23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask four questions of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that many Brisbane citizens are disturbed at the contention of an electrical engineer that hundreds of viewers will be disappointed when station QBQ, Channel 9, honours its agreement with the PostmasterGeneral and boosts its power from 10,000 watts to 100,000 watts? Is it true that people living near Mount Coot-tha will not receive a clear and satisfactory picture - that there will be much “ ghosting “? By what means can these disabilities be overcome? Will the Minister contact station QBQ and, in order to reassure people who have installed television sets in their homes, make a public statement on the matter?
– I am not aware of the contention referred to by the honorable senator, but I would remind him that before a decision was made as to equipment and siting, television experts went all over the area in question. I should have thought that those experts would have had some idea of what was likely to happen at given reception points. If the honorable senator puts the question on notice I will ask the Postmaster-General to seek expert opinion upon it.
– I should like to preface my question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade by stating that the price received for Australian apples in England and Europe collapsed at the end of last season, that many of the recognized buyers have stated that they are not anxious to buy Australian apples in the future, and that they are recommending Australian growers to send their fruit on consignment. Would it be possible to ascertain, with the aid of additional trade posts set up in the last twelve months, whether opportunity exists to sell our fruit in new markets?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator relates to one of the functions of the trade posts and one of the purposes for which new trade posts have been established. I know nothing of the circumstances connected with the apple market, but I shall certainly bring to Mr. McEwen’s attention the apprehension the honorable senator feels upon the point and ask the Minister whether a special message can be sent to our trade commissioners overseas requesting them to make some special effort in connexion with the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether it is a fact that films classified as suitable for adults are shown in English theatres but, before entering Australia, are considerably censored and cut before being classified “ A “ and shown in Australian theatres.
– I understand that in the United Kingdom there are two film classifications- “ A “ and “X”. English theatre owners are prohibited from allowing children to view films classified “ A “ unless they are accompanied by their parents. Theatre owners are prohibited from allowing any child under the age of sixteen years to view films classified “ X “. The Commonwealth Film Censorship Board has no power to make such prohibitions in Australia. That board merely classifies films on behalf of the States and it is the responsibility of the State governments to police film classifications. There is no law in any State which compels theatre owners to control the admittance of children to view films. For that reason, it is often found necessary to make cuts in films before they are exhibited in Australia. These cuts must be made because the films may be seen by children here, whereas in England the children under sixteen years of age are prohibited from viewing certain films.
– In view of the fact that the public has insufficient knowledge of the Canberra traffic code, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior request his colleague to compile a statement containing full particulars of this code, and will he table it in the Senate?
– I shall be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Minister for the Interior and obtain his views on the matter.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport any knowledge of the proposed takeover offer made by Mr. Reg Ansett on behalf of Australian National Airways to the shareholders of Guinea Airways Limited, a well-known successful operator in South Australia? If he has, can he indicate the stage at which the negotiations now stand?
– The takeover offer referred to was made not by Australian National Airways, but by Ansett Transport Industries Limited. I understand that the offer made by Mr. Ansett to the shareholders of Guinea Airways Limited has proceeded to the point where he was able to announce recently that 75 per cent, of the stock in Guinea Airways had been purchased by his organization.
– Recently I asked a question relating to the export of sheep and lambs from Australia to the United States of America. The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry said he would make further inquiries and provide a fuller answer. Has the Minister yet obtained that further information?
– Yes. The fuller information for which Senator O’Byrne asked has now been supplied to me. The answer is -
It was a specific condition attaching to the permission for this experimental shipment that no pure blood merinos at all, whether rams, ewes or wethers, would be included in the consignment.
The lambs were first inspected at the holding yards at Penrith by veterinary officers of the Department of Primary Industry and the sheep and wool expert of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. Later two qualified officers of the Department of Primary Industry were present at all times during the loading of the vessel and every sheep was inspected as it moved on to the ship. In other words it waa a 24 hours per day, 100 per cent, inspection.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise.. When will the benefit of the Government’s, decision to reduce the customs duty on petrol by id. a gallon be passed on to consumers in Australia?
– I cannot answer the question specifically. I can only say that statements have been made in the press by the independent company in New South Wales, and by spokesmen for the other oil companies of Australia, that as soon as supplies of petrol on which the higher duty has been paid have been exhausted, and supplies on which the lower rate of duty has been paid are available, the benefit of the reduction will be passed on to consumers in Australia. The oil companies anticipate that this will be within the next few weeks.
– Last week 1 asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service regarding the conditions that have been imposed on applicants for unemployment benefit. I understand that Senator Gorton now has an answer to that question.
– The honorable senator asked whether it was necessary for an applicant for unemployment benefit to provide proof that he had applied for six jobs each week before the unemployment benefit could be paid. The Minister has supplied the following answer: -
The Social Services Consolidation Act under which unemployment benefit is paid, is administered by our colleague, the Minister for Social Services, but the Commonwealth Employment Service also receives applications for unemployment benefit and, after applying the work test, refers the application to the Department of Social Services. The Commonwealth Employment Service also receives, on behalf of the Department of Social Services, the income statements which unemployment benefit recipients are obliged to lodge each week.
After a person has been in receipt of benefit for three months, the Department of Social Services reviews the case as to the beneficiary’s continued eligibility. In this connexion, the recipient is required to complete a review form on which, in addition to other information, he is required to state the action he has taken himself to obtain employment during the previous three months and to give a list of employers he has approached for employment, other than by referral by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
Subsequent to this review by the Department of Social Services, a recipient of benefit may be asked to establish that he has taken adequate steps on his own account to obtain employment and to this end to state on the backs of subsequent weekly income statements lodged by him, the names and addresses of prospective employers approached in his search for work, together with the reasons why he was unsuccessful. There is no requirement as to a minimum of six employers.
The Social Services Consolidation Act provides that to qualify for unemployment benefit, a person must be capable of undertaking, and willing to undertake, suitable work.
The act also provides that reasonable steps must be taken to obtain such work. The Commonwealth Employment Service is under no statutory obligation to obtain employment for a beneficiary though it does, of course, render all possible assistance. It still rests on the beneficiary to make every effort on his own behalf.
– A few days ago I asked a question of the Minister for Customs and Excise, as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I think it was as simple a question as could be asked. I asked for immigration figures, and the Minister promised to get them for me. I have not yet heard from him, and I am wondering whether he has the figures.
– I have not got the figures yet. I have asked for them from the department, and as soon as I get them I shall let the honorable senator know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Will the Minister for Trade take up with leading Australian newspapers the possibility of printing some copies of their newspapers on thin paper, similar to that used in the airmail edition of the London “ Times “, with a view to distributing these newspapers by air to Australian trade posts throughout the world? I direct attention to this matter because on my recent trip overseas I found that most of the Australian newspapers available at our embassies and trade posts were more than a month old.
– I certainly agree with Senator Laught that tardiness in the receipt by our trade posts overseas of up- to-date information should be eliminated, if it is at all possible. But I should think that the printing of an overseas airmail edition of Australian daily newspapers might well prove to be a pretty expensive and difficult task. I shall certainly ask Mr. McEwen to make inquiries, first, as to whether it is practicable to make such an arrangement, at least with some of the leading newspapers and, secondly, as to whether some better arrangements can be made to speed up the receipt of newspapers by our overseas posts.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Does the recent announcement by the Government of a liberalization of import licensing involve any change in the Government’s policy of restricting import quotas, to a large degree, to what are called traditional importers?
– I know that this is a matter that has given Mr. McEwen a good deal of concern. I am not prepared to give a direct answer to the question, lest I be wrong, but my general impression is that after a good deal of inquiry into the matter Mr. McEwen found that traditional importers - that is, people and business concerns who, for long periods of years, have made their business that of importing - were still receiving quotas so substantially below the level of their requirements that it proved a difficult task indeed, as a matter of equity, to give substantial quotas to those people who come into the trade for the first time and have not previously had licences. If that information is incorrect, I shall let the honorable senator know.
– I direct’ to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade a question which relates to the answer given in reply to an inquiry about the proposed reduction in the price of petrol. Why is it that when a reduction is proposed in the price of a commodity which is affected by government action in this way, the reduction is not immediately passed on to the public, although when a higher duty is announced, irrespective of whether or not it has been paid, a rise in price immediately and automatically takes place?
– It is not my intention to take up the cudgels for any one. I am just as anxious as anybody else to see the price of commodities come down. The oil industry is required by trade necessity to carry very substantial stocks. Those stocks, of course, bear the higher rate of duty. I understand that the industry has a formula whereby, when the duty goes up or comes down, there is an averaging out of the stocks at the old duty and the stocks at the new duty, and agreement is reached as to the date upon which the new duties, whether up or down, will become operative.
– What about tea and things like that? Would not the same considerations apply?
– I thought the honorable senator’s question related to petrol only.
Australian National Line
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
The recommendation of the Tariff Board has been adopted by the Government.
Debate resumed from 19th. August (vide page 196), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions. New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1960.
The Budget 1959-60 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1959-60, and
National Income and Expenditure 1958-59 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At end of motion add the following words - “ but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions and omissions inflict grave injustice on recipients of social service benefits (such as child endowment, age, invalid and widows’ pensions, repatriation benefits, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, amelioration of means test), on taxpayers, on the family unit and on other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and rising living costs “.
– Last night, when the debate was interrupted, I was discussing the need to increase social services. I should now like to answer one of the statements made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The Minister attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) the making of certain charges against the Commissioner of Taxation and members of the Treasury staff. I wish to point out on behalf of Senator McKenna that at no time did he attack those people. It is true that he attacked the Government. He did so fairly and very effectively. But I repeat that I should like to place on record the fact that at no time did Senator McKenna make any personal attack on those people.
– Of course he attacked them. What he said in effect was that the Government falsified its Budget and that those officers knew of the falsification but did not disclose it. That was his attack. It is complete cowardice to say in this chamber that he did not attack them.
– Senator Spooner said last night that we had reached a stage in this place when we could not even be fair. There is more and more evidence of that every day in the Senate. There is evidence of it here now.
– He can always make a personal explanation without your help.
– I will have something to say about you in a moment, too. As we are talking about the efficiency of the Government and so on, I point out that a few minutes ago, when I deliberately asked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) whether he had an answer to a question that I had asked within the last ten days, he said that he had none. In order to answer the question, all that was involved was a telephone call. It was just a matter of some one in the Minister’s office picking up a telephone, but the Minister says no answer is available. When this Government parades as the acme of efficiency, it convinces nobody. The short, swift illustration I have provided of the efficiency of Senator Henty’s department will suffice.
There is one other little exercise that I should like to provide for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner). I should like him to go into some detail and indicate how he arrived at the figures that he used last night, when he said that nearly 33 per cent, of the Budget was devoted to social service.*. Am I quoting the Minister correctly? If that is not what he said, what did he say?
– If the honorable senator refers to table 8 in the statement of receipts and expenditure, he will see that that is the figure.
– I have the details of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in front of me.
– I refer you f.o a specific table in the Budget papers.
– But 1 have before me the details of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which, after all, have been prepared by the officers whom the Minister is apparently so terribly keen to protect. Let me say that they can protect themselves, in case he does not know that. On these figures, we cannot make the percentage 33 per cent, at all.
– You should go back and look at the right table.
– I look at the figures relating to the actual taxation revenue, and then I look at the payments from the National Welfare Fund.
– That is the wrong table.
– Then these figures are wrong.
– No. The fact is that you do not understand the Budget papers.
– I understand these simple figures. Of the total revenue from taxation of £1,126,000,000, you are paying from the National Welfare Fund £278,000,000. The Minister has worked out a percentage, and I should like him to give details of his figures.
– I gave them most carefully and most specifically. If the honorable senator turns to table 8 on page 22 of the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, he will get the figures.
– I certainly will not turn to them now, because it would be a shame to spoil a good speech by following a red herring such as this. I am suggesting that the Minister examine the table I am referring to now.
– I am doing more than suggesting. I am saying in plain terms that you are wrong.
– That is very decent of the Minister. It would be very helpful if he were right. The point I am making is that what the Minister is suggesting to the Senate and to everybody else is that he is right all the time. That is the suggestion that is very gently pervading the atmosphere. Of course, he is often wrong.
– The honorable senator is dealing with a different period.
– I am coming right up to 1959 now, and to an examination of this Budget. We have already had an illustration of the so-called efficiency of the Government. That was the matter concerning the Minister for Customs and Excise to which I referred a few moments ago. The next example of this so-called efficiency is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has now promised to review some of the proposals that only last week were presented to the people as part and parcel of this wonderful Budget. Already he has promised to review some of the proposed increases of mail charges. I shall deal more fully with that matter later. At the moment, what I want to show is that this Budget is indeed a disappointing Budget. The Leader of our party in another place called it a rich man’s Budget; as a matter of fact, in my opinion, it is not even that. I do not know who will gain by this Budget except the Government, which will obtain increased revenue. Clearly, the great mass of the people will suffer as a result of this Budget.
As I said last night, I expected, after such a careful and prolonged build-up by the first Liberal Treasurer in this Parliament in twenty years, a Budget a little different from the ones that have been brought down each year for the last nine years by a Country Party Treasurer. The Minister for National Development has referred in great detail to the high level of prosperity. After it was prognosticated by the great administrators twelve months ago that we would be £110,000,000 down the drain in our yearly trading, the actual deficit comes out at £10,000,000, so the Government says “ Are we not clever? “ The Government had nothing to do with it, and the chances are that the Treasurer has not prognosticated accurately what will happen in the next twelve months.
The fact remains that there has been in the last twelve months a level of prosperity that the Government did not anticipate; it was brought about in almost every sphere by circumstances outside the control of the Government. We have maintained our export trade to a degree. At the end of the season we got better prices for our primary products and most important ot all the tremendous investments of overseas capital helped to reduce the gap. For all those reasons it looked as though we could expect this Budget to give consideration to the people who for so many years have waited for something tangible to be returned to them by this Government.
As I say, I expected a number of things from this Budget, which have not materialized. I expected, first, that pensions would be increased by reasonable amounts. I consider that the increase of 7s. 6d. per week is the absolute minimum increase that could be granted. It was expected - and in the method of governments a kite had been flown in the newspapers - that the increase would be 7s. 6d. a week. This form of preparatory education of the people is usually adopted to get the people used to the idea of what they are going to get. In this instance, the forecast turned out to be right. In all the circumstances, I think that an increase of only 7s. 6d. a week in the age pension is a very mean increase indeed. The Government has admitted that the cost of- living rose by from 2 per cent, to 2± per cent, in the last year, so this is- the smallest possible amount of assistance that could be given to the section of the community which; in effect, increases prosperity because every penny the age pensioners receive is spent quickly on basic necessities,
But what is worse than that is the fact that child endowment and maternity allowances have been ignored altogether. As one of my colleagues on this side of the chamber said to me last night,, the Government is not interested in child endowment any more. The Government has goi what it wanted from child endowment. It won an election on a promise to provide child endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child in every family under the age of sixteen years, and after introducing the necessary legislation paid no further attention to child endowment. As far as this Government is concerned, child endowment will never be considered again.
There has been a lot of talk by the1 Government about building up our population by increasing the intake of migrants. But surely the people who should, be helped are the family people in this country. Conditions should be made easier for them. After all, married couples have a tremendous burden in bringing up three, four or five kiddies on the basic wage. It is beyond my comprehension how they do it. A little help to these people by the Government would mean a great amount to those who received it. I thought that out of its millions of pounds of revenue the Government would help the fathers and mothers a little more than it has done. I expected more assistance to be given to secondary industry, particularly secondary industry exports. I think everybody recognizes that the reason that we did not run into a serious slump last year when wool prices fell - if that had happened ten years ago, there would have been a very serious depression in this country - is the growing strength of our secondary industries. They have to be encouraged for they are great employers of labour. If we are to maintain migration levels and place in employment the new work force now leaving school we must, unfortunately, look not to primary industry but to secondary industry. Only by development in that direction can our standards of living be- .maintained. For these reasons industry must be encouraged, but was there in the Budget one word in commendation of the industrial leaders of the community? Has anything been done to help reduce their costs? Has pay-roll tax been reviewed? It is a direct charge on the final cost of the product, and one would’ have expected it to receive some attention.
Has any notice been taken of the Hulme report’s recommendation that depreciation should be allowed on buildings? That aspect, of the report has been ignored. This- Government is completely in the hands of the Public Service. One might have hoped that tangible suggestions, with a view to helping industry employ its growing work force, would have been made but they were not forthcoming.
In view of the great prosperity about which- so much has been said, could we not have expected some amelioration of sales tax - that most indirect and insidious burden on the small man’s household budget? Government supporters might point to the motor industry, but why should that industry be singled out and heavily penalized? I should think that the Australian sales tax of 33£ per cent, on motor cars has. no equal in any other country these days. The motor car is no longer the prerogative of the wealthy. In common with the refrigerator and the television set it is now bought on time payment by the middle income worker, whose philosophy is, “Let us have what we can now, and pay for it as we use it “. As a result, hire purchase has become a tremendous factor in the Australian way of life. We read, of the reduced profits earned by Industrial Acceptance Corporation Limited,, but the advances of that organization increased by many millions last year. The lower profits were caused by. increased taxation in Victoria, and the higher cost of carrying on business. The organization is still, making tremendous sums available to people who want to enjoy things while they have the opportunity to do so. I agree with that approach; but why single out motor cars for such a- vicious tax? I do not know of another country where a sales tax of 331 per cent, is applied to motor cars.
– It is more than 50 per cent, in England.
– I should like to see the honorable senator’s figures. It is not that high now. Even the so-called luxury tax on cars applied during the war was only 50 per cent. Some eighteen months ago the prevailing tax rates were reduced to a nominal sum which, speaking off the cuff, was about 20 per cent. Some movement of sales tax might well have been expected in this country on such things as furniture, which is so necessary to our way of life. It would be little enough for the Government to do, but it would be very important for a young couple buying their furniture.
Why could not sales tax be eliminated on non-luxury clothing? Would that not be a reasonable approach? I would not care how high sales tax was on expensive furs. It ought not to be high on all furs because a great proportion of the industry’s output is used by people on low incomes. Luxury production is another matter, but doubtless it is on such a small scale as not to interest the Government.
One would have expected some attempt to eliminate the hard core of unemployed semi-skilled and unskilled workers to the number of 65,000. In January more people were registered as unemployed than had been registered for twenty years. This hard core of unemployment has crept into the economy, and the Government is satisfied to leave it there. Government supporters may produce figures in an attempt to show that things are better than they were last year, but matters could hardly be worse for the 65,000 persons who are not harnessed to the national effort. So very much remains to be done. I deny the soft impeachment that the necessary money is not available. Let us think for a moment of the roads system alone. Every time one takes a car from Sydney to Canberra one finds the road littered with the wrecks of great semitrailers and motor cars. All too often, their loss results not from overloading or unsafe driving but from the incapacity of the roads to carry this sort of traffic. One would have thought that the construction of wide, modern roads between capital cities was fundamental to defence preparation, yet the movement towards that objective is so slow, and the improvements so few, that one could have expected that something really worth while would have been done in this Budget. In the event, nothing was done.
One would have thought that opportunity would be taken to extend the free medicine scheme, which has been under so much criticism down the years, so as to help chronics, who so greatly need help. It might not matter to us whether we have to pay 5s. for a prescription. It will be simply another small outlay for us to meet, but to the man on the basic wage with a family it will be a much greater burden. He will pay for something that previously he got for nothing. I know that the Government says that more and more expensive drugs are being made available, but an analysis will show that 99 per cent, of the families affected will continue to use the same simple remedy that they have been obtaining so far for nothing. The fact that i per cent., or 1 per cent., of the community seeks more expensive drugs is no reason why the whole working-class population should have to pay out 5s. every time a prescription is needed.
I should like now to deal very quickly with some of the things that have been done in the Budget by this very, very clever Government. It has put forward a series of propositions related to the postal services which I have not seen equalled in my lifetime in this Parliament. Overnight, postal revenue is to increase by £17,000,000. Is there not room for increased efficiency within the Post Office itself? It has many avenues with great income-earning possibilities, yet it cannot install urgently needed telephones. I should think that telephones would be the department’s greatest money earner. Even now, fourteen years after the war has ended, there is still a very substantial lag in the installation of telephones in Sydney and throughout New South Wales. I suppose the same may be said of all other States, certainly of all other capital cities. Now we find the Government agreeing to the Postmaster-General’s request for permission to plunder the public to the tune ot a further £17,000,000 a year. A few moments ago, I spoke of social services, Why, in the year when I entered this Parliament - it is a long time ago now - the total sum spent on social services was about equal to the extra amount which the Postal Department wants to drag out of the people of Australia in one year alone! In 1938, £17,000,000 covered the cost of social services, .yet now, in one year “the Postal Department wants to impose an extra charge of £17,000,000 upon .the people of Australia by way of direct taxation of the worst type! A great many of the services provided by .the Postal Department .in this country are supplied in other countries by private enterprise at tremendous profit, and in those circumstances I suggest there should be a thorough investigation into the way in which public money is being spent by the Postal Department in Australia.
This extraordinary additional charge represents .an overall increase -of 16 .per cent., yet, when we ask for something to be given to the people in the way of reduced sales tax, increased child endowment or improved pensions, nothing can be done. The proposed increases amount to nothing more than absolute plundering. This is the worst .example of ill-conceived legislation I have seen for many a long year.
I was particularly interested to learn that the .Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has agreed to review some aspects of the proposed increased postal charges. -I refer to the proposed surcharge on -small magazines, but if we are to believe what is published in ‘the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ .to-day the review will relate ,only ;to the surcharge on religious magazines, .circulars or journals. Irrespective of whether they are religious publications or not, the proposed charge is unforgivable. It will mean a terrific impost on small journals like the “Observer”, “ -Nation “ and .trade union publications.
– Those are the ones the .Prime Minister is to look at.
– Not according to ‘the newspaper. -Senator Kendall. - He is not worried about the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
– But it should not be included in the Budget. If .the Government had looked at this carefully there would have been no need .for the newspaper to publish this ^formation. I have never seen .a more vicious approach to Commonwealth financing than this proposal to plunder the households of Australia to the tune cif a further £17,000,000. Why, the rental for that great moneymalting machine, the telephone, will mean an additional impost of £2 to every house.holder in the Commonwealth who has one.
It is also proposed to charge the same rental for business telephones .in country areas as is .charged in .the cities. Further, the ordinary postage rate is to be increased from 4d. to 5d. I shall not give all details of the proposed increases, but the charge on registered articles is to be increased from ls. 3d. to 2s. - an additional impost of almost 60 per cent.! I am astonished to think .that our Ministers, who parade before us as efficient men, accept these proposals. I am amazed that they have allowed themselves to be talked into putting these vicious Postal Department estimates before the welfare of the people, for they .mean plundering the Australian community of another £17,000,000 in cash.
I do not argue that the small man will bear the .whole cost. On the contrary, the business community will bear a very heavy burden. -Indeed, every one in Australia will feel this impost. 1 suppose if the working family posts only half a dozen letters in a week the extra cost represents perhaps only .the addition of another straw to the camel’s back, but, as one retail store has pointed out, it will cost some business undertakings an extra £20,000 a year for postage. ,1 need mention only the “ Reader’s Digest” to illustrate the terrific burden placed on ,the publishers of magazines. Mr. Cooper, managing director of Reader’s Digest Association Pty. Ltd., has pointed out .that the increase, if applied, will mean .that the cost of postage .-for “ Reader’s Digest “ will rise by £90,000 from £143,000 to £233,000 in one year alone. Who is the officer of the Postal Department who has worked out these proposed increases, and what justification “has “he for the proposals? After all, ‘the Postal Department is supposed to be one of the Government’s business undertakings. If this is an example of how the Government conducts its business undertakings, it is no wonder that the people attack socialism.
This is a very serious matter. The President of the ‘Printing and Allied Trades Employers Federation, Mr. ‘Gourlay, has pointed out that his federation represents 1,400 master printers who employ 22^00 people, and it is obvious that they must be -vitally affected ‘by an impost of the nature proposed here. Even at this late stage, T appeal to the rank and file members df the Government parties to fight against this vicious and most unfair tax. I should like the postal charges to be investigated to see whether the proposed increases can be justified.
In conclusion, let me say that I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, for we on this side feel that the Budget is disappointing to the great masses of the people of Australia. We feel that it means plundering the small homes of the Commonwealth, because those on the higher incomes represent only a small section and to them the increases are not so very great. I am certain that those in the top income bracket would be just as pleased to see the proposed concessions granted to the more needy sections of the community, to the pensioners, to those in receipt of child endowment, because, to them, a reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax is not so much, anyway. The disappointment created by this Budget is very great indeed. After ten years of the present Government, a budget such as this causes us to lose all hope of any possibility of a , new, virile approach to the problems of Australia or to the sharing in a reasonable manner of the burden on the community. It deprives us of all hope of seeing pensioners receiving much needed benefits, of other deserving sections of the community having their burdens eased, or those in need of jobs finding them. All these needy people will have to wait a little longer before a budget is framed in their interests.
– I support the motion that the Estimates and Budget Papers 1959-60 be printed and oppose the amendment moved by Senator McKenna and supported by Senator Cole and others. It was not my intention to touch upon some of the remarks made by Senator McKenna last night, but Senator Armstrong has opened the question again this morning. Last night, I felt that some of Senator McKenna’s remarks did not do him justice. He left with me the impression that he was imputing collusion between top public servants and the Government in the presentation of these Budget Papers. He said that these top public servants gave false information. Although I knew it was disorderly, I tried, by way of interjections, to induce Senator McKenna to dispel from my mind the thought that he was imputing collusion between top public servants and the Commonwealth Government. The whole tenor of his remarks was that we had made to the Parliament a misleading statement in the Budget Papers. I hope that I shall be able to correct the entirely false statement that he made. When he attacked the Budget and mentioned one or two figures, I said that there was not very much truth in his argument. I hope to be able to justify that statement later.
The present Budget has to be considered, not in isolation, but in relation to the previous Budgets that this Government has presented to the Parliament since it came into power in December, 1949. Let us consider the Budget presented by the Labour Administration in 1949-50. Labour set out to balance that Budget, as it were, by means of loans. As a matter of fact, there was a deficit in the vicinity of £50,000,000. It is true that in that Budget the Labour Government took £35,000,000 from loans for war and repatriation services, but you do not borrow yourself into prosperity. That is my main point, to which I will come back. I never knew that I could discharge a debt by borrowing. That is the great difference between Labour’s and our approach to this Budget. I admit that last year this Government did budget for a deficit of £110,000,000, and in the 1949-50 Budget the Labour Party budgeted for a deficit, but the present Government reduced that deficit when it came into power. That annoyed the Labour Party, but it pleased the people.
Since 1950, whenever the annual Budget Papers have been presented to this chamber, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has preached the gospels of gloom and disaster. A few moments ago Senator Armstrong joined him in that. The Labour Party preaches those gospels because it hopes to create discord and disruption in the employment field. It wants to see mass unemployment. The pedlars of gloom and disaster are the members of the Australian Labour Party. They want mass unemployment, because they hate a prosperous nation like the Devil hates holy water.
– How do you know? Who told you that?
– You are always telling me. Even your cries have penetrated my brain. You cannot deny it, truthfully. At every election since 1949 the people have rejected Labour’s policy, in spite of all- the sugar-coated pills that have been dangled before the electors. It is pretty cold outside, and there is not very much prospect of any warmth for Labour in the near future if it pursues this policy of gloom and disaster. The people do not want Labour’s ideologies, as they have shown whenever they have had the opportunity to express their opinion. The reason they reject Labour’s ideologies is that they live in a land where thrift and energy reap rich rewards.
– Ask some of the pensioners about that.
– I will come to that. I will come to the pensioners very soon and point out what Labour did to them.
– That was in 1949.
– Never mind; I will come to that in a couple of minutes. This is a land where good living is assured, where property may be owned, where bank savings are sacrosanct, and where adequate, humane and expanding social services are in existence, thus enabling the less fortunate people in the community to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
I will answer the honorable senator’s interjection and tell him what Labour did to the pensioners. Let us go back to the time when the Labour Party was in power but first of all let us establish one or two points of agreement. The Labour Party introduced a special social services tax that was to finance benefits for the needy people in Australia on the most liberal scale. It imposed a special tax, the proceeds of which were supposed to be set aside to provide for age pensions and so on.
– We did pioneer that.
– I am glad of that interjection. Labour pioneered it. It collected the tax, but it did not use the money for social services. As a matter of fact, the Labour Government collected from the tax £130,000,000 more than it ever spent on social services. It spent that £130,000,000. I am not quarrelling about how the money was spent, but I am pointing out that the Labour Party spent it on other government services and put back into the National Welfare Fund £130,000,000 of IOU’s. It then went to the country and said, “We left you £130,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund “. That is Labour’s idea of finance.
The Labour Party gave social services to the community, but when you compare, on any basis, what it gave with what we give and are going to give, you will see that our social services are much better than Labour ever gave. The Labour Party had £130,000,000 with which to provide the social services which it said the people desired, yet it did not use the money for that purpose. We hear cant and hypocrisy coming from a so-called humane party. It collected £130,000,000 almost by false pretences, but it did not spend the money to provide social services. After spending the money on something else, it tried to say that it still had the money. That is Labour’s social services record. Honorable senators opposite are not game to go to the public and tell them those facts. They cannot deny them in this chamber.
Ten years ago, we said that increased production would increase prosperity. We also said that we would develop the resources of Australia, increase our national wealth, and endeavour to raise the standard of living of the people. Our aim was to produce a many-sided growth within the economy. We said that taxes must, and would, be spent prudently, and we said that we would oppose bank nationalization. What has been the result? Senator Armstrong spoke about our factories and the employment they have provided. In June, 1958, there were 53,992 factories working in Australia. When the Labour Party went out of office, we had 40,070. The number of employees rose from 339,219 to 929,398.
– They came out of the Army.
– Perhaps the less you say about the Army, the better it would be. I was not aware that we had that number of men in the Army in 1949.
– They were on war service.
– I thought the war ended in 1945. Of course, you, not having been in it, would not know that. The average number of employees is about eighteen in each factory. The production of .black and brown .coal has increased greatly, and the production of iron and steel .has almost trebled. I mention these facts because they provide the answer to Senator Armstrong. Our iron and steel are the cheapest and their quality is equal to that of comparable products anywhere in the world. On an average, the price of our steel is £20 a ton less than that of British or American steel landed here free of import duty. Now let us consider the .crux of the whole position. Under “Labour, coal was not being produced. There were industrial upheavals and Labour put .troops into the coal-fields.
– It was terrible. Labour put troops in the coal-fields to try to get coal. How could men work and factories function without coal? Yet honorable senators opposite say that we have more unemployment than -Labour had. It is a wonder that they do not choke when they say it.
– You are nearly choking now.
– I almost choked when troops were put into the coal-fields to get coal. 1 know ‘what honorable senators opposite think of troops and what they would “like troops to do. As long as the troops protect them and ;keep them ‘sale, troops are all-right. It does not matter what else the troops have to do. For over two years employees in the metal trades were out on strike. -When -we -came into office we settled those disputes, lt was very important to -settle them’, ‘because 436,000 people, 40 per cent, cif those engaged in industry, are employed in the engineering and metal trades. Yet for two years Labour had that strike on its hands. For over ten years now a happy industrial -relationship has existed in this country. Compare that with Labour’s record. The result of settling problems that Labour left to us, about which Labour did not have a clue, has “been that every Australian has reaped satisfactory rewards. That is borne out by the fact that 70 per cent, of the people either own or are buying homes.
– How many own them?
– The best that Labour could ever do was to have 58 per cent, of the people either owning or ‘buying homes. So there has been an increase in home ;ownership, .because the people have been able to .earn a good living, save money and invest in property. The people have gladly availed .themselves of this opportunity. They do not want to be directed by some czar, whether it be Senator Toohey, who ls .one of the head men in the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party-
Senator (Ormonde. - Or. even Mr. Menzies.
– Or even ‘Mr. Menzies.
– Or even you.
– I would not have the ability, and I would not want to do it.
– I am glad that you realize that.
– It is always pleasant to :recognize one’s limitations. It is not a bad trait and it might even be good for some of my friends. Our people would not have a .bar of this direction of the other .fellow, because .they have the ability to strike out on their .own, to produce and to -engage, in profitable -undertakings so that they may own .homes. It might interest the .Opposition .to .know that 25 per cent, of the homes ,now existing in Australia were built in the last five years. That indicates that our country is .prosperous. Yet the pedlars .of gloom opposite go along with their eyes shut. I do not suppose they ever see the new suburbs or the other developments taking place. I do not know why, because these are there .for them to see.
– They are .blind.
– They want to be blind. They are the sowers of discord and they wish to destroy what the nation builds. We want to be constructive but their theme, particularly in relation to the Budget, is destruction. .Labour men gnash their teeth -because the savings of the people have increased. How they wish -to spend their brother’s savings! Their attempt at bank nationalization failed. It will fail again. We shall oppose bank nationalization with all the power that we have.
– You are not game to give it a trial.
– Of course we will not give it a trial. -We will fight it. We do” not want anything like that. Labour says, “ We are our brother’s keeper and in addition we want to be the keeper of his bank balance”. That will not happen so far as I am concerned. This year our export income could easily be £850,000,000, but our harvest of wheat and other grain crops in South Australia and Victoria may be substantially reduced. This reduction may also apply to beef and mutton. Perhaps we may see in South Australia a decrease in apple and pear exports, if the present dry weather continues. We are pleased to have had some rain, but one would have to be over-optimistic to expect a very large grain harvest. That also applies particularly to the greatest harvest of all, our pastures. One pleasing feature is the reserve of fodder in the country.
– Which is rapidly becoming eaten up.
– That is so. It is good that we have had reserves but if there is no chance of renewing them we shall begin to feel the effects of the unprecedented drought we have had in South Australia since November, 1958.
– You are not blaming the Labour Party for that, surely.
– No, we are not blaming the Labour Party for that. With capital investments from Britain and America continuing as they did last year, our invisible overseas payments would be offset. So, even allowing the sum of £850,000,000 for imports coming to Australia in the current year, our overseas reserves could be in the vicinity of £500.000,000. That is quite a satisfactory position. In fact, T think all fair-minded Australians would agree that it is better than we could have hoped for -two years ago. The Opposition has said a lot about our overseas reserves. Last night, we were even chided by Senator McKenna for building them up again. When the Budget was presented last year, he chided us for letting them run down. The Opposition has a right to criticize the Budget, but last night Senator McKenna was quite unfair in his criticism. He strayed from the facts. It is true, as he said, that for the year 1958-59 we budgeted for a deficit of fi 10,000,000, but the year proved to be better than we anticipated. We were even chided for that. That was a pardonable
error. I often see people praying to Aladdin’s lamp thinking it is the sun; that is a pardonable error!
Senator McKenna said that because the loan market had improved and we were thereby able to borrow £70,000,000, our book deficit was approximately £30,000,000. He claimed that we would finish the year with a deficit of only £30,000,000 and not the estimated £110,000,000. And we did finish the year with a deficit of less than £110,000,000. But if you borrow £50,000,000, you still owe it; it is not income. That is where we differ with the honorable senator. Even this year we will not be able to balance our Budget. In spite of what happened last year and what will happen this year, the Labour Party says that the money is available; but I remind honorable senators opposite that their former great leader, Mr. Chifley, differed from them in that respect. Both Senator Cole and Senator McKenna have said that central bank credit is available to pay for social services; but Mr. Chifley, whom honorable senators quote so often, said that social services could not be paid for by that means.
In spite of all the economies that have been effected by this Government, and all the prudence it has displayed, it still cannot balance its Budget. Yet our opponents screech for higher social service payments, which already cost £500,000,000 a year. I have directed attention in the past to Labour’s record in the field of social services, and I shall not repeat it. I was interested in what Senator Cole and Senator McKenna had to say about child endowment. T happened to be seated in my place in this chamber on the occasion when Senator Cole, Senator McKenna and every other member of the Labour Party hotly opposed the payment of child endowment of the first child.
– Yes, they voted against it. They said it would place hardship on the worker and would result in his basic wage being decreased. Now they advance the proposition that child endowment should be increased for the first child and for subsequent children. If their argument was true and if the granting of 5s. endowment for the first child was a hardship on the worker, what will be the effect of granting £2 10s. or £3 a week? It will be a crushing burden! It was not until the central executive of the Labour Party, the twelve men who dictate to honorable senators opposite what they shall do, said, “ Boys, you must vote for this “, that they entered the chamber and voted in favour of the payment of endowment for the first child. But they did not vote for 5s., which they said would be a hardship on the worker;, they voted for 10s. and doubled the hardship! They are the friends of the worker. They voted in favour of a payment of 10s. and then went out to the public and said what, they did. Much has been said, Sir, about telephone charges.
– The honorable senator should not say too much about that. Those charges are to be altered.
– I suppose I am allowed to say something. When this Government assumed office more than 130,000 people were waiting for telephones. At the end of June, 1958, 40,448 were on the waiting list, and that number has been substantially reduced during the past twelve months.
– There are fewer than 40,000 waiting now.
– I believe that is so, but I can only give the official figures up to 1958. Most of those deferred applications are in Sydney and Melbourne; there are not many in the- country. When we assumed office there were 734,427 telephone lines in existence; to-day there are 1,361,924, or almost double the previous number. The number of telephone instruments installed has risen from 1,028,134 to 1,936,960 - almost double. Now I come to a matter in which country people are interested. Senator Gibson, as PostmasterGeneral, was responsible for the introduction of rural automatic exchanges. The first one was installed at Mannibadar in Victoria in the 1930’s. When Labour left office, there were 169 such exchanges in operation. Twelve months ago, there were 1,090 in operation - an increase of approximately 920 in nine years. The rural automatic telephone exchange is what country people want, and they are getting it. It is still the cheapest benefit they can have. Even with the new charges, they will not be overcharged. While speaking of telephones, I suppose it is true to say that the public telephone, for each call over which the city dweller pays 3d., is the cheapest means of communication that one could Have. Incidentally, honorable, senators opposite have not yet mentioned the fact that the reduction of air mail charges will provide a better postal service for country people. 1 am sorry that I have mislaid a document that I had intended to use in referring to telephone charges.
– Take time off and go and get it.
– The time would be well spent if: I could improve the honorable senator’s knowledge of this matter. It is a costly business to run the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. After all, why should it not pay its way?
Telephone charges do not worry the primary producers so much as do charges over which he has no control. What worries the primary producer is that when he produces his wool, fat lambs, wheat, dried fruits or dairy produce, and gets them to the stores or to the wharves, they may not be loaded on to a ship.
– Because sometimes there are labour troubles which cause more loss and inconvenience than there would be if telephone charges were increased hundreds of times more often than they have been.
– I thought we had had. no labour troubles since this Government got in.
– They have been reduced greatly. I think the honorable senator will agree that we have had better relationships on the wharfs lately than we had during the Labour régime. The primary producer is not to blame for these industrial disturbances, but he is the man who has to pay the penalty. If honorable senators opposite are at all interested in the welfare of primary producers, I think they must agree that whenever there is a strike that upsets the export of our goods overseas it hurts the primary producers. They are people whom supporters of the Australian Labour Party publicly say they propose to protect and look after, but when the- income of the primary producers is likely to be sacrificed because of hold-ups on the wharfs the Labour Party does not lift one finger to assist them. The attitude is that the primary producers are wrong and the other party right. However, I do not propose to go into the pros and cons of that situation. As a primary producer, I agree that the job of primary producers is to produce goods for the public. Having done that, we are entitled to expect that those goods will be handled efficiently and without industrial hold-ups.
There are one or two other matters, Mr. President, concerning the Budget, that 1 wish to touch on briefly. The first of those is sales tax. I must be rather brief in my references to this matter because negotiations are now going ahead that may perhaps have a bearing on what I have to say. At present, aerated waters and soft drinks which contain 5 per cent, of Australian fruit juices are exempt from sales tax. Investigations have led to the belief that such drinks do not contain 5 per cent, of Australian fruit juices. Those in the trade say that if the prescribed content of Australian fruit juices were to be reduced to 3 per cent., some of the difficulties that they are now encountering would be overcome. They would be able to use Australian fruit juices in their drinks, instead of being obliged to use synthetic flavouring. If it were possible to stipulate that the percentage of Australian fruit juices used in such drinks should be 3 per cent, in order to qualify for exemption from sales tax, in my opinion the difficulty about the sales tax would be obviated.
– Does the honorable senator mean that if the Australian fruit juice content were 3 per cent, the drinks would not attract sales tax?
– Yes . I thank Senator Hannaford for his interjection. I make this plea to the responsible Minister because, if the legislation continues to apply as it does at present, Australian cordial manufacturers will cease to use Australian fruit juices in the future. I am sure that no one would like that to happen. With a little careful negotiation we may be able to overcome the difficulty.
In the last fourteen months a certain soft drink manufacturer has used 138,000 gallons of Australian fruit juice in the manufacture of soft drinks and aerated waters.
May I say that South Australian manufacturers have not made one penny from the sales tax exemption, because there is control of prices in that State. I am sure that all Australians would like to see local fruit juices used in the manufacture of aerated waters. The manufacturers themselves are endeavouring to comply with the requirements of the law, but I say advisedly that no machine at present being used in this industry could cope with the requirement that 5 per cent, of Australian fruit juices should be used. If the percentage were reduced to 3 per cent., the manufacturers would be happy. I am afraid that perhaps I have not given all the information that I could have given to make the position clear to honorable senators.
– What would be used if fruit juices were not used? What would you use to make a lemon drink instead of lemons?
– Synthetics. Instead of oranges and lemons synthetics would be used, and you would not know the difference. That is what our manufacturers will be forced to do if the law continues as at present. I am sure that no one wants to see that happen.
– What is the honorable senator suggesting should be done?
– I am suggesting that the prescribed content of Australian fruit juices, in order to make soft drinks in which they are used exempt from sales tax, should be reduced to 3 per cent.
– Bring down the quality?
– -You would not bring down the quality. The quality of fruit, of course, varies from year to year. Senator Cooke may be interested in this matter because practically all the fruit juices, of certain varieties, that we use in South Australia come from Western Australia. This is a non-party political subject. Because there is a difference of opinion between the taxation authorities and the manufacturers about the percentage of Australian fruit juices that should be used, there is this trouble.
– The difference is that you want a different remedy. I want to maintain the quality and remove the tax.
– I . did not hear what Senator Cooke said, but I make it clear that I want the practice of using Australian fruit juices in the manufacture of aerated waters continued.
– So do I.
– Then let us together try to solve some of the problems that have arisen. People who, with the best intentions in the world, claimed exemption from sales tax are now being required to pay sales tax on’ aerated waters sold since 1957, just because there is a difference of opinion on the matter. It cannot be resolved quite so easily as one might think. Perhaps the brains of some of the best analytical chemists in South Australia have been; applied to this question. Certainly there are some grounds for a difference of opinion, but in the interests of the Australian fruit industry - on whose behalf 1 am making this appeal - the exemption from sales tax on aerated waters should be applied if they have an Australian fruit juice content of 3 per cent., not 5 per cent, as at present.
I wish now to address myself to the subject of defence and Australia’s position in the world to-day. Particularly, I wish to answer some of the things that have been said by Senator Cole. Strangely enough, I do not oppose the re-opening of the Russian Embassy in Canberra.
– Be careful!
– I shall be careful. I think that we in Australia have to take a great deal of notice of what is happening in other parts of the world. The struggle that is going on between the Communists and the countries of the free world is based on an) ideology designed to win over men’s souls. Fundamentally, that is the purpose of the struggle. The most remarkable thing about the political map of modern Europe is that it shows that Russia occupies half of the continent. Only a relatively small area of Europe is tenanted by the Western powers. Perhaps the world conflict has now shifted from the sphere of strategy to economy. That it has done so is borne out by the race for relative efficiency in trade, investment and production.
Much has been said about defence. I do not think that any country now has physical defence; no one is quite sure whether there is any adequate defence against the weapons now available in the world. No one can even hazard a guess on how we should arm ourselves in order to survive, nor do we know what the ultimate weapon of offence will be.
Unfortunately, there is international discord on the question of ending nuclear tests. That is one of the tragedies of the world today. We are experimenting with an antimissile missile. The intercontinental rocket is now an established fact. We know that America needs allies and bases in Europe to offset Russia’s lead in the long-range rocket sphere, and we must ask ourselves for how long America will need to maintain its bases in Europe. Will Western Europe and Great Britain become expendable? Can the Americans who have never known what it is to be bombarded in their homeland and have had no experience of the terror that that entails, be expected to risk death and devastation to rescue people who to them are European foreigners? No longer is America a continent apart; it is rapidly being reduced, as it were, to an island. As we know, the big nations could now bombard each other over the pole. We cannot be unmindful of the peril that confronts Western democracy in Berlin.
I hope to have the time to expand my thoughts on these matters, which are related to my feeling that it is not wrong of us to allow the re-opening of the Russian Embassy in Canberra. We must counter the idea of Russia dominating the world, just as Russia herself will not entertain the idea of the Western democracies dominating the world. There must be some means by which Russia can be allowed to retain its ideology. We should try to understand Russia’s point of view a little more. At the same time, we must retain our own philosophy and preserve our way of life. Therein lies the basis of the present struggle, as I see it.
I could not disagree more with what Senator Cole has said about top level conferences. By all means, let us have toplevel conferences. Let the Great Powers get to know one another. Our approach to the Russians need not be like that of a highly intellectual person who has never had to earn his own living, who is often carried away with enthusiasm and so easily blinded by what he is shown overseas, perhaps behind the iron curtain, that he returns to this country and says, “ All is well in Russia and whatever the free nations of the world may do about Russia is wrong “.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Though it may not be a matter that one ought properly to discuss during a debate on the Budget, 1 must disagree with Senator Cole concerning the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. I do not want to proceed further with my point that the security of Australia is linked with the safety of Europe because I am hopeful that later an opportunity to discuss international affairs may be afforded honorable senators. Suffice to say that if the safety of Europe could be guaranteed by a twoway arrangement between Russia and America there would be a great deal more peace in the world. Sir Winston Churchill outlined a proposal to that end in 1952.
I repeat, it is an economic, and not merely a military question. We all agree that free trade, Manchester style, died out years ago. So, too, did the trade pattern followed by Germany before 1939. We must evolve a system which will enable capitalistic and controlled regimes to coexist. If Europe were to follow the example of the British Commonwealth much good would come of it. We all want bread and butter. To-day nations are in a receptive mood, and we should take advantage of that fact to face the geographical and economic realities, for the future safety of mankind. That is why I believe in summit talks. We must show the world that our system is preferable to any other. The more we can understand each other the better it will be for every one.
I am told that I did not give a clear picture earlier of the sales tax imposed on aerated waters containing Australian fruit juices. Accordingly, I shall re-state the position. Under the existing law, aerated waters that contain 5 per cent, of Australian fruit juices are exempt from sales tax. People engaged in the trade wish the percentage to be reduced to three.
The only other matter that I wish to mention concerns immigration. It may seem to be minor, but it has great implications for the migrant. The Government, through the Department of Immigration, has by its exceedingly active publicity campaign abroad, assumed a great responsibility in respect of migrants. The more positive aspects are stressed the greater the responsibility that is assumed for individuals and families who uproot themselves in order to start life afresh in Australia. This is as true of migrants of British origin as it is of people born in other European countries. Publicity usually attracts those who have few resources, either financial or within themselves, for coping with a new situation. The really satisfied, secure person, with a future for himself and his family in his own country, does not tend to migrate. I ask the Government to ensure that the number of trained social workers - who have done so much to help the assimilation of migrants - is not reduced. I understand that there is a movement afoot to reduce the number. It would be a grave mistake to replace skilled social workers with volunteers. The need for trained people has never been greater.
I have pleasure in supporting the motion for the printing of the Budget papers. I believe that the Budget will strengthen our community life and, accordingly, I oppose the amendment of Senator McKenna.
– I support the amendment, which is really a censure motion against the Government for its failure to provide adequately for the under-privileged. I. have carefully read the Budget Speech. Apparently 21 pages of flowery utterances are required to tell the ordinary rank and file worker that he is to get nothing. When one considers what has been given and what has been taken away, one sees that that is the net result. It is some considerable time since a budget received so much free publicity. We heard about the handsome Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who had prepared it. One Melbourne paper surpassed itself by saying that the Treasurer was tall, handsome, distinguished, debonair - the best-looking person ever to hold the office.
– Don’t be jealous.
– What about Sir Arthur Fadden?
– I shall not engage with the honorable senator in making odious comparisons. I am merely referring to what the newspapers have said about the Treasurer. They even went so far as to suggest that he had left a trail of broken hearts behind him. The broken hearts caused by his Budget provisions would tar outnumber those which he caused in the field of romance. The plain fact is that all this free publicity, speculation and adulation of the Treasurer have produced nothing of benefit to the Australian community. It was perfectly obvious that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) was unduly optimistic when trying to reply to Senator McKenna last night. I used the word “ trying “ advisedly because the Minister was unable to answer any one of the points made by Senator McKenna. All he did was to misrepresent some of the statements contained in the Budget. He attempted to paint this gloomy, drab document in rose-coloured hues, suggesting that the people were to get all sorts of benefits and concessions from it. He said there was a note of optimism in the Budget which pleased him greatly. I should like to know who is optimistic about it. I know that the age pensioners are not very optimistic about the meagre rise they are to receive. I know also that widows, invalids and others in receipt of pensions in Australia are not optimistic. I cannot see that the people on fixed incomes have any reason to be optimistic about the terms of this Budget. Indeed, I should be very surprised if any member of the Government could bring before the Senate evidence that the people on fixed incomes find even the slightest ray of hope in the document we are discussing. The optimism appears to be all on the side of the Minister for National Development. Certainly it is not felt by the Australian community.
Before proceeding any further, I wish to deal with a matter which I feel ought to be explained fully in view of the fact that something Senator McKenna said last night was deliberately misrepresented by the Minister for National Development. I refer to the Minister’s allegation that Senator McKenna had reflected on the integrity of the public servants who were associated with the compilation of the Budget. I deny that Senator McKenna said anything at all that reflected on the integrity of any public servant. What Senator McKenna did reflect upon was the integrity of the Government, and he made that perfectly clear in his statement in the Senate last night. In my opinion, that statement was deliberately misunderstood by the Minister for National Development who proceeded to allege that Senator McKenna had said something he did not say at all.
This is what Senator McKenna did say - 1 know the officers of the Treasury and the Taxation Department sufficiently well to realize that they do not make errors of that magnitude. I refuse to believe that they could be so far out in their advice to the Government.
That is not an indictment of the public servants. What Senator McKenna was suggesting to the Senate was that the Government had not accurately and properly presented the facts as collected by the officers who assisted in the compilation of the Budget. We on this side agree with him, because we believe that many of the things that have been put in the Budget, and many of the statements that have been made do not reflect the true financial position of Australia to-day. It does not help the Minister’s case to make statements of that character, especially when it is obvious that every one in the Senate understood exactly what Senator McKenna meant.
Now, let us have a look at the people who are .supposed to be satisfied with this Budget. Senator Armstrong had something to say about postal charges and referred to the attitude of certain groups of people who were engaged in the publishing field. He stated their view on what this Budget meant to their future, and I want to develop that argument, because I think it is most important. In the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, to-day, we find an article in these terms -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, is reported to-day to have promised .a meeting of the Government parties that Federal Cabinet will review some of the proposed increased postal rates in the Federal Budget.
If that statement is correct, then some member of the Government - obviously the Minister for National Development - should have informed the Senate to-day that such a move was afoot so that the Senate would understand fully what the Government intended to do in connexion with this very important matter. But not one speaker on the Government side has given any indication that such a meeting took place, nor has there been any indication to the Senate as to what flowed from that meeting. In that same article, we find this interesting statement -
The Government’s decision is taken as a definite victory for the Postmaster-General, Mr. C. W. Davidson, who is known to have fought strenuously against the increases- that is, the increases in postal charges - when the Ministry was- framing the Budget, and is reported to have threatened, to resign.
This is very interesting. I did not know that the dissension in the Government’s ranks was so strong that one of its most senior Ministers was so opposed to the proposed impositions that he was prepared to resign as a protest against their introduction. Only now is this tide of discontent and disruption amongst Government members revealed. I challenge some member of the Government, at a later stage in the debate, either to deny that the statement is accurate or to tell the Senate exactly what happened in connexion with the disputations on postal charges.
There are many important aspects in the Budget, but the question of postal charges is probably one of the most important. It appears that the people engaged in the publishing field to-day can find no reason to be optimistic at all about the terms of the Budget, for, in the article in the “Sydney Morning Herald “ to which I have referred we find this statement under the heading “ All Religious Papers Hit “ -
The editor of the inter-denominational paper “ New Life “, Mr. E. J. Daley, said in Melbourne, “ If the bulk postage increases go through it will force us out of business.”
Is the Government concerned about that? Dr. Daley goes on to say - “ Our postage bill will go up 800 per cent, from ?7 to ?40 a week.”
The article continues -
The “ Messenger of the Sacred Heart “ - Australia’s biggest and longest-established Roman Catholic journal - said it would consider publishing overseas to escape the burden of the increased postage.
Finally, the article states -
Mr, W. Noble, editor of “Presbyterian Life”, asked: “Would the Government feel it had achieved its aim if, having closed down at least a section of the religious press, it found that the Communist Party, with its greater financial resources, was still able to keep its paper in circulation? “
That is a very reasonable question indeed and one to which I feel the Government must give some reply. Mr. Gourlay, who is the president of the Printing and Allied Trades Employers Federation, has not been silent. A report of his attitude reads -
Mr. Gourlay warned in Melbourne that mass dismissals in the printing industry could follow the proposed increases in bulk rates.
He warned that mass dismissals must take place as a result of this unprecedented step in connexion with postal charges. We have accumulating evidence that this Budget, which is claimed to be a “ give-and-take “ Budget, can only be described as a “ take “ Budget. I suggest that we could use even stronger terms in describing it, and that we could say that it was nothing more nor less than a take-down Budget.
The question of postal charges must be examined again by the Government. I know half the Government members recognize that, and I propose to read certain telegrams to support my suggestion. I have before me three telegrams, two of which I received last night and one of which arrived this afternoon. I intend to read them because I believe they ought to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ so that the public may know just what is going on in this country as a result of decisions made by the Government in recent months. The first telegram is from the “ News Review “, Adelaide, and reads -
Most vigorously protest against figures 700 per cent, increase in bulk postage for registered periodicals, stop Where is freedom of press without independent newspapers.
The second telegram reads -
Please register strong protest on behalf” of S.A. branch R.S.L. against crippling increase in bulk postage charges for ex-service journals.
That is signed by the State secretary of the returned servicemen’s league. Finally -
Strongly protest on behalf of Church of England in South Australia against proposed increased charges bulk postages. Would make impossible distribution of local church papers and strike blow at all small independent publications.
Surely it must be obvious to the Government by now to what extent it has offended-
– Yes, blundered is an appropriate word. It has blundered and plundered. Surely it is obvious to the Government now to what extent it has offended a great number of influential people in this country who still believe in the right to freedom of speech and who still desire to send out their publications to various parts of this country to express their point of view. If this blunder is not corrected by the Government, if some degree of shame does not compel the Government to do something about the situation, then of necessity the power of the monopoly controlling the great associated newspapers of this country will be increased. The number of independent voices expressing individual and independent points of view will become fewer and fewer as a consequence of this drastic action by a Government which apparently has gone mad.
That madness displayed itself in the statement made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) last night, when he said, “ We of the Liberal Party are in government in this country for keeps”. That type of arrogance usually precedes a sojourn in the political wilderness. The Australian people, whatever they may feel towards the Government at the present time, will make their own decision as to who will remain in government in this country. For any party to assume - whether it be one of the Government parties or the Labour Party - that it is in office indefinitely is to think along dangerous lines. It may be a question of pride coming before a fall. The Government’s term of office may be much nearer to completion than the Minister for National Development supposes.
I listened with interest to the statements made by both Senator Spooner and Senator Mattner. The speech that was made jointly by Senator Mattner and Senator Hannaford just before lunch contained some things with which I agree.
– What about getting Senator McManus to help you?
– I am prepared to receive any constructive suggestions. I appear to be going along all right at the moment, but I will let you know if I want any help. As I was saying, the speech that was made jointly by the two senators from South Australia before lunch, contained some things with which I quite agree, and I shall touch on them at a later stage of my speech.
I want to take the Minister for National Development and Senator Mattner to task for the misrepresentations of which they were guilty. Last night the Minister, speaking about pharmaceutical benefits, said that the Labour Party, when it went out of office, had spent only about £49,000 on pharmaceutical benefits, whereas this Government was now spending £24,000,000 a year. He implied, of course, that that is a remarkable achievement on the part of the Government. Woolly thinking of that type ought to be shown up as such in this chamber. What both the Minister for National Development and Senator Mattner failed to acknowledge was that when the Labour Government went out of office, it was striving to establish a national health scheme for the first time in the history of this country. Honorable senators opposite should remember that until the advent of Federal Labour governments in this country the field of social services was completely and utterly neglected. It was left to the Labour Party to introduce every major social reform in this country. It is utter tripe for Government senators to talK of what was spent in 1949 on a social reform just introduced by the Labour Party - a reform that was in its infancy - and compare that expenditure with the expenditure in that field to-day.
It is tantamount to the son of man who took up, 25 years ago, an area of virgin, unimproved country that had to be cleared, developed and stocked, saying that the property is worth much more now than when his father took it up. It is that type of stupid thinking of which honorable senators are guilty.
I will be prepared to debate before any audience in Australia the record of the Labour Party in the field of social services as against the record of the present Government. It is easy for the Government to come in and occupy a house which was built by the Labour Party, and then say that any improvements it has effected are to its eternal credit. Why not give some consideration to the vicissitudes, troubles and obstacles that the Labour Party had to contend with in bringing into this country the elements of social justice and social reform? If honorable senators opposite were to do that, they would not be so anxious to talk in terms of misrepresentation, as Senator Spooner did last night and as Senator Mattner was guilty of doing to-day.
– Will you debate with me outside this chamber the matter of the £130,000,000 for social services?
– I would be happy to debate with you, or with any of your colleagues, anywhere in Australia, the whole history of social services in this country. I think I have dealt quite adequately with social services as they apply to the Labour government.
I shall deal now with some of the anomalies of the social services legislation. 1 cannot, of course, go through the whole of the anomalies that exist in the legislation, but there are one or two with which I can deal at this time, and perhaps when the Budget debate reaches a further stage I will be able to discuss some of the others. First of all, I wish to deal with the special 10s. supplementary allowance which was brought in by this Government with a fanfare of trumpets in the last Budget. The Government gave the people to believe that virtually all the pensioners were going to get that special increase. I notice in the Treasurer’s Budget speech that he acknowledges that the Government was surprised at the small number of people who actually made application for that allowance. If the Treasurer had been entirely honest in his approach to this matter, he would have told the Parliament and the public that the number of people who were entitled to it under the legislation was infinitesimal. The Australian community was led to believe that this was, in effect, a real increase in the basic rate of age and invalid pensions, but the fact is, of course, that only a small section of pensioners was able to qualify. The eligible pensioners had to be single, they had to be penniless, apart from their pensions, and they had to be paying rent for the room or the home in which they were living. The Government suggested at the time that it was bestowing a tremendous benefit upon an under-privileged section in our midst. There is no excuse for the Treasurer to be surprised at the small number of people who applied for this alleged benefit, because, as I have said, only a few people were actually entitled to it under the legislation.
– He did not mention the number of unsuccessful applicants.
– No. All of us who take some interest in the problems of pensioners know just how many were under the impression that they would receive this allowance. I think I can say without exaggeration that hundreds of people came to my rooms in Adelaide seeking my advice on the matter and went away astounded and almost disbelieving when I told them that they were not covered by the legislation granting the special increase of 10s. I do admit that a very small proportion of pensioners is benefiting to some extent and that, of course, is a step in the right direction, but it is my belief that the three-card trick was put over the Australian community because when this item was included in the last Budget it was not properly and clearly explained by the Minister in either chamber, and the number of people who would benefit was not disclosed. Indeed, it was some six or eight months before honorable senators were given a clear indication of who was actually eligible for the allowance.
I want to touch upon another matter in the field of social services, namely, the means test. I feel that there ought to have been in this Budget some provision for a further easing of the means test. In this day and age it should be the aim and policy of the Government gradually to eliminate the means test. I know that statisticians differ on whether it can be done in one fell swoop. Be that as it may, I believe that the Government is recreant to its duty if it fails to give, in each successive year of its office, relief to those people who, having been thrifty all their lives, are as a consequence penalized in their old age in regard to pension entitlement. I make a plea for the lifting of the property ceiling of £4,500 for a married pensioner couple, but I make an even stronger plea for the Government to give some consideration to the people at the other end of the scale. At present a single pensioner cannot receive a full pension if he has more than £209 in the bank. In the case of a married couple, the limit is £418. For many years in this Parliament no consideration has been given to people at that end of the scale. I think it is a matter of disgrace that while the other end of the scale has been extended from time to time, >the flower end, which affects people with the least assets, has not ‘been Liven consideration. However much Government supporters may differ from me in some of the viewpoints I have put forward this afternoon, none could, with justice, differ from me in regard to this matter, and I feel that some thought and consideration should be given to it by the Government.
Another anomaly in the social service legislation which I believe does not engage the attention of the Parliament enough is the provision relating to elderly pensioners who have ‘their own homes, but are forced through ;illness or infirmity towards the end of their lives to vacate those homes. Immediately the home is vacated, it is regarded as a capital asset and the -pension is affected, either being reduced or disappearing altogether. It seems to be a most anomalous position that although a person of, say, 75 years of age may receive a full pension if he lives in ‘his own home and his other assets do not exceed £209, immediately he leaves the home, through infirmity or illness, the Government regards the home as a capital asset, and the problem of the pensioner’s keep for the remaining years of his life becomes a nightmare to his relatives and friends. Surely some consideration should be given to some minor alteration of the social service legislation whereby if a pensioner of 75 years or more found it necessary, through illness or infirmity, to vacate his home, the value of the home would be disregarded for pension purposes. Such a provision would not affect any more than a microscopic number of pensioners. They have enough problems once they have -reached the stage of having to leave their homes without the Government reducing or abolishing their pensions, as is done at the present time. That is a matter to which the Government ought to give serious consideration.
I have stated where I disagreed with Senator Mattner and I hope that in doing so I made myself clear. I come now to a point where .1 find myself in agreement with him. It is in regard to the question of fruit juices. Assisted by Senator Hannaford, he gave a long discourse on fruit juices .and J agree with ‘his contentions. Some assistance should be given to the producers of fruit juices, -who obviously are suffering serious disabilities at the present time. -But I was rather surprised that Senator Mattner, who appears to have at heart the interests of one section of the Australian community, has not given any consideration - at least, he has not indicated to the Senate that he has done so - to -.the removal of sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. This is a hardy annual which comes before the Senate, and I feel there is more justification for rectifying this anomaly than there has been for the rectification of some of the disabilities that have been attended to in the last four or five years.
Senator Mattner, and my other South Australian colleagues on the Government side, know just what dissension and trouble this sales tax provision has caused in the fruit-growing industry in our State. Senator Mattner must be fully aware of the fact that the fruit-growers on the river and in other parts of South Australia regard the abolition of this provision as one of the most important steps to be taken in the rehabilitation of the dried fruits industry in South Australia. Yet the Government steadfastly refuses to remove this impost. For the life of me, I could never understand why it was imposed in the first place. Neither of two ingredients, bought separately, is subject to sales tax, but upon their being mixed together in a fruit bun or a fruit cake the Government says, “As a consequence of your unwise action in mixing them, you will pay a heavy sales tax “. I again make a plea, on behalf of the fruit-growing interests in South Australia, for the Government to give serious consideration to removing sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. I know that my colleagues on the Labour side of the chamber support this request, but if my fellow South Australian senators on .the Government side are silent on the matter, the people of the river districts of South Australia .are entitled to draw the inference that these senators are not very much concerned about whether or not this industry gets justice.
– I shall leave it to Senator Hannaford to reply to that section of your speech.
– I listened courteously to Senator Mattner. I did not interject or treat him with any savagery at all.
– You sound a bit regretful.
– If I had known how he was going to behave I would have been a little more severe in interjection. On the matter of sales tax in general, it is regrettable, as Senator McKenna said, that no consideration has been given to this vicious form of indirect taxation. With a fanfare of trumpets the Government has announced that there will be a general decrease of 5 per cent, in income tax, which, as Senator McKenna clearly demonstrated to the Senate last night, will not make any difference whatever to the man in the street but will help considerably the people in the higher income brackets. Much time and many words were devoted by the Treasurer to that provision, but there was no suggestion of relief in sales tax, whereby hundreds of millions of pounds are extracted from the Australian workers. Young couples who embark upon the great project of establishing a home have to pay a vicious sales tax impost on their furniture and almost every household appliance. It is time that some relief was considered. Senator Armstrong pointed out the damaging effect this tax is having and will continue to have on the motor body building industry. I hope that at a later stage in this debate some one will emphasize just what an adverse effect it is having, because the question of employment, particularly in South Australia is very much wrapped up with the motor body building industry.
I wish to make a few comments about international affairs. It will be recalled that in this chamber in recent years a lot of odium, criticism and hostility has been directed against members of the Australian Labour Party because from time to time they have said that they could see no reason whatever why this Government should not embark upon trade with red China. Quite a number of Government supporters suggested that they were Communist views purely and simply. Trade with red China forms part of Labour’s foreign policy, which has been the subject of so many vicious attacks, but which history has proved to have been almost completely right.
– What you say is not correct.
– It is strange how people’s views can change within twelve months or two years and how what was supposed to be radical in the extreme in 1955 can become respectable in 1959, and how the critics in 1955 can become the advocates in 1960. That is exactly what has happened. Senator Hannan, who has just interjected, knows very well how vicious were the attacks that were made on the Australian Labour Party as a consequence of its decisions on foreign affairs.
– I know that the last time you quoted Labour’s foreign policy, you quoted something that had been attacked before it had happened.
– The last time I quoted Labour’s foreign policy I quoted the platform of the Australian Labour Party.
– Yes, but you quoted what was said at the Brisbane conference and said it had been mentioned at Hobart.
– I did not.
– You did. Have a look at the “ Hansard “ report.
– I did not.
– Read the reports of my speeches. They will throw some light on it.
– I know Senator Hannan feels strongly about this matter, because his was the kind of mind that was so critical of and hostile towards the Australian Labour Party’s foreign policy.
– It still is, and it will remain so.
– Let me say to
Senator Hannan that his views are not shared by his own party.
– You have no right to say that.
Santor Hannan. - That statement is as accurate as have been your other statements on foreign affairs.
– I repeat that your views are not shared by your party. Senator Gorton says that I have no right to say that. Whether it is quite ethical for me to make such a statement and whether it can be proved that I am right is open to question; I acknowledge that. I admit that quite freely; but nevertheless I feel that Senator Gorton, in the back of his own mind, acknowledges that there is a certain amount of truth in what I have said. Let me tell Senator Hannan that there is no hostility on my part towards him personally, He has a viewpoint, and I suggest that if he wants to stick to it he may. But I have a viewpoint, too, and I intend to stick to mine.
– 1 do not mind your being wrong.
– I suggest, with all due deference, that you should give a moment’s consideration to the extreme possibility that you may be wrong. When we advocated trade with red China, and when we said in effect that such trade would not change the views of the Chinese people, and that by refusing to recognize that they existed, we would not bring any degree of influence to bear on them to change their government, honorable senators opposite said that we were preaching the Communist philosophy. What is the position to-day? lt is quite obvious that the Menzies Government intends to trade with red China.
– We are trading with red China.
– You are trading with red China. And so the wheel turns and what was radical in 1959 becomes respectable in 1960. I should like to have that convenient type of mind which would permit me to forget what I said in 1955 and be right in 1960. Whatever faults there may have been, or whatever mistakes the Labour Party may have made in the formulation of its international policy, history has shown that it did not make many mistakes and that we have stuck by our decisions. We are prepared to let history determine whether we were right or wrong. I say that I am completely justified this afternoon in reminding the Government of some of the things it said a year or two ago in relation to the recognition of red China. If honorable senators opposite consider the matter for a moment, they will admit that I have a right to remind them of these things.
I do no intend to detain the Senate much longer. I hear Government supporters applauding that remark. I appreciate their applause; I do not think they mean it to be other than kindly. 1 conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will reconsider the postal charges that have been outlined in the Budget. I think we should stress the fact, for the benefit of the Government, that it is living in a fool’s paradise and that the general public has been roused by some of the proposals contained in the Budget. Unless the Government corrects what I consider to be one of the grossest errors that I have ever seen in any budget presented during my sojourn in the Parliament, it will find that Senator Spooner’s statement to the effect that this Government will remain in office forever was nothing more than wishful thinking.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers 1959-60. Before I proceed to deal with the Budget in detail, I should like to correct some of the statements in relation to social services that have been made by Senator Toohey. The honorable senator commenced his speech by saying that this Budget was a take-all Budget which did not give anything, and he concluded by saying that it could almost be called a takedown budget. When speaking about last year’s budget he said the same thing. We have had an election since the presentation of the last Budget. The people still want this Government to remain in office. They do not want Labour in office, and in my opinion they never will. I simply cannot understand how a progressive State headed by a Liberal Premier could send to this Parliament people like Senator Toohey who try to deceive not only us but also the electors of Australia.
– They sent sufficient of us to constitute a majority.
– They did? I cannot understand that either! That will not be so for very much longer. But what I want to deal with are some of the statements that have ben made by Senator Tookey in relation to social services. Senator Toohey issued a challenge to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to go with him to any part of Australia and discuss the question whether Liberal or Labour governments have the best record in the field of social services. I should like him to listen to what I have to say now. I accept the challenge to go to any part of Australia and debate the subject of social services with the honorable senator.
– That makes me very happy.
– Name the time and the place, and I will be there.
– He would not be allowed to go, under his party rules.
– He would probably find a way out. I want to take the minds of honorable senators back to the year 1909, when the age pension was introduced. Was that done by Labour?
– Yes. It was done by a Labour government in New South Wales.
– Age pensions in the Commonwealth sphere were introduced by the Deakin Government in 1909. Let me refer to some of the other social service benefits that have been introduced by nonLabour governments. On 1st July, 1909, the Deakin Government introduced age pensions, and on 15th December, 1909, that government also introduced child endowment, in respect of which the Australian Labour Party somersaulted in 1950. The Liberal and Australian Country Parties promised, in 1949, that if they were elected they would introduce child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child, and that was done in April, 1950. As Senator Mattner pointed out earlier this afternoon, the supporters of the Labour Party voted against that proposal until some twelve persons outside the Parliament directed them to change their minds. Then they came to the Parliament and said, “ We are not going to vote against it any longer. We think that 5s. a week is not enough. We want the amount increased to 10s.”
The Menzies Government introduced pharmaceutical benefits on 4th September, 1950. In February, 1951, it introduced medical benefits for pensioners, and on 2nd July, 1951, pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners. Free milk for school children was provided for the first time, by the Menzies Government, in December, 1950. Financial assistance for the erection of homes for aged persons was provided in November, 1954. No wonder honorable senators on this side of the chamber are prepared to go to any place in Australia and put our social services record before any audience that may be there to listen to them. Senator Toohey said that this is a pitiful Budget because pensions are to be increased by only 7s. 6d. per week. 1 should like him to consider our record in relation to social services, particularly pensions. In 1951, the age pension was increased by 7s. 6d. a week. It was increased from the miserly £2 2s. 6d. a week paid during the Chifley regime, to £2 10s. a week. Also during 1950-51, a pensioner medical service was introduced to provide free medicine for pensioners, and a general practitioner service for pensioners and their dependants also was initiated.
In 1952, pensions were increased by 10s. a week, so that the increases granted by the Menzies Government in two years amounted almost to half the total pension payable by the Labour Party before it was thrown out of office. In 1952-53, pensions were again increased by 7s. 6d. a week, and provision was made for blind persons to be entitled to a pension free of the means test. In that year the invalid pension was extended in respect of persons aged between sixteen and 21 years, regardless of the financial means of their parents.
– Still chasing inflation!
– Taking the position year by year, we find that there has been an improvement of social services every year, whereas Labour made no improvement in any year.
In 1953-54 the Menzies Government” again increased the age pension by 2s. 6d. a week. The amount of the pension rose instead of declining, as it did in 1931, when the Labour Party was in office. In that year Labour reduced pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, and that was not the only time that it did so. I would advise honorable senators opposite not to talk about Labour’s record in the field of social services. Also in 1953-54, the permissible income for pensioners was increased by 10s. a week, from £1 10s. to £2. The property exemption was raised from £100 to £150, while the property limit was increased to £1,250. In 1954-55 the permissible income was increased by £1 10s. a week, from £2 to £3 10s. The property exemption was raised from £150 to £200, while the property limit was increased from £1,250 to £1,750. Income derived from property was excluded from income for means test purposes. There was a subsidy of £1 for every £1 raised by organizations proposing to erect homes for aged persons. I think it was in the following year that I was in Alice Springs, where I saw homes being built for aged people by a church organization. I inspected the homes and spoke to some half-dozen of the people living in them. They were very appreciative of what the Government had done for them under its social services legislation.
In 1955-56, pensions were again increased by 10s. a week. To that date, in the space of five or six years, the increases of pensions granted by the Menzies Government each year totalled more than the full amount of the pensions being paid in 1949, when Labour was dismissed from office. In 1956-57, the Menzies Government introduced additional pensions of 10s. a week for each child under sixteen years of age, except those of invalid or widow pensioners. In 1957-58 pensions were again increased by 7s. 6d. a week. The Commonwealth subsidy in respect of homes for aged persons was increased to £2 for every £1 raised by the organizations concerned. In 1958-59 the Government introduced supplementary assistance of 10s. a week for single pensioners, and for married pensioners whose spouses did not receive penions or allowances, if the pensioners concerned, paid rent and were deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions. The property limit was raised from £1,750 to £2,250. Then we come to the current year 1959-60, when the Government again proposes to increase age and invalid pensions by 7s. 6d. a week, to make a total of £4 15s. a week. A married couple who are pensioners will receive £9 10s. a week. With the additional income of £7 10s. a week which a pensioner is entitled to earn without his pension being affected, a married couple may have more than £16 a week to live on, which is a jolly high amount for invalid or aged pensioners.
I should say that Labour is the only political party that has reduced pensions in this country. The Labour people did that once and got away with it. Then they did it a second time. I suppose if they were returned to office in the future and if similar conditions existed, they would do it again. Senator Toohey, instead of saying that an increase of 7s. 6d. per week is not enough, should try to justify the action of former Labour governments, which reduced pensions. The people of Australia are not keen to return to office a political party that will not look after the aged persons in the community. As I have mentioned, pensions were reduced in 1931 from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week. At that time, Mr. Scullin was the Prime Minister of Australia.
Senate. Toohey. - Why does not the honorable senator tell the Senate of the circumstances that brought about that reduction?
– Give me time, and I will tell you anything you want to know. The other occasion on which a Labour Government reduced pensions was in 1943. The Curtin Government reduced pensions from £1 7s. to £1 6s. 6d. a week. Those have been the only two occasions in the history of Australia when pensions have been reduced. And on both occasions a Labour government was responsible! I am amazed by the Opposition’s outcry that this Government has not done enough for the pensioners, because when Labour was in office pensions were reduced, not increased.
The honorable senator referred to unemployment. The figures in relation to unemployment are very interesting, Mr. President. During the whole of the time that this Government has been in office, the average amount of unemployment in Australia has been less than 2 per cent, of the work force, yet every speaker from the other side, in attacking the Budget, has referred to unemployment. Let Labour senators have a look at the record of Labour in office. In June, 1949, 5.6 per cent, of the workers of this country were unemployed.
– What was the percentage in January, 1949?
– I do not want to mention that figure just now. The honorable senator can talk about the figures for January, 1949, if he wishes to do so. In 1947-48, the average amount of unemployment was 3 per cent. The average rate of unemployment during Labour’s regime was never as low as 2 per cent.; it was always higher than it has been since this Government came- to office. Back in 1931, 27 per cent, of the workers of Australia were unemployed1. Labour was in office at the time.
There has been a recession in Australia, and it is amazing that this Government has been able to keep unemployment to such a relatively low rate. I have faced many elections and I have noticed since this Government has been in office that just prior to every election Opposition supporters have endeavoured to cause apprehension, in the community by saying that there will be more and more unemployment unless Labour is elected. Their reason for doing so is that they know that if there is a lot of unemployment in Australia they have an excellent, chance of regaining the Treasury bench. That is the only reason why they do so. I do not like that sort of thing because I believe that it is the responsibility of the Government, and of this Parliament, to keep as many people in Australia in employment as is possible.
– What about the 60,000 workers who are at present unemployed? What does the Government intend to do about them?
– I think it can safely be said that the budgetary proposals will have the effect of creating greater employment opportunities in Australia. For instance, it is proposed to increase the intake of migrants by 10,000, from 115,000 to 125,000 a year. I think we all admit that that will have inflationary effects, but nevertheless the more migrants we bring in the more facilities and homes, &c, will be provided. There will also be a greater demand for washing machines, sewing machines, and other appliances. Greater employment opportunities will be created in the various industries. If Senator Toohey cares to compare this country’s economy with those of overseas countries, he will find that the measures that have been taken by this Government during the last twelve months have been very fruitful indeed, in combatting unemployment. I think it is a feather in the Government’s cap that it has been able to maintain employment at such a high level. Twelve months ago the steel industry in America, was running at about only 46 per cent. or 47 per cent, of its capacity. Millions; of workers were unemployed in that country. The same applied in England, where there were 600,000 or 700,000 workers unemployed. Although many people in Australia do not fully realize the position, the world has been through a recession but we in. this country have hardly noticed it. I find it pleasing indeed to see signs that the world is now coming out of this recession, and as- the position improves the unemployment figures will fall month by month.
There has been a high rate of development in this country. During the last twelve months some 80,000 homes have been constructed. Last year,. 243,000 new motor cars were registered in Australia, being an increase of 14,000 new registrations over’ the- previous year. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in his Budget speech -
In the first nine months of 1958-59, new money raisings by listed companies were £144,000,000, compared with £84,000,000- in the corresponding period of 1957-58, an increase of 72 per cent.
At this time last year, we expected that in 1958-59 our overseas reserves would fall by something over £100,000,000, but the actual decrease was only about £10,000,000, and we are still in the happy position of having something over £500,000,000 in credit overseas.
Over the last decade, the population of Australia rose- by some 2,150,000, of whom 750,000 were immigrants. The Government is proud of its record in relation to home-building over the last ten years. I should like honorable senators opposite to write this down,, because I do not want to have to repeat it. No fewer than 715,000 homes have been built in the last decade. If we look at the total population increase over this period, we find that one home has been built for slightly less than every three of the population increase. Steel production is up by 171 per cent., cement by 143 per cent., and electricity by 133 per cent., compared with ten years ago. Our petrol refining capacity is now 90 per cent, of our requirements, whereas in 1949 less than 10 per cent, of our requirements were refined in Australia. In the- last decade, wool production in Australia has increased by 50 per cent. I think it is true to say that this improvement is due in no small measure to the killing of rabbits by myxomatosis and the development by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of the 1080 poison, which has played havoc with the rabbit population throughout Australia. This has had an important bearing on the increase of our sheep population. Mining is running at a very high level, and this year £4,000,000 - if one takes into account tax relief - is to be spent on oil search. Indeed, every encouragement is being given the oil industry. If we can only find oil, we shall cease to have trade balance difficulties. I sincerely hope that within the next few years we shall be in a position to export oil, instead of importing £30,000,000 worth every year.
Honorable senators opposite have suggested that a 5 per cent, reduction in income tax will materially aid the big businessman but will not help the small man. When tax rates are being increased I never notice Labour complain that the man in the top bracket is being hit. I never hear it say that it will involve a great outlay for the high income earner but not for the low income earner. Labour has been well to the fore in imposing income tax. When we came to office the maximum rate of tax payable was between 17s. and 18s. in the £1. Now the maximum is down to 12s. 8d. in the £1. That is a real achievement because the more one decreases income tax the more money is available for spending on capital improvements. We should not forget that many working people own shares in companies, and that the more they receive from their investment the better they will be able to put money into mining and other companies in the commercial field. I should like to see income tax rates reduced still further. It is something to be proud of when we can go to overseas investors and say, “ In England and America your taxes are as high as 18s. and 19s. in the £1. If you bring your capital, which we so urgently need, to our country and put it into developmental projects your net return will be much higher.” That is doubtless one of the reasons why capital comes into Australia in ever-increasing quantities, year by year.
I should like to refer briefly to the subject of development, and to the north-west of Western Australia, in particular. As we all know, this large areas is virtually undeveloped. It has a reasonably assured rainfall. The Western Australian Government, in conjunction with this Government, has been conducting experiments at the Kimberley research station on the Ord River. We now know that we can grow there sugar cane, rice, cotton and safflower. 1 have inquired about the possibility of selling our rice and safflower overseas, and the prospects for cotton in Australia. Markets are readily available for these crops which our scientists have proved can be grown. It should be a responsibility of the Commonwealth and State governments to go ahead with the development of the Ord River project on a restricted scale. I realize that the complete project involves the expenditure of about £20,000,000, but an immediate wall across the Bandicoot Bar would enable us to irrigate 10,000 or 20,000 acres. That should be the next step, and it should be inquired into by both governments.
Recently, I joined other members of the Parliament in, a tour of the north-west. 1 noticed that rice was being grown sucessfully at the Fitzroy River. Acreage had been increased from 200 acres, the figure two years ago, to 800. Six hundred acres were being harvested and plans were being made to plant some 1,500 acres of rice next year. One can safely say that the rice growing project in that area has been successful. It is interesting to know that the State Government is working in close harmony with the private company which is planting the rice, and that the only restriction on acreage is that imposed by the availability of water. Henceforth there should be no water problem in the area. There are many other places on the Fitzroy River where large acreages of rice can be grown. However, the money required for the development of the north-west is far in excess of what could be provided by any State Government. Therefore, the development of the region should be financed by the Commonwealth Government.
We find that £25,000,000 is to be spent from revenue upon the Snowy Mountains project this year. Last year some £24.500,000 was provided. The Snowy scheme is one of the greatest ever contemplated in Australia, and it deserves the commendation of all. I think that any one. even some one from Western Australia, who has seen what has been done there will agree that it is vital; that we must go ahead with it. Whether or not we are financing it correctly is another story. Only last week it was estimated by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority that the scheme would cost £381,000,000. From memory, £170,000,000 has been spent so far. I believe that the scheme has gone far enough ahead to justify the Government approaching the International Monetary Fund or the International Bank seeking finance for its further development. The Commonwealth Government should be able to obtain from the International Bank perhaps £200,000,000 repayable over 25 years. If the International Bank agreed to the loan, the Commonwealth Government could then utilize general revenue to finance such projects as the Ord River, Fitzroy basin and other irrigation works that need to be developed in some of the other States.
I am not sure that I really believe that wc in Australia should be using general revenue for the development of such huge projects as the Snowy Mountains scheme. I understand that scheme is so far advanced now that within the next twelve months or two years income from the sale of electricity will be sufficient to meet interest and sinking fund charges on the money expended so far. We are assured that eventually these returns will pay for the cost of development, and I really feel that whether we are right in paying for that development out of general revenue and so delaying the- development of other vital projects in Australia because of lack of capital is a matter that needs very careful consideration indeed. The Government is deserving of great credit for the fact that in these prosperous times it has been able to finance the Snowy Mountains scheme out of general revenue up to this stage, but surely there are other parts of Australia crying out for development and surely, now that the Snowy Mountains scheme has developed so far, it would be worth our while approaching the International Bank for finance repayable over the next 25 years so that the completion of this scheme might be expedited. I know that the Canadian Government has spent an amount equal to £1,000,000,000 Australian on the development of its Lakes scheme in the last five years and that this money came from general revenue; but, surely, as the need for further development arises, and as the Snowy Mountains scheme now seems to be at the stage at which the Internationa] Bank should be quite willing to advance money, we should obtain a loan and utilize general revenue for the development ot other interesting projects.
It was indeed a source of great pleasure to me, on my recent visit to the northern part of Western Australia, to see the reaction of the people there to the Commonwealth Government’s recent grant of £5,000,000 for expenditure on approved projects. The people of the north were very grateful indeed for that grant. They seem to have a new feeling. Before my last visit the people seemed to have the feeling that no government was interested in them, but now that they have a Commonwealth Government which has made them a gift of £5,000,000 for expenditure on approved projects, they have been given new hope.
– Can you tell me whether the Western Australian Government has got to get rid of all the kangaroos up there before the Commonwealth Government will advance any money?
– Let me tell the honorable senator that just outside Port Headland, at a place called Woodstock, the Commonwealth Government has established a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization station to deal with that very matter. The C.S.I.R.O. has an officer there to carry out experiments in connexion with the breeding and watering habits of kangaroos. He has been working out there for three years now and I understand that he has written a report, which will be available shortly, containing recommendations for the destruction of the kangaroo. No doubt his plans for getting rid of this pest relate to the Kimberley district.
Speaking of kangaroos, I understand that in America there is a ready sale for kangaroo meat. It is a processed and packaged product which is sold as kangaroo venison, and brings a very high price in America. This meat is produced in Western Australia and sold in America as a luxury food for something like one dollar per lb. I understand that some people in the eastern States of Australia are seeking licences to export low-grade kangaroo meat as- pets’ food to be sold on the American market: for less than 30 cents per lb. 1 sincerely hope that licences will not be granted’ for1 the export of this meat because that would tend to destroy the market for the high grade meat produced in Western Australia. In saying that, I do not claim that there is no high grade kangaroo meat in the eastern States; there is but the people who are. packing, kangaroo meat in the eastern States are trying to compete on a lower market in America which is being supplied, with such things as horsemeat.
But. I mention that, matter only in passing. I had been speaking, abour the need for further development of the northern part of Western Australia and 1 mentioned how glad the people of that area were to know that at last they had a Commonwealth Government which was sympathetic to them and, because of that, they were full of hope that great things would be done by the expenditure of the gift of £5,000,000. I have mentioned the need for further finance from the Commonwealth Government for developing the area and have suggested ways in which that finance could be obtained.
I conclude on that note. I have the utmost confidence in the Budget. I believe it is the right type of budget to bring down at this stage in our history, and if the next decade in Australia is as good for Australians as the last decade has been, I shall be a very satisfied statesman.
.- Critics of the Government’s financial proposals have stated that this Budget may be termed a class Budget which has been prepared wholly and solely in the interests of the wealthy sector of this country which consists mainly of the privately owned monopolies. In my opinion, that is undoubtedly the case. It could not be otherwise under existing conditions. What should be kept in mind is that the everincreasing mechanization of primary and secondary industry has the effect of reducing the subsistence wage in terms of labour time. Secondly, the virtually unchecked depreciation of the currency has the effect of reducing the purchasing power of wages in terms of money. As the Budget proposals do not include any provision whatever for protecting the ever-increasing number of impoverished’ victims’ against’ the sustained! reduction of their* subsistence wages, in. terms of either labour-time or money, the overall effect’ from year to- year must be, first, to increase substantially the profits and income of the wealthy people^ and secondly, to increase substantially the number of impoverished victims and their dependants who are in receipt of the semistarvation relief payments made by Commonwealth and State governments.
The first point I wish, to make is that it cannot be denied that in primary and secondary production labour-time is a diminishing factor. To the extent, that labour-time is a diminishing factor, the subsistence wage is a diminishing factor. The subsistence wage is automatically reduced by mechanization. Then again, the virtually unchecked depreciation of the currency reduces the purchasing power of the wage in terms of money. On 31st October, 1957, I supplied the Senate with some figures, which were included in the “ Hansard “ of that day. Those figures, supplied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, covered every year from 1914 to 1956, with the exception of the war years 1939 to 1945. They disclosed that by 1956 there had been a depreciation of 78 per cent, in the value of the £1, compared with the value of the £1 in 1914, the year in which depreciation commenced. That means that in terms of gold the £1 sterling was worth 4s. 4d. in 1956, compared with 20s. in 1914. Since 1956 there has been a further depreciation, and I should say that the £1 sterling to-day is worth approximately 4s. only, compared with 1914. If we subtract an amount of 25 per cent, to allow for our adverse exchange rate, it means that the Australian £1 now is worth approximately 3s. only, compared with the £1 sterling in 1914. It is important that these things should be borne in mind, because Government senators and certain newspapers would have us believe that the £1 sterling to-day has the same purchasing power as it had in 1914.
The effect of that depreciation, of course, is that costs of production have been lowered enormously, but the Budget does not make any mention of protecting the victims of the depreciation of the currency. We must assume that silence gives consent. The result, as I have said, is that from year to year the profits of the monopolists are substantially increased. The colossal profits to which reference has been made from time to time in the press are made possible by two things, namely, a reduction of labour-time in production and a depreciation of the currency.
What does the Government propose to do to rectify that state of affairs? As I have said, the number of persons and their dependants who are in receipt of reliefpayments from the Government is increasing. By granting these relief payments, the Government is simply paying them a premium for the privilege of impoverishment down to the lowest level. Because the Government pays aged and other pensions, some people speak euphemistically about a welfare State. That sounds very pleasing in the ears of people who do not know better, but actually all these payments amount to the subsidizing of preventable impoverishment or pauperism. I regard what is called the welfare State as subsidized pauperism.
When introducing the 1956-57 Budget, the then Treasurer, .Sir Arthur Fadden, said -
As I have said on other occasions, inflation cannot be remedied by government action alone.
Who is the supreme authority to control the economy of the country if it is not the Government? Inflation can be remedied, in my opinion, provided that the Government has the knowledge and the moral courage to tackle the job. If it has not, the position will continue to go from bad to worse. Wages and salaries are not being increased in terms of real purchasing power. The money wage is one thing, but the goods you can buy represent the real wage. Money is simply a medium of exchange or a medium of indirect barter. The real wage represents what you are able to buy with the money you are paid. In my opinion, there has been no increase in wages or salaries, in real terms, as the Government would have us believe. It is apparently so only in terms of depreciated currency; it is not actually so. Take, for example, the recent increase in the basic wage. If the basic wage were increased to £14 a week, instead of being £13 odd, the purchasing power of it, in terms of gold, would be no more than the purchasing power of the basic wage in 1907 when it was fixed at £2 2s. That cannot be denied. Two approaches can be made to these matters, the mathematical approach and the geometrical approach. I am suggesting, on the mathematical approach, that the position to which I have directed attention has arisen. Senator Spooner has referred to the Richardson Committee report. The press and, I suppose, the great majority of the people, believed that parliamentary allowances were increased in terms of real money. The committee stated, at page 9 of the report, that in 1907 the Parliament had raised the allowances to £600 a year. I maintain that if the purchasing power of that £600 had been maintained, the parliamentary allowance to-day would be approximately £3,600. That is the way in which people are being misled by a false conception - whether created purposely or in ignorance I am not prepared to say at the moment - of the whole position.
Many workers of this generation say, “ When my father was working, he received only £2 8s. or £3 a week, but I am getting £12 a week”. Others may be getting £16 a week. No school of thought, particularly that which is composed of those who claim to be expert in finance, has attempted to explain to the people of this country or of any other country the extent to which they have been robbed or misled by the sustained, unchecked depreciation of the currency. Senator Scott referred to the increased money payments for social services, but all of those increases were made in terms of depreciated money and did not, in my opinion, maintain the status quo. Unless the Government is prepared to face this question as it should be faced, there will be further increases in prices. The Arbitration Court fixes the basic wage and the directors in charge of monopolies fix the purchasing power of the wage and their rate of profit. We will not have the smooth passage to which Senator Scott referred if that state of affairs is allowed to go on. It is well known in physics that beyond a certain point quantitative differences create qualitative changes, and unless adjustments are made the stage will be reached where there will be a collapse in currency just as there was in 1924 in Germany and in other places. If that happens, it will create a veritable harvest for the owners of fixed capital. It will mean mass unemployment for workers and insolvency for debtors. The Government has made no approach at all to this matter. I make that point for the purpose of directing attention to what really may happen.
Senator Scott referred to the position overseas. I have a recent copy of “ Challenge “, a publication of the Institute of Economic Affairs, New York University. One of the articles in it deals with inflation and reads -
For two years economists have been trooping to Washington at the invitation of Congress to tell all they know about the causes of inflation in modern industrial societies.
The matter is still being considered and the position is becoming desperate in America. It was referred to by no less a person than Mr. Lewis, manager of the secretariat division of the Victorian Employers Federation, as reported in the Melbourne “ Sun-Pictorial “ of 6th July last. Mr. Lewis said -
The United States credit system and the American public’s blind acceptance of its economic philosophy appalled me. The effect of credit in the States is vastly more extensive than in Australia. It is comparatively easy for private individuals to obtain loans of SOO dollars from banks without security. There was a general belief that competition should govern both selling price and profits. Trade associations were not allowed by law to fix retail prices.
The banks in America are overloaded with paper money and amounts of 500 dollars are being lent without security. The object of that is to compel borrowers to pay tribute to the banks all their lives, as most of the workers in America are doing at the present time. Many Australians are doing it through interest payments to the extent of £350,000,000. The position that is developing was referred to in the “Washington Post “, “ Times Herald “, “ New York Herald Tribune “ and “ New York Times “. I suppose most honorable senators have received copies of a document containing quotations from those newspapers. One of them reads -
When the value of the dollar declines at home it is cause for alarm, but when the dollar loses its value abroad America’s prestige and influence in the world are certain to shrink even more than the shrinking purchasing power of the dollar. For Americans and for the whole of the free world-
Of course, there is no free world for the debtors - our inflation may become a time-bomb that could pose a threat as great as the Communist conspiracy.
Recent press publications indicate that a slump is developing in Wall Street and that the people in control are at the end of their wits to know what should be done to rectify the situation. A further paragraph reads -
But inflation would dry up the flow of funds into savings institutions and bonds. At the same time the Federal Reserve Board would have to clamp down on bank credit, in order to dampen down the rising prices. Home building and capital goods expansion would suffer and the inflationary boom would inevitably come to a halt.
I quote that to give the Senate some idea of the position in America. The difference between the situation in Australia and that in America is only one of degree. The same could be said about the United Kingdom, Italy, France and other European countries. Our money based economy is reaching a stage where it will be impossible to do anything for the benefit of the people unless the Government has the moral courage to take the initiative in that direction. So far as I am able to judge, the Government is relying for its advice upon authorities in the United Kingdom and America, but particularly the International Bank which is principally an American bank. All that Senator Spooner said in justification of what he claimed to be the progress that has been made was really a process of what I call subjective reasoning. The Minister wants to see the picture as he imagines it should be. He is not prepared to face realities or, if he is, he is not prepared to refer to them.
Let us consider the position of the age pensioners. As Senator Scott said, the age pension was fixed more than 50 years ago. In terms of money, it has been increased from time to time to £4 7s. 6d. When effect is given to this Budget, possibly in October, the pension will be £4 15s. a week. Let us assume it is £5 a week. In terms of gold or purchasing power, an age pension of £5 a week would be worth no more than 15s. was worth in 1914 or before that. The overall effect is that thousands of age pensioners are living in most appalling conditions. They are living in rooms, they are robbed by landlords, and they are hardly able to exist. When they are in receipt of £4 15s. a week, there will be an increase in prices and rents.
J.n the “ Sun “ of 30th May, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is reported as stating that contributory national insurance schemes had been set up in many countries, but that all had broken down in varying degrees. He said they broke down because there was no way of stabilizing the value of money. There is a way in which to stabilize the value of money without inflicting the slightest hardship on any one; but the Government does not intend to make any adjustment until the pressure of the physical needs of the age pensioners and the unemployed “ forces it to do so. For all practical purposes, this Government and many other governments operate on the principle of the wheelbarrow; they go just as far and as fast as they can be pushed by the people. They never take the initiative and go forward themselves.
The Minister for Social Services, in one of his statements, has said that there are 500,000 age pensioners. It has been stated elsewhere that it is estimated that by the end of this year the number will rise to 550,000. Included in the ranks of the age pensioners is a very large number of ablebodied men and women who would welcome the opportunity to forgo the pension and earn a decent wage. But such people, where they can be replaced more cheaply by machine power, are compelled to end their days in conditions of enforced unemployment. In many instances, enforced unemployment practically means condemning them to withering away in solitary confinement in rooms. Many of those people would be much better cared for if they were in gaol. That is a tragic state of affairs which has been allowed to develop in a country with unlimited resources to provide adequately for men, women and children in need of food, clothing and shelter. Such people are existing in a state of semistarvation. Of course, as I have said, those conditions apply in almost every country of the world, simply because governments act in accordance with the requirements of moneyed interests.
Behind the scenes, the real government of the country is exercised by the monopolies, which are becoming wealthier and fewer in number. Almost every day we read in the newspapers about continual take-overs, or mergers. Monopolies are becoming the real governments of the day, and parliamentary governments act. accordingly. Not only this Government but also governments overseas do that. Increasing industrial unrest and resistance to this state of affairs is becoming apparent. According to American newspapers,, millions of steelworkers are on strike. There has been a big printing industry strike in England, while before that there was a big transport strike. There have been strikes in steel and other works in both England and America. All industrial unrest of that kind represents reaction or resistance to enforced impoverishment.
In my opinion, governments will not make any move to improve matters until something drastic has been done, or is threatened, by the victims. Practically everybody who has gone into the question of age pensions will agree with what I have said. According to the Melbourne “Sun” of 27th July last, Professor Downing of Melbourne University has made some pertinent comments. The report stated -
Poverty in Australia’s economy to-day was concentrated almost entirely among old people, Professor R. I. Downing said at Melbourne University last night. Many of these old people had an urgent need for help, he said. “We need a change in the will of the community to change the lot of our old people,” he added.
That is the statement, not of a Communist, but of a man who is qualified to speak. Professor Downing said that we need a change in the will of the community, but there has been no change while this Government has been privileged to held office.
Let us consider the extent of unemployment. We are told that unemployment is declining. According to official figures that have been published from time to time, in 1956 there were 30,000 unemployed; in 1957 there were 46,000; in 1958, 64,000; and in 1959, 70,000. So unemployment is increasing, while the position of age pensioners and other recipients of social service benefits is deteriorating, simply because the Government will not take action. Senator Spooner, on 19th February last, stated in this chamber, in effect, that the production of coal between 1954 and 1958 had increased by 54 per cent. That was claimed as an achievement, but the honorable senator made no reference to the facts that more than 7,000 miners had been dismissed from the industry, that many of them had lost their homes and, I suppose, that a great number of them are now recipients of unemployment relief.
That kind of thing is going on. In every place where production exceeds enormously the cost of subsistence - which is the cost of production - unemployment increases. The number of age pensioners also increases. If this country were as thickly populated as are countries overseas, the position here would be just as bad. We have a small population in a very big country. Because that is so, the position of those who are responsible for the depreciation of the currency and for the creation of unemployment is not so strongly entrenched as it is in thickly populated countries. The effect is, of course, that our cities are becoming overcrowded. That is also the case with capital cities overseas. Where working men and women and their dependants are denied adequate housing, the general effect is to lower the moral and intellectual level of the people concerned. If you herd people together as you would herd cattle, the effect is most tragic. You have an unbalanced economy, as I have indicated, and you have an unbalanced population. The task to be undertaken is to establish equilibrium and to maintain it as best we can.
This Government has no reason to congratulate itself, nor has the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). However, I am now not addressing the Senate for the purpose of discrediting the Government. What I am attempting to discredit is the system it would enforce and which we are trying to adjust. But it cannot be adjusted. Actually, the people of this country, as in other countries, are being divided into classes in this century to a far greater extent than ever before. As I have said, the owners of capital and land, in this highly mechanized and private monopoly controlled age, are becoming wealthier and fewer in number. On the other hand, the non-owners are being impoverished in ever-increasing numbers. Class warfare, which honorable senators opposite would ignore if possible, is becoming more widespread and more devastating; so much so that industrial disputes and upheavals in the Western world are becoming more frequent, as are revolu tions in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Both industrial upheavals and revolutions result from class war. Class warfare is inevitable when millions ot people are denied freedom of access to the means by which they live. We are told by the press and all sorts of publications that we live in a free world. That statement is not wholly true. There are two categories of freedom - positive and negative. The freedom of those who depend upon wages, small salaries and repayments is purely negative. They are free only to the extent permitted by the holders of land and capital whose freedom is positive because they have freedom of access to the means by which they live quite independently of anybody else. The freedom of those who are dependent on the will of governments, such as the Government now in office, is negative. This talk about freedom, in the full meaning of the word, is not true in reference to us, but it is repeated again and again by the monopoly controlled press, by television and broadcasting commentators and by members of the Government. One does not improve his position merely by saying that he is free and announcing what he will do. He must act as a free person or suffer all the restrictions of freedom to which he is subjected.
There is another matter to which I should like to direct attention. It has been stated repeatedly by the press and by Government senators that we should attract capital from overseas with which to develop this country, but they have not said that that is in the interest of those who do the work. As I have said before in this chamber, profits are appropriated by the owners of capital, and to-day profits are colossal. The profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and others are increasing enormously. The wealth of those companies has been collectively produced by the mass of the workers far in excess of the wages they have received, and it has been privately appropriated. The attraction of capital to this country does not make the position any better in the slightest degree for the men and women who actually do the useful and the necessary work. The position of those in receipt of dividends and other profit payments is improved but the position of the great mass of the people whom we are supposed to represent and in whose ‘interests we are supposed to legislate is going from bad to worse, failing adequate adjustments in the meantime, as .it has done from the cessation of hostilities.
I should like now to refer to the cessation of aircraft construction in this country, which I think is a very important matter. lt has been proposed that in future all aircraft we require shall be imported from overseas. According to Air Marshal Sir George Jones, formerly Chief of the Air Staff whom I know very well, aircraft construction in this country is on the verge of extinction. The following report of the views of Sir George Jones appeared in the Melbourne “Age” of 9th June, 1959: -
Addressing Frankston branch of the Australian Labour Party, he said that the Commonwealth Government had placed the last order with the industry nine years ago. Although £20 million had gone into the industry, no further orders had been placed since.
Sir George Jones said that, over the years, he had done much to develop .the aircraft industry, and Australia had produced many effective aeroplanes. The industry was now stringing out the remaining orders for Sabres to last as long as possible.
A basic need in the defence of any country was a steady, ensured supply of major arms such as ships and aircraft.
If Australia did not have this .ensured supply she might as well not have an air force.
The Royal Australian Air Force had projects in mind to which the aircraft industry could be directed.
In 1941, when I was appointed Minister for Aircraft Production in the then Labour Government, a position that I occupied until 1945, the aircraft industry was in a state of chaos. This position developed after the fall of Dunkirk a year earlier. We had to organize and to adopt all sorts of expedients to supply aircraft because they could not be imported. Then it was suggested that America would supply us. A report of a select committee of the United States Senate, which was presided over by Senator - later President - Truman referred, in effect, to some types of American aircraft such as the Hell Divers and Aircobras as suicide machines. An attempt was made in those days to close down the production of aircraft in Australia, and to buy machines from America. I have always considered that in times of war as well as in times of peace a country should be as self-contained as possible and I said at the time of which I speak that if an attempt was made to close down aircraft production in Australia I would make public the information that I had received from America about suicide aircraft. Air Marshal Sir George Jones became one of the prominent members of the Aircraft Production Commission. He is warning the Government of what is likely to happen. Suppose war were to come again - we hope it will not - and we could not import aircraft from America or elsewhere. What would we do? ‘We would just have to do the best that we could. Our aircraft technicians during the last war did a remarkable job, but the Government’s decision to close down the industry is nothing short of suicidal. The report continues -
The excuse of the Government was Australia’s dependence on the United States.
I remind honorable senators that in 1941 we could not depend on the United Kingdom for aircraft. The report states that .Sir George Jones said -
In the last war I spent much time in the United States trying to get aircraft. Eventually I succeeded, but unfortunately it was too late.
The report goes on -
He suggested that an overseas mission should attempt to attract the “ know-how “ and skills in aircraft building from abroad.
Sir George Jones said Australia could no longe depend on Britain as she had in the past.
It was clear that Britain was not capable of helping Australia greatly because she was no longer a first-rate power.
She was on the other side of the globe.
It was of more concern to Australia that she develop relationships with her Asian neighbours in a wholly friendly manner.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to the expression “ Asian neighbours “. It is interesting to see how the attitude of Government supporters towards China and Russia is changing. The report continues -
It was necessary for Australia to be developed as a supporting base in the South-East Pacific, and it was also highly necessary that Australia be selfsufficient in such things as ships, army weapons and aircraft.
Answering questions later Sir George Jones said he considered the Government had spent too much money recently on aircraft carriers.
He would be glad to see a couple of aircraft carrier’s in Australia’s defence, but they should be kept in strict relation to land force bases.
Sir George Jones, answering another question, said he thought that any major world war would be a long, drawn-out struggle.
As long as we are dependent on the monopolists of , the United States for aircraft we must expect them to call the tune. They will direct policy and lay down the time when aircraft will be supplied.If that state of affairs continued for long we should become another satellite of the United States.
The international situation is most serious and I have very little confidence that success will attend the efforts of those who are taking part in the various conferences being held at present. The production of armaments of all kinds is now an integral part of the economies of nations. If disarmament were agreed upon and the manufacture of war materials ceased, what would happen to the millions of people who would become unemployed The United States does not know what to do with its unemployed now. The delays which we have witnessed in the settlement of international differences have been caused by failure to confer. The only redeeming feature of the United Nations is that it is a forum where men may confer in an attempt to preserve world peace. However, the representatives of countries are often subject to influences beyond their control and therefore they are not altogether reliable. When one sees changing attitudes in our own country, one is not persuaded to accept ex cathedra what is said elsewhere. One must form one’s own judgment on the evidence available.
As an Australian by birth and an internationalist by conviction, I should like to see one world for one people. I believe that to be physically and financially possible, but it would mean the re-organization of internal economies and the economies of international trade. However, the representatives of the various governments are reluctant to make such changes. They are political paranoics. A paranoic is a person who is a slave to a fixed idea. They believe that their judgment is beyond question. One had only to read in the French newspapers accounts of the recent trouble there to understand that various generals of that country want war and believe that it will lead to the salvation of all. In this century we have had two world wars. Since 1945 we have had approximately 18 local wars. At any time another world war might develop. In my opinion, this dangerous situation exists because of lack of knowledge on the part of governments and peoples. If every one understood the real position as intelligently and clearly as he should, I am certain that the attitudes of governments to one another would be very different.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hannan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the Senate to a matter related to the receipt of Western Australian mail by air, under the amended schedules. Previously, mail which was despatched from Western Australia in the evening reached Canberra on the following morning and was delivered at Parliament House at 3.30 on the next afternoon. Nowadays, although the planes leave at the same times in the evening, they reach Canberra much earlier. The connecting planes arrive in Canberra at 9.30, but the air mail I have received over the past ten days has not reached me in Parliament House until 24 hours after the time of its arrival by plane in Canberra. I feel that this delay is far too long and I should like the Minister to take cognizance of my complaint. I have envelopes in my room which will prove the truth of my statements.
I do ask the Minister to see whether people receiving air mail from Western Australia can be given better service than has been provided recently. A delay of 24 hours between the time of arrival at Canberra and the time of delivery to the addressee at Parliament House appears to be unreasonable.
– in reply - I shall see that the honorable senator’s remarks are brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590820_senate_23_s15/>.