336 in 1958. The index figure for nominal weekly wage rates increased from 354 in 1956 to 360 in 1957, and to 365 in 1958. Those figures disclose increasing retail prices and wage costs, and also an accelerating decrease of export prices. It is the pincer movement of those two contrary trends that, to my way of thinking, poses the problem with which the Government is confronted in the current budgetary period.
Farm incomes also have dwindled. I dare not take a date as a starting point for a comparison, lest I choose one that is not regarded as appropriate by every one. However, it would be fair to say that a significant fall in farm incomes has taken place over the last seven years. In terms of present money values, farm incomes were about the same in 1957-58 as they were in 1947-48. I admit that we have recently heard the good news that the estimate of next year’s farm income has risen from £360,000,000 to £394,000,000. That was stated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) a month or so ago. However, when that amount of money is distributed amongst the whole of the farming community, some farmers will receive very small amounts. At the same time, industrial costs are rising. For the year 1947-48 wages and salaries amounted to £908,000,000, but by 1957-58 they had grown to £2,899,000,000. I do not propose to base my speech upon statistics, but in these matters of national importance I do not trust my judgment unless I am supported by the thoughtful studies of people who are capable of analysing the subject in the special way that I, as a politician, do< not pretend to be competent to do. 1 shall now refer to the table which expresses the prices paid by farmers as a ratio to the prices, received by farmers. In 1957, the ratio was about 86 to par; but in 1958 it fell teabout 76 to par. We are entering a period of steep decline. I mention three trends: First, the European common market; secondly, the policy pursued by the United States of America in regard to export; and thirdly, the growing concentration of governmental control of external trade not only of this country but also of other countries so that external trade has become not a matter to be managed by ordinary considerations and economics that govern trade but a matter of direct governmental management. Having regard to those trends, it seems to me that we shall have to take corrective action to ensure that our exports will finance an adequate import programme. This is an acute national problem. Our manufacturing industries are depending upon our import programme to an increasing degree.
The suggestion might be made that we have reached the stage at which export subsidies should be considered as a means of counteracting the governmental agencies that are working in this country to protect the secondary industries from the impact of Australian costs. I refer not only te exchange agencies, the Tariff Board and the Arbitration Court, but also to the line of fortifications that has been built up recently under which secondary industries are taking increasing protection, namely, import licensing. This problem must be met by the provisions of the next Budget. I suppose the same considerations must apply to such international treaties as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the preferences available to us in the United Kingdom, if export subsidies were considered in relation to primary products. But as I see the position, we have reached the stage at which it is doubtful whether any other measure can correct the imbalance to which I have referred. However, I submit for consideration another possible means of correcting the position. I suggest a revision of taxation measures or subsidies on materials which, could lead to some reduction in our costs.
We should consider also subjecting those factors that are generating increases in our costs to a most critical review. 1 have the utmost respect for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but the members of the commission should not be called upon to accept the grave responsibilities that recur year after year. In my view, the importance of the decisions made by the commission - the economic parliament of the country - is so great that the responsibility should not be thrust upon the shoulders of these men, because a mistake on the part of any one of them may have such critical repercussions on the Australian economy. 1 shall refer now to our taxation structure. As we know, by far the most important item of our taxation structure is the income tax which accounts for something like 73 per cent, of the taxation collection of this country. The rates of income tax which were appropriate to 1949 values of income are not appropriate to 1959 values of income, especially when one realizes that income tax is charged on a graduated scale. Not only the terminal point of the scale but also the line of inclination in the scale needs a very close review to make it just in its application to. 1959 values of income. We all know that although incomes have expanded in figures, such expansion has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in values. In other words, our incomes are inflated. If we are to obtain a return that represents real work and gives the proper premium to work as against speculation, it is essential that we make the application of our taxation scale just in every respect.
I have one thought in common with Senator Armstrong. In 1949, the allowable deductions in respect of the first and second children were £78 and £65 a year respectively. In 1958, such deductions were increased only to £91 and £78 respectively. Such a deduction from the income of a family man is altogether too small. Any person who has regard to the current costs of maintenance of children would be convinced that a larger deduction should be allowed. For that reason, the scale of deductions should be reviewed.
Another thought that I have in common with Senator Armstrong is on the matter of child endowment. We should not pride ourselves on the fact that child endowment has not been increased since 1950. We have to examine our conscience in this matter. Either we believe in the social service of child endowment or we do not. If we believe in it, we are bound to concede that some increase in child endowment is due to the parents of to-day, having regard to the increases in costs in relation to the family unit that have occurred since the rates were last increased. 1 have not selected these matters because I have made a considered judgment that relatively they are the most important items for budgetary consideration. It would be presumptuous of me - a presumption that I would wish to discard - to pretend to have made a survey, as a matter of judgment, of the matters that should get first consideration. But having regard to the most laudable efforts of the Minister of Immigration (Mr. Downer) in trying to maintain the volume of immigration, surely we should recognize the value of the child community to this country. I contend that the man who has to maintain the costs of families is the one who should get the first consideration in any budgetary concessions.
I wish now to refer to two other old friends of mine; and I. want to say that I make these references not with a capacity for patience that will endure for all time. I have been directing attention to these matters over a number of years, and they must become sooner or later matters of conflict if there is complete inattention to them in Budget after Budget. I wish to deal first with the subject of estate duty. The rates of estate duty, except in one small respect, have not been altered, I believe, since 1949, despite the fact that there has since been a terrific inflation of the value of estates. This is an anachronism at a time when we maintain social services in the form of widows pensions to a degree which represents income which, if it came from invested capital, would account for quite a degree of capital accumulation. Widows who inherit a capital accumulation, sometimes in the form of a house of no greater value than £7,000 are visited not only by the State Commissioner for probate duty, but also by the Federal Commissioner for estate duty. I cannot understand the mystery that lies behind the maintenance of this two-fold type of taxation. Why in the name of fortune estate duty should not be relegated either exclusively to the Federal sphere or, as I should prefer to see it, to the State sphere, and let the unfortunate people involved in bereavements and deaths be concerned with only one assessment - an assessment at rates that are appropriate to to-days inflated values - I fail to understand. I do urge the Government to give consideration to this problem at an early date.
Lastly, seeing that those who pay gift duty have no large representation here, I wish to express the view that this is a specially vicious tax. In fact, it is the only capital tax sanctioned by the Liberal and Country Parties on living persons, whereas1 estate duty is a capital tax sanctioned on the transmission of an estate from one generation to another. Gift duty is an exaction levelled in prepayment of death duty where the person who pays it may be 30 years of age and still have an expectancy of life of another 30 or 50 years. Furthermore, this tax is exacted in respect of all gifts except those of less than £2,000 - the figure that was adopted when money was worth about two and a half times as much as it is today. I consider that the exemption should be raised to at least £5,000. Indeed, I believe that this tax should be abolished. I make that plea in no spirit of capitalism but because, as I see the imposition of this duty, it is a special capital tax directed to families. Two or three members of a family unit may be contributing to an estate, usually in the form of an agricultural asset, and then one member comes to the stage where he wants to establish his separate family.
Due to the fact that ordinary wages have not been charged against the undertaking for a period of years, the old man permits his son to take over on a concessional basis. The commissioner then comes along, and imposes a capital tax, starting at 3 per cent, and going up to quite- large percentages of capital value, just because there is a disposition of family property when family units disintegrate and independent estates are created as between new families. Both those objectives are entirely acceptable to the Labour Party; and it is the proud boast of the Liberal Party to create property between families. Yet that transaction is singled out as the only transaction on which we levy a capital duty during the lives of the taxpayers. I hope that these matters will be considered. Having regard to the plight of farm incomes and of tha export industries, I believe they are matters of critical national, importance. Attention to the few subsidiary matters that I have selected for particular consideration, when, the next Budget is being framed, would give the people a sense of justice, which, means ever so much more to them. than, a sense of pecuniary improvement.
.- I have before me four appropriation bills, two of which are in respect of the current financial year and the other two in respect of the next financial year. I have noticed that one of the measures relates to Additional Estimates for the various Commonwealth departments. It is customary about this time each year for all Commonwealth departments to estimate how much money they need for various services up till 30th June. The bill that I have in my hand at the moment authorizes the appropriation of approximately £57,204,000. Another measure that I have before me relates’ to Capital Works and Services. According to the estimate of the Department of the Treasury, approximately £7,399,000 will be required for Capital Works and Services up till 30th June next.
The object of the Supply Bill 1959-60 is to appropriate £247,220,000 for the services of government during the first five months of the financial year 1959-60. It is appreciated that, after 30th June next, funds will be required for capital works and services. According to the Supply (Works and Services) Bill 1959-60, the sum required will be £55,723,000. Every one understands that, since those sums of money have to be made available for expenditure, there must be a Commonwealth, agency to collect revenue for the Treasury Department
It is interesting to note that the Commissioner of Taxation, in a report which he furnished quite recently, indicated the amounts that his office collected by means of taxation during the years 1954-55, 1955-56 and 1956-57. The report indicates, too, the various taxes which operate, and the sources of the sums that the commissioner has collected in respect of taxation during those years. The items of taxation are familiar, I think, to most people in the Commonwealth. They include income tax and social services contribution, company tax, sales tax, pay-roll tax, land tax, estate duty, gift duty and tobacco charges. It is rather interesting to note that, for the year 1954-55, the commissioner collected the sum of ?687,842,000. In 1955-56, he collected ?743,300,000. Honorable senators will notice the increase that occurred during that one year. Then, in 1956-57, collections amounted to ?812,324,000. Therefore, there has been a gradual increase over the years. When we come to the current year, we find that the total taxation collections will amount to ?1,323,771,000. Whatever charges of inefficiency may be levelled at this Government - and I assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that there are many such charges which can be made - it cannot be accused of being an inefficient government so far as collecting taxes is concerned.
I listened with some interest to what Senator Wright had to say. The honorable senator spoke about the problems confronting the Commonwealth Government and seemed to state them in an attempt to justify the absence overseas of the Prime Minister at the present time. He said that the time was rapidly approaching when we would have to give some consideration to export subsidies’ for primary products. His tone indicated quite clearly that the primary industries of Australia are in a bad way and that, consequently, Australia is not earning the export income which it otherwise would earn. But the honorable senator failed to discuss the primary industries or to show how their incomes had depreciated.
In the past, the wool industry has contributed largely to Australia’s overseas funds. We all know that the earnings of that industry have declined during recent years because of the low prices that have been paid for our wool. Quite recently, however, the picture has changed completely. We now find that the price of wool has increased and that, at the present time, there is not the slightest indication of any lowering of current values. It has been stated quite openly that because of the entry in.0 our wool market of eastern Europe, prices have been advanced. When people refer to eastern Europe, I think they really refer to Russia. If Russia is back in the wool market again, and if, as a result of her re-entry, Australia is profiting, I see nothing wrong in that.
Only recently, I noticed a statement made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) regarding the position of wool in relation to Australia’s economy. The Minister indicated in the statement that Australia was not now so dependent on the price of wool as it was some years ago. I disagree with that statement. Australia is just as much dependent now on the price of wool, as a factor in maintaining a buoyant economy, as ever it was; nor will there be any change in that situation in the near future. Evidently, the Government has failed to adopt organized methods to promote the sale of wool, both in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. 1 think that the Minister for Trade has fallen down badly on his job. If he had the interests of Australia’s primary industries at heart he would be doing more to establish markets overseas than he is doing now or has done in the past. It may be, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Minister is unable to achieve anything. It may be beyond his capacity to improve or increase the markets overseas for Australia’s primary products.
Senator Wright made some roundabout statements concerning Australia’s primary industries, but he did not particularize, nor did he mention any of the problems that confront the primary industries. He had not a word to say about the meat industry. We know that the production of meat varies from year to year because of the droughts which occur in the cattle-growing areas of the Commonwealth. Recently, the United States of America has purchased from Australia considerable quantities of beef of certain classes. It appears that we are able 1o sell, at the present time, unlimited quantities of stewing and hamburger beef to America. Just why the current demand for .hat kind of beef exists is not clear to me. However, a market has been established and has existed for the past twelve months. The indications are that this market will continue to be a good one for the next season or so.
Australia’s methods of producing cattle suitable for providing meat for export are quite antiquated and outmoded. A change will have to be made as soon as possible in the methods that are used at the present time. I foresee that the citizens of Australia, at some time in the future, will be required to pay considerably more for the meat they consume than they have paid previously.
It appears that the price of meat will increase by between 25 per cent, and 50 per cent, within the next six or nine months. Having attained that high level, there will be no possible chance of getting the price down again. That is one of the problems that confront us. If we are to have dear foodstuffs, we will need higher wages, and secondary industries will be affected seriously by increased costs.
According to information I have received, Australia’s farm income this year will be approximately £400,000,000. That is far from being a satisfactory figure. If we distribute £400,000,000 amongst the primary producers of the Commonwealth, we find that an insufficient return goes to each one. Let us consider the situation in regard to wheat, which is one of Australia’s important primary commodities. That is one industry which is carried on in all the States, and it might interest honorable senators to know that the value of minerals exported by Mount Isa Mines Limited each year is £21,500,000. That is more than the export income earned by the whole of the wheatgrowing industry throughout the Commonwealth. One mine in Queensland earns an export income greater than that of the whole of one primary industry!
– Did you say “ meat “ or “wheat”?
– I referred to the wheat-growing industry.
– Is not the income from wheat growing worth £30,000,000 a year?
– Not the export income. One mine operated by one company earns an export income of £21,500,000 a year, and the export income earned by the whole of the wheat-growing industry does not amount to that sum.
Repeatedly I have heard honorable senators on the Government side boasting about the prosperity that has been enjoyed by this Commonwealth since 1949. Let me tell them something about the wheatgrowing industry which is not by any means cheerful. On 1st April last, we had 150,000,000 bushels of wheat on hand and unsold. It is estimated that the carry-over of wheat will be 70,000,000 bushels by 1st December next, and by that time we shall also be starting to harvest the new season’s crop. To make matters worse, there will be 1,000,000 acres more under wheat this year than there were last year.
– That is not right.
– It is estimated that this year we shall have 6,000,000 acres under wheat, and I have yet to be convinced that the wheat-growing industry has a bright future. 1 know that the industry hopes to benefit from a guaranteed price, and so on. The home consumption is worth £10,000,000, and the wheat growers arc expecting a guaranteed price and therefore a certain guaranteed income because the industry has decided not to sell to the millers below a certain minimum price. But there is a limit to what can be done in that direction.
I come now to another important industry - dairying. In 1950-51, the retail price of butter was 2s. 2d. a lb. In 1951-52, it was 3s. Hd. a lb. By 1952-53, it had increased to 4s. lid. a lb. In 1955-56, it was 4s. 5id. a lb. This figure rose to 4s. 7d. a lb. in 1956-57, and the present retail price of butter is 4s. 9id. a lb. Despite these increases, the dairy farmers are worse off now than they were during the depression. Over the past eight years, the retail price of butter has increased by 120 per cent, as compared with an overall increase of 70 per cent, in the prices of other foodstuffs. With that increase in price, there has been a decrease in production. In 1955-56, the industry produced 209,000 tons of butter. The total production in 1956-57 was 193,000 tons, and, by 1957-58, it had fallen to 175,000 tons.
The market for butter is also decreasing. For instance, the average annual rate of consumption per head in 1957-58 was 27 lb. whereas it is now down to 25 lb. a head. This indicates, of course, that the price of butter is far too high for Australian consumers. Although the Australian Labour Party has no objection to the payment of subsidies to the dairying industry, we do suggest that, instead of seeking further subsidies, the industry should endeavour to increase sales by reducing the retail price of butter. If the price were reduced, consumption would increase. Margarine would not be able to compete with butter at all if the price of butter were reduced to a figure within the range of the average member of the community. All this relates to the alleged great wave of prosperity that has been overwhelming Australia since 1949.
One small industry did flourish in Queensland at one time but the people who carried it on in the past are now leaving it and seeking jobs as labourers in other industries. I refer to pineapple-growing in Queensland. The sales of pineapple crops have to be guaranteed by the Queensland Government now. In that State, there is operating an agency known as the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing. That organization acquires the crop, processes it and sells it. For the last month or so, the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing has been unable to meet its commitments to the pineapple-growers. That is only one industry, but I can assure the Senate that it certainly is without prosperity.
Recently, we heard much about the action of the United States of America in dumping excess primary products on the world markets. That is nothing new. In 1956, the United States Government stated publicly that it would dispose of all its excess primary products on the world’s markets in the places where it was of greatest advantage to America to do so. It went so far as to say that it would almost give its primary products to some countries provided those countries would undertake to buy their requirements of manufactured goods from America. All this talk we hear now about the result of a conference that was held only a week or two ago to solve the problem of excess supplies throughout the world does not convince me that the United States of America will refrain from disposing of her surplus products to her own advantage. America will not consider Australia, or any other country, when it comes to dealing with her own problems.
Now I come to another point which indicates that there is no such thing as prosperity in the Commonwealth at the present time. I think it was some time during this year that there was a conference of Commonwealth and State authorities to discuss the activities of hire-purchase companies. The object of the conference was to arrive at a uniform interest rate, a uniform type of agreement and some satisfactory means of bringing the whole of the hire-purchase business under control. I think everybody is aware of the high interest rates charged by hire-purchase companies. Everybody knows that these companies are of no benefit to the community except that they do make goods available to people who are not in a position to pay cash for them. People are compelled to live on next year’s income, for they must lend themselves to the wiles of the hire-purchase companies. At present, the hire-purchase debt in the Commonwealth is £320,000,000. That works out at approximately £30 a head for the whole of the population. Where does the interest go? The interest is lost so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. It goes to the hire-purchase companies and is paid out in the form of dividends.
– And taxation.
– Some of it does go in taxation. The whole matter could be handled effectively by the Commonwealth Bank. It is a field which the Commonwealth should monopolize. Low rates of interest should be charged on all hire-purchase contracts. One of the advantages of hire purchase is that goods are taken off the market readily. Manufacturers benefit indirectly because they can manufacture more goods, replacing those which have been sold. However, a day of reckoning must come so tar as hire purchase is concerned.
Many of our poorer citizens will doubtless prove to be the victims of hire purchase. People who are on medium incomes do not customarily use the services of such companies. It is usually the people on the lower incomes who are forced to obtain their goods in this way. When one adds interest charges to the cost of goods, one realizes how unmercifully the public is being robbed.
I should also like to refer to the unemployment situation throughout the Commonwealth. I do not think that any one in the community feels happy about that situation. It has frequently been said that the Government withholds accurate information as to the number of persons unemployed in the Commonwealth. The Government may have a reason for not divulging the correct information, but we, as responsible citizens, are entitled to know the exact number of unemployed at any time. Figures can be juggled, and I feel sure that the Commonwealth Government is doing just that at the present time. The statistical information released by the Department of Labour and National Service from time to time refers to the number of vacancies in industry, indicating that they are registered with the employment office, but that information is obtained from the columns of the newspapers. The department totals the number of vacancies in the various capital cities and elsewhere and says, “ There are the vacancies “.
We know that in even the best organized forms of society, at the best of times, there is always a percentage of persons unemployed. That is so even during periods of full employment because some callings simply do not offer permanent employment. The building industry is an example. Many persons in that industry are out of work at any given time. One job finishes and another may not be commenced for two or three days or a week. However, when you have 80,000 or 90,000 unemployed, distributed throughout the various industries of the States, it is a different matter.
– What percentage of the work force is unemployed?
– We can talk in terms of percentages if we like, but at present I am speaking in terms of the unemployed person himself, the man in the community who knows the evil consequences of being out of work. Although he is out of work, he has to meet rent and other charges If he is getting the basic wage when he is working - the basic wage in Queensland is £13 3s. at present - and when he is unemployed he has to depend only on the niggardly relief payment, which is little more than a quarter of the basic wage. The living standard of his family falls to 25 per cent, of what it was. We cannot merely deal in percentages. When a man is unemployed, he has to meet charges that he does not meet when he is employed. He has to lay out money searching for work. If he is living in the city, he must visit industries in various suburbs looking for employment. I should like to see the Senate appoint a select committee to investigate the registration methods adopted by the Department of Labour and National Service. I should like them to be fully examined and a report made upon them at some time in the future
My time is limited. I intended to deal with social service payments, which, I think every one is agreed, require revision, 1 have not the slightest doubt that the next Budget will provide for an increase in age and invalid pensions. Just what it will amount to I am unable to say. lt may be 2s. 6a. or 3s. a week. In 1949, when this Government came into office, the basic wage was £6 9s. a week. To-day it is £13 3s. Therefore, since this Government has been in office the basic wage has increased by £6 14s. a week, or by more than 100 per cent. That being so, it is clear that the Government has not maintained the ratio between the cost of living and pensions generally. When Labour was in office, it expanded the field of social service. Its social service contributions scheme was intended to provide a solid fund from which standards could be maintained at a decent level. This Government merged the social service contribution and the income tax payment, and the fund lost its identity completely. The level of pensions must, therefore, now depend upon the revenue that the Government receives from income tax. I hope that there will be a political change at an early date so that economic justice can be extended to every member of the community.
. - This debate gives one the opportunity of dealing with matters which, although not specified in the bill, are likely to become of importance during the Budget session, when we next return to Canberra. There is one matter that I should like to put before Ministers so that they may look at it in good time, before finalizing budgetary decisions. I was amazed to read a statement by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) to the effect that the programme for governmental works and housing in Canberra would continue in accordance with normal annual Budget procedures. But in the last sentence of his statement, the right honorable gentleman said that authority had been given for work on the Canberra lakes scheme to begin without delay. I have watched the construction of Canberra over the last ten years. During that time the greater part of the construction that has taken place in this city has occurred. More construction has taken place in that period than took place in the twenty years following .the commencement of the city in 1 927. In the last ten years I have watched the suburbs grow, have seen the buildings rise, and have seen the roads constructed. I have come to love the city. I think that some day it will be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Nevertheless, 1 suggest that there should be some sensible system of priority for what is to be done. Those priorities should not at this stage include the expensive undertaking of forming artificial lakes - that could come later - when we need such things as a National Library building, the foundation stone of which has not yet been laid. I suggest that more notice should be taken of the various cultural activities and that the provision of accommodation for those activities should be considered. I propose to quote extracts from a report submitted by Sir Robert Garran following the appointment of a cultural committee in 1948, I am quite sure that those extracts will interest the Senate and perhaps will give the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) more incentive to investigate cultural activities in Canberra. The first extract that I quote reads -
On 29th April, 1948, the Prime Minister (Mr. J. B. Chifley) convened a meeting of representatives of cultural societies in Canberra, and others, to confer with ‘him and other Ministers as to the ways in which the Government .could best ,aid in the development of music, drama and the arts in the A.C.T.
The Prime Minister having expressed the desire of the Government to give adequate assistance to the development of Canberra on the cultural side in a manner worthy of the capital city . . suggested that representatives of interested societies should meet . . . and formulate definite proposals.
We can see that as far back as 1948 efforts were made by the government of the day to deal with this matter. There are no party politics in this; the government of that day apparently was just as keen as I am now to see these things done. Yet as we look around Canberra we see just how much has not been done. We have the Albert Hall, but it is too large for a small repertory company. But it is about the only hall that we have available for .rental.
Sir Robert Garran also reported as follows: ;
Hitherto, Canberra has had to get along -with “ general purpose “ facilities under worse conditions than are met with in most other towns of its size …. In small country towns, primitive, improvised equipment is accepted as part of the natural order of things. In the National Capital, the continuance of such improvisations is unworthy and .even apt to seem ridiculous.
I remind honorable senators that this report was made in 1948, but we still find that almost nothing has been done.
Over at Riverside, we have that wretched little shed which was put up by the Army, which has been turned into a small theatre by the Canberra Repertory Society, and which holds 142 people. That is all the accommodation that the society has. The consequence is that, with the very small subsidy it receives, it finds it very difficult to get by. The society just cannot get in sufficient people to make the various .shows pay their way. There is no doubt .about the fact that the talent is available. Last week, I went there to see a show which I understand will r.un for two or three weeks on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I had already seen the play performed by professionals about ten years ago, but I can honestly say that the acting of members of the Canberra Repertory Society, the scenery, and the general set-up was equally as good as that of the show I saw in Brisbane. They are the people about whom I am talking very largely when I bring this matter before the Senate.
The cultural committee that was set up in 1948 by the then Prime Minister recommended, as an immediate programme, a speedy implementation of the plans of the Department of the Interior to improve the Albert Hall; a cultural centre consisting of several medium-sized rooms, like the Albert Hall ante-room, for rehearsals, &c, and up to twenty .small rooms for offices and committee rooms; and ,a small theatre seating about .350 people, with a sloping floor, a really adequate stage, and dressing room accommodation. I remind the Senate that that recommendation was submitted in 1948, but still we have nothing like those facilities. Indeed, we 1(10 not look like getting them unless the Government puts cultural activities before such things as the lakes scheme, the cost of which will run into some millions of pounds.
– Does not the honorable senator think it is the responsibility of the residents of Canberra to a large extent?
– I have been asked by way of interjection, Mr. President, whether I think it is .the responsibility of the people of Canberra.
– Other towns of comparable size provide those facilities.
– But other towns of comparable size have halls that can be rented. In Canberra, the only halls that are available belong to the Government. The Government will not provide other suitable halls. If we could have privately owned halls, it would be all right; but we cannot have that sort of thing in Canberra.
In 1948, a grant or a subsidy of £1,000 per annum was made to the Canberra Repertory Society. The grant still remains at that figure, and out of that £1,000 the society is trying to pay off this wretched little army shed over at Riverside. A grant of that size is very small when compared to a Budget of £1,400,000,000, or whatever it will be on the next occasion. Because of the drop in the value of money, I suggest that the Government, when it is preparing its next budget, should multiply that grant of £1,000 by three.
The final quotation is from a letter written by the Prime Minister of the day to the then Minister for the Interior. The Prime Minister said -
The Commonwealth has a special responsibility for the development of Canberra as the National Capital and that responsibility can hardly be limited to things material. If positive encouragement is to be given by the Government to the development of cultural activities in this city then it seems to me that the principle of making grants (within reasonable limits) for cultural purposes will have to be accepted.
Am I to understand that our Government, our Prime Minister and our other Ministers have less thought for the cultural activities of this city than previous governments have had? I do not think for a moment that that is so. But what I do think is that those activities have been lost sight of in the multitudinous things that Ministers have to do. That is why I am reminding them of this matter to-day. I hope they will take some notice of what I have said.
Leaving aside such things as accommodation for the National Library, a conservatorium and an art gallery, the provision of which would run into many millions of pounds, I suggest that we should have places for art clubs, an art society, an orchestral society, a philharmonic society, a chamber of music and all the other groups that go to make up what we call a cultural society which, when Canberra becomes the city that it will eventually become, must set the pace for the rest of
Australia. I make that suggestion to Cabinet. It is a plea on behalf of people who are doing their best under extraordinarily difficult conditions in Canberra. These things were necessary in our own lives. When we were children we saw live shows, but to-day the children of Canberra get nothing but canned music and an occasional repertory show, which is very difficult to get into, and given in a place very awkward for children to reach. The children have virtually no opportunity to see a live show, a ballet or a good opera. Since I have been here, there have been only two operas and not many other shows. Only occasionally do the people get the opportunity to hear good music.
I make a plea to Cabinet to do two things. I ask that some suitable small halls be built, one to cater for about 350 people and another to cater for about 500 people. I notice that the National Capital Development Commission plans to build a small theatre that will hold about 500 people on. the side of Civic Hill. That will be a ster in the right direction, but I should like to see the building work hurried up. I should like to see an increase made in the subsidy to the repertory company, which at present is doing its best, under difficult circumstances, to give the people of Canberra the live shows to which they are entitled. I only spoke on this bill to put forward the suggestions, in the hope that some notice will be take of them when the next Budget is being prepared.
– The Opposition has been pleased to indicate that an amendment will be moved by Senator Armstrong to the motion for the second-reading of this measure. Senator Armstrong will move an amendment which proposes that the Senate decline to agree to the second-reading of the bill because it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and also makes no provision for the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments to the wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants.
Honorable senators get very few opportunities to speak broadly on. many subjects which concern the people. Opposition senators are taking this opportunity, on the motion for the first reading of the bill, to raise matters that should be taken notice of by the Government. We feel that there are things of which the Government should be mindful, but for which, by its actions, it shows that it has no concern.
When this sessional period ends, the Parliament will go into recess for some months, although our trading position requires to be re-orientated quickly, although we are in difficulties with our exports, although the present import licensing system is most unsatisfactory, and although - this is a matter that is always neglected by a laisser-faire Liberal government - the pensioners and people on fixed incomes are suffering because of the ever-increasing inflation. Commonwealth Public servants also are being neglected. They are well-trained, well-educated men who have made a career of the Public Service. These men who whole-heartedly give of their talents in the work they are performing are not getting economic justice in view of the salaries they are receiving and the conditions under which they are working. I asked a question to-day about the claim for increased salaries by the Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union. 1 tried to get an assurance from the Government that the hearing of the claim would be expedited. It has been before the appropriate authority for nearly two years now.
This is only one of many occasions when we of the Australian Labour Party, in opposition, have pleaded with the Government to make an early re-assessment of age, invalid and widows’ pensions, child endowment and all those other social service payments that have lost their value because this Government has been unable to control inflation, and certainly has not done anything to regulate rising costs, prices and profits. 1 have in my hand a letter I have received from !:he Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). It is in reply to submissions I made to the Senate in relation to the position of the pensioners, who are really in dire need. The Government may say that it has done many things for them. I admit it has provided homes for the aged, but those homes cater for only a small percentage of the pensioners. Sixtyfive per cent, of the pensioners in Australia have nothing but their pensions on which to live, and they are suffering dire hardship.
Since the last Budget was presented, petitions, respectfully worded and in proper form, have been placed before the Parlia ment praying that something be done by this Government for the pensioners, but over a period of more than six months we have heard nothing from the Government about this matter. The reply I have received from the Treasurer no doubt is a very pleasing reply from a Government’s point of view, but it is very unsatisfactory from the point of view of the pensioners. The Treasurer wrote -
Dear Senator Cooke, i refer to the question which you directed to Senator Paltridge in the Senate on 23rd April, 1959 (recorded in “ Hansard, page 1002), regarding a review of social service benefits. i would confirm the advice given to you by
Senator Paltridge that, as is customary, the Government will give very careful consideration to the amounts of social service benefits during the preparation of the Budget for 1959-60.
– Did you expect anything else?
– I am sorry to say that I did not expect anything else. I am now appealing to the Government to do something positive about this matter and not go on with these mealy-mouthed promises that it will give sympathetic consideration to the plight of the pensioners. Nobody can live on sympathetic consideration. Something practical must be done. The Government must raise the economic status of pensioners to at least put them in the position they enjoyed when the Labour Party was in office - and I admit that they were not overpaid then.
At the present time what is known as the white-collar workers’ award is being held up. It affects thousands of workers throughout Australia. The case has been bogged down in the processes of arbitration for a long time. The public servants, about whom I spoke previously, are receiving less than their counterparts in private industry, and, for the first time in the history of industrial classifications we find that Commonwealth public servants are paid less than State officers doing equivalent jobs. In this very Parliament, the clerks at the table and the “ Hansard “ reporters are receiving less than is paid to their counterparts in the Victorian Parliament. The Commonwealth officers are being paid approximately £235 per annum less than officers doing similar work in the Victorian Parliament, yet this is the National Parliament, which deals with a much greater budgetary expenditure and has a greater responsibility than any- State Parliament. When Ministers are. asked questions about the delay in the hearing of the. claim, by. the Commonwealth public servants, they do not say that the present unfavourable comparative position- of the Commonwealth officers is acceptable to them,, and that they want it to continue. They say that the claim is bogged down- as the result, of some industrial argument - some disagreement between the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission and the Public Service Arbitrator. The position is that the Government is doing nothing to expedite the hearing of the while-collar workers’ case. Those people are not being treated justly. In my question to-day directed to the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister L mentioned another section of the workers whose claims for wage increases are not being heard as quickly as they should be. The Government should take action now to see that the present slow and cumbersome arbitration system is speeded up so that many workers will not be robbed of. something to which they are justly entitled by the delays that occur in the hearing of claims, which lead ultimately to inefficiency, dissatisfaction and a general, slowing-down in industry.
We are indeed fortunate that we have servants- of the Crown whose loyalty to their job and whose code of ethics deter them from taking the direct, action thatother workers sometimes take in order that their claims may receive immediate attention. The Government was not at all hesitant when it decided that parliamentarysalaries and allowances should be increased. Why should the workers in industry not receive similar treatment? The Parliament should not go into recess until these important matters are considered. The workers are not asking for favours; they are asking, only for a just share in our national’ income. A study of the table showing. Commonwealth revenue reveals an astounding position. The latest figures show that revenue during 1957-58 totalled £1,161,500,000, which is £62,800,000, or 5.7 per cent, more than the total revenue received during 1956-57. State and Territory collections totalled £128,300,000; which is £13,600,000, or 10.6 per cent, more- than the- collections in 1956-57. The combined totals for 1957-58 were £1,289,800,000, an increase of £76,400,000* or- 6;3 per cent, more than- the totals for r-956-57’.
The Government claims that it hasstopped inflation and that the figures for 1956-57 and 1957-58 represent a fair statement of the position. In fact, the figures show that revenue from taxes paid, by the people rose by 6.3 per cent, in the period” to which I have referred. TheGovernment has frozen the basic wage, but inflation has. not been, stopped. Living, costs and rents are dearer now than they have ever been. The Government continues to muddle along, using the same old. parrot phrases to the people, but its. attitude is “ We cannot do anything for the pensioners. Unless we cannot possibly avoid it, we shall not give free and quick access: by, the. workers, including public, servants, to the arbitration, courts, and we shall not try to speed up the proceedings in those courts.” The Government refuses to give relief to the servants of the Crown and those who rely upon Government payments for. their, very existence.. I use the phrase “ Government payments “ in preference to the Government’s, references to pensions and payments to aged and indigent people. They have, worked to develop our country; they have paid their taxes, and they are justly entitled to thesame consideration as that which is meted out to the- banks, the insurance companies and the Australian and overseas investors. At a later stage I shall deal in, detail with overseas investors.
The unemployment position in Australiashould always be before us. Now that theelection is over, unemployment has becomea dead issue and the Government is content to allow unemployment to continue without taking some positive steps te remedy- it. When one considers the vast army of unemployed in Australia, the position assumes serious proportions-. The Department of Labour and’ National Service has published a document which indicates- that on 26th March last we had 69;344- registered: unem-ployed in Australia, made up of- 45,680 males and 23,664 females. Considered’ in relation to a total’ population of 19.000:000’ the number of unemployed in- Australia is astounding. Of course, the Government continues to say that the number of unemployed is- only something of the order- of 001 per cent. of the total work force, but in Western Australia and Queensland the latest published figures show that the percentage of unemployed was 2.4 and 2.7 respectively. The report accompanying the figures indicates that the position is improving. Although the Government states that a certain percentage of the work force is unemployed, it does not regard the work force as being composed of people who have nothing but their labour to offer. The Government has referred to seasonal workers, trained and. skilled workers, building workers and the like, but we should not lose sight of the fact that, in the Government’s view, the total work force includes employers and people who work without receiving a salary. The Government has been trying to lull the people into a sense of false security and into believing that everything in the employment field is satisfactory. I shall read to the Senate a statement contained in the bulletin issued by the Department of Labour and National Service which defines “ work force “ in these terms -
The Australian work force . . . for Census purposes, includes employers, self-employed, wage and salary earners, unemployed persons, and all helping in industry, business, trade or service but not in receipt of a wage or salary. Wage and salary earners include rural workers, those in private domestic service’ and members of the Forces. There are no precise statistics of the work force available except at Census dates and the estimate of about 4,000,000 is based on the assumption that the work force bears the same relationship to the estimated’ population in various age groups as at the 1954 Census.
The work force, therefore, includes those people who work without receiving a salary or wage, those people who give voluntary gratuitous service to charitable organizations, employers, persons who have retired and are living on unearned income and business managers. Members of the defence forces are also considered as part of the work force. The percentages stated by the Government do not give the true picture of unemployment in Australia. Only those people who are willing and able to work and who have no more than their skill and labour to offer should be taken into consideration in arriving at the size of the work force. If that were done, the percentages of unemployed in Western Australia and Queensland would be much higher than the 2.4 and 2.7 respectively to which I have referred. Something must be done to stimulate our economy which, in turn, will lead to a reduction in the large number of unemployed in this country.
I have referred already to the fact that £1,289,800,000 has been taken from the people for government purposes. Judging from the fact that the estimated proportionate revenue to date has been exceeded, it is reasonable to assume that the revenue for the whole of this financial year will be much greater than was expected when the last Budget was introduced. Do not honorable senators consider that age pensioners and other pensioners are potential spenders, and that if their pensions were increased by 15s. or £1 per week there would be infused into the community a certain stimulus that would enable an expansion of the economy and so relieve the unemployment situation, Furthermore, this increased spending would result in increased profits to the business community and consequently increased receipts by the Government in income tax. It would be grist to the mill, from the Government’s point of view. Therefore, I contend that the Government’s policy is. short-sighted as well as unsympathetic.
L wish to refer to another matter that I have raised in this chamber from time to time, but at this stage, Mr. Deputy President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table re ports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Bathing caps and bathing hats,
Paperboards (Industries Preservation),
Printing of silk piece goods,
Towels, towelling and textile articles made from towelling,
In the case of the report on paperboards, I should like to state that although the Tariff Board found that certain paperboards from New Zealand have been sold to Australia at export prices below their fair market value in New Zealand, and that detriment has thereby resulted to the Australian industry, the Government is satisfied that the extent of detriment is not sufficient to occasion serious hardship to the Australian industry. New Zealand is supplying only about 1 per cent. of the total Australian market, and the Government noted that imports from certain other countries are landing in Australia at lower prices than the price of the New Zealand product. The imposition of dumping duties on New Zealand paperboards would most likely have the effect of excluding New Zealand suppliers from the market but would not materally improve the position of the Australian manufacturer. In fact, it is conceivable that New Zealand’s small share of the market might go to other overseas suppliers. For these reasons, it has been decided that paperboards from New Zealand should not be gazetted under section 4 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1957.
Sitting suspended from 5.39 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 1375).
– I remind the Senate that, later, Senator Armstrong will move on behalf of the Opposition an amendment to the effect that the Senate should decline to give a second reading to the bill, as it has failed to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants.
Prior to the adjournment of the debate, I indicated the unsatisfactory position in relation to social service payments, and I pointed to the continued disregard by this Government of the fact that inflation has made the living conditions of pensioners miserable, and in some cases almost impossible. I referred to the deputations that had been sent to the Prime Minister, and also to the petitions on the subject that had been presented in the Senate. I pointed out that I and other members of the Opposition had made representations personally to the Treasurer, the sole result of which was that he had said that social service benefits would receive the same degree of sympathetic treatment, when the Budget was being prepared, as they had received on previous occasions.I remind the Government that the people who are obliged to depend on social service benefits cannot live on sympathy alone.
Having regard to the fact that this is a period of more buoyant revenues than the Commonwealth has ever previously enjoyed, I appeal to the Government not to let the Parliament go into recess without doing something to improve the scale of social service benefits and to relieve the plight of members of the community whose wages and salaries have been frozen for several years. I also appeal to the Government to do something about unemployment, which is still of serious proportions. In this respect, the Government has attempted to evade its responsibility by talking of the percentage of unemployment in relation to the total work-force. I have dealt with those matters and I do not propose to deal with them again. If the Government studies the position as I have explained it, I am sure that it will be under no misunderstanding as to the views of the Opposition.
There is another phase of the development of Australia which I think is worthy of consideration. It should cause concern to both the Opposition and the Government, but it seems that the Government’s interest in the matter is a latent one, because although the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said that they regard the position as serious, apparently they are not prepared to do anything about it. They seem to have adopted the kind of laisser faire policy that they apply to pensions, unemployment, pegged wages and industrial conditions. The matter to which I refer is the very heavy drain on our resources by the dividends and high profits made by overseas investors in Australia, a great percentage of which leaves Australia. Of course, we all wish to encourage such investment, but some of it results in extortionate profits being made.
I have appealed to the Government on three occasions not to sell Australia at bargain prices. At the same time, I have been conscious of the need to encourage overseas finance to come to Australia, because I appreciate full well that it brings with it a very valuable co-partner in the form of industrial know-how. ‘In my opinion, by means of its fiscal policy, the Government should make it possible for Australians to invest in the secondary and primary industries of this country by obtaining shares in these overseas companies. I say quite candidly that the concessions that have been given to overseas investors could not have been obtained by Australian investors. The shares of some of the companies about which I am speaking are not on the market for purchase by Australians. The monetary policy of the Government has made it almost impossible for Australians to enter the field of big development in this country.
I propose to read to the Senate a statement that appeared in the Sydney “ SunHerald “ of 1 Oth May last, which was based on a speech made in another place. I understand that the newspaper article is an almost verbatim report. It states -
Both the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and his deputy, Mr. McEwen, have pointed to (he need for American investors to let Australians have a financial stake in their enterprises. Concern centres on two problems: The heavy drain on Australia’s overseas funds of rising dividend payments to America. Between 1947 and 1957 dividends paid to the U.S. and Canada rose from £2.3 million to £12.3 million (more than 400 per cent.), while dividends to Britain rose from £11.6 million to £20.3 million (less than 100 per cent.).
The speed of growth of American stake in Australia’s economy. Total American investment in Australia is estimated to be growing about 20 per cent, each year, against about 3 or 4 per cent, grOwth of the economy as a whole.
As the Labour Party has pointed out from time to time, although we want to encourage overseas capital, we do not want to sell Australia at bargain prices or to prevent Australians who have fought for the country and assisted its development from obtaining a stake in Australian industries. The fears of the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer are not unfounded. Nevertheless, apparently they do not propose to do anything about this unsatisfactory position.
The article to which I have referred went on to state -
In ten years to June 30, 1957, American companies brought in £77 million of new money.
Those companies made £180,000,000 profit over that period. In the same period, British companies brought in £340,000,000 of new money, or about four and a half times as much as did the Americans. The American companies, from their higher profit rate, ploughed back a higher proportion - 63 per cent. - than the British companies, which put back 48 per cent. There is a fear that, as a result of this profit of £180,000,000 on an investment of £77,000,000, which is an extortionate profit in anybody’s language, overseas investors will secure a vital hold on important factors in Australia’s economy.
Despite that statement of the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer, apparently the Government is unwilling to hinder the flow of American money coming to Australia. 1 agree that we need such money. However, the Acting Prime Minister and the Treasurer - stating a principle which Labour has always said should be embodied in a statute - have said that overseas companies registered and operating in Australia should have a fairly high component of Australian investment so that dividends could be earned by Australian citizens.
– The Labour Party did not do that with General Motors-Holden’s when it brought that company out here.
– That company has changed substantially from the original establishment. It does not matter what we did or did not do. I say that this is a national problem involving a principle for which I have always fought. American capital was welcomed for the development of the Humpty Doo project. The Americans are our allies and friends, but whilst it is essential that we preserve good feeling between America and Australia, it is a fact that any government which denies that it owes a duty to the Australian citizen to give him an opportunity to invest in these undertakings is recreant to the pledge it made to the Australian people.
– It is a pity your Government did not do it.
– I remind the honorable senator that we are not at a schoolboys’ picnic now. We are speaking now in the National Parliament about national matters, and we must have a broad national approach to these things. If the Government now realizes that it has made a mistake, it should act immediately to correct the position. Two of the Government’s leaders have pointed out that the Government’s policy is embarrassing our overseas reserves and that it is imposing a heavy drain upon them. Yet, instead of correcting the position at the national level the Government goes to the international level and borrows overseas; and its loans are always fully subscribed, but that is only to be expected because any country in the world would be only too happy to invest in a country such as Australia with its sound economy, its great prosperity and tremendous potential and with its people whose per capita production is equal to that of the people of any other part of the world. At the same time, this Government has a duty, through its fiscal and banking policy, to give to Australians an opportunity to invest in industries and undertakings designed to develop their own country.
Whilst commending the Government’s leaders in one respect, I criticize them most severely for their weak statements in another place and in the press, which can only mislead the Australian people to believe that the Government really is concerned about their problems. Our Prime Minister is now travelling overseas to discuss important matters, and we are told that such urgent problems as unemployment, the dire plight of pensioners due to inflation, and the unsatisfactory industrial position due to the bogging down of cases urgently requiringfinalization by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are receiving sympathetic consideration. The Government should do something definite about all these matters, and it is only on the first reading of bills such as this that we have the opportunity to emphasize to the Government that we are heartily sick of words without action. We entreat the Government to do something now, before the next Budget is brought down, to correct these matters which are so important to the Australian people and which are a challenge to our economy.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hannan) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Senator GORTON (Victoria - Minister
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in two main particulars. The first purpose is to protect unions from any excessive costs which they might have to bear as the result of a union ballot being conducted under court control. The second objective is the streamlining of arbitration procedure to enable determinations to be made more speedily and without the duplication which occurs occasionally at the present time. The amendments fall under two main headings - those dealing with the cost of officially conducted elections - and those designed to give effect to suggestions for the improvement of the Commonwealth arbitration machinery made by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in his second annual report, which was tabled in the Senate early in this session.
Honorable senators will know that Part IX of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act contains provisions under which a request may be made to the Industrial Registrar that an election for any office or offices in an organization or branch be conducted under the act, and if the request is properly made, the election is conducted by an officer of the Registry or of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Over the years, considerable use has been made of these provisions; and to good effect. We have, of course, from time to time had attacks on these provisions particularly by the Communist Party and by Communist Party members in trade unions. There is no doubt, however, that the provisions for officially-conducted ballots have wide public support.
The only current criticism of these provisions that appears to the Government to have any substance is that in isolated instances official ballots may cost the unions concerned more than if the unions did the job themselves. Having said this, I emphasize that the critics have exaggerated the cost in an attempt to deter organizations from applying for officially conducted elections. As the act now stands, the Commonwealth bears the salary of any Commonwealth officials conducting an election and the rent of any premises required for the ballot. The organization or branch of the union bears the remaining cost. There is, in general, no reason to believe that this cost exceeds or significantly exceeds the amount it would have cost the union to conduct the election itself. The costs, for example, of printing, postage and the like, are constant, whoever does the job.
In some cases - and that of the Amalgamated Engineering Union is probably the best example - the union rules governing ballots do not lend themselves to the conduct of a ballot which will ensure that the maximum of eligible voters will in fact vote. The normal way of ensuring this is through the postal ballot method, and where a postal ballot of the union is held in lieu of the arrangements provided for by the rules, extra expense is incurred, lt is with this kind of case in mind that we propose to amend the act to provide that, where the Minister for Labour and National Service is satisfied that an officially conducted election has cost more than it would have cost had the election been conducted by the organization under its rules, an amount not exceeding the difference shall be borne by the Commonwealth.
While on this aspect of the bill, I mention two minor changes to the ballot provisions. It is proposed to add to the costs already borne by the Commonwealth the cost of any necessary travelling by a Commonwealth officer conducting an election. It is also proposed to deal with a case which, if it occurred, could add to the expense of an election. At present, if an officer who has commenced to conduct an election should be unable to complete it, through death or any other cause, another officer would have to begin again from the beginning. The bill will overcome the necessity for this.
I turn now to the amendments, which flow from, the suggestions made by the president of the commission. The first of these relates to section 34, under which the president has power to give a direction that a dispute be referred from a single commissioner to a full bench of the commission where he is of the opinion that the dispute is of such importance that the public interest requires that it be so dealt with. As the president points out, the section now requires, that once such a* direction is given the dispute must thereupon be taken up and be heard, and determined by the full bench. The president has suggested that it would make for more speedy handling of disputes if he had some discretion as to the stage at which the full bench should take up the hearing of the dispute. If he had, it would be possible, for example, for the commissioner who, but for the reference to the full bench, would have dealt with the dispute on his- own and who normally is, on reference; a member of the full bench dealing with the dispute, to go on with the taking of some or all of the evidence.
Ever since 1904, the act has contained provision for the taking of evidence on behalf of the arbitration tribunal: that is to say, the tribunal may appoint someone to take evidence for it and then proceed on that evidence though it has not actually heard it itself. So far as our researches go, this has never been done against the wishes of the parties, nor would one expect that any responsible tribunal would deliberately proceed against the wishes of the parties in such a matter.
There is no doubt about the wisdom of the president’s proposal, but it does seem desirable that before he decides that the commissioner, for example, should go on taking evidence up to the stage the president thinks appropriate, the commissioner should take into account the wishes of the parties. That is provided for in the bilL lt is not considered that specific provision should, be made for a formal hearing so that the wishes of the parties may be ascertained: the commissioner- may be able to report the parties’ views or the president may ascertain those views in private chambers. Of Course the full bench will still be able to use section 43 when a reference has reached it, if that course is considered appropriate.
It has also been found necessary to make two minor amendments to section 34. One makes if plain that the president may refer part only of a dispute to the full commission. He was able to do this under the 1952 Act and no alteration was intended when the act was recast in 1956. Changes in the form of the section have, however, given rise to doubts which this amendment will remove. The other amendment provides that where a dispute is. part heard before: a commissioner before it is referred to a full bench the full bench mav have regard1- to- the evidence already taken by the commission.
The second of the president’s suggestions arises from, experience in relation to a group of cases recently referred to full benches of the commission, some under the section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which I have just referred, and others under the corresponding section of the Public Service Arbitration Act. All these cases raised claims for increases in salaries for professional and white collar workers. Some related to employees in private industry and in the services of the States and their instrumentalities and local government authorities, and they came before a bench under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act consisting of three presidential members and two lay commissioners. Others related to employees in the services of the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities and they came before a bench consisting of the same three presidential members and the Public Service Arbitrator, as provided by the Public Service Arbitration Act. All these claims were closely related in their nature and by reason of the grounds on which they were based, and it was clear that a great deal of the evidence and submissions relating to the claims, would be common to all these cases. The president, accordingly, proposed to amalgamate the hearings as is the usual course when a number of cases raising the same issues are before the same bench. The obstacle to this was that the arbitrator was not, and could not be, a member of the bench for the hearing of the matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, nor could the lay commissioners sit in relation to the Commonwealth Public Service claims. All concerned in the cases thought the proposal sound and sensible, but doubts about its legal propriety were raised. The situation was met, with continued doubts about legal propriety, by the commission as constituted for the hearing of the private industry cases inviting the arbitrator to be present as an observer with the objective that when the commission, including the arbitrator, came to hear the Commonwealth Public Service cases those proceedings might be considerably shortened because the arbitrator would have heard the common evidence.
The bill proposes to put beyond doubt the power of the president to do in future what he wished to do in the cases referred to. The president will be given power, when common issues arise and are before full benches of the commission under the Conciliation and
Arbitration and Public Service Arbitration Acts to convene, in effect, a joint session of the several full benches. Evidence and, if appropriate, submissions may be heard at the joint session upon issues and questions considered to be common to the cases. But the joint session will not, of course, have power to determine any of the disputes, claims or applications; that will fall to the appropriate full bench, under whichever of the two acts applies.
In giving effect to the president’s suggestions we are making procedural changes - quite minor changes, in reality - but changes which are designed to enable our objective of speedy, streamlined, inexpensive arbitration to be effected. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Garton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill I explained the amendments which it was proposed to make to section 34 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act following suggestions made by the president of the commission in his second annual report. In the Public Service Arbitration Act, section 15a corresponds with section 34 and the bill now before the Senate proposes to amend section 15a of the Public Service Arbitration Act in a similar way to that in which section 34 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to be amended.
The commission, under the Public Service Arbitration Act, has all the powers of the arbitrator. It is proposed to make quite clear that this includes the same power to obtain reports from the arbitrator under section 15 as the power that the arbitrator has to obtain reports from others under that section. In addition, it is proposed to make it clear that the Arbitrator is to have power to take evidence under delegation. This new provision enables us to dispense with the specific provision in subsection (8) of section 15a of the Public Service Arbitration Act.
We are also taking the opportunity of carrying into the Public Service Arbitration Act the provisions which appear in the corresponding sections of the 1956 Concilialion and Arbitration Act, namely the power in the president to constitute the full commission in presidential session. The point is that the deputy presidents have responsibilities in relation to particular industries) - with which they are mainly concerned - and it is desirable that conflicts between these responsibilities and the requirements of full bench work should be resolved by the president in accordance with the overall needs of the commission’s programme of work, and without embarrassment to his colleagues. I commend the billto the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1378).
.- During a debate on the appropriation of moneys by the Government in terms of a measure like the one now before us, and which I support, it is pertinent to refer to matters of international and national interest. But in passing, I should like to say to Senator Cooke that the cataclysmic chaos into which he suggests our economy has degenerated exists in his fertile imagination rather than in reality. I should like to refer to the figures on unemployment that he quoted as to both their arithmetic and the inferences to be drawn from them. “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ No. 14, which furnishes the figures for the quarter ended in March, shows that 70,000 persons are unemployed and not more than 80,000 as was stated by the honorable senator. The figure published in the bulletin represents 1.7 per cent. of the work force, which is one of the best unemployment figures in the free world. That figure of 70,000 represents a reduction of 7,000 from that of the previous month. I do not think we do any good to that small percentage of people who may be suffering through unemployment by falsely crying wolf and by endeavouring to cause some feeling of disquiet about the economy with, speaking metaphorically, a run on the employment bank and employers feeling dubious about taking on fresh hands - thereby causing the very evil about which the honorable senator complains in very much the same way as a revolution was created by the journalist in Evelyn Waugh’s famous novel “ Scoop “.
Turning to matters of national and international moment, may I refer briefly to an event at home - that is, the very considerable interest which has been aroused in the community by a governmental decision, backed by departmental advice, to recommend to the international frequency conference to be held at Geneva later this year that radio frequencies used by Australian amateur transmitters in the 80, 40 and 20 metre bands be slashed by one-third. That is a rough generalization of the proposals. It is very pleasing to me as one who has had an opportunity to work with some of these admirable Australians to note that the Government is bringing departmental heads to Canberra to discuss the matter with members of the Parliament who are interested in it. The Government is to be commended for showing this interest in public reaction to a proposal which, speaking arithmetically, affects relatively few people. I hope and trust that some good purpose will be served by the discussions that are yet to take place on this contentious subject.
Adverting to the international scene, as this is the first opportunity 1 have had to refer to the matter since the decision effecting it was made, I feel that at least I would be failing in consistency if I did not refer to the return of Russian diplomats to Canberra. I feel bound to say that, whilst this Government has an excellent record in international affairs of which we are all extremely proud and whilst it has made itself trusted and believed in by our allies, the granting of permission for the Russians to return here was a bad move. I cannot see that any conceivable advantage will result to Australia from their return. We have the assurance of the Government that they will be hedged around by at least the same kind of restrictions as operate against our diplomats in Moscow; but, if the idea was that reciprocal trade would be developed between the two countries as a result of the return of the Russians, let me say that I place no reliance upon trade with iron curtain countries. That is not because their money is not good or because their products are necessarily inferior in quality.
So far as communism is concerned, trade is a weapon in the cold war, and it will flow in substance only where the Communist countries believe it will do the most harm. If, by some inconceivable stretch of the imagination - I know it is a bad dream; even to think of it is a nightmare - this Government were to gear our economy to trade with Russia, China and the satellite countries, it would not be very long before the same sharp economic blows were administered to this country as were administered to Burma, Japan and other countries which were foolish enough to place their trust in Communist trade promises,
I feel also that the return of the Russian diplomats - let us be quite frank about it - will help the process of spying, because spying is a physical act. Men, machines, equipment and communications are necessary to perform the task. For the past three or four years we have been relatively free from a well organized nest in this centre. As the Petrov commission found, the Russian Embassy, with a staff of 53 persons, was largely geared for the purpose of spying. We have very few trade ties with Russia and, I should say, absolutely no cultural ties with atheistic communism The information that might flow from a resumption of relations surely would have been available to us from American or United ‘Kingdom sources. I am saddened to think that, at the very time when the left-wing Government of Mexico is compelled to expel members of the Russian Embassy for spying, this Government, in which I have the fullest and most absolute confidence, has, if I may say it with humility, pulled a boner on this one.
As the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) indicated in a recent statement, I think the resurgence of Japan is one of those facts of life of which we must take cognizance. The Japanese have worked a modern miracle in their islands in the last ten years. Japan’s population has risen from ,84,000,000 .to 92,000,000. I do not regard .that as a modern miracle, but what has followed from .the reorganization of the islands since General Macarthur’s wise and tolerant occupation reads like a fairy tale. It is strange that Japan, like West Germany, has risen phoenix-like from the ashes. At the present time, much medical research is spear-headed in Japan. In some branches of physics and optics, I think it is true to say that Japan leads the world. These people, from their own production, can feed only one-half of their population, even though in most places they grow two crops a year. Some experiments have been carried out in parts of the islands in growing - I know this sounds fantastic - three crops a year. I feel it is essential that we develop trade with these people, who were our former enemies.
It is to the standing credit of the Government, firstly, that the Japanese Trade Agreement was introduced, and secondly, that it is working so well, both from our point of view and from the point of view of the Japanese. I have never been able to understand the viewpoint of honorable senators opposite, who resisted the Japanese Trade Agreement, but who were, at the same time, anxious for trade with red China. Trade unions are functioning in Japan. They protect workers in Japan - let us revert to our nineteenthcentury ideas - from the ever-grasping demands of the employers. 1 am not going to suggest that the standards of the trade unions in Japan are as high as those of the trade unions in this country. They are not, because the Japanese are still learning. In Japan trade unions are not organized in the same way as they are in this country. Most of the big factories have a union covering the employees in each factory. This has one particular effect. Let us assume that half a dozen factories are producing camera lenses. Each of the half-dozen factories has its own union, covering its own employees in the industry. If strife occurs in one factory, if there is a dispute between one employer and the unionists in his factory, the other five factories engaged in the industry, where no dispute exists, are not necessarily tied up. I do not know whether that is something to which honorable senators opposite take exception, but it does seem to me to give Japanese industry a great resilience. I feel that the cries of the Jeremiahs when we entered into closer economic ties with the Japanese have been proved to be entirely unfounded.
– The agreement has closed many factories in the United Kingdom.
– I could not accept that. There is a lot more involved in the closing of factories in the United Kingdom than the Japanese Trade Agreement, and I would be prepared to debate that subject at length at some future date. Honorable senators opposite are interjecting. I know this irritates people who are prepared to peddle the Communist line at the slightest provocation, but the fact is that the Japanese are anti-Communist. Let us remember that. They have to be kept out of the Communist orbit.
– You are a- .
– The word is “ McCarthy “. I will get in early. Reverting to the question of trade with countries behind the iron curtain, I think we might look a little more specifically at the difficulties that were encountered by Burma. The top Soviet theoretician on this matter is a gentleman by the name of Vekua. He wrote four or five years ago -
Politics is the concentrated expression of economics, a generalization of the latter and its culmination. That which begins in trade must fmd its consummation in politics.
That is what the Burmese found out. In 1954, Burma was in considerable trade trouble. There was a shrinkage in the price for rice. The government which controlled the industry there had failed to sell at competitive rates and had caused heavy losses in the industry. Overseas exchange had become depleted and Burma, which had always paid its debts punctually, fell for the red Chinese bride. Red China said, in effect, “ Come along with us. Trade with us. and we will get you out of your economic morass.” Burma hoped to prove her neutrality to the outside world by showing that she was uncommitted. She entered into an agreement with Communist China to sell 150,000 tons of rice, and in return was to receive, coal, textiles and light industrial products. That agreement was entered into in 1954. Despite the contract, by 1957 - that is after three years - red China was taking only 50,000 tons of rice from Burma and it had not paid for the rice it had taken in earlier years. The quality of the goods which it was supplying to Burma was inferior. In particular, the cement had gone hard and could not be used. The Government of Burma suffered considerably as the result of supping with the Devil. This episode had a very bad effect on Burmese trade overall, because Burma lost the opportunity of selling rice to the western world. The final blow came when the Burmese realized - I suggest honorable senators opposite might consider this - that the Communist bloc was sending Burmese rice, for which it had not paid, to other countries that used to buy from Burma, thereby further ruining Burmese trade.
There is no need to go through Burma’s arrangements with Rumania, Bulgaria. Poland or any of the other satellite countries, but they all wound up in the same dreadful way so far as the Burmese were concerned. If any person bemuddles, bemuses and persuades the Australian people into relying on Communist trade, they will be leaning on a rotten reed indeed.
It is perhaps necessary to refer to these things specifically because, unfortunately, the alternative government to this one would undoubtedly fall for that trap. It has already said that it would. It is perhaps significant that we have certain Labour discussions going on in this city at the moment. In 1955, certain discussions took place at the notorious Hobart conference, where a foreign policy indistinguishable from that of the Communists was hammered out.
– By foreigners to Hobart.
– By foreigners to Hobart, as my friend Senator Wright puts it. So much Communist doctrine was written into the policy resulting from the 1955 conference that Comrade Sharkey was able to say, “ The way is now open for the A.L.P. and the Communists to march in unity beneath the banners of Communist policy “. I regret to say that one of the chief architects of that notorious effusion is a member of this chamber. I regret, too, that he has found the alternative attractions at the Labour conference here too strong, so that he is not present to hear me to-night. I refer to Senator Toohey. Running along then on the Chamberlain-Toohey axis, the honorable senator moved the adoption of Labour’s new foreign policy as laid down in Hobart. 1 do not know whether the axle is continuing to turn as freely at the conference now being held in Canberra. As a hatchet man, the honorable senator may share one of the attributes of George Washington, but he certainly does not share that gentleman’s passion for the truth. During the debate on the Budget that was presented last year the honorable, senator, after making a rude and unfounded attack upon an honorable senator on this side of the chamber, claimed that the Hobart conference in 1955 was so antiCommunist in its attitude that it criticized the Russians for their activities in Hungary.
I have here a photostat copy of the foreign policy resolutions that were adopted at the Hobart conference, and I challenge the honorable senator to show me one word of criticism of the Russians for their activities in Hungary. How could the Hobart conference in 1955 criticize the Russians for their activities in Hungary when the Russian massacre of the Hungarian people did not take place until November, 1956, The honorable senator was so ashamed of the Communist tinge in the Labour Party policy that, in an attempt to defend his party, he quoted an extract from a resolution that had been carried during a Labour Party conference in Brisbane in 1957. The honorable senator, either deliberately or unconsciously, misled this chamber. The relevant portion of the honorable senator’s speech appears on page 276 of the “ Hansard “ report of the Senate debate of 27th August, 1958. It is in these terms: -
I shall refer first to the decision of the Hobart conference when it dealt with the overall position in the Pacific. . . . That is the basis and spirit of the foreign policy enunciated by the Labour Parly at the Hobart conference. The declaration furthers states . . . that the present policies of the French Government in Algeria, the U.S.S.R. Government in Hungary, and the British Government in Cyprus, are contrary to ihe principles of the United Nations Charter . . We say, and we said at Hobart in 1955. . .
For the honorable senator to say that such mild criticism of Russia was made at the Hobart conference in 1955 is a deliberate untruth. We must view any further statements by the honorable senator on the Labour Party’s foreign policy with grave doubts unless his statements can be checked. I shall now read to honorable senators some very interesting words: -
No liberty loving man in the world can find in Russian imperialism anything that is not detestable to lovers of freedom. Here in Australia it is up to our party to fight for freedom. We have to be more active than the Communists. We have to beat the Communists at every point.
– Who said that?
– The speaker was none other than a former Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley. I wonder what he would think of Labour’s present foreign policy and Labour’s alinement with the people whom he described in those terms in 1951? A comparison of Labour’s foreign policy, as propounded at Hobart and brought up to date in Brisbane in 1957, with Comunist foreign policy will reveal these points of similarity: First, in item 4, the Labour Party criticized1 Australia’s attempt to negotiate in the Suez crisis; so did the Communists. Secondly, in item 5a, the Labour Party urged recognition of red China; so did the Communists. Thirdly, in item 5b, the Labour Party urged that red China be given a seat at the United Nations; so did the Communists. Fourthly, in items 5 (i) and 5 (iii), the Labour Party stated that those two points were integral parts of Labour’s foreign policy in the Pacific. Fifthly, in item 6. the Labour Party attacked Seato and said that it was an instrument for bolstering reactionary regimes; so did the Communists. Sixthly, in item 7, the Labour Party objected to Australian troops being sent to Malaya; so did the Communists. Seventhly, in item 8, the Labour Party advocated an exchange of trade union leaders between all countries, including red China; so did the Communists. Eighthly, in item 10 - this is a little different from the others-
– How many more items is the honorable senator going to read?
– The Labour Patty policy contains many more Communist lines than I could ever hope to enumerate. In item 10, the Labour Party criticized the Russians for their activities in Hungary to the extent of saying that it disagreed with the policy of the Soviet Government in Hungary. That is what the Labour Party regards as criticism of the Soviet. However, because it was fearful of criticizing Russia, the Labour Party dragged into the conference mention of aggression by the French Government in Algeria and aggression by the British Government in Cyprus. Imagine putting the activities of the French and British Governments on all fours with the murderous attack that the Russians made on the people of Hungary! To state the matter mildly, it is nauseating.
– It is nauseating to listen to the honorable senator. He is breaking the eighth commandment.
– If the honorable senator is not satisfied that 1 am reading correctly the items that were discussed at the Hobart conference, he may read them for himself.
– The honorable senator is bearing false witness in public. He should be ashamed of himself.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order!
– Item 11 of Labour’s foreign policy as enunciated at Hobart relates to atomic weapons. Portion of this item appears to be bloodless enough, but somebody unspecified - certainly not the Russians - is blamed because summit talks have not been held.
Another matter on which the Labour Party has alined itself with the Communists is in its general antipathy and hostility towards our great ally, the United States of America. Little straws show the way in which the wind is blowing. On 17th November, 1957, speaking to St. Matthew’s Church of England Men’s Society, Manly, Dr. Evatt accused Mr. John Foster Dulles of having deliberately caused the breakdown of the disarmament conference, and said that Mr. Dulles had sought an agreement on the use of conventional arms which would have given the Western nations great supremacy over Russia. Dr. Evatt also said that Mr. Dulles’ definition of the free world was a cliche, because only about twenty countries in that group were completely free. In addition, Dr. Evatt said that Mr. Dulles was quoting only one of the propaganda lines that were being used in the cold war when he said that the launching of the Russian satellites was a warlike threat by the Soviet. The “ Sydney Morning Herald”, of 18th November, 1957, carried an article which incorporated Dr. Evatt’s remarks. A statement of that nature, no doubt, could be expected to cause wild jubilation among the Communists and, of course, on 20th November, 1957, the “ Tribune “ carried an article under the heading, “ Evatt speaks out for peaceful co-operation - a forthright attack on Dulles’ role “. The article referred to Dr. Evatt’s speech as a counsel of sanity, and said that Australia’s well-being would be directly served by such a policy as that enunciated by Dr. Evatt.
I think I have said enough to indicate that, whether for good or for evil, and whether we like it or not, the par.y which would form the alternative government in this Commonwealth has unfortunately - for the time being, at all events - alined itself wi h a foreign policy which is indistinguishable from thai of the Communists. 1 sincerely hope that in the very near future the members of that party will see the error of their ways, because it is not good for a democratic country such as Australia to have only one decent political party in it.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I was under the impression that we were discussing the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1958-59, and nothing else. Like all bills that appropriate money for the provision of mechanical power and for other purposes, this measure makes no provision at all for the adequate maintenance of human labour power which is paramount in all production. Without human labour power the production of wealth is impossible. Apparently, the Government regards this matter as being of such minor importance that no mention is made in the bill of urgent and necessary expenditure on the provision of social services for the victims of preventable unemployment. The fact that some 70,000 or 80.000 persons are unemployed in Australia to-day is regarded by the Government as a matter of minor importance. If honorable senators opposite were unemployed and they felt that they were being ignored and treated as being of no consequence, possibly some of them would have sufficient initiative and moral courage to protest.
Why does preventable and enforced unemployment exist in the community to-day? It exists because the Government has neglected to give to this subject the consideration it warrants. Years ago a wellknown American philosopher - I have mentioned this in the Senate before - said that the cheapness of labour is every day’s tragedy. That is as true in relation to conditions to-day as it was iw those days. If human labour power were not so cheap, and if the unemployed people in this country had demonstrated the strength of which they are capable, the Government’s attitude as evidenced in this bill would be very different from what it is.
Let us consider the unemployment benefit. A person must have been unemployed for three weeks before he can receive the benefit. 1 wonder what members of Parliament would say if they had to wait three weeks for their pay, particularly after a recess?
– What was the requirement in relation to the payment of benefits to unemployed persons when you were Postmaster-General in the Labour government?
– My approach to the matter was to treat unemployed persons in the manner that they were entitled to be treated - as human beings. Big changes were made during the time I occupied that privileged position, and if I had the power to do so to-day I would make even bigger changes.
A week or two ago I addressed myself to the plight of age pensioners in this country. According to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), about 500,000 persons in this category are on the industrial scrap-heap, although a very large percentage of them is capable of earning a good living. Many, years younger than myself, are physically capable, but are ignored because they are cheap. Yet, Ministers in this Government pose as humanitarians and say that they want to do the best they can for the people of this country. Likewise, the women who are in receipt of widows pensions are subordinated, exploited, impoverished, and reduced to the lowest possible standard of living because they are cheap. One of the reasons why they are cheap is that they were taught at school that they should be cheap. Unfortunately, many of them act accordingly. I have had a good deal of experience in organizing agitations by unemployed persons. Whenever I had an opportunity to do so, I pointed out to them that if they had not been indoctrinated accordingly, and if they had a better appreciation of their own worth in the community and the consideration to which they arc entitled, they would make their presence felt to a far greater extent than they have done.
There is no reference in the bill before the Senate to cost of living adjustments. Earlier to-night we heard something about the Arbitration Court from the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and its just and humanitarian approach to this subject. In 1953, the learned gentlemen who comprised the Arbitration Court - who were supposed to be beyond question, but whose ignorance of economics, biology, anthropology, and human relationships was tragic - said, in effect, that cost of living adjustments should not be restored. This means that the people who sell food and clothing, and the landlords, can raise charges to any extent they wish. There is no redress in the eyes of the law. The law says that you must continue to live in a state of semi-starvation.
During the week before last, employees of the private banks, in the category known as white-collar workers, demonstrated and pointed out how they were subordinated, exploited and impoverished down to the lowest level. They were determined to take action to obtain the consideration to which they were entitled. I wish them well. If I were associated with them to-morrow. I would encourage them to do that. If they hold up the banks to the extent that they are capable of doing so, and if they make their strength and their weight of numbers felt, greater consideration will be extended to them, both by the managements of the private banks and by the Arbitration Court. As I have said on previous occasions, all things yield to pressure in this world. Where there is no pressure, there is no result. To the extent that you are acquiescent in your own subjection, you are treated accordingly.
Senator Armstrong referred to the tragic and appalling shortage of housing. This bill, and the other appropriation measures that were introduced recently, treat that matter as of no importance. The Government is concerned only with housing the workers and their families as cheaply as possible, in rooms, multi-story flats, or anywhere else, where they are crowded together, so that the cost may be brought to the irreducible minimum. According to this morning’s press, thousands of migrants are coming here from other countries, retreating from conditions in those countries. Ye quite a number of migrants are being treated in Australia just as badly as they were in the countries they left. This Government, and other governments similarly situated, treat such people as so much cheap human power. It seems that the cheaper you are the more profitable you are, from their point of view. The production of profit is the dominant motive. If there is no profit, those people cease to be regarded as of any importance. That is the cold, inhuman approach which this Government makes to the question of social services.
We know, in connexion with housing, than there is no shortage of man-power, no shortage of materials, and no shortage of land. Why then, should the people be deprived of houses? What is the “answer to that question? Why does the Government stand idly by and regard the people who need houses as being so many dumb, driven cattle? That, apparently, is the cold, logical approach of the Government to this question. We never hear of supporters of the Government referring to such matters as the housing shortage. Instead, they would have us believe - and they are supported by the monopoly press - that this country is most prosperous and has a splendid future before it. So it has, for them, but not for the victims of their exploitation. Those victims will continue to be treated as they have been treated to date, while they tolerate it. 1 regard the enforced unemployed, the age pensioners, the widows and the children who are denied adequate endowment simply as casualties of the cold war inside our national boundaries. The supporters of the Government regard the plight of those people as quite a proper thing and in accordance with the accepted practices of the past, which had their origin in ancient chattel slavery. When Senator Hannan referred to Communists and people of that kind, that was merely an attempt to divert his own attention, and that of his colleagues, from the state of affairs in this country to that which is alleged to be operating in other countries.
Then we have inflation of the currency, a fraudulent and corrupt method of indirect taxation, imposed mainly on those in the lower income groups. Inflation increases prices. Increased prices reduce wages, pensions and all forms of relief. There is inflation now, at a time when the real costs of production, as assessed in terms of labour time or gold, whichever we prefer, have never been lower. Those are the only two measures of value. There was never a time when the slaves of machines produced so much and received so little, in comparison, as they do now, because production costs are so low. If I were working at a trade, as I was in 1912, I could now do quite easily in four hours work that used to take me sixteen hours, because of modern equipment. The difference between conditions then and now is that previously I would have been paid for sixteen hours’ sustenance, whereas now, if 1 did in four hours work that previously took me sixteen hours, I would get only four hours’ sustenance. That is why, as I have said in this chamber before, the wage earners, particularly those on the basic wage, and the small salary earners, are fooled, ruled and robbed from the cradle to the grave. That is why we have 500,000 age pensioners. When workers reach the age of 60 years, in the case of women, and 65 years in the case of men, they are regarded as being unprofitable from the point of view of their employers, and thereafter they are destined to whittle away the rest of their lives in a state of semi-starvation. In this age of so-called civilization, in this country of so-called justice, men and women who occupy positions in the Government enforce these conditions upon the people. As I have said, the cost of production has never been lower and the subsistence wage has never been lower. That this is so is clearly illustrated by the fact that the £1 Australian to-day has depreciated considerably below what is was worth in 1914 when notes were made nonconvertible. In 1914, the £1 Australian was worth 20s. sterling. To-day, according to the official figures, it is worth only 4s. sterling. When we subtract from that 25 per cent, for our adverse trade balance, we have a sterling value of only 3s. for our £1 Australian. Think of what this means to the thousands who, after paying £’s worth 20s. into a superannuation fund are now receiving benefit in £’s worth only 3s. We hear not one word of protest against that from the Government. The members of the Government acquiesce in all that is done because this state of affairs suits them.
The dominating force of all wealth is selfinterest and self-preservation. That is understandable to some extent, but when it becomes an obsession, as it is with the members of the Government and the wealthy, the victims suffer. All round us, but especially in the thickly populated cities of Melbourne and Sydney, we see these victims living in rooms. In the days when they are ageing, they are virtually sentenced to solitary confinement to wither and die. lt has been said by many men in responsible positions who have risen above their environment that wealth corrupts and poverty withers. In this sparsely populated country there are thousands of men and women who have worked as long as they have been privileged to work in making this country what it is, and they are left to wither in poverty. This bill makes no mention of them; they are ignored by the Government just as we ignore the animals dying in the fields. I repeat that to the extent that labour time is a diminishing factor in production, the subsistence wage is reduced.
I come now to arbitration courts. They hear argument ad infinitum about the cost of living and our national income,- always ignoring the fact that there is no such thing as national income, that in reality what is called national income is merely an aggregate of private incomes, something that is certainly not enjoyed by the victims of the system. In the same way, what is referred to as our national debt is in fact an aggregate of privately owned debts, owned in the main by banks, financial institutions and the wealthy. The position is tragic, and the worst feature of it is the extent to which it is ignored by men and women who pose as Christians, who profess to give effect to the ethics of Christianity, but ignore the way in which their fellow men are treated. The members of the Government ought to be ashamed of themselves. T regard them as nothing more than cave men.
– Billy Graham the second!
– You are no different from the cave men of the past. You are the modern version of the ancient cave man. the ancient savage -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator must not reflect upon another honorable senator.
– I am sorry. 1 thought I was complimenting him. One law which cannot be ignored, amended or repealed is the law of cause and effect, and throughout the world to-day, especially in the countries to which Senator Hannan referred, that law is operating to such an extent that never in the history of the world has constituted authority been challenged to the extent it is to-day. Whether it be in Cuba, Cyprus, the States of Malaya, China or anywhere else, men and women are rebelling against constituted authority. They are responding to the law of cause and effect; they are reacting to the poverty and degradation to which they are being subjected by their fellow men and women.
I want to know from the Government when it is going to make the human factor the major consideration. When is it going to look upon human power and not mechanical power as the major power? There can be no mechanical power without human power. We have steam power, electric power, atomic power, but the real power that keeps the world going is human power; and that has been so from the days of antiquity. In this highly mechanized and private-monopoly age, that great human power is being ignored in the ways I have mentioned. Just how far is the Government prepared to go? Certain of its supporters are what I would call, for want of a better term, “ inverted Communists “. Some of them lack the moral courage and initiative to do anything, but many of the remainder, if placed in similar circumstances, would do precisely what the Communists are doing to-day. Everything depends upon the position in which one is placed.
What I am trying to do this evening is to direct the attention of Government supporters to the fundamental injustice that is being done through the medium of these bills. My fervent hope is that my remarks will produce in the Government a more rational and human approach to public affairs. I ask Government supporters to regard their fellow men, not as mere units but as wage workers, small salary earners, aged pensioners. All these people are human. They are entitled to consideration equal to that which Government supporters demand for themselves. 1 am wondering how far the Government is prepared to go? Will it continue un.il it is challenged in the way in which the interests for which it stands are being challenged all over the world? Ultimately, such a challenge will be made. If the Government would avoid the tragedies associated with the course that it is following, as well as the penalties involved, it will be warned in time. Its approach to social services, to the age pensioner, to children, to widows and the like, should be by way of providing relief, which is both physically and politically possible. If the Government is to make such an approach, it will have 10 do much bet.er in the near future than it lias ever attempted to do in the past.
– First, I want to emphasize that we who are in the Parliament appreciate the fact that the Appropriation Bill gives members the opportunity, and encouragement, to bring before the Government, before the Senate and, naturally, before the people, almost any subject which comes within the scope of parliamentary government. As my colleague, Senator Wright, said in a most helpful, constructive and throughtful speech this afternoon, this is the proper time for members on both sides of the chamber to get, through “ Hansard “, to the cars and minds of Ministers things that they hope will be considered in the important three months that lie ahead, the months in which the Cabinet, quite rightly and properly, formulates its Budge..
That being so, 1 cannot help saying that, as a keen listener, 1 have been surprised at what I have heard in the debate so far from the other side. I propose to spend a moment or two discussing the attitude of Australian Labour Party supporters to this debate. Have they put up, as one would expect Her Majesty’s Opposition to put up. one constructive suggestion? Have they truly, with an unbiased outlook, put to the Parliament their views on great national problems, or have they simply played party politics? I suggest that the Opposition, disintegrated, uninterested and unknowledgeable as it has proved - and will doubtless continue to prove for a very long time - has played a shameful part in the debate. I agree with my colleague, Senator Hannan, that one of the worst things about the official Opposition, the Australian Labour
Party, is that it is so weak, so broken up and split asunder, that it is bad for Austraiian democracy. Every government needs a strong opposition.
Let us examine the Australian Labour Party’s outlook on the present debate, which is really a preliminary to the Budget debate. Labour has moved an amendment, though 1 do not yet appear to have a copy of it. Having heard the amendment read, and the speech in support of it that was made by Senator Armstrong - who not so long ago was deposed from the deputy leadership of his party - it seemed to me that the party was trying to gain favour at the expense of the pensioners. As one who is privileged to have a good deal to do with pensioners, I can tell any Labour senator, or member of another place, that Labour gets no kudos for behaving hyprocritically and always talking about the pensioners.
The pensioners are not satisfied with the deal that they are getting from the Government. I do not know of any section of the community that is completely satisfied with the deal that it is getting, but I do know that there are dozens of sections of the community that are very satisfied with the deal that Australia is getting from this Government. That, Mr. President, is the all-important thing. The Armstrongs, and the little group which used to sit in the side aisles of this chamber, get no kudos from the people for trying to criticize this Government’s attitude to pensions and social service commitments. The Government has an unparalled record, and I hope that it will improve even on that when we meet again in August.
The next string to Labour’s bow appears to be to tell the Australian public, first, that there will be more unemployment and, secondly, that those who are unemployed are in that state because of the Liberal-Australian Country Party’s work in the national sphere. I was amused, if not disgusted, to listen to the ranting of Senator Cooke before the dinner recess. He quoted the unemployment figure as being 2.7 per cent, in Queensland and Tasmania. I agree with him that the figure is too high. Indeed, it is about the only thing on which I agree with the honorable senator. Senator Cooke, being a Western Australian, is not awake to the fact that though Queensland now has a Liberal government it has had a long period under Labour. Naturally, the new government has not been able yet to overcome all the stresses that were caused by the previous Labour rule.
In Tasmania, we are not quite sure yet who is to govern, but we do know that for the last 23 years we have had a Labour government. We also know that the cost of living is higher in Tasmania than in other States because of the ineptitude, the lack of interest and the lack of know-how of Labour governments.
To return to the federal sphere, one of the chief criticisms of this Government mouthed by honorable senators opposite is that it is getting capital from abroad. The Labour Party seems to try to frighten the people of Australia by suggesting that all sorts of bad things will happen to this country if people in the United Kingdom, Canada and America invest money here: I hope that neither Senator Poke, who is now in the chamber, nor any other Tasmanian Labour senator will rise and decry the investment of mainland capital in the island State of Tasmania. If they did1, they would just be following the pattern of criticism that the Labour Party levels against the Government in respect of the whole Australian scene. I say without equivocation that the Government values investment from abroad. It is part of the nation’s strength. Investments from overseas will continue to flow into this country so long as a government of the calibre of the present Government remains in office. I hope members of the Labour Party will think that over, because, when they try to engender fear in the hearts of the people, they could be producing an adverse effect on those who can, and will, invest in this island continent of ours money that we need in order to take advantage of the great development in which we are engaged.
Finally, in regard to Labour’s attitude on matters of national finance and economics, it seems that Labour believes we should spend more on this or that and then tax less. Labour also adopts the attitude - it is despised by the great majority of Australians - that we should not spend money on defence. I think the trouble is that members of the Labour Party do not know much about war service. If they did, they would be more willing to back up our defence policy and try to emulate the attitude of statesmen by joining Government members on the all important Foreign Affairs Committee. But they will have nothing to do with that committee. Perhaps Senator Hannan is right when he suggests that it is because their foreign policy and their defence policy are too closely allied with their Communistic views.
Honorable senators opposite rise now and again to criticize the visit overseas of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Only one Opposition senator is in the chamber at the moment, and I shall not mind if he is lulled to sleep. But outside this Parliament there is not a real Australian with a knowledge of Australia and of the importance to Australia of friends and allies who is not proud of the fact that the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies is travelling abroad and continuing his crusade as a very powerful ambassador for Australia. No Australian of any worth will criticize the Prime Minister’s oversea* visit, irrespective of whether it costs £5 or £5,000, because such Australians know that the money W1 be well spent on behalf, not only of us, but also of those who will follow us.
I am a great believer in travel and overseas visits. I believe that anything the Government and the Parliament do to encourage members of the National Parliament to go overseas will help to broaden the outlook of those members, to increase their education, and to win friends for this country. I believe that I benefited educationally and was able to win friends overseas when the Parliament was good enough to send me to the United Nations two years ago as an Australian delegate. What I have said I believe to be rightful criticism of Labour’s attitude to matters of national importance.
I do not intend to traverse all the ground one could in this debate, during which many honorable senators have expressed constructive opinions. Without being parochial or narrow minded, I wish to place before the Senate and the Government a matter which I regard it to be my duty to mention on behalf of Tasmania. I refer to the question of communications between Tasmania and the mainland - a matter that is becoming increasingly important and which I think should be looked at anew. The mainland
States have their railways, their roads, their airways and their shipping services, while we in Tasmania have only air and sea communications. I believe that the air passenger and freight services of the two major airlines to Tasmania are quite satisfactory. We are blessed with excellent services. My only criticism, which I have advanced in this chamber before and which I do not intend to enlarge upon to-night, is that 1 think those airlines should be able to arrange services between Hobart and the north-west coast. Such services would be of great advantage to the north-west and Hobart.
However, shipping constitutes a problem which must be dealt with if Tasmania’s economic security and her advancement are to be properly cared for. As we all know, Australian coastal shipping is on the decline, particularly passenger traffic. This decline not only will have its effect on the convenience of people who want to travel; it must also be considered from the defence viewpoint. If all passenger vessels in the Australian coastal trade were tied up or sold and if a time came when we wanted to move troops and other personnel as we did from 1939 to 1945, we would not have sufficient ships available. The cargo shipping service to Tasmania is both efficient and sufficient. It seems that handling techniques have improved and that there are better schedules. I am very happy to be able to say, too, that the spirit abroad on the waterfront seems to have improved. The result is that services are being maintained with greater regularity and with fewer hold-ups. If any one wants proof of that, I remind him of what has happened in all Tasmanian ports during the current fruit shipping season. The waterside workers have done an excellent job.
We are getting more modern equipment. Bulk handling of wheat has been introduced at three of our main ports, and cargo is being moved by means of containers. Cargo shipping has been speeded up and has ‘become more efficient, but we require passenger and freight carrying ferries between northern Tasmania and Melbourne and between Hobart and Sydney. A regular ferry service not only would greatly help tourism, which is one of Tasmania’s greatest hopes for economic advancement, but would also facilitate the carriage of perishable goods. At present, because of irregular shipping services, a great proportion of perishable cargoes such as fruit and vegetables have to be sent to Tasmania by air. Air freight charges are passed on to the consumer, and that is one reason why our cost-of-living figure is so high.
Tasmania is expanding and becoming of great importance in the Commonwealth of Australia. There is every indication that mainland capital has abundant confidence in the future prosperity of Tasmania. Business magnates, whom we are pleased to welcome to the island State, are showing abundant confidence in Tasmania, and because of that I think the Government should take a look at Tasmania’s future shipping requirements. Banks and insurance companies are building offices and extending their businesses in Tasmania. They are the keepers of the people’s savings. Department stores, general stores and petrol companies - the organizations which cause Tasmanians to spend their savings - also are erecting buildings and increasing their facilities in Tasmania. It is true to say that in the main city area of Hobart at the present time buildings worth at least £1,000,000 are either in the course of erection or are on the drawing boards with a view to commencement within the next few months.
It is obvious that Tasmania is growing. As it grows, its requirements for shipping services to and from the Australian mainland will increase. There is every indication that Tasmania’s economy is expanding, but the expansion is being retarded because of lack of shipping. I know that this Government, particularly the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), has done excellent work. Within a few months, we will have a new, modern roll-on roll-off passenger-cargo ferry trading between Melbourne and the north-west coast. However, it is unfortunately true, I remind the Government, that the “ Princess of Tasmania “ will carry fewer passengers than the outmoded, expensivetorun, and, in recent years, inefficientlyrun - not by the crew but by the owners - “ Taroona “ which has provided and is providing more accommodation than the new ship will provide. The accommodation provided by the “Princess of Tasmania “ will be inadequate, particularly during peak periods. I know that the Minister is conscious of that fact, and I know also that he is conscious of the fact that at times, as a result of engine faults, the “ Princess of Tasmania “ may be taken off the run. I presume that annually the ship will have to be taken off for overhaul. Whenever that happens, Tasmania will be completely cut off from the mainland. Please do not say to me that in the past the “ Taroona “ has run half empty at times. I know that, but we have to look at the future and consider the potential of this service. Any business organization plans, not for what has happened in the past, but for what will offer in the future.
Another problem facing Tasmania arises from the lack of shipping between Hobart and Sydney. We have not had a regular service between Hobart and Sydney since 1949. I make it completely clear that all Tasmanian members of the Federal Parliament support such a service. Meetings have been held, and it is intended that we shall meet business people in Sydney on Friday next to discuss the re-introduction of a Sydney-Hobart shipping service.
I sum up by saying that I trust that during the recess the Government will give every consideration to the views that will be put to it on behalf of all Tasmanian members. This matter is of great economic importance to Tasmania. A great deal of money has been spent by the Government in various mainland States. We believe that the Government has a responsibility to consider the urgent need for passenger and freight services between the mainland and Tasmania.
I pass now to an aspect of Government or Public Service policy that has reference to Commonwealth-owned or Commonwealthoccupied properties throughout Australia. I understand that at the moment the Department of the Army is conducting a survey of all the properties it occupies in Australia, with a view to getting out of those it does not require. However, the policy of the Commonwealth ever since federation - I think it is a wrong policy - has been to prevent any government department from selling or otherwise disposing of a building . which it does not require for its own use. A department might desire to move to cheaper, more accessible, or more convenient premises. If it says to the Department of the Interior, “ We do not want this building any more “, the Department of the Interior, in effect, then hawks the building around other government departments, one of which might decide to take the building. I do not think that is the right policy to pursue. I believe that if a department does not want to keep a building, it should be able to get rid of it and use the proceeds. I do not desire to mention the names of specific people or business firms on the floor of the Senate, but I shall say that I know there is a town in Tasmania where a certain building block, now occupied by a government department, is wanted for the development of the town. The department does not want the building block, but if it were to give it up, another department would take it over, and it would not be available for the development that is required. Therefore, the department occupying the property at present will not vacate it. The whole system of government ownership of land and property and government tenancy of private properties should be investigated thoroughly. The matter should be approached in a businesslike way. If a government department wishes to do so, it should be able to sell a property and use the proceeds to buy another property that might better suit its requirements. Private enterprise, which this Government rightfully supports, would then be in a position to purchase Commonwealth property and perhaps improve the economic standard at the city or town in which the properly is located.
– All acquisitions of property are made by the Department of the Interior.
– I know. That is the great trouble. Each department should be allowed to buy and sell property. The Department of the Interior should have no say in the matter at all. I see that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is smiling. Perhaps he would like to sell a couple of old customs houses.
In all sincerity, I remind honorable senators of Shakespeare’s words -
All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.
I entered this chamber a little over six years ago. I had the honour to occupy the seat that had been occupied previously by my very good friend, the late Senator John Chamberlain. As good fortune decided, I was seated next to Senator Wordsworth who, after 30th June next, will be retiring from the Senate. With the greatest sincerity I say that Senator Wordsworth is a man who would grace any Parliament in the Commonwealth. We have valued his opinions and have always accepted his word. 1 am sure that every honorable senator has known his friendship. He has given a lifetime of service to his country, and during his ten years in this chamber he has made his mark on the public life of Australia. He knows no enemies, and he can be assured that he will leave the Senate honoured, trusted and beloved by all those with whom he came in contact.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.3]. - I rise to support the legislation before the Senate, and to join with my colleagues in complimenting the Government on its many achievements during its period of office. I have been surprised at the depressing tone of the speeches delivered by honorable senators opposite, particularly in relation to housing. They have sought to create the impression (hat the great problem of the shottage of housing that previously confronted us has not been solved. They have also sought to create the impression that this Government has not regarded the provision of homes as a matter of the utmost importance. They have not stated the true position.
This Government, since coming to office, has played a tremendous part in overcoming the back-lag of housing and, to support my statement, I shall quote some figures which will indicate the high level of activity in the home-building industry. We are overtaking the back-lag of housing at the rate of about 20,000 homes a year. This Government has provided, directly and indirectly, £70,000,000 a year, which is one-third of the total investment in housing in Australia. Surely we can be proud of the figures that I have quoted. They should be widely publicized in reply to the suggestions that have been made by honorable senators opposite. lt is also interesting to note that the record number of 28,000 homes were completed in New South Wales last year, the highest rate of home-building ever for that State. The number of dwellings com menced for the quarter ended March, 1959, was estimated at 20,346, the highest ever recorded for a March quarter in any year. For the first nine months of this financial year, 60,725 homes have been commenced compared with 53,854 for the same period in 1957-58. This represents an increase of 12.8 per cent. To satisfy Australia’s needs arising from new marriages and immigration at the rate of 1 per cent, of population, approximately 54,000 homes are needed each year. Since 1956. between 70,000 and 80,000 homes have been constructed each year. Last year, 79,900 homes and flats were completed. For the first nine months of the financial year 1958-59, we completed 61,998 homes at the rate of about 20,000 a quarter, and for the full year we expect more than 80,000 units to be completed. This will be the first year since 1954-55 that such a large number of homes has been completed. Surely these figures answer the criticisms that have been levelled at us by the Opposition.
During the last 40 years, £295,000,000 has been provided for war service homes, and not less than £242,000,000, or about 80 per cent, of the total, has been made available during the last nine years - a remarkable achievement by the Menzies Government during its period of office.
– A tremendous number of war service homes has been constructed during the last five years.
– I agree with my colleague’s statement. Mention has been made also of the necessity to provide homes for aged citizens. I shall deal with this matter in detail at a later stage, but I should like to remind honorable senators that over £5,158,000 has been approved for expenditure on homes for aged persons. The homes so provided will increase accommodation by 6.547 beds.
The dreary and depressing picture that has been painted by the Opposition in its attempt to belittle the work of this Government in the field of housing is not the true picture. This Government has a proud record in ensuring that the people of Australia are better housed, and that they have the opportunity to own their own homes. The back-lag in housing is being rapidly overtaken. I do feel that it is a very wrong thing indeed for it to be thought that this Government has been indifferent to such a very important human problem as the housing of our citizens. I am proud, indeed, to be able to place these figures on record.
As this is an opportunity, a few months before the Budget will be presented, when one may place before those who will be dealing with Budget matters comments in relation to various subjects, may I for a short period to-night refer to the problems concerning our aged citizens - I have spoken before on this subject - because I feel their needs are very urgent. The overall problem affects us all as citizens of Australia, and I therefore take the opportunity of again placing my views before the Parliament. With the splendid medical treatment and care that is available to-day, the percentage of older citizens in this country must indeed increase, because the period of expectation of life is now longer. That is a very fine thing. But I do say this, that if added years of life are given by the wonders of medical care and attention, it is important, I believe, that in considering the subject of social services and the care of the aged we should do everything we possibly can to ensure that those added years shall be years of happiness and dignity for the aged persons. It is, I believe, very important that every citizen, as well as both Government and non-government bodies, should begin to look at the problems of old persons from quite a different point of view than perhaps they were looked at some years ago. I should like to think that this Government would indeed have a completely new look at the care of the aged and the problems which face our aged citizens. I look forward to the Budget session in the hope that there will be a review of pensions and an increase in pensions and other benefits, because I believe most sincerely that there is a very great need for this particular help. But I should also like to think that we could look forward to a much wider plan and further assistance in this particular field. The problem is not only an economic one; it is a human, a very real, problem.
I believe there are three major points to which we must give consideration. First, there are the aged persons who must be cared for in hospitals, where they can receive special treatment. Secondly, there are the aged persons who leave hospital after obtaining special treatment and go back to live in their own homes. But if they live alone, I believe there are specialized home services - if I may use that term - which are very important to them if they are to continue to live in the best possible way during the added years that have been given to them. Thirdly, there is the problem to which I have already frequently referred - the housing of aged persons under particular housing schemes. That is a special kind of housing.
I should like now to deal with my first point - the care of the aged sick people. We know only too well of the problems that confront aged persons who remain in hospital for many months and perhaps years. I know that there is a very acute shortage of hospital beds in many centres. In many parts of the world - and this is just beginning in Australia - there is a great new service of gerontology and the care of theaged sick, which is conducted by a geriatricteam at big hospitals. As I have spokenabout this matter before, I hope that I will, be forgiven for worrying the Senate with this again. I do so because I believe this, new service is very important to the futurelives of aged persons. If there is any way in which the Commonwealth can assist tx add to base hospitals, these specialized geriatric units for the care of our aged citizens, perhaps by the addition of geriatric wings. I hope that the Government will ad’opt it. Of course, I know that somehonorable senators will say that this is. a State matter; but if there is any way in which the Commonwealth Government can assist the State governments in this connexion, I hope that that assistance will ba supplied.
The work of the geriatric teams is veryspectacular. I was very fortunate indeed to hear an address by the famous geriatician, Dr. Marjorie Warren, when she was in Australia. When she took over the running of the Middlesex hospital there were wards full of aged persons who were bedfast. After she had organized a team of geriatric specialists and almoners and provided other facilities, although the area of the hospital service was greatly increased it was only on rare occasions that more than 100 old persons were bedfast for any appreciable period of time. As a result of specialized treatment and care, many old people again- become active and able to return to their families or to their homes. I am very pleased to be able to say that a director of geriatrics has been appointed in my own State of Queensland. This, I believe, is a positive step forward. At the Mount Royal hospital in Melbourne the work of this great service is achieving splendid results. I hope that the Comonwealth will consider providing assistance to enable particular medical teams to go overseas for further training. On their return to this country they could render great service in this field. I believe that that is an important factor in having ,i new look and adopting a new approach to the problems of our aged persons.
This Government has given valuable assistance to our home nursing services, the members of which go to the homes of aged persons and care for them. It is not only the actual care that is so important; the knowledge that someone will be calling to see if they are all right, and to look after them, is tremendously important to aged persons living in their own homes. If further assistance could be provided to these home nursing services and other similar services, I believe that would be a great step forward in caring for our aged persons. The manner in which this Government has assisted both church and charitable organizations in the provision of housing for aged persons is something of which this Government, and, indeed, every Australian, can be tremendously proud. The fact that over 6,000 additional beds have been provided in housing schemes for aged persons indicates the generous financial assistance that has been given by this Government. However, from my own work in this field, and from what I have been told by others who engage in this activity, I know that the need for further assistance is still very great. There are many old persons waiting for this housing accommodation, and I think we must continue to give every possible support in this direction. I -emphasize the need that exists for the provision of medical care in many instances after aged persons leave hospital, and I trust that any suggestions that are advanced by the splendid church and hospital organizations in this field will receive the most careful and sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– Most hospitals in Victoria have infirmary wards.
– I had heard that that is so, and I thank the honorable senator for that information.
There are many problems connected with the elderly people of the community, and time does not permit me to deal with all of them to-night. I have always felt that if we are to face up to those problems as we should, we can best do it by learning from those who are .actively assisting to solve the problems. I suggest that, if it is at all possible, there should be a conference between the governmental and non-governmental bodies in this field. The suggestions brought forward at such a conference would be of tremendous help in planning future assistance for our aged persons. We have seen the value of the work done by governmental and nongovernmental bodies in the field of immigration. Great benefit has been derived from the suggestions that various persons and organizations interested in immigration have been made to the department.
Surely it would be possible, at some stage, to have a conference on a Commonwealth basis of representatives of the Government and of those bodies which are doing such excellent work in the health and social service spheres, including the church and charitable organizations that are trying so hard to help our aged people. I can think of outstanding people in every State of the Commonwealth who have devoted practically the whole of their lives to the service and the care of our aged citizens. Imagine the great benefit that their suggestions would be to the governmental bodies concerned with social welfare. By means of the kind of conference that I have in mind, one more step could be taken towards giving first-rate consideration to these important matters.
When we see the degree to which medical research has contributed to longer life, I think we must begin to think about more research into the problems of the aged. We have already achieved great results through research into child health. That research has brought about untold benefits through various forms of assistance for children in the early years of their lives. If we were able to undertake more research at the other end of the scale, and to investigate more closely matters which affect people in their later years, I am sure that great benefits would result. For example, would not such research be of advantage in connexion with the incidence of accidents amongst aged people? Other matters warranting research are the accident rate due to faulty or failing eyesight and faulty hearing, and the effect of lack of proper food. Research into all those matters would be of untold value. That is another aspect of social welfare that I would like the responsible Ministers to consider in relation to the provision of greater assistance for our aged people.
So, Mr. Deputy President, I again urge those members of the Government who are responsible, when the Budget is being prepared, for planning social service benefits, to give a special thought to those in the later years of life. I hope that the Government will endeavour to provide benefits on a long-term basis, not just benefits that are required for the moment Australia has been recognized by the World Health Organization as the country that has made the greatest contribution to the fight against tuberculosis. I hope that it will also be recognized as a country which has seen the need for special care and thought in relation to the aged. We must appreciate that, as the years go by, the percentage of aged persons in the community will increase. I hope that the Government will regard this matter not as just an economic problem, but also as a human problem. Let us have a scheme of care for our aged persons, and a scheme of social service benefits, which will be recognized as among the best in the world. If that can be achieved, I believe it will be a matter for pride.
In supporting this legislation, may I say that this Government has a record of achievement in all fields of social services which not only has resulted in great assistance for the people of Australia, but has made Australia known among the nations of the world as one that is playing a most active part in improving social standards both at home and in the world generally.
– As you are well aware, Mr. Deputy President, my term as a senator expires on 30th June next, so that the speech I make to-night will probably be the last that I shall make in this Parliament. During my speech I wish to press the claims of cer.ain people for whom I have a great attachment. 1 refer to the ex-diggers. I want to press for free medical and hospital treatment for all diggers of World War J. They are men who have served their country extremely well, in very dangerous times. L must be remembered that all of those who served in the 1914-1918 world war volunteered to defend their country. They went overseas and faced all kinds of privations. They also faced death. I think that, as they offered so much for their country, their country in turn might take care of them in their old age.
At the present time, free hospital treatment and medicine are given to many exservicemen, including those totally and permanently incapacitated and those on 100 per cent, war pensions. Those benefits also are available to the 1914-18 war nurses. I think that that is a wonderful provision, but of course it is up to us to make it. If there is one class that every digger recognizes as being entitled to benefits and as really deserving them, it is the nurses. Free hospital treatment and medicine also are available to war widows and their children up to the age of sixteen years. Again, that is just as it should be. Therefore, as a nation, we have gone a certain way towards paying the. debt of gratitude that we owe to these people. This is ihe time to speak, because Cabinet may see fit to consider my remarks when it is preparing the Budget. If this subject were not raised now, it would not be brought up in time for such consideration to be given to it. That is the reason why I am on my feet to-night.
Let us consider the ages of the men to whom I refer. World War I. ended in 1918. If we take the extreme case of a man who was eighteen years of age at that time, we see that he would be 59 at the present moment. He would be one of the youngest exservicemen of World War I. It can be said that probably 95 per cent, of the men who served in that war are now more than 60 years of age. If they are 65 years of age, then they receive the age pension together with hospitalization and medical benefits. We, in our wisdom, have given to ex-servicemen who reach the age of 60 years the right to a service pension, but I do not think every one knows what this service pension is. The service pension payable to an ex-serviceman at 60 years of age is an amount equivalent to the age pension.
In other words, we give the burnt-out digger the privilege of enjoying the equivalent of the age pension five years earlier than he would normally qualify for it, and it is up to us to do that. It means virtually a bonus of approximately £1,255. But I do not think we can weigh the debt we owe these men in terms of £ s. d. We have got to give them more than that, and the’ least we can give them is free hospitalization and free medicine. After all, an applicant for the service pension has to undergo a means test. He must be broke before he can get it, and surely we can make the few remaining years of his life a bit easier by granting free hospitalization and free medicine.
To give these extra benefits would be of tremendous help to the man who is receiving only about £4 10s. a week. This is a growing nation that is being looked up to and respected by other nations. We are looked upon as having a great future before us and we should pay tribute to the men who put us in this favorable position. These extra benefits should be granted to every man who served overseas in World War I. The number would not be great, and it is certainly diminishing rapidly every year. If we cannot extend this token of gratitude to all of them then let us give it to the recipients of the service pension. There are about 20,000 of the old diggers who are really down and out, and it is our duty to help them.
This would not cost a tremendous amount. I understand that there are empty beds now in our repatriation hospitals in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. I believe the position is slightly different in Brisbane and Hobart, although we are to have a new hospital in Hobart, and the position should be relieved there. Even if accommodation is not available in our repatriation hospitals, surely we can afford to pay for public hospital beds for these men. There will not be any more men in hospital if we grant the concession, so that it will cost us really nothing and, as a grateful nation, we should be prepared to extend this benefit to them.
Another matter concerning these same diggers relates to what Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin had to say about aged persons’ homes. Diggers of 60 years of age who receive the service pension will not be admitted into the homes for the aged because, if they were, the home concerned would lose its government subsidy of £2 for every £1 spent by the home. If we already recognize that these men are entitled to receive a pension at 60 years of age instead of 65, then we should be prepared to allow them to be admitted into homes for the aged without depriving these homes of the government subsidy of £2. The fact that any home admitting these old diggers now would become ineligible for the subsidy of £2 is an absolute disgrace, and it is our duty to remedy the position.
That is all I rose to speak about to-night Being an old digger myself - you, too, Mr. Deputy President, are also one; you went to the war with me and will agree with what I say - I feel that these men are entitled to the benefit. A great number of them do not want it. I suppose 80 per cent, of them do not want it, but I speak now on behalf or the 20 per cent, of the old diggers who are terrifically hard up and find it extremely difficult to live. I submit that as an act of gratitude, this Government should provide in its next Budget for free hospitalization and medicine for these men. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1958, bounty is payable at the rate of lOd. per lb. on cellulose acetate flake produced in Australia and then sold for the manufacture in Australia of cellulose acetate rayon yarn. Bounty payments are limited by the act to £142,000 in any one year. There is no protection under the tariff as the flake may enter free of duty under By-law Tariff Item 369(e)(1). The purpose of this bill is to amend the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act to extend the period in which bounty can be paid to cover sales of the flake from 30th June, 1959, to 30th June, 1961. The original act authorized payments of bounty on sales of flake during each of the three years ended 30th June, 1958. In 1958, the act was amended to permit of the extension of the bounty by proclamation to 30th June, 1958. This was done.
In a report on the industry, tabled earlier this session, the Tariff Board has recommended the continuation of assistance by way of bounty till 30th June, 1961, under the same conditions as are operating at present. The Government has accepted this recommendation. C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited is the only applicant for bounty. This company produces the flake at Rhodes in New South Wales. The flake is sold to Courtaulds (Australia) Limited for manufacture into continuous filament acetate rayon yarn at Tomago in New South Wales. The yarn is used in the textile trade.
Bounty payments have been made to C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited in respect of flake sold during the years ended 30th June, 1956, of £99,489; 30th June, 1957, of £113,258; 30th June, 1958, of £100,981; and, in respect of the three quarters ended 31st March, 1959, of £86,062. The bounty will continue to operate on sales of flake to the 30th June, 1961. The Government contemplates that the Tariff Board will again examine the question of assistance to the industry before the period of bounty expires. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act 1954-1956 to enable the operation of the bounty to be extended by proclamation to a date not later than 31st December, 1959, and to allow the bounty to be terminated before that date, should it be so desired.
The Rayon Yarn Bounty Act provides for a bounty of 6d. per lb. of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in Australia and sold for delivery in Australia during the period from 1st November,. 1954, to 30th June, 1959. Bounty payments have been made to Courtaulds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, in respect of yarn sold during the years ended 31st October, 1955, of £39,159; 31st October. 1956, of £56,364; 31st October, 1957, of £73,929; 31st October, 1958, of £63,895; and during the quarter ended 31st January, 1959, of £13,900. The question of further assistance on the production of filament acetate rayon yam has been referred to the Tariff Board.
At the time this bill was introduced in another place, the board’s report had not been received. As the existing legislation authorized the payment of bounty only on yarn produced and sold in Australia on or before 30th June, 1959, the Government decided that provision should be made to continue the bounty payments until the board’s report had been received and considered.
The Tariff Board’s report on this matter was received by the Minister earlier this week. It covers not only the question of continuation of the bounty, but also the associated question of the tariff treatment of the various forms of artificial silk yarns.
The limited time available will not be sufficient to allow adequate consideration of the report before the end of the present sitting of the Parliament. It is, therefore, proposed to proceed with the present bill which would authorize an extension of the period of the bounty, by proclamation until 31st December, 1959, with power of termination before that date.
The principle of assistance to the company by way of bounty was adopted whenthe matter was previously considered by the Senate. The proposed amendment would enable the same measure of assistance to be continued until the Tariff Board’s report has been considered by the Government. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned’.
– I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
: - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of. this bill is to extend the operation of the. sulphuric acid bounty for a further period of one year.
The Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954- 1957 was originally introduced to encourage the use of indigenous material’s in the production of acid’ in place of imported brimstone. Under this act and the regulations bounty is now payable on sulphuric acid produced from pyrites and from lead sinter gas.
The policy of encouraging the use of indigenous materials dates from the early 1950’s when there was an acute shortage of brimstone throughout the world. It then seemed certain that this shortage, which endangered the production in Australia of sulphuric acid and superphosphate, would continue for a considerable time.
The most: important Australian sulphurbearing materials are pyrites and the gases arising from the processing of various metallic ores. Most of these materials are more costly to use than brimstone.
After consultation on the problem with both the acid manufacturers and the local producers, of raw materials, the Government stated that production of acid from indigenous materials would be protected against acid derived from brimstone if it should later transpire that brimstone could be imported at a price which would render uneconomic the use of local materials.
Production and use of Australian sulphurbearing materials has expanded greatly as a result of the Government’s policy and in 1957-58 more than half the sulphuric acid produced in Australia came from indigenous materials.
In the course of time the overseas supply of brimstone improved, and about the end of 1953 acid manufacturers who were operating on pyrites sought protection against acid produced from brimstone. As: a result, the Government asked the Tariff Board to recommend a form of bounty which would carry out the policy I have stated.
When the board’s report was received in 1954 the present Bounty Act was introduced and bounty was made payable on sulphuric acid produced from pyrites. Following a further- inquiry by the Tariff Board, the bounty was, in 1957, extended to acid produced from lead sinter gas.
The act now provides for the payment of bounty during a period of. five years ending 30th June, 1959. The Tariff Board was asked in 1957 to conduct a further inquiry and recommend the period for which the bounty should be extended, and appropriate rates and conditions of bounty during this extension.
This review resulted in the report I have tabled in the Senate. The Tariff Board recommended a new scale of bounty which included an incentive element, part of which was intended to encourage further conversion to the use of local materials.
In recent years, large new sources of sulphur have been discovered in various parts of the world and the overall supply position has become much easier. Overseas prices for brimstone have fallen substantially since the Tariff Board concluded its inquiry and it is now apparent that there is not likely to be any shortage of sulphur in the foreseeable future.
Because of the extra costs involved in using pyrites and other Australian materials, the Government has re-examined the position, and concluded that economic reasons no longer justify continuation of the past policy. At the same time, it is fully recognized that thereare obligations to. those producers who have up to now co-operated in the production and use of Australian materials:
The Government has decided that, because the recommendations in the Tariff Board’s report are designed to continue the past policy, the board should be directed to make a fresh inquiry. It will be asked to recommend rates of bounty which are not designed to encourage further conversion to the use of indigenous materials but which will honour the Government’s obligations to the people who have co-operated in the past. These are the people who have installed plant to produce or use Australian sulphur-bearing materials, including those who are at present committed to the installation of new facilities.
I commend the bill to honorable senators, as it will maintain the present bounty for a further year while inquiries are being made as to the appropriate measure of assistance to be afforded in the future.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to authorize an extension of the bounty on tractors under the Tractor Bounty Act for seven years from 30th June, 1959, and to increase the rates of bounty. Under the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1956, bounty is payable on tractors of a wide range of horsepower produced in Australia up to 23rd October, 1958, for sale for use in the Commonwealth or a Territory of the Commonwealth. In 1958, the act was amended to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period expiring not later than 30th June, 1959. A proclamation extending the bounty to that date was subsequently made.
Bountiable tractors are the wheel types used mainly for agricultural purposes. Crawler type tractors are not eligible for bounty. The principal claimants for bounty in recent years have been Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited of Western Australia, and the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited of Victoria. Bounty payments on the production of tractors during the last three years ended 30th June have been as follows: 1956, £84,886 on 381 tractors; 1957, £128,467 on 735 tractors; 1958, £358,022 on 2,014 tractors; and on the production of the eight months ended February, 1959, £201,649 on 1,145 tractors.
The Tariff Board in its report on the industry, which I tabled earlier in the session, has recommended the continuation of assistance by way of bounty for a further period of seven years, and with increased rates of bounty. The Government has accepted the board’s recommendations with one exception. The board recommended the deletion of the profit limitation provision from the act and has recorded the view that a restrictive profit limitation must be expected to frustrate the purposes of the bounty. Nevertheless, whilst recognizing the force of the arguments advanced, the Government felt that it could not be committed to considerable expenditure of public funds for an extended period without regard to the profit levels achieved in the industry. The limitation of profits has, however, been raised from a level of 5 to 10 per cent. before tax, and with discretionary power for the Minister to disallow interest.
At the present time, bounty is payable on wheel-type tractors with a belt pulley horse-power exceeding 10 but not exceeding 70. The amended rates of bounty, which will apply from 1st July, 1959, commence at 20 belt pulley horse-power. There is little demand in Australia for tractors of between 11 and 19 horse-power. The number of such tractors imported in 1957-58 was only 100. The maximum belt pulley horse-power of a tractor eligible for bounty will be raised to 80 and will cover the 77 horse-power tractor being produced by Chamberlains at the present time.
The prevailing rates of bounty commence at £80 on a tractor exceeding 10 belt pulley horse-power and rise according to the horse-power to £240 at 70. The amended rates of bounty commence with a higher rate of £269 for tractors of 20 belt pulley horse-power and increase by £2 for each unit rise in the horse-power to £389 for a tractor with a horse-power of 80. The amended rates avoid the payment of standard amounts for horse-power groups which may have tended to confine Australian production to two or three models. It is hoped to stimulate development of a wider range of tractors in which common parts may be used and thus lessen the unit cost of a relatively small total output.
The full rate of bounty applicable to the particular horse-power is payable only where the cost of parts made in Australia and used in the assembly of the tractor is 90 per cent. or more of the total factory cost of the tractor. Payment of full bounty at 90 per cent. Australian content or greater is being made because of small but important parts which it will be more economic to import until the Australian industry has expanded to many times its present size. Where the percentage of the Australian content falls below 90, it has been customary to reduce the rate of bounty proportionately. The principle of reducing the rate of bounty in accordance with the Australian content is maintained in this bill to the extent that for each 1 per cent. of Australian content less than 90 per cent., the bounty rate is reduced by 1.5 per cent. Where the cost of the Australian parts is less than 55 per cent. of the total factory cost, no bounty is payable.
The inducement towards the maximum use of Australian-made parts in the assembly of the tractors is considered a vital part of the bounty. In 1950 a special provision was inserted in the act relating to the calculation of the Australian content of the bountiable tractor. Under this provision, imported parts of a nature normally made in Australia, and up to 10 per cent. of the total factory cost, could be used in the assembly of the tractor without causing any reduction in the rate of bounty payable. This covered a manufacturer who had designed a tractor with the intention of using Australian-made parts but who could not always obtain them as demand was exceeding supply. As the period of scarcity has passed, the concession is being withdrawn.
It has been estimated that, on the basis of present production, bounty payments at the amended rates would rise to £600,000 per annum. In several places in the report, the Tariff Board has mentioned an Australian production of 10,000 tractors. Should this production be achieved, bounty payments could progressively rise to £3,000,000 per annum. Bounty has been provided for the Australian manufacture of wheel-type tractors since 1922, but the industry has not developed fully. Nevertheless, we have now the benefits of skill, knowledge and organization, out of which an expanded industry could be built. The market exists, and the Government believes, with the Tariff Board, that the tractor industry has somewhat the same potential for economic and efficient Australian production as has been amply demonstrated in the allied agricultural implement and motor vehicle fields. The bounty will continue to operate on the production of tractors to 30th June, 1966. The Government contemplates that the Tariff Board will again examine the question of assistance to the industry before the period of bounty expires and would stress that unless the industry has expanded considerably during the term of the extended bounty, serious thought might need to be given to the withdrawal of assistance.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Consideration resumed (vide page 1397), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and of the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for certain expenditure for which provision was not made in the 1958-59 Estimates. The various items contained in the Additional Estimates can be considered in detail in committee, and I propose at this time to refer only to some of the major provisions.
Some re-allocation has been made within the total defence appropriation of £190,000,000, with consequential increases and decreases in individual votes. Provision is made for additional -expenditure of £3,500,000 on departmental and miscellaneous items. Savings on other items, however, are expected to limit net additional expenditure to about £2,400,000. Included in the additional items are Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, £135,000; building of homes for the aged, £300,000; merchant ship construction, subsidy, £334,000; assisted migration, £262,500; and additional contribution to the United Nations Organization, £41,000. An amount of £872,000 is sought for repatriation medical treatment. This is required mainly to meet an accumulation of expenses due to the State of Victoria in connexion with the operation of the Bundoora Mental Hospital for the Commonwealth. Additional funds are also needed to meet increased treatment and higher costs.
When the Budget was prepared, it was estimated that £102,000,000 would be needed to supplement loan proceeds available for the State works and housing programmes and to finance advances to the States for war service land settlement. Provision was therefore made to appropriate that amount from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. On the other hand, it was proposed that £78,000.000 of defence expenditure be financed from the Loan Fund.
Because loan proceeds will be considerably greater than was expected, the amount of Commonwealth assistance to the works and housing programmes will be much less than £102,000,000. Accordingly, a greater amount of defence expenditure can be financed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. An additional appropriation for defence from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of £40,000,000 is therefore being sought. This will reduce the amount to be met from the Loan Fund from £78,000,000 to £38,000,000. The amount to be transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve will depend upon the final outcome of the year’s transactions, which cannot be foreseen precisely at this stage. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales [H.4.] - I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, and insert “the Senate declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants “.
I shall speak only briefly to the amendment, because I dealt fairly fully with the issues that it raises when I spoke to the motion for the first reading of the bill. The Opposition takes this opportunity to bring these issues to the notice of the Senate at what it considers to be an appropriate time, although any time is appropriate -to put forward arguments for an increase in social service payments and the restoration of cost of living adjustments of wages and salaries. Although there is no possibility that the Government will accept the amendment, I believe that if the Opposition fights hard now the Government may be prepared to be more generous in the Budget, and to make more adequate provision for social services than it has done so tar.
– Are you trying to redeem yourself with your own executive?
– I am beyond redemption, to my .great sorrow, but I thank you for your very kindly thought. The question of an increase in .social service benefits is, of course, irretrievably linked with the increase of parliamentary .allowances that we accepted within the last few weeks. The fact that most ot us were in favour of accepting those increases may place us beyond redemption, but we on this side of the chamber felt that our acceptance of the increases would make the case for an increase of social service benefits very much stronger than it would otherwise have been. If we had declined, for some reason, to accept an increase in our allowances, it we had taken the stand that parliamentary allowances should be stabilized, a similar argument could readily have been brought forward to resist an increase in social service benefits. If it had been said that the time was not ripe for an increase in parliamentary allowances, it could have been said with equal force that the time was not ripe for an increase in social service benefits. Having accepted increases in parliamentary allowances - those for the higher grade Ministers and party leaders being of a particularly handsome nature - I would say that we now have the opportunity to make some concessions to those people receiving social service benefits.
Mr. President, you and I know that if this Government has been lacking in anything, it has been lacking in its approach to the problem of social services. Whatever side of the Senate we may be on, and no matter how much we may dislike the term, we must admit that this is a welfare state. It is our job to make sure that the benefits provided by governments are of such a nature as to carry out the purpose for which our social service legislation was introduced. Child endowment has remained unchanged for ten years.
– Senator Wright has already mentioned that fact.
– Yes . The obligation rests upon the welfare state to ensure a satisfactory standard of living in the home, particularly in the homes of the working-class people. We all know the extra burdens that children place upon the parents who, in these days of tremendously high prices, particularly for fruit and vegetables, and with the high cost of transport and education, are struggling to make ends meet. I am amazed at the way in which they meet their obligations.
Having provided social service benefits for the people, the Government should see that the benefits are of such a standard that the recipients are not demeaned by accepting them. They should not be placed in a state of permanent pauperization but should be able to live more or less reasonably on the social service payment. I am at a loss to understand why the Government refuses to increase child endowment. If I were to speak about this matter on a party political basis I would say that the Government, after election to office in 1949, honoured its promise to increase child endowment, but it has refused to go one step further. Child endowment is one of the handiest and neatest ways in which families in the middle and lower income groups can be assisted to carry the burden of rearing and educating children. Parliament and pulpit continually exhort the people to have larger families.
– Australian children are our best migrants.
– That is so. The Government should consider seriously the question of increasing the child endowment. The maternity allowance has remained unchanged for almost half a lifetime. When we were in office from 1943 until 1949 we had to face the difficult problems associated with our war effort and with the post-war period, but we are just as guilty as is this Government for not increasing the maternity allowance.
The unemployment and sickness benefits stand at £3 5s. a week for a single person and £5 12s. 6d. for a married person with an additional 10s. a week for each child - indeed a paltry hand-out. If this welfare state is to proceed beyond the days of the dole, we must not expect a single man to live on £3 5s. a week. How on earth can any man provide himself with three meals a day, seven days a week, let alone the other necessaries of life on £3 5s. a week? I do not subscribe to the oft-repeated story that a man is unemployed because he does not want to work. I have rarely met that kind of man. The great mass of our people want to work for their living. Of course, many people cannot do the kind of work that is offered to them, and industry and employers generally - particularly the Commonwealth and the States - have an obligation to provide what may be regarded as suitable work for those people. Surely their services can be utilized in some directions. They should not be discharged. If industry found some kind of employment for them a great burden would be lifted from the Commonwealth which must meet unemployment and social service payments. The people concerned, while being unfit to perform all kinds of work, have not reached the stage at which they become eligible to receive the age or invalid pension. Of course, employers do not wish to carry the burden of people who are perhaps advanced in years, but if they were to do so they would be contributing greatly to the welfare of the nation.
The standard of living has declined in the last few years. With the exception of New South Wales and Western Australia, cost of living adjustments have been eliminated with the result that wages are lagging far behind rising costs. Even in those States in which the quarterly adjustments are made, costs are outstripping wages and the standard of living is declining. The Government says that we are enjoying prosperity. How can that be so when the standard of living of the people is showing a downward trend? The Government says that everything in the garden is lovely; our country is growing and developing and we are passing through a phase in our history that has never been equalled in the past. If the position is as rosy as the Government claims it to be, why are not all sections of the community sharing in our prosperity? The value of money has declined and we are experiencing a corresponding decline in our standard of living. The index on which the basic wage is fixed does not include many of the necessaries of life. Even at this late stage the Government should make some generous gesture to the pensioners and to the recipients of social service benefits.
In addition, the Government should give serious consideration to the question as to whether the salaries of Commonwealth public servants should not be adjusted quarterly. As I have already stated, two States have maintained the system of quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. I am at a loss to understand the Government’s claim that to restore the previous system would cause inflation. In fact, the system was a means by which the workers received justice. Without doubt, if the workers’ wages do not buy the goods and services that they should, they should be increased. Why should the worker be penalized when industry is not? Business profits are not affected. On the contrary, the last Budget presented by this Government provided for a reduction in company tax. If industry can receive such favoured treatment, why should not the workers in industry also be treated in a just manner? The matter of profits does not enter into the Commonwealth Public Service. The Commonwealth merely administers the money that it collects from the people in the form of taxes. Why should the salaries of Commonwealth public servants lag behind increasing costs? As I have said, the Government has refused to restore the quarterly cost of living adjustments in an effort to stop inflation. But the workers are suffering - the section of the community which is least fitted to withstand suffering.
I hope that the Senate will support my proposed amendment.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– In his opening remarks, Senator Armstrong said that he realized that there was no possibility that the Government would accept his proposed amendment. I hasten to assure him that he will not go home disappointed.
– I made such a good case that I hoped the amendment would be accepted.
– On the contrary, as the honorable senator proceeded, 1 thought his case got weaker and weaker. The Government will not, of course, accept the amendment. The fact that Senator Armstrong saw fit to move such an amendment on a bill of this nature is a striking indication of the fact that the Labour Opposition is reduced to a situation where it has to clutch at any political straw that is available. Sir, this bill makes a further appropriation in respect of the year 1958-59. Senator Armstrong, from his years of service in this chamber, knows that the provision of funds for social services and the like is made at Budget time; it has never been made in an appropriation to cover Additional Estimates.
– But the Budget provisions have been inadequate.
– As Senator Cooke from Western Australia well knows, the provision is made at Budget time. When the next Budget is being prepared, the social service commitments of the Commonwealth will receive sympathetic examination by the Government, as has been the case with all previous Budgets brought down by this Government. 1 do not want at this stage to spend any time at all in discussing the substance of the amendment. I merely indicate to the Senate that the policy that has been steadily pursued by this Government over a decade has been one of increasing social services and of paying social service benefits to those who most need them at the highest scale that the country can afford. Whether they be age pensions, sickness benefit or repatriation benefits which have made such remarkable advances under the administration of my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), or whether they be the richly imaginative schemes that have been introduced by this Government, such as the aged persons’ homes scheme, every member of this Senate and every one in Australia knows that the Menzies Government has pursued a policy of complete sympathy with those most in need. And it will continue to do so. When the Budget is being prepared, Mr. President - at the correct and the appropriate time - further consideration will be given to this aspect of public administration which has never failed to receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the Fisheries Act is to provide for the conservation of fisheries resources in extra-territorial waters and for the proper management of our fisheries in those waters. As honorable senators are aware, the responsibility for fisheries within territorial waters rests with the State governments or the Territories Administration, but the Commonwealth is responsible for fisheries in proclaimed Australian waters beyond territorial limits. However, in order to maintain uniformity in the management of the contiguous fisheries, every effort is made by the Commonwealth and the State authorities to collaborate in a common programme of control. When agreement is reached on the conservation measures necessary action is taken for their implementation by the Commonwealth and the States in their respective spheres of authority. As a result of this collaboration, some joint conservation measures, designed to protect school shark and crayfish stocks, have been introduced.
Two of the measures that have been agreed upon for the conservation of crayfish stocks off both the south-east coast and the west coast of Australia, involve a closed season for female crayfish and complete protection for female crayfish carrying eggs. In the course of preparation of the Gazette notices required to give effect to this control, it was found that the Fisheries Act, in its present wording, did not permit the prohibition of taking of fish of a specified sex only, nor the taking of crayfish carrying eggs. Both measures are, however, considered necessary to protect the crayfish stocks.
In June, 1958, the Tasmanian Government prosecuted fishermen for having female crayfish in their possession in Tasmanian waters during the closed season, but the charges were dismissed on the ground that the crayfish were legally caught in extra-territorial waters, where it had not been possible to declare a closed season. It will be appreciated from that experience, that where the Commonwealth and State regulations are not complementary, the enforcement of fisheries conservation measures can be defeated. The bill I am now introducing is designed to amend the Fisheries Act to enable the
Commonwealth to apply in extra-territorial waters similar regulations to those being applied by the States in territorial waters. This would make it possible for uniform control to be exercised over the whole of the Australian crayfish fisheries.
I think I should refer to the fact that crayfish exports add approximately 5,000,000 dollars to Australia’s overseas earnings annually and that if this level of export earnings is to be maintained proper conservation of crayfish stocks is essential. The enforcement of a prohibition against the taking of fish during a declared closed season would be greatly facilitated by making it an offence to be in possession or control of fish taken in contravention of statutory requirements. The bill now before the Senate makes provision for the existing Fisheries Act to be amended accordingly, thereby bringing it broadly into line with the State Fisheries Acts, all of which involve the same prohibition, though with different wording.
There is a further amendment provided in the bill to prevent fishermen defeating the purpose of minimum size regulations by cutting up or dismembering fish at sea. It will be appreciated that once a fish has been filleted or even headed, it is impossible to determine its size when it was caught. The minimum size regulations are important features in any conservation programme and provision has been made in the bill for the Minister, when issuing a notice fixing a legal size for any particular type of fish, also to prohibit the cutting up of the fish before it can be inspected. Here again the Commonwealth is following the policy adopted by the States.
I think I should inform honorable senators that by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, the policing of Commonwealth Fisheries regulations is carried out wherever possible by State officers, which means that the State fisheries inspectors, who are responsible for the policing of fisheries within the territorial waters, also are responsible under delegated powers for the policing of fisheries beyond territorial waters. This is another strong reason why both Commonwealth and State regulations should be as uniform as possible.
A further amendment provided by the bill relates to the licensing of fishermen. When the Fisheries Bill was originally prepared, it was intended that all fishermen taking fish “ for trade or manufacturing purposes “ in proclaimed waters should be licensed under the Fisheries Act. Recent advice received from the Attorney-General’* Department has raised doubts whether the licensing of all fishermen could be enforced under the act in its present form. It was decided, therefore, that this opportunity should be taken to remove any doubts in the matter.
When the Fisheries Bill was introduced into the Senate in February, 1952, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture instanced some occasions on which the absence of Commonwealth legislation of the nature proposed had prevented adequate measures being taken for the protection of fisheries. The Minister then said: -
Many of the trap fisheries off the coast of New South Wales are outside the 3-mile limit and, therefore, beyond the jurisdiction of the State of New South Wales. Fishermen have complained that their traps have been raised by “ fish pirates “ who remove the fish from the traps and sometimes cut the buoy line before releasing the trap. The result is that fishermen lose not only the fish, but also the gear which is extremely difficult to replace. It has not been possible to take effective action in such cases under existing laws, but the proposed legislation would enable action to be taken to protect the legitimate fishermen.
The Minister’s statement provided a clear indication of intention that the legislation was designed to protect the fishermen from such nefarious practices. However, since, in the latest opinion of the Commonwealth legal advisers, it is more than doubtful that the existing legislation in fact does provide such protection, it is proposed that the aci should now be amended to place the issue beyond doubt.
When consideration was being given to the amendments necessary to provide foi the introduction of conservation measures, attention was also drawn to section 1 6 of the Fisheries Act which places the onus of proof squarely on the defendant. Although most of the States have similar provisions in their fisheries legislation, the Government considers it desirable that this section of the Commonwealth act should be amended. Clause 7 of the bill is intended to repeal section 16 of the Fisheries Act and to provide in its stead a modified form of averment. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590513_senate_23_s14/>.