23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Tariff Board Bill 1960.
Customs Bill 1960.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1960.
– I direct the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Health: - 1. In what States of the Commonwealth are compulsory examinations provided for persons who desire to enter the profession of optometry? 2. Has the Commonwealth Department of Health examined the examination conditions? If it has, is it satisfied that persons who pass such examinations are qualified to practise as optometrists? 3. Is it a fact that contributors to medical health benefit societies, who require spectacles or any form of eye attention, must pay for the services of a general medical practitioner, an ophthalmic surgeon, and either an optical goods manufacturer or an optical mechanic before they can qualify for any benefits from the societies? If so, does this unnecessarily circuitous procedure result in some members of the medical profession receiving sums of money for which no service is rendered? 4. How many applications were made during the last financial year to medical benefit societies for benefit payments following service received from eye specialists? What was the total benefit claimed and what was the amount actually paid ? 5. Why is it that members of medical benefit societies, who receive attention and spectacles from optometrists legally qualified to provide such service and aids, are not entitled to any benefit payments from the medical benefit societies?
– I cannot supply offhand all the details the honorable senator has requested, but I can deal with one or two of the points he has raised. I understand that over the last few years there have been conferences between the optometrists” association and the Minister for Health on the particular aspect the honorable senator has raised. I was under the impression that about 80 per cent, of the optometrists’ requests had been met and that the position had been straightened out. If the honorable senator will put the question on the noticepaper, I think the Minister for Health will prepare a comprehensive answer to it.
– Has the Minister for the Navy been made aware by the Western Australian section of the Merchant Service Guild of the lack of charts covering the north-west coast of Western Australia? Is the Minister aware that overseas vessels approaching Port Samson or Port Hedland must use a British Admiralty chart published in 1883, which is quite unsatisfactory for accurate plotting? Will the Minister have inquiries made as to the necessity for naval hydrographic surveys of this area?
– I have not been specifically informed by the Merchant Service Guild that there is a lack of charts of this area. Around the Australian coast generally there are many places, particularly outside the recognized shipping channels, in respect of which full hydrographic charts have not been completed. The charting of all the waters around the Australian coast is a gigantic project. However, it has been undertaken and the work is being carried out. Two small general purpose vessels will be operating off the northern coast, rather than the southern coast, of Western Australia before very long. A system of priorities for the charting of waters outside recognized channels has been drawn up and is being adhered to. The work will be carried out by the Navy as quickly as possible.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question in relation to the obvious injustice that has been done by the Australian Government to Professor Gluckman, the noted anthropologist who is now a guest of the Australian National University, and to the decision of the Dutch authorities to authorize his entry to Dutch New Guinea. In view of the fact that, relying upon unsubstantiated security dossiers from overseas sources, which are not necessarily in tune with Australian standards, the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea made a snap decision to exclude Professor Gluckman from the Territory, will the Minister do justice to the professor, and let it be seen to be done, by showing an Australian bigness of mind, as well as moral and intestinal fortitude, by reconsidering the decision and allowing this noted anthropologist to visit a part of the world similar to others in relation to which his studies have been so valuable in the past?
– The honorable senator proceeds upon the assumption that an injustice has been done. Let charity begin at home. Is it fair to accuse our own officers of doing an injustice? Would it not be more reasonable to approach this matter upon the assumption that we have responsible officers who carry out their work capably and carefully? It is all very well to talk in terms of this gentleman being a noted anthropologist. That, I think, is beyond dispute. But we in Australia do not have one law for the rich and another for the poor, nor do we have one law for distinguished scholars and another for other people. This man has been treated as the honorable senator and 1 would be treated. It must not be thought that, because he has some particular qualification, he should be treated differently from others. There was no snap decision in this matter. With great respect, the allegations that the honorable senator makes about unsubstantiated dossiers do not do him justice. There has been no statement from the Australian Government about this matter of admission to Dutch New Guinea. I think it would be fair for the honorable senator to rely upon the Australian Government, instead of looking to sensational reports. We have done what we think should be done, in the interests of all concerned in New Guinea. There will not be a variation of the Government’s decision.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a supplementary question about the exclusion of Professor Gluckman from New Guinea. Is it not a fact that the only specific reasons so far published for the exclusion of the professor are contained in an article in the Melbourne “ News Weekly “? If the allegations contained in that article are true, can the Minister inform’ the Senate why they were not made available to the Parliament? Can he say by whom they were made available to the publication concerned?
– The honorable senator has the advantage of me. I have not seen the newspaper report to which she refers. The Government’s position is quite clear. The Government, through the responsible Minister, stated its decision on the floor of the Parliament. That is the right place from, which to state a decision of this kind. We cannot help what the newspapers report, and we cannot help it if Senator O’Byrne or Senator Tangney makes, extravagant statements which are not correct. As I have already said, the Government stated its decision on the floor of the Parliament and, as far as it felt it should,, the grounds for that decision. I say with all respect to everybody that it is very wrong and very unfair - indeed it is a bad thing - to quote newspaper reports or sources of information other than those: referred to by the Government in the Parliament.
– Has the Minister for National Development read a report in the United Kingdom Information Service Bulletin to the effect that a new synthetic lubricating oil has been produced in the United Kingdom which has had theeffect of cutting the fuel bill of the city of Birmingham for its 1,850 buses by £16,000 sterling annually? Is it known whether this lubricant will become available in Australia? If so, when will it be available?
– I am sorry to say that I have not seen the report to which Senator Marriott has referred, nor have I any information about or knowledge of thisnew development. I can only assure the honorable senator that I shall make inquiries and let him have such information as I can obtain.
– I address the following questions to the Leader of the Government in the Senate- How long did Professor Gluckman intend to stay in New Guinea? Is it true that he intended to stay for only three weeks? If so, what damage could he do during that period? Has there been a similar case in which the Leader of the Opposition has been taken into the confidence of the Government and has been furnished with the facts? ls it not possible now for the Government, in order to allay suspicions, which are rife, to give full information to the Leader of the Opposition?
– I do not know about suspicions being rife. 1 think the average Australian knows that in difficult circumstances like these it is not the custom’ for governments to provide detailed information. That is not an attitude that has originated with this Government. That has been the situation for a long time past, and it obtained no less when Labour was in office than it has while this Government has been in office. The position is well understood by every experienced parliamentarian. Therefore, when the Opposition tries to create excitement on this issue, I just say that it is making an insincere attempt to criticize the Government.
I cannot say for how long this man proposed to stay in New Guinea. That information will be on record. If the record had been available to me here, I would have been able to answer the question.
– By way of supplementary question I ask the Leader of the Government whether the Government has given the professor reasons for its refusal to permit him to enter the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If not, will the Government make its reasons available to the professor?
– The Government has done what is usually done on occasions such as this. The procedure is merely to give a polite refusal.
– I ask the
Minister for National Development whether he has seen recent newspaper reports of an American proposal to build a nuclear power station in the Antarctic. Will the Minister tell the Senate why the United States authorities have decided to build a nuclear power station and whether similar power stations could be built in Australia? Will the Minister also state the cost factor involved and when the power station is likely to come into operation?
– I have seen newspaper reports about this matter. This is an interesting development. The American authorities were faced with very great difficulties, in respect not only of transport costs but also of accidents and loss of lives. About seventeen aircraft crashed while carrying fuel supplies to bases in th Antarctic, and on each occasion a life was lost. The Americans have installed a small reactor of about 11 megawatt capacity. This will be, of course, merely a scientific experiment. A power station such as this is not an economic proposition. My recollection is that the cost of an atomic reactor is about 2,600 dollars, or approximately £1,200, per kilowatt, compared with about £80 or £90 per kilowatt for conventional large-scale generating equipment. The building of an atomic reactor in the Antarctic has been made necessary by the particular circumstances that exist there. I understand that the American authorities have set aside something like 4,000,000 dollars for the programme as a whole and that they contemplate erecting more of these reactors in the Antarctic for heating and power purposes associated with the work that they are doing there.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question concerning the establishment of an industrial atomic reactor in Australia for commercial purposes. Has the Minister anything to add to his previous statement concerning the likely date when such a reactor will be built in this country? What factors would the Government take into consideration when deciding where the first reactor would be established?
– I have nothing to add to previous statements that T have made on this subject. I have said that atomic power, like all other forms of power, must stand on its own feet economically. When atomic power is competitive with or cheaper than thermal or hydro power, its use for commercial purposes will be considered. I remind Senator Vincent that the erection of a nuclear power station is not a matter for consideration by the Commonwealth Government. Rather is it a matter for consideration by the State government and the mining company or organization concerned in installing generating equipment.
– I should like to ask the Minister a further supplementary question. Has he any late figures showing the difference between the cost of power produced by a nuclear power station and power produced by a coal-burning power station?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I cannot allow the honorable senator, in asking a supplementary question concerning an atomic reactor in Antarctica, which was the subject of the original question, to deal ‘with a coal-burning station in Antarctica.
– I shall conclude my supplementary question by asking the Minister whether he can inform me of the relative costs per kilowatt hour of producing power by a coal-burning station and a nuclear reactor in Antarctica.
– And also the freight rates to Antarctica!
– No, I do not keep in my memory particulars of freight rates to the South Pole. I think I can best answer Senator Scott’s question by repeating what I have already said: The capital cost of producing nuclear power in Antarctica is estimated to be 2,600 dollars per kilowatt hour. This is such a vastly greater cost than the cost of producing other kinds of power as to make it patently uneconomic for ordinary conditions.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the high accident rate there has been during recent months with civil aircraft used for crop spraying operations in Western Australia? In view of the numerous accidents in which these aircraft have been involved, luckily without loss of lives, can the Minister inform the Senate whether there are any regulations governing the flight of these planes, and whether there has been any common cause leading to the accidents? Can the regulations be tightened up to ensure that such accidents will not continue to occur?
– I am aware that during this season there have been eleven such accidents in Western Australia. I made a statement recently to the effect that if the high accident rate continued licences would be cancelled. 1 should like to make it completely plain to the Senate that regulations are in existence governing this type of flight, but the practical difficulty involved in enforcing compliance with the regulations will be immediately obvious to the Senate. The Department of Civil Aviation cannot post one of its officers with every operator within a wide area. Notwithstanding this, an inquiry is held after each accident and appropriate action is taken to prevent a recurrence. Furthermore, disciplinary action is taken when it is shown that the regulations have been broken. I should like to say that the Director-General of Civil Aviation, who is now overseas, will on his return to Australia later in the month visit Western Australia to examine this matter on the spot.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question relating to the voting strength in the United Nations. In view of the fact that vast countries such as the United States of America and Australia, each have only one individual vote in the United Nations General Assembly, although they represent numerous individual states, will the Minister initiate a move to place the Communist powers in an equitable position by reducing the numerous votes under the control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, first, by suggesting that the Ukraine and Byelo-Russia should forgo their right to vote as individual states and, secondly, by suggesting that so long as the satellite countries are deprived of their freedom to choose their type of government, they should also hand over their right to individual votes in the United Nations to their mentors in Moscow?
– The honorable senator has asked whether the Minister for External Affairs will adopt a specific course on policy which, I suppose, could only be adopted in the United Nations and in the face of the original charter of the United Nations which, for better or for worse, allowed these countries to be regarded as independent countries. Since this question involves a matter of policy, I can say no more about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that section 16 (1.) of the Post and Telegraphs Act is designed to discriminate, in relation to the carrying of mails, against one section of people - namely, Australian aborigines or people with a preponderance of aboriginal blood? Is he aware that twelve months ago, when I raised this question, he promised that his colleague would examine this section of the act and said that the Government intended to bring in amending legislation within a short space of time? Has the Postmaster-General yet had time to look at the section? If he does not intend to amend the section, will he give his reasons for the decision, or make a suitable statement to the Parliament?
– 1 am sorry to say that I have no knowledge of the matter raised by Senator Willesee. I ask him to put the question on the notice-paper so that the Postmaster-General can deal with it.
– As a supplementary question, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Has this matter been brought to the notice of his colleague?
– The answer is, “ Yes “. The section referred to by Senator Willesee has been the subject of consideration, and will again be the subject of consideration, by the department.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government decided the form of the new decimal coinage to be introduced, and whether coins will be replaced by paper currency? If not, will the Government defer its decision to construct a mint in Canberra in case it decides to replace existing coins by paper currency? Will the Prime Minister consider extending the decimal system to all weights and measures instead of only to the coinage?
– No Government decision has been made about decimal coinage. All that has happened is that a committee has been appointed, the com mittee has made its report, and the report has been tabled in the Parliament so that the public may have an opportunity to understand the issues involved. I shouldthink that the Government has well in mind: the point that Senator Hendrickson has raised about the effect of any decision in this matter on the need for a mint in Canberra. The Government will not miss out on that. The suggestion that the decimal system should be extended to include weights and measures as well as currency is interesting. This is the first time that I have heard the suggestion, and I should like to ponder upon it.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate two questions. Is the newspaper report about the entry of Professor Gluckman to Dutch New Guinea true? If the Dutch Government asks the Australian Government for the reasons why it banned Professor Gluckman from entering New Guinea, will the Australian Government supply those reasons to the Dutch Government?
– I do not know whether the newspaper report is true or not. If the Dutch Government were to make a request to us, we would consider what we should do when that request was made.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, relates to the discovery some months ago of gas at Roma. I ask the Minister whether further exploration work has proved that large additional supplies of gas exist there. I should also like to know the significance of this strike to the economy of Australia, and particularly to that of Queensland.
– I have a reluctance to answer questions concerning the transactions of specific companies’. I do not think it is proper to canvass the pros and cons of the value of the discovery by a particular company. In doing so, I might be wrong and I might be right. What I say might have a prejudicial effect on the fortunes of that company, or it might have a beneficial effect. All I shall say about the discovery of gas at Roma is that this is a very interesting development and that_we are awaiting full information with great interest.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer, ls it a fact that the value of Commonwealth Superannuation Fund units is less than that of superannuation units in some of the States? If so, will the Government consider bringing the value of the Commonwealth unit to the level of the unit with the highest value in any State?
– I am not sure how the value of Commonwealth Superannuation Fund units compares with superannuation fund units in the various States. I have always been under the impression that the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund was regarded as a very satisfactory one from the point of view of members of the Public Service. However, if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall be pleased to have a look at it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Railways provision store at Port Augusta is to be modernized and enlarged. Is it the prime intention of the Minister to improve services available to railway personnel living in remote areas along the east-west line who well deserve any amenity that it is possible to provide? Could not those people and others similarly placed in other remote areas be best served by sending at frequent and regular intervals an air-conditioned van, attached to a train, fitted up as a store, which would draw its supplies from a central warehouse or depot and would be able to carry deep-frozen or chilled perishable goods as well as desirable consumer goods, all of which might otherwise be unobtainable in such areas? Will the railways provision store at Port Augusta, or that at any other railhead, be treated mainly as a warehouse and will every precaution be taken to see that proprietors of privately run shops, which give excellent service to a relatively restricted population, are protected from unfair competition which could ensue from a socialized enterprise such as a governmentcontrolled provision store?
– I understand that the Commonwealth Railways proposes this year to build a new store to replace the existing store and that a sum of approximately £50,000 has been provided in the Estimates for that purpose, lt is, as the honorable senator suggests, the prime intention of the department to provide a store for its own employees, particularly those who live along the isolated parts of the transAustralia and central Australian lines. Regarding the provision of refrigerated supplies, I am informed that there is already a stores provision van which is attached to the “ tea and sugar “ train, fitted with diesel electric generators to keep perishable goods cool. The department always has been anxious to maintain a store for the service of its own employees at Port Augusta and those people who live along the line. It has never sought custom from other than its own employees, although it will be readily appreciated that people who live in isolated places frequently seek service from the store. Because of the isolated nature of the country in which they live they are served by it.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Deputy President. It may also be of interest to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who is primarily responsible for the arrangement of the business of this place. You will recall, Sir, that twelve months ago the President, Senator Sir Alister McMullin, promised me that a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee would be held to examine the Standing Orders with a view to bringing them up to date. Obviously, they are now eleven years out of date. They became out of date when the system of proportional representation came into force. I ask you, Mr. Deputy President, whether the committee has met and whether you can give the Senate any idea of when a report may be presented. Will you include on the agenda, if there is an agenda for a meeting of this committee, the matter of supplementary questions which have crept into the proceedings of the Senate and for which, as far as I can see, there is no provision in the Standing Orders? I believe the committee should examine the desirability of allowing them. Frankly, 1 think the practice is very undesirable in many ways. Will the committee look into the desirability of this practice and see whether standing orders can be framed to cover it. If you can give me any information about these matters, I would be very grateful to receive it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- As the
Deputy President, I have no authority to call a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee, and I would not even think of doing so in the absence of the President. As soon as the President returns, that part of the honorable senator’s question will be put to him for his consideration. I quite agree with Senator Willesee that the Standing Orders contain no provision for supplementary questions. The President allowed supplementary questions to be asked and that practice has continued. I shall continue it until the President returns and then the matter can be put before the Standing Orders Committee. I want to make it clear that while I am in the Chair I shall permit supplementary questions to be asked as long as they relate to the original question. I will not allow any departure from that procedure. I warn honorable senators that if a departure is attempted, I will not permit it. I shall immediately call the honorable senator next in turn to ask a question.
– I wish to ask a question supplementary to the question asked by Senator Willesee in relation to the calling together of the Standing Orders Committee. Will you, Mr. Deputy President, request honorable senators who have from time to time made notes of their ideas for amendments to the Standing Orders which would improve Senate procedure, to have their proposals ready in anticipation of the action of the President in calling a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee with a view to amending our rules in many ways?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have nothing to add to what I have said. The matter of a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee will be put before the President when he returns. If any honorable senator wishes to suggest amendments to the Standing Orders, it is entirely for himself to formulate his views and take whatever steps he deems necessary through the members of the committee in order to put his ideas before the committee when it is called together.
– May I give a supplementary answer, Mr. Deputy President? I think that the President called a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee, that the committee had before it the various proposals that had been advanced by Senator Willesee and others, and that the committee did not think it should alter the Standing Orders. However, my recollection may bs wrong.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have nothing further to say. Although 1 am a member of the committee, I say quite candidly that I cannot remember that particular meeting.
– That debate having concluded, I desire to direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Where are the coins tor the Australian monetary system minted? What government owns the mint? To which government are profits from the mint paid? By whom are senior staff appointed? ls any change in the control and location of the mint contemplated?
– The question asked by the honorable senator covers a number of subjects. I understand that the position in respect of employment and appointments in Perth, Western Australia, is different from that in Melbourne. I mention that matter merely to indicate that the question cannot be answered shortly. At the moment there are two mints in Australia; one is in Perth and the other is in Melbourne. The Perth mint is owned by the Western. Australian Government. I will have to look into the matter of the disposition of its profits, or more particularly the losses incurred. I ask that the question be put on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer: Is it the intention of the Government to close both the mints mentioned and to have one mint only in Canberra?
– A statement has already been made by the Treasurer to the effect that when the mint is established in
Canberra and is in operation, no minting of coins will be carried out at the mints in Melbourne and Perth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice: -
– The Minister for Trade has now informed me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following answers: -
The trade agreement signed with Indonesia last year re-affirms the intention of both countries to promote an expansion of mutual trade and establishes a framework for trade development. The agreement recognized the importance of flour in trade between the two countries and Australia has obtained the major share of commercial flour purchases by Indonesia since the agreement was negotiated, including an allocation of 18,000 tons in May this year. A further benefit that has accrued to Australia from the agreement is a better understanding of mutual trade problems as a result of consultations carried out under the provisions of the agreement. A review of the agreement was held recently and it was agreed to extend the period of its operation for a further year to 30th June, 1961.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What types of water desalting apparatus were referred to by the Minister, when introducing the Budget, as being exempt from sales tax?
– The following reply has been furnished: -
As announced by the Treasurer, the sales tax law is being amended to authorize the exemption of water desalting apparatus. This action follows upon representations for the exemption of certain electrically operated apparatus which is installed as a fixture and is designed to desalt brackish bore water, or sea water, for domestic use for drinking or washing purposes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: - 1, 2 and 3. The record of the proceedings at the conference held on 22nd June, 1960, at which Commonwealth and State Ministers discussed civil defence is confidential. I am therefore not at liberty to answer the honorable senator’s specific questions. At the conclusion of the conference the Ministers participating agreed on a joint statement which was issued to the press. The statement reads -
The discussions at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on civil defence centred around the type of organizations which might be desirable in the various States.
The State Ministers indicated their willingness to co-operate with the Commonwealth in an expanded civil defence programme. They indicated how far they were prepared to meet the cost of their particular State programmes and the necessary financial assistance to be made available by the Commonwealth for the programmes examined.
It was agreed that the States’ views would be considered by the Commonwealth. 4 and 5. The Commonwealth Government has not yet reached a decision on the States’ submissions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
– On 1st September, Senator Poke asked the following question upon notice: -
I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by reading an extract from an answer supplied on Tuesday to a question that I had placed on the noticepaper. It is as follows: -
The Department of Customs and Excise has a trained staff of preventive officers which maintains a vigilant watch against all forms of smuggling.
Will the Minister state the number of trained officers who maintain a watch against all forms of smuggling at each of the following ports: - Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie?
I now furnish the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The numbers of preventive officers stationed at Tasmanian ports are (a) Hobart four; (b) Launceston one; (c) Devonport one; (d) Burnie Nil. I would emphasize again to the honorable senator that these officers are interchangeable between ports and as the occasion demands are supplemented by additional officers flown to Tasmania from Melbourne.
– 1 lay on the table the following paper: -
Report on Kaufana No. 1 Bore, Papua, of Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum Company Limited.
There has been a good deal of interestin this matter and I ask for leave of the Senate to make a short statement. [Leave granted.] This is the first report to be issued under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Acts which the Government introduced in 1957 and 1959 to encourage and assist the search for oil in Australia. It deals with the drilling ofthe Kaufana No. 1 bore in Papua by the Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum Company Limited. This strati-graphic bore was the first project to be subsidized under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1957. Under the provisions of the act the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics in my department was required to examine applications, maintain oversight of operations, receive information and samples, and in due course publish the results. The responsibility is continued under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959. The present report is therefore the first of a series which will deal with drilling operations, geophysical surveys and borehole surveys.
The administrative procedures by which subsidized operations were to be authorized and undertaken, and the form in which the results were to be collated and made public were established during the course of the Kaufana project and the subsequent report. Further reports in the series will be released soon. To date, 64 projects have been approved for subsidy. Of these, 46 have been completed and eleven are in progress at the moment. The total commitment of subsidy funds to date is of the order of £2,900,000.
This particular report covers a drilling operation that is designed to establish the stratigraphy of the tertiary sediments on what is known as the Kaufana anticline. The bore was drilled to a depth of 3,380 feet. The report reviews the geological and geophysical reasons which led the company to the choice of the bore site. It records technical details of the drilling, casing, mud fluid control, cementation and testing carried out in the course of the operation. One section describes the geology and stratigraphy of the Kaufana anticlinal structure tested by the bore.
Another section records palaeontological details which enabled the strata to be identified and correlated with other parts of the Papuan basin.
Although this is a technical document, I believe that honorable senators will be interested to see it, as it is the first of its kind and shows how the information obtained from subsidized operations in oil search will be put on permanent record. Accordingly, 1 have arranged for copies to be available for inspection in my office.
– Mr. Deputy President, I think it is desirable that the Senate should have an opportunity to discuss this report. Accordingly,I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 385), 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, 1961.
The Budget 1960-61- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1960-61; and
National Income and Expenditure 1959-60 - be printed.
– Mr. Deputy President, just prior to the adjournment of this debate last Thursday I was pointing out that never at any time had the increase in wages forced up the cost of living, but that on the contrary the increase in the cost of living had forced an increase of wages. The true value of wages is measured not by the amount of money a wageearner receives each week but by the number of commodities or necessaries of life that can be purchased with the money in his pay envelope. The purchasing power of the pay envelope is becoming less each week. Although wages are more or less pegged, the cost of living is increasing almost day by day. In my opinion, the cost of living is rising at an almost catastrophic rate. The wage and salary earners who are on fixed incomes have borne the brunt of any anti-inflationary measures that have been adopted over the years.
Rapidly rising prices have rocketed away from pegged wages, and a staggering burden has been placed on the family man. This Government’s policy of loading the family man with hidden indirect taxation to a far greater degree than has been attempted by any other government has made it almost impossible to balance the family budget. 1 suggest to supporters of the Government that, when they attack increases in wages and margins, they should look at some of the other factors that are causing inflation in Australia.
There are certain features of the Budget in relation to which we pay tribute to the Government, and in which we of the Australian Labour Party heartily concur. For example, we have no quarrel about the increase of Ss. in the age, invalid and widow’s pension.
– Except that the increase is not big enough.
– That may be so, but a little is better than nothing at all. We have no quarrel with the Government over the increase of the pension to be paid to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. We think it is time that something is done for those people. Moreover, the amelioration of the means test is appreciated by us, and is supported by us.
– It was borrowed from us, too, by the Minister for Social Services.
– Let me continue. The Australian Labour Party has advocated an amelioration of the means test for a number of years, but until now all our efforts in that direction have been resisted. Let us look at the other side of the picture. Since j 1950, this Government has completely ignored the family man. Child endowment has not been increased. If we believe what the Government tells us, the past ten years have been a golden decade of prosperity. With wages pegged and the cost of living increasing, the only way in which to supplement the income of the family man is by increasing child endowment.
– He could drink less beer.
– If any attempt were made along those lines we would be getting back to the dictator state. I do not think that the average wage-earner can afford to drink very much liquor.
Married couples to-day are not having families because they find the hurdle of inflation insurmountable. They are afraid that if they have families they will not be able to provide them with the standard of living that is the rightful inheritance of every child in this country.
– The birth-rate is increasing.
– Not as rapidly as it should be. If our existence as a nation is not to be endangered, it is essential that our birth-rate be increased. This can be done only by giving married couples financial stability. Surely they are entitled to share in the golden age of prosperity that this Government tells us we have enjoyed in the past ten years.
The maternity allowance has not been increased since 1943. The Australian Labour Party takes some of the blame for the allowance remaining unaltered between 1943 and the time when it went out of office. During a part of that period Australia was engaged in a world war. When hostilities ceased we faced a heavy programme of post-war reconstruction. But the present Government, which has been in office for the past ten years, has set its face against increases in the maternity allowance.
Another person who has been neglected in the Budget is the wife of an invalid or age pensioner. We know that she receives an allowance of 35s. a week, which has remained unaltered for some years despite an increase in the cost of living. The allowance is paid so that she may care for her husband. The total income, therefore, of a pensioner and his wife, if she herself is not in receipt of a pension, will be £6 15s. a week. Two people must live on £6 15s. a week. Surely the Government realizes that this amount is totally inadequate for a man and his wife.
– That is if the wife is under 60 years of age.
– Yes, when she is not eligible for a pension. It must be remembered that certain limitations apply in respect of this allowance. The wife must look after her husband as a full-time task. She has no opportunity to obtain outside employment, either full time or part time, in order to supplement the family income. If she finds some way of obtaining other income, she cannot receive the 35s. allowance because she is not then looking after her husband full time. Surely, with a national income in the vicinity of £5,000,000,000, these people could have received some consideration by the Government.
I come now to the subject of education. Whenever the Government is asked what it proposes to do about education it replies that education is a matter for the States. The Government claims that the States administer the money that is allotted to them by the Commonwealth in such manner as they think fit. Therefore the Commonwealth claims that it has no right to interfere. I think that the States are doing everything possible in the field of education, having regard to the limited finance available to them. If the Commonwealth lacks certain powers at present, in view of the importance of education it should do something to obtain the powers necessary to enable it to deal with this vital matter. Most honorable senators and members of another place have from time to time received letters and other literature from teachers’ organizations, parents’ organizations and school committees urging us to do whatever we can to encourage the Government to increase financial aid for education. A letter which I received recently from the New South Wales Teachers Federation reads -
While welcoming the increased allocations of £3.2 millions for University education, the N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation expresses profound disappointment at the fact that the Federal Government makes no provision for substantial financial assistance to the states to meet the urgent needs of primary, secondary and technical education throughout Australia.
The failure of the budget in this regard is further emphasised by the fact that since the Federal Government’s migration policy began, more than 470,000 migrants have come to this country and nearly 500,000 first generation children have been born here.
In view of the tremendous public support for greatly increased finance for education as evidenced by the National Education Conference, attended by 3,200 delegates from organizations representing the vast majority of Australian citizens, the N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation calls on all Federal Members and Senators to take appropriate action during the budget sessions to endeavour to have the needs of education fully considered.
As was said by an honorable senator during this debate last week, there is no doubt that the subject of education generally will be one of the big issues at the federal election next year. Government school teachers’ unions, parents and citizens’ associations, and other bodies in each State are organizing on a scale that has never before been seen in this country. They intend to contact all parents and urge them to vote for candidates who will support the provision of Commonwealth aid for education, and to vote against those candidate who will not support the provision of such aid. Whether the present Government likes to do so or not, it will have to say what it intends to do on the question of the provision of financial aid for education.
We must all realize that even the States are not bearing the full brunt of the cost of education, because almost 25 per cent, of the children in Australia to-day are being taught at private schools, the great majority of which are receiving very little assistance from the State governments. These schools are being built and maintained as a result of the efforts of the parents themselves. I feel that a grave injustice is being done to the section of the people who have to pay for the education of their children without any assistance being provided by the Government.
In conclusion, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I ask: what is to be done about halting the present galloping inflation? The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) recently told a Country Party conference in Perth that anti-inflationary measures were unpalatable and that the Federal Government could not curb inflation without applying measures that would affect everybody. He went on to say that there was no means of countering inflation which would not be unpalatable to the government in office at the time and which would not be bitterly opposed by some sections of the community. I ask: Who is the supreme authority to control the economy of this country, if it is not the Government? I feel that the ills of inflation could be remedied if the Government had the knowledge and the moral courage to tackle the job. If it does not possess that knowledge and moral courage, the position will go from bad to worse.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers and, in doing so, I think I should congratulate the Government on bringing down a Budget which, together with other aspects of the Government’s financial arrangements, will help to bring about a more stable economy than we had last year, lt will be remembered that, at about this time last year, the price of wool was fairly low and it was necessary to budget for a deficit. During the past year, wool prices have risen and, as a result of the Government pepping up the provision of finance by the central bank and other organizations to people who required advances, the economy became stabilized, and employment became over-full. We have now reached a stage at which we have to restrict, to some degree, developmental and other undertakings. The reason for the present state of affairs is that, during the past year, the price of wool increased by about 25 per cent, and, as I have said, money was released by the central bank to the trading banks to enable them to make advances to their customers. The effect of those two factors on the economy was such that a state of full employment was quickly reached. In fact, both prior to the presentation of this Budget and now, there is, particularly in certain States, a condition of over-full employment. I use that term to explain the present state of affairs because in Victoria, for instance, for every building trade worker who is out of work there are two jobs vacant. Therefore, in certain respects we have reached a stage of overfull employment in Australia to-day.
– What is the Government going to do about it?
– I will tell you. It is interesting to note that members of the Labour Party are advocating a reduction of the weekly working hours.
– That was done in Sydney last week.
– If one reads the newspaper reports accurately it is evident to him that, although this may not be directly the policy of the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, it is definitely the policy of some members of the Australian Labour Party who announced in Sydney last week that the Finance Committee of the Sydney City Council had recommended to the council that it adopt a 35-hours week for its employees.
– Hear, hear!
– All I say to that recom,mendation is this: How can the members of the Sydney City Council - after all, they are Australians as well as we are - argue that the economy of this country can stand a 35-hour working week?
– Has anybody said that it cannot do so?
– Anybody with any brains at all knows, my friend, that if in a period of over-full employment the number of working hours is reduced the state of over-full employment is intensified. I do not want to be personal about the matter, but it is merely a case of adding one and one, and getting two as the answer.
– That was said about over-full employment fifteen years ago.
– At that time, prior to the hearing of an application to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a reduction of the working week from 44 hours to 40 hours, the Labour Government of New South Wales so reduced the weekly working hours of its employees. The (Queensland Government followed that example and very soon reduced the weekly working hours from1 44 to 40. I think the movie was recommended by Mr. Chifley, but I ami not sure of that. The important point is that the Arbitration Court, at the hearing of the application made to it for a reduction of hours, said that it was faced with a fait accompli, and that there was nothing that it could do other than to recommend a reduction of Weekly working hours from 44 to 40 throughout Australia. In 1947 and 1948 we did not have full employment as we have it in Australia to-day. A Labour Government was in office then.
– Those dates are not right.
– In 1947 or 1948, when the 40-hour week was introduced, the state of full employment that exists to-day did not exist. The honorable senator should look at the employment figures for the period front the end of the war until the time when the present Government took office. 1 am not trying to cast any reflections on the Labour governments of those days. I always like to be fair. They had to bring back men who had been engaged in the greatest war that the world had ever known and put them into employment in Australia, lt was a terrific job for any government, but they did it very well. However, at the time the 40-hour week was introduced there was not the state of full employment that we have at this moment. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Labour Party will advocate a 35-hour week at the present time.
– Yes, we will.
– Honorable senators opposite will go throughout the length and breadth of this country advocating a 35-hour week?
– We want our part of the proceeds of mechanization.
– We all love Australia and want to do our best for it. Will honorable senators opposite go throughout the country advocating, in the interests of Australia, that we bring in a 35-hour week at this stage?
– What is wrong with that?
– I am trying to tell you. The finance committee of the Sydney City Council said that a 35-hour week would cost the council £400,000 annually. What would the Australiawide effect be? We have a work force of some 4,000,000 people. If we reduced the working week by one-eighth, to get the same amount of work done, we should have to increase our work force from! 4,000,000 to 4,500,000. At present, because of our stale of full employment, we have not enough people to do all the work that is required.
– We have not full employment in Western Australia.
– I am taking the national outlook. We should have to inincrease our work force to 4,500,000 in order to get the same amount of work done.
Senator Drury spoke about inflation. A reduction of working hours would increase inflation, lt would be the most inflationary thing that we could do. Without fear of contradiction, I say that the finance committee of the Sydney City Council did not realize the inflationary effect that their suggestion would have on the economy of Australia, particularly at this time, when we are battling with inflation. The cost of the labour component of goods would rise by 12i per cent, immediately.
– That is what the Labour Party wants.
– I do not know whether it wants that or not, but that is what would happen. It would create another spiral of inflation.
– The Government will be able to fix it.
– No government can fix inflation when we have courts increasing wages, as they are doing now.
– When did the Arbitration Commission last increase wages?
– Within the last eighteen months. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that there has been 28 per cent, increase of margins and an increase of 15s. a week in the basic wage.
– Who got the cop out of that? Not the man on the basic wage.
– Nobody objects to increases in wages. All I am saying is that a reduction of working hours to 35 hours a week would increase the inflation that we are already experiencing. The Sydney City Council committee suggests that, because of automation, a 35-hour week should be introduced. Even with automation, there are not sufficient people in Australia now to do the work that is required. No one can tell me that the members of the committee - a lot of dunderheads, no doubt - have a high regard for Australia.
The trouble is that these people, who are members of the same political party as honorable senators opposite, want to eat the cake that this Government has prepared. If they have any common-sense at all, they should realize that before you can eat a cake you have to make it. The Government has made the cake and these people want to eat it. But when no cake is left, who is to make another one? We would not be able to make another one under a 35hour week, because costs in Australia today are rising. We have to rely on our exports. We have to compete with the primary products of other countries on the world’s markets. How do honorable senators opposite think a 35hour week would affect the sales of our secondary and primary products on the export markets? We can hardly compete with other countries at present How would a reduction in the weekly working hours to 35 a week affect the farming industry? If a farmer saw his next door neighbour working a 35hour week in industry, would not he consider that he, too, was entitled to a decent living, working only 35 hours a week?
– What about the dairy farmer?
– Yes. Should not he be able to get a living by working for 35 hours a week, if a person who sweeps the Sydney streets can do so? It is of no use crying about this matter.
– Show me the farmer who works an average of 40 hours a week on his farm the whole year round.
– It would be nearer 60.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order!
– I am quite happy to have a debate on the subject.
– Do the men working on your farm work a 40hour week?
– Honorable senators opposite want to know whether the farmer has to do any work and whether he works a 40hour week. When I was young and working on my farm I averaged more than 60 hours a week. Let me tell honorable senators opposite about the way that my son works on the farm at the present time to try to make it pay. I do not want to be personal, but I have no doubt that what I propose to say about his efforts applies to all farmers.
– He should leave the farm. He is in the wrong job.
– Would you buy it?
– Not at the price you would want.
– I would accept the valuation figure. However, my boy and there are thousands like him in the community starts work at 7 o’clock in the morning and finishes at 6 o’clock at night. He works on Saturdays and Sundays to get the job done. If I could get some of the members of the Australian Labour Party down on the farm, particularly our friend who carries a little too much condition, it might do them good. The honorable senator who is interjecting so much might be a healthy, vigorous type if he could get onto a farm and do the kind of work that our farmers are doing to-day.
I think it is tragic to talk of introducing a 35hour week at this stage of our history.
– At what stage of our history does the honorable senator think it would be right to do so?
– That is a fair question and I shall try to give a fair answer to it. I believe that the moment we have 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, of our work force unemployed is the time to reduce hours of work. No one with any sense at all would dream of introducing a 35hour week during a period of overfull employment, as at present. The suggestion is utterly ridiculous, although I am not saying that the members of the Sydney City Council, who have brought forward the proposal, are not sincere. I think they are sincere, but I believe that their proposition is absurd.
I wish now to offer some suggestions that may be of interest to both the Government and the Parliament. Of recent years, I have taken a particular interest in statements made by various people in the Commonwealth on the need to increase our export income. Having regard to the large-scale development that has been taking place in the rural areas of Western Australia and the Commonwealth generally, it is reasonable to expect that some of the increase of our export earnings that is considered desirable will come from primary industry. In fact, I think the greater part of it will have to come from primary industry. Nevertheless, we must do what we can to increase export income from our secondary industries which have been progressing during the last decade and which, no doubt, will continue to do so. I think the mining industry could play an increasingly important part in achieving the objective of £250,000,000 a year of additional income from exports in five years’ time, that being the target set by various people throughout Australia. The mining industry could play a great part, provided that the correct incentives were given to it. 1 say, in passing, that while the previous government and the present Government have bent over backwards to help the mining industry once mines have become established, neither government has done all that could be done by way of tax concessions to encourage the development of the industry and the establishment of new mines.
– What types of mining?
– The honorable senator is not alluding to gold mining, is he?
– No, 1 am not. I shall indicate as I go along the types of mining to which I am referring.
– You cannot generalize on mining, can you?
– I thought I could. 1 shall answer the honorable senator’s question as 1 proceed. I am speaking of the mining of base metals generally now. The honorable senator knows very well that there is now no income tax in respect of gold mining and uranium mining. Various countries have adopted different methods of encouraging mining operations for certain minerals. 1 have studied the Canadian mining laws, and while I think that over a long period they are not as beneficial to the mining industry as are our taxation laws, I point out that the Canadian Government grants a company or corporation which engages in mining a tux-free holiday for three years. The people of Canada know that from the time a mine comes into operation its earnings will be tax-free for three years. I may say that practically every one in Canada in the higher income levels speculates in mining.
Having established, the mine, the proprietors can write off the cost of development and of plant and equipment at the rate, I think, of 25 per cent, per annum. Australian mining companies, under section 23a of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, and proprietors of Canadian mines alike are entitled to a tax deduction of up to 20 per cent, in respect of prescribed minerals. In
Australia, we say to those who propose to engage in mining activities, “ Find a deposit and construct the mine and we will allow you, as a deduction from your net earnings, the total cost of construction, plant, equipment and development in the year that you spend the money “. A company may start with a capital of, say, £100,000, and spend £80,000 in the first year on development, construction and machinery to bring its mine into production. Such a company could write off the whole of that cost as a loss at the end of the financial year, and carry forward the unrecouped portion of the loss for seven years until the whole amount had been recouped out of profits. Of course, if the company claims a tax concession in that way, it has great difficulty in passing on to its shareholders the money it has been able to write off.
When a mining company is formed in Australia the shareholders are allowed a tax deduction of one-third of the amount paid in calls, and when the company is in operation the full capital expenditure on development, plant and equipment can be written off over a period of seven years. Further, in respect of prescribed minerals the company can claim 20 per cent, of its income as a tax deduction.
Honorable senators will notice that although those provisions are quite good, there is nothing to encourage a mining industry to obtain capital in Australia which is equal to the concession that is given by the Canadian Government. I think the exemption from tax for three years - the tax free holiday - and the writing off of capital over a period of four years, or in some cases three years, provide a greater incentive to the taxpayers of Canada to put their money into mining than is offered to Australian taxpayers to start a new mine.
– You know that Senator Spooner disagrees with you?
– Does he?
– I agree with you. I think you are right.
– The interesting point is that a mining company which does exploratory work in Australia in looking for new minerals can claim expenditure on that work as a tax deduction in the year in which the money is spent, but from some articles I have read I understand that that applies only to mining companies which, are making profits out of mining and not to a new company. Suppose there was a world shortage of copper and in Australia we had large auriferous areas which could contain copper and somebody interested in exploration and prospecting formed a company with a capital of £200,000 to carry out prospecting by modern methods. A person who took up shares in that company would not receive a tax concession until the prospecting company had found copper and established a mine. Then he could recoup his loss over the next seven years, during which the company would be able to write off its prospecting expenditure.
What concessions have we offered to encourage capital investment in the mining industry in Australia? I have given this matter quite a lot of thought and some of the conclusions I have reached could be wrong. Accordingly, I should like to heal some other senators who are interested in mining speak on this subject. It is a pretty big task to study the conditions in America and Canada and to try to compare them with those that obtain in Australia. I believe that the Government’s action in presenting a bill to allow a 100 per cent, deduction for income tax purposes on calls paid to oil companies was a step in the right direction. A company which is searching for oil in Australia, if it so elects, can notify its shareholders that, if they so desire, they can claim a 100 per cent, deduction in the year in which they take up the shares instead of the company writing off the expenditure when it has found oil. The search for oil is a risky business. I suppose it is the most risky of all mining ventures. A person with capital to invest in a risky venture, such as the search for oil, must be encouraged to put his money into the venture. That encouragement is given by saying to the person who is paying tax at the rate of 10s. in the £1. “ If you invest in this venture the Commonwealth will subsidize you to the extent of 10s. in the £1 on the cost of your shares, in the year in which you take them up “. The same concession would apply right down the scale from the taxpayer who pays 13s. 4d. in the £1 to one who pays only 2s. or 3s. in the £1. That concession encourages capital to flow into the industry. Should the company find oil, the shareholder having obtained that advantage in tax remission cannot write off the cost of developing the find because it has been deducted already.
In respect of all mining ventures in Australia, with the exception of those concerned with gold, uranium and oil. the person who invests money in shares should be allowed that expenditure as a tax deduction in the year the money is spent. Naturally honorable senators will say and the Government will say that such a concession will reduce the revenue received by the Treasury. To counteract such a statement I make this suggestion: Instead of allowing a mining company to write off the total cost of establishing, developing and equipping a mine with plant and machinery in the year in which the money is spent, the shareholder and the company should have the right to elect to have the shares issued in such a way as to enable the shareholder to claim as a deduction the amount of his investment. Should the company and the shareholder not so elect, the company should be allowed to write off its establishment costs over a period of five years at the rate of 20 per cent, per annum. The Treasury would gain in that way. It would encourage a lot of finance to flow into the mining industry, with the result that new mines would be established. I firmly believe that under our taxation laws, which in this respect have remained unaltered for many years, only companies that are actually in production and making profits can carry out an extensive search for new minerals. I should like to see a state of affairs whereby new companies could be formed for prospecting by allowing 100 per cent, of calls as a taxation deduction in the year in which the company is formed, provided that the company so elects and agrees to forgo the benefit of that provision of the law whereby it may deduct, for taxation purposes, expenditure on developing and equipping a mine, in the year in which it is expended. Those are the suggestions that I make in regard to gold mining. I am absolutely sure that if they were adopted by the Government they would result in mining companies obtaining large quantities of the additional finance which is urgently needed.
It is said that anybody who has a good venture can get all the money that he wants, but many mining undertakings know that they cannot get sufficient capital because their net profit is not high enough to enable them to compete with finance companies and other businesses in the encouragement of capital for investment. Let us consider the case of a tin mine in North Queensland, which has a life of twenty years and is returning about 5 per cent, per annum on capital. A person in Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere else, who is paying from 5s. to 10s. in the £1 in tax, will not accept a 5 per cent, return on investment when he can obtain 7, 8 or 9 per cent, from investment in hire-purchase companies. To stop him investing in hirepurchase companies and to encourage him to invest in mining companies, it is necessary to give him taxation concessions in the year in which he subscribes capital.
– Was the recent legislation restricted to petroleum search, or did it have general application?
– It applied only to the oil search industry and, from memory, only to companies registered in Australia. The idea of that legislation was to encourage capital into the vital search for oil in Australia, which was then going through a period of doldrums. The Government thought that with this incentive Australian capital would be forthcoming to preserve our equity in oil exploration in Australia and New Guinea. It is exactly that type of legislation that I recommend for extension to the whole of the mining industry, with the exception of those branches that are already receiving benefits, such as the search for oil, gold and uranium.
The Budget provides for the allocation of £ 1 ,000,000 to Western Australia to assist the development of that great part of the State known as the Kimberleys.
– Where is it?
– I understand that the honorable senator was there recently. Having got there, he probably would not know where it was. This Government is giving the Western Australian Government some £5,000,000 to be spent north of the 20th parallel over a period of five years on projects approved by the Commonwealth. The State Government has decided to start the Ord River project at Bandicoot Bar, which is an off-shoot of the Ord River, with a view to the irrigation of 15,000 acres. Now that it has been conclusively proved that in the Kimberleys safflower, sugar cane, rice and cotton can be grown commercially, we may expect the first large-scale development of the Kimberleys. With the port facilities being provided, I hope that the area will expand much quicker than it has done in the past.
– Do you know how the amount of £484,000 was expended last year?
– I cannot give the individual amounts. A lot was spent on the survey of Bandicoot Bar. Under the Beef Industry Research Act, an amount of £640,000, inclusive of the Government’s contribution, will be spent next year. I suggest that some of that money could well be spent in the Kimberleys on experiments with dry-farming methods to show what can be done in the higher rainfall section of the area. Research stations at Katherine and in Queensland have shown that production may be increased by 300 or 400 per cent, by dry-farming methods, clearing, the introduction of suitable new types of pastures and, in some instances, the use of superphosphate and other fertilizers. In Queensland, there are 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 acres that are now carrying a beast to 10 acres but which, if the advice of the research officers of the Department of Agriculture and Stock and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization were accepted, could carry 10.000,000 or 12,000,000 cattle. In the Kimberleys there is similar country which could yield the same result. Therefore, I suggest that some of the £640,000 that is provided annually from the Beef Industry Research Fund should be spent in the Kimberleys region in Western Australia on the construction and development of research farms. I suggest that modern farms, each consisting of 60,000 acres divided into some sixteen paddocks, could be established. They could be fenced and, if necessary, cleared, and experiments conducted to determine what they would produce.
– You really believe in government aid?
– I think the C.S.I.R.O. could provide a lot of useful knowledge. I believe we could attain our objective in the north of Western Australia if we established research farms. We know of the excellent results that have been obtained on research farms established by the Commonwealth and by State governments in other parts of Australia. I believe it can be rightly stated that, if the Chase syndicate had followed the advice given to it by the Esperance research station, it would now be a nourishing organization. The syndicate has had to give up a lot of its areas, or sell out to another company, because it did not follow the advice of that research station.
We have not a research station in the lower part of the Kimberleys. On the Ord River we have a research station which conducts experiments on irrigated pastures, but can honorable senators opposite tell mie of any research farm in the north of Western Australia that is able to say what can be achieved by dry farming methods in that area? Two or three years ago the Western Australian Government threw open eight new blocks for acquisition and development by station holders. Some of them have already been passed in, and I understand that only one or two are at present going ahead. But if research farms were established, we could ascertain what pastures would grow and how to control certain diseases in stock, particularly the tick.
– And how to control the donkey.
– To do that is not easy. If any one goes through the Kimberleys region, he will be amazed at the number of donkeys that are there. They are not only in the Kimberleys but also in the Northern Territory and, 1 believe, right through to northern Queensland. I do not wish to say anything more about the Kimberleys. I again stress the ill effects that would beset Australia if notice were taken of the proposal that has been put forward by the Finance Committee of the Sydney City Council.
The Government is to be congratulated upon the ten years of stable government it has given to the people of Australia. At no time has more than 2 per cent, of the work force been unemployed. I understand that at present only about 1 per cent is unemployed. To all intents and purposes, that can be regarded as full employment. I believe that the measures adopted by the Government will enable it to stabilize the economy and that we can look forward to another ten years of good government, during which period we will achieve even greater results than we have achieved in the last ten years.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I am opposed to this Budget because it seems to me to be more or less negative in its approach to the problem of inflation, that, being the outstanding problem which isfacing this country. Continually rising prices are further intensifying the inflationary spiral. I am opposed to the Budget, secondly, because the Government’s taxation proposals will retard production at a time when increased production is essential. Furthermore, the burden which rightly belongs to the wealthier section of the community still remains with those who are on the lower rung of the ladder - the workers in industry, people on fixed incomes and others who are least able to bear it. Because the basic wage is pegged and quarterly cost of living adjustments are suspended, workers in industry are more or less doubly penalized.
The value of the Australian £1 has deteriorated seriously; it has dropped at least 7s. or 8s. since this Government assumed in 1949. This is the government, Sir, which told the people that, if it was elected, it would arrest inflation, keep prices down and put value back into the £1. We know how it has honoured those promises. We remember how the Chifley Labour Government dealt with the problem of inflation. It did so by distributing as widely as possible the prosperity that then existed. It applied a graduated scale of taxation and compelled the wealthier section of the community to pull its weight in accordance with its ability to pay. The Chifley Labour Government also stabilized the price level by paying subsidies on. the production of essential commodities. It stabilized, as far as its powers permitted, the prices of those commodities that are part and parcel of our every-day existence. But when this Government took office in 1949 it proceeded immediately to undo everything that the Chifley Labour Government had achieved. This Government has withdrawn subsidies and removed restrictions on prices and profits. Indirect taxation has been relied on to an ever-increasing extent to provide revenue.
The Labour movement is completely opposed to the principle of indirect taxation. Its policy is progressively to reduce indirect taxes and ultimately to abolish them. Sales tax was first introduced as an emergency measure, but under this Government’s maladministration it has become a permanent source of revenue. Sales tax is not an equitable tax. It pays no regard to the principle of ability to pay. It increases the proportion of the workers’ wages that is spent and decreases the proportion that is saved. A wealthy person suffers less hardship by paying sales tax than does a worker in industry because the worker must use a greater proportion of his income on living expenses. Sales tax does not take into account the economic .condition of purchasers. However, the Government claims that sales tax and other indirect taxes are absolutely necessary to offset the effects of inflation. Sales tax intensifies the very evil that it is supposed to suppress.
So far this Government has not submitted any definite proposal to stabilize the price level, yet it must be only too obvious to everybody that if we are to win the battle against inflation the first essential is a stable and permanent price level. Most of the problems now facing this country have arisen because this Government has lacked a definite and positive policy to deal with inflation. Those problems have already been dealt with by other countries. Great Britain, Canada, the United States of America and many other countries, when faced with those problems, have been able to stabilize their economies because they have been able to keep prices down. In this country, however, prices have continued to soar. In 1946, and again in 1948, the Chifley Labour Government, realizing the danger of inflation to our economy, sought alterations of the Constitution to permit the Government to deal with those problems. But the LiberalAustralian Country Party Opposition of the day did everything possible to ensure that consent to the alterations would not be obtained. It said that the States were much closer to the people and could deal with the problems better. Apparently the present Government’s policy on that occasion was that prices should be allowed to find their own level. Well, prices have continued to increase ever since.
One of this Government’s first acts on taking office was to abolish capital issues control, which had been utilized by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments to ensure that surplus capital was directed into certain avenues for the manufacture of essential commodities. When this Government abolished capital issues control surplus capital found its way into non-essential industries, to the general detriment of the community. Some time later the Government decided to re-institute capital issues control. It divided industry into three categories - essential, less essential and nonessential. To implement its policy the Government introduced a series of drastic credit controls, which affected our economic way of life astoundingly. Events happened with startling rapidity. Retailers, who were classified as engaged in a non-essential industry, were unable to obtain the necessary credit to carry on business, with the result that manufacturers classified as operating essential industries were unable to sell their products. A case in point was the textile industry, from which hundreds of men were dismissed throughout the Commonwealth, despite the fact that the goods they were producing were in short supply and were urgently required by the community. Firms engaged in the building industry were unable to obtain capital in order to carry on business, notwithstanding the fact that more homes were required to house our rapidly increasing population. People were thrown out of work all over the country because of the maladministration of the Government and its reinstitution of capital issues control.
Then, for reasons known only to itself, the Government decided to increase interest rates. Its action in increasing interest rates had a more drastic effect on our economy than its action in restricting credit. Increased interest rates reduced the value of bonds to such an extent that people became bond-shy and refused to invest in Commonwealth bonds. Repercussions followed at once. State governments, which depended on the Australian Loan Council for finance to carry on public works programmes, were immediately in difficulties.
A case in point was the Cairn Curran reservoir in Victoria, from which 3,600 men were dismissed, yet this project was undertaken for the specific purpose of stepping up primary production. Stories could be told in respect of the hardships, difficulty and frustration that were experienced by every State in completing essential public works. As 1 have said, men engaged on those projects were thrown out of employment, not because there was no work for them to do and not because they could not be fully or profitably employed, but because of the stupid action of the Government in increasing interest rates.
While all this was going on, the Government was steadily disposing of the people’s assets, as Senator Dittmer mentioned last week - assets that had been built up over a long period of years in the interests of the people of Australia. First, the Commonwealth’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was sold. Then its shareholding in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was sold. The Government then decided to finance Australian National Airways Limited, as it was then called - a private airline company - to the extent of several millions of pounds, as a first instalment, to enable it to compete against Trans-Australia Airlines. The whaling station in Western Australia and many more of the people’s assets were handed over to the vested interests of this country at bargain prices. Nothing was done to deal with the problem of inflation, which was continually increasing, although the Government certainly intervened in the basic wage case. This unprecedented action definitely played a big part in preventing the workers of this country from getting an increase in the basic wage, which was warranted at that time.
Nothing is being dons to deal with the problem presented by the huge profits that are being made throughout this country. Those profits, I believe, are a tremendous factor contributing to inflation in Australia, which is continuing to increase. I shall mention just a few instances that I have noticed in the financial columns of the daily press. Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited has made a profit of £2,663,000, compared with £1,045,000 in the previous year - an increase of approximately 154 per cent. The ISAS Company made a profit of £54,000, which was double the profit it made in the previous year. These are some of the industrial undertakings whose trading results have been published by the vested interests press. James Hardie and Company Proprietary Limited, which manufactures asbestos products, made a profit in the last twelve months of £522,000, an increase of £137,000, or 35.6 per cent., compared with the previous year. Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Limited made a profit of £571,000, an increase of £194,000, or 51.4 per cent., on the previous year. P.G.H. Industries Limited made a profit of £107,000 compared with £87,000 in the previous year. Lend Lease Corporation Limited made a profit of £86,000, compared with £23,000 in the previous year. Brick Industries Limited made a profit of £70,000, which was £16,000, or 30 per cent, higher than the profit in the previous year. Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited made a profit of £801,000, which was double the profit made by that company in the previous year. The profit made by Whitefield Limited, an investment company, was up by 23.6 per cent, compared with the previous year. The profit of Huddart Parker Limited amounted to £252,000, an increase of £70,000, or 38.5 per cent., compared with the previous year. The United Dominions Corporation Limited made a profit of £80,000, which was 50.3 per cent, higher than the profit for the previous year. New Broken Hill Consolidated Limited had a profit of £796,000, which was an increase of £319,000, or approximately 40 per cent, on the profit made in the previous year. The Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited made a profit of £2,241,000, which was £146,000 higher than the profit for the previous year. General Paper Industries Proprietary Limited made a profit of £331,000, being an increase of £25,000 on the profit for the previous year. Burns Philp and Company Limited made a profit of £906,000, an increase of £72,000 compared with the previous year. The profit made by Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited was up 9.9 per cent, on the profit for the previous year. The profit made by H. G. Palmer Proprietary Limited, £307,000, was up by £98,000 compared with the previous year. The profit made by Mark Foys Limited was up 12 per cent, on its profit for the previous year. The profit made by Bankers and Traders Insurance Company Limited was up by 22 per cent., compared with the previous year. The profit made by Coates and Company
Limited was 8.4 per cent, greater than the profit made in the previous year; and last but not least - I do not want to spend too much time wading through these figures - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited made a profit last year of £2,882,000, which was £344,000, or 13.5 per cent., greater than its profit for the previous year.
– I think you are ls. 6d. out there, senator!
– I have quoted the figures in relation to only a few industries. If Senator Hannaford cares to check the figures I have mentioned, I think he will find they are correct. They are indicative, more or less, of the profits that are being made throughout the Commonwealth to-day.
As I said a while ago, the Government has done nothing at all from the point of view of dealing with this subject. Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has stated that huge profits are playing a great part in promoting inflation. The workers cannot be blamed for the inflationary conditions because their wages have been pegged since 1953. This Government is not doing anything at all to get down to the fundamental cause of inflation. If it were, we on this side of the chamber might be able to support some of the Government’s measures. It has been impossible for us to do so during the last ten years. I shall say no more in that connexion.
In conclusion, I should like to repeat my earlier statement, that I am opposed to this Budget which, in my opinion, makes a negative approach to the problem of inflation. I believe that the taxation proposals contained in the Budget will retard production at a time when it is essential for us to increase production. And last but not least, the Budget will leave the burden, which rightly belongs to the wealthier sections of the community, on the people on the lower rungs of the ladder - workers in industry, people on fixed incomes, and others who are least able to carry the burden. I oppose the Budget.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers. I am aware of the fact that, in reality, the Senate is reviewing the balance-sheet of Australia - the balance-sheet of Australia Unlimited. We are reviewing a document which, when legislative effect is given to its proposals, will affect every human being in Australia in the year ahead. I want to say quite frankly at the beginning that we should try to approach this review with an unbiased mind. For myself, I come, not to bury Caesar, nor unduly to praise him. Since the Budget was brought down, many criticisms have been made of it. The first - and perhaps the most understandable - was that the actual Budget speech was too long, too verbose and in too much detail. That criticism can be answered by saying that if the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had made a short speech to the Parliament, without explaining the situation or giving the reasons for the activities of the Government and the decisions that had been made, Opposition members would have said, “ The Government has been in office too long. It is too confident; it will not tell the people the facts; it will not describe the situation in detail.” Opposition members would have said that the Government was frightened to tell the truth. However, long and verbose as the Budget speech was, I believe it gave, from the point of view of the Government, a full and fair review of the economy and of the anticipated items of expenditure and revenue for the financial year which we are now one-quarter of the way through.
We have heard the harping critics who have said that the Budget contains no great changes. The members of the Federal Cabinet are, in effect, the directors of Australia and we, the lesser lights in the Parliament are, as it were, the managers, assistants and advisers. If we were to look upon ourselves as shareholders in Australia, we would be very suspicious of the directors if each year they altered greatly the economic policy of the country. I see no room for criticism of the Government because each successive year - I think it has introduced eleven budgets - there have been no great changes in the economic policy. The Government is proud - it has almost preened its feathers, as it were - ‘because the press announced that no Budget secrets leaked out this year. I think the best kept secret about the Budget was that there was no secret of any great moment in it - and I do not say that by way of criticism.
The Budget foreshadows legislation to increase social service pensions and repatriation benefits, to increase taxes and to alter the taxation laws to some degree. As these matters will come before us when the Government presents its legislation, 1 do not propose to deal with them now, but I hope that I shall have an opportunity to support the legislation, to offer my advice and to criticize the Government’s policy as I see it.
Since the Budget was brought down I have moved around and listened to the comments of the man in the street. I firmly believe that the man in the street, although not thrilled - there is nothing to be thrilled about - is satisfied that the Government has kept our economy on a very even keel, has increased the people’s standard of living and has developed the latent resources of this country. We do not know the extent to which those resources can be developed in the future.
The reaction of the Stock Exchange which, I think honorable senators will agree, is the barometer of the investing world, shows that the Budget has been well received. When voicing our views, we in this Parliament should realize that what has happened on the Stock Exchange is a pointer to the fact that the investing public - the people who have a very big stake in this country - are satisfied that the country is being controlled and governed in a manner which will ensure the future stability of the economy.
Naturally, when a budget is brought down, we expect that the Opposition will criticize it. Indeed, it is the bounden duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition to be critical if it really thinks that anything is wrong, but the Opposition should be able to criticize constructively in the interests of the Australian people. The stupid, carping criticism that we hear year after year is of no avail and does the Opposition no good. So I go to an independent opinion which was expressed in “ The Taxpayers’ Bulletin “. Senator Sheehan quoted the bulletin last week in criticizing the Government. In its leading article this bulletin sums up Labour’s attitude to the present Budget. It states -
Those who may have been hopeful that, under new management-
That refers, of course, to another place, because the management of the Opposition in the Senate is like a well-known brand of paint, it keeps on keeping on -
Labour might be capable of advancing constructive criticism that would act as a spur to a Government that, for too long-
I am quoting the words of this article faithfully, although I do not agree with that statement - has lacked the incentive provided by a formidable Opposition to think and plan creatively, saw that faint hope wither overnight. There was no challenge here; only a speech by Opposition Leader Calwell that placed him back among the Socialist dreams of the late ‘forties instead of presenting him as a man facing up to the realities and the needs of the lusty ‘sixties.
That is how an independent editor writes of Labour’s opposition to the Budget. 1 agree with that. Therefore, I do not propose to deal further with the speeches that we have heard from Opposition senators.
I believe that in 1949 this Government set out to implement a policy that would guide this nation safely through a period of great hardship. As a result, there was a gradual but amazing expansion of the economy. We have enjoyed a period of expansion such as we had never dreamed of before. The Government set its sights on the light on the hill, and I believe it has followed that light faithfully, to the credit of itself and to the benefit of the Australian people. However, I say to the Government that no matter how good the road it is following may be, it can always be improved. It can be widened and made smoother and safer for those who travel along if. f believe it is the Government’s responsibility to look at some aspects of its administration, now that we are going along so well. The Australian people, who are at present enjoying the prosperity brought about by the policy of this Government, still feel that the Government could pay a little more attention to their comfort, needs and deserts. The Government must ever be careful to harken to the voice of the people. I have what I think are helpful and constructive thoughts to put before the Government in the time that is available to me.
It is the bounden duty of the Government to cut the costs of administration throughout the Public Service. It has to get down to tin-tacks in solving this problem because these costs are growing each year and are imposing a great burden on the taxpayers. I should like to refer to the Department of
Works which, as all honorable senators know, really controls the calling of tenders and the construction of Commonwealth buildings in each State. The Department of Works treats Tasmania as a sort of subbranch of Victoria. Quite large Commonwealth building projects are under way in Tasmania, and the delays caused by the Department are creating much dissatisfaction amongst contractors, architects and builders, as well as increasing the cost of the projects.
Sitting suspended from 6.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had commenced to put to the Senate, and through the Senate I hope to the Government and the departments concerned, a few suggestions of which urgent notice should be taken if we are to cut down the cost of government administration in Australia, as I think we must. That, in my opinion, is one of the great needs of the decade through which we are passing. I referred to the Department of Works, particularly its activities in Tasmania. I believe that in Tasmania the department has not officers who are qualified to make decisions on the spot, not through any fault of the officers concerned, but as a result of Government policy. Consequently, when large contracts are let and works are in course of construction, such as work on the repatriation hospital at Hobart to cost £250,000, annoying and frustrating delays occur because when a point of dispute arises between the department and the constructing organization an official has to come from Melbourne to give a decision.
There are numerous Commonwealth construction jobs under way in Tasmania at present. We saw a shocking waste of money, because of lack of ability, power and authority in Tasmania, when the Llanherne airport and terminal buildings were being constructed some few years ago. I also believe it to be a fact that when power to control lies in another State there is a tendency for the department to permit the purchase on the mainland of materials for buildings being erected in Tasmania. In addition to increasing the cost of the buildings, that practice is not fair to the workers and the business people of Tasmania. I believe there should be a strict order, promulgated throughout Australia, that where Commonwealth Government construction jobs are under way, the materials for those jobs should, where possible, be purchased within the State and as near to the jobs as possible, taking quality and cost into account.
I believe there is such a waste of money in this respect - and that may be said of all jobs constructed for the PostmasterGeneral’s. Department: - that it, would not be a bad idea if the Public Accounts Committee had a look at the matter. Failing that, I- think the Government should consider a suggestion that I and others have made previously, to the effect that private enterprise business efficiency companies be called in to see whether they could devise a plan whereby administration costs could be reduced and greater efficiency brought about. So much money is being spent on really big jobs that a saving on each of them would be of great benefit to Australia as a whole. I do not say that the matters to which I have referred are peculiar to Tasmania. I am giving the facts in regard to Tasmania as I know them.
Another thing that I think the Government should do to try to cut down administration costs and thus save the people money, relates to the vexed question of pay-roll tax. From both sides of the Parliament, and from people throughout Australia, comes a clamour to do away with this tax. I know that the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has issued a paper answering, or pretending to answer, the case against pay-roll tax, but I still believe that this tax is a very dangerous sore in our taxation system. The first step that I believe is urgently required is for the Government to wipe out pay-roll tax so far as State governments and local government authorities are concerned. I think all honorable senators have received a letter from an eminent personality. Sir Norman Kater, setting out some of the ills of pay-roll tax and pointing out how. at any rate according to. his thinking and learning, pay-roll tax could be abolished so that, in effect, the Commonwealth would’ not be much worse off in the long run. I noticed from the House of Representatives “ Hansard “ recently that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) had obtained information from the Treasurer- which showed that if the State governments could be relieved of responsibility to pay pay-roll tax so far as their transport systems are concerned, that would go a long way towards wiping out the deficits incurred by those systems.
Pay-roll tax is an expensive tax to collect, both for the collector and the person or instrumentality who has to pay it. On the one hand, the Commonwealth Treasurer pays money to State governments and local government authorities, and on the other hand he causes them to spend the money he has given them in collecting money to give back to him.
– The six State Premiers agreed to keeping it on.
– 1 am still in favour of the tax being waived in respect of local government and State government activities.
It is time that the Commonwealth Parliament studied fully the financial situation of local government authorities throughout Australia. The fact that that has not been done is not the fault of the present Government. The fault lies at the door of the officers and Premiers of the various States. 1 understand that two or three years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when opening a federal conference of local government authorities, promised to endeavour to call a conference of the State Premiers to go into the question of financing local government. So far as I have been able to gather, the State Premiers treated the suggestion like a hot potato. They did not want to take part in a conference. I think it is now the turn of the Commonwealth Government to use a pretty firm hand and call the Premiers together at a conference, with this matter on the agenda paper.
Local government is being crucified at the present time because of lack of funds. If local government authorities cannot obtain sufficient funds, they are not able to provide the streets, the sewerage, the drainage and the other services for which they are responsible to the people. There are people living in delightful suburbs throughout Australia who do not enjoy the amenities that could be provided if local government authorities were given sufficient finance. They are virtually left out in the cold so far as loan moneys are concerned. The Australian Loan Council may say to a certain State, “ All right, you are authorized to raise so much for your local government “. Whereupon the State concerned and the Commonwealth wash their hands of the matter. In Tasmania, at any rate, it is only because we have two private enterprise savings banks and the Commonwealth Savings Bank that local government has a chance at all. The local government authorities have to go cap in hand, seeking funds, uncertain for month after month whether they will be able to keep their road-making programmes going, or whether they will be able to provide water and sewerage for rapidly expanding suburbs.
It is time that responsibility for raising the money for local government authorities rested with the Premiers and with the Federal Government. While I am privileged to be a member of the Senate I shall press the claims of local government, as I believe we all should, until action is taken. The Opposition may not be pleased about that. I fear that it tends to support centralization. If local government could be pushed out and the States allowed to take over, the supporters of Labour - at least the militants - might be happy in their heart of hearts. I believe that local government is of tremendous importance to the people of Australia. This Government believes in decentralization and therefore should take a lead and force the Premiers - Liberal, Labour, or any other political colour - into taking action and appreciating their responsibilities. The Commonwealth must always show that it is willing to cooperate and to lead the way.
I wish to refer only briefly to the question of income tax. I do not intend to discuss whether or not the Budget now before the Parliament proposes to increase or reduce income tax. I believe that the Government should have a new look at our income tax laws and their effect on families. I am a great believer in and supporter of the immigration policy of this Government which took over from a Labour government and has followed its policy and kept it in operation for eleven years. Immigration is of tremendous importance to Australia, but of greater and increasing importance to this country is the Australian-born Australian. It is a social fact that the size of Australian families is decreasing, and I believe this Government must pay some heed to that important social fact. We have a system of child endowment in Australia. Labour Party supporters and some of my colleagues are always pressing the Government to increase child endowment. They say, “ What a shocking thing. You have not increased endownment for years “. They forget or do not realize that an increase of ls. a week in child endowment would cost the Government £8,000,000 a year. A government would rightly be laughed and scoffed out of office if it was to increase child endowment by less than 5s. a week, which would be a charge of £40,000,000 a year against revenue. My complaint about child endowment is that the payment is not big enough for those who need it. It is not generous by any means; it is meagre. In this time of great prosperity in Australia, there are literally thousands of families receiving child endowment and it is not even a drop in the ocean in comparison with their incomes. But they still receive the payment and it still costs the nation money to send endowment to them, although it means nothing to them. I do not like means tests. So, I believe tho Treasury and the Department of Social Services should consider whether they can devise a taxation system whereby generous allowances would be given for children instead of the meagre allowance which is paid at present, and child endowment could be cut out altogether. I do not want anyone to misreport me when I make that statement. I am not saying that child endowment should be cut out; 1 am saying that if a taxation system can be devised whereby a family in which there is a large number of children receives very generous deductions for income tax purposes and the family which is well off and in which there are two or three children does not receive child endowment, I think something will be done to help alter the social structure as it is at present, in which the number of children in the average Australian family is decreasing. I believe benefits should be based on need, not on equality for everybody.
I come now to a subject which I believe is the key factor in the future of Australia, and that is the matter of wages and salaries. If other costs can be restrained and wages and salaries are not controlled - a fair re ward should be given for a fair day’s work and responsibility - we will have galloping inflation. I think every one must agree with that statement. 1 have two suggestions to make in this regard. Being a member of the Parliament, I shall deal first with the salaries of members of the Parliament. From month to month, year in year out, because we have six State Parliaments and a Commonwealth Parliament, the people of Australia are fed all sorts of stories - some true, home highly-coloured, some very wrong - about the salaries and allowances received by members of the various parliaments. This situation is nauseating to members of Parliament and it does nothing but lower the dignity of Parliament and of members of Parliament. No one can deny that. Fair salaries and allowances have to bs paid to members of the various parliaments; but I believe this matter should be on the agenda for the next Premiers’ Conference so that it may be discussed by the Commonwealth representatives and the Premiers of the States. 1 do not put this suggestion in detail because only the experts can put it in detail, if any one is good enough to give it a moment’s consideration. I suggest that a statutory committee of Australia-wide authorities be set up, comprising representatives of each of the States and the Commonwealth, a representative of the employers, a representative of an employees’ organization - I suggest the Australian Council of Trade Unions - and a representative of the Australian press. The committee should meet once in three years.
– At least it is novel!
– Anything novel would be news to you. If this committee was set up as I envisage, it would meet once in three years or once in two years, if you like. It would then report to each of the States on the salaries and allowances which in its opinion would be fair for the members of each State Parliament, taking into consideration the varying geographical and population differences among the States, and also for members of the Federal Parliament. Then, as the Constitution puts it, the ball would be before the feet of the parliaments themselves and if they carried out my suggestion they would introduce legislation to put into effect the findings of the committee, or the findings as amended in accordance with the wishes of the government of the day. That legislation would be put before Parliament and there would be a binding clause that the salaries and allowances would take effect as from the next election. So, only once in three years would we have the experience we have had throughout Australia and will continue to have, if we continue to give a blind eye and a deaf ear to the salaries situation.
I know that we can sit pretty and say that the Richardson report was presented about a year or eighteen months ago and the people will have forgotten about it by the time we go to the country on the next occasion. We will reach the stage where the meanest of people will say that members of the Federal Parliament need an increase in salaries. We will then find that we have done nothing about putting the matter on a sensible basis, and therefore we and the people of Australia will be locked in a battle of abuse and counterabuse. That is my suggestion for putting the fixing of salaries and allowances of members of Parliament in Australia on a firm, sensible and reliable basis.
Having dealt with the parliamentarians, I now come to the fixation of the basic wage. My colleagues, Senator Wright and Senator Lillico, and probably many others have spoken learnedly, wisely and well on this matter. All T wish to say is that unless we, through this Parliament, do something to institute a fair, reasonable and safe method of fixing wages we will have not only inflation but also continuous or intermittent industrial unrest. I do not know whether one could get rid of the Arbitration Court as it is presently constituted; but in circles where people think about this matter, untainted by party politics, I have heard the suggestion that the Government, in conjunction with the trade union movement and the employers’ organizations, should set up a committee of laymen, not legal men, to consider all the economic factors and they should be put to the Arbitration Court. This is a matter that probably we could debate in this chamber for weeks without getting very far. I believe that we must take the law out of wage fixation. We must get rid of arguments by legal men and let those who finally adjudicate have the facts put before them by a committee pf representatives of the business community and the workers. Such a committee should be established by the Commonwealth Parliament. If we could get rid of the system of having both State and Federal wage fixing authorities, we would go a long way towards helping the economy of the nation. I omitted to say that on the committee there should be at least one representative of primary producers, because when the basic wage or margins are increased, the primary producers are hit very severely. I do not think that they have sufficient say in. this matter these days. Everybody on both sides of the chamber realizes how much we depend on primary producers for our export earnings. They should have a strong voice in the fixation of wages.
The thoughts of one who is a Tasmanian naturally are concerned with shipping. Tasmania and indeed other States, have suffered greatly because of waterfront unrest and the rolling strikes of seamen in recent months. Abuse of the seamen or waterside workers will get us nowhere. Constant abuse naturally inflames them and does far more harm than good. I believe in law and in the rule of law. This Government should see what power in relation to these matters it has under legislation that is at present on the statute book, and if it has any power it should enforce the law to bring some form of peace to the shipping unions and to the waterfront. If the Government has no power, it should look for other means of bringing about this end.
Primary and secondary industries ‘n Tasmanian are being cruelly treated because of excessive shipping costs. Neither the ship owners nor the shipping unions can be blamed for all of them. For Australia’s sake, a different atmosphere and a different spirit should prevail in the shipping industry It cannot be said that this is impossible. We senators do a lot of travelling by air. If we could get the spirit, enthusiasm and efficiency of civil airlines on the wharfs and in the ships, the country would be better off than it is to-day. We know how smoothly the airlines are run. We know that when an airliner arrives at an airport, workers wheel out the gangways and luggage vans, maintenance men go aboard, and within twenty minutes fifty or sixty passengers have disembarked with their luggage, more refreshments have been put aboard, the aircraft has been swept out, the engines serviced, the fuel tanks filled, other passengers embarked, and away the aircraft goes. The people who are responsible for that are Australian workers, in the same way as are those who go down to the sea in ships. If only we could get that spirit in the ships and on the wharfs, we would be far better off economically than we are to-day. The ships crews and the dockworkers would be far happier, and so would their wives and children. This is not bringing pathos into the matter. They would not lose money, as they do during stoppages, and they would not have to meet oppressive hire-purchase commitments by refraining from buying the foodstuffs that they would normally buy if income was coming in every fortnight or every month.
From there I come to the question of shipping services to and from Tasmania. The people of Tasmania, and many thousands of other Australians, are very pleased with the inauguration of the roll-on roll-off passenger ferry “ Princess of Tasmania “. The former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, was a great stalwart in the establishment of this service. I believe that he said that costing officers had calculated that if “ Princess of Tasmania “ carried 50,000 passengers and a certain number of cars and trucks in its first twelve months, the service would be a financial success. Previously, the Government was paying over £365,000 a year in subsidy to private enterprise for a service that was, at the best, very inferior. The new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) proudly announced in the Tasmanian papers over the week-end that before the end of its first twelve months of operation “ Princess of Tasmania “ had carried 83,000 passengers. That is good for the mainlanders who have travelled to Tasmania and it is very good for the economy of Tasmania. The crew of the vessel and all those who have worked the ship at the terminals have co-operated. This has been a wonderful illustration of peace, harmony and efficiency on the waterfront.
We hope that a roll-on roll-off cargo ship will be in operation within a year to Launceston and ports on the Tasmanian north-west coast. This will be to the good of Tasmania. We do not have rail and road links with mainland States. Also over the week-end, Mr. Opperman announced that consideration was being given to the construction of a sister ship to “ Princess of Tasmania “ to operate to Tasmanian ports. Another roll-on roll-off passenger ferry for the Tasmanian service is welcome and required, but please do not give us a replica of “ Princess of Tasmania “, particularly if, as seems certain, that ship will trade between Sydney and Hobart.
Recently the Tasmanian Government called a conference of business people and then put to the Australian Transport Advisory Council a proposition for a ferry to run between Sydney and Hobart. This was done rather as though this were a new idea propounded by the State Government. Yet Tasmanian members and senators from both sides of the Parliament have for at least four years combined in conferences with business people, in Sydney and elsewhere, and with the State and Commonwealth Governments to build up a case and get some action on the provision of a Sydney to Hobart ferry service. Hobart is the only State capital that has not a passenger service of some sort with another State capital. We had one before the war, and we possibly would still have it if that grand old ship “ Zealandia “ had not died on war service. The absence of this service has ruined the trade in fresh Tasmanian fruit with Sydney, and it has greatly decreased tourist traffic between Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland. A service between Sydney and Hobart is urgently needed, but I am not prepared to say that a ship is needed solely for that run. I would be quite happy to see such a ship used on the eastern coast of Australia, perhaps, during the winter.
– What would be wrong with a decent sized yacht?
– You could go to sea in it if you wanted to. This vessel could be used as a relief for “ Princess of Tasmania “ whenever she went off the main run. The link between the north coast of Tasmania and Melbourne is the main line of communication. The proposed new ferry is needed. I hope it will not be fitted with the sleeperette type of chair but will have far better lounge accommodation than that in “ Princess of Tasmania “. As for the rest of it, it could follow the pattern of “ Princess of Tasmania “.
I have already indicated that I propose to deal with the subjects of repatriation, social services and taxation in more detail when the appropriate enabling legislation is placed before the Senate. I hope that the remarks I have made will fall upon the ears of the Government and that some attention will be paid to them. I support the motion for the printing of the Budget papers.
.- I rise to fill in some of the gaps that were conveniently left in their speeches by some of my comrades from Tasmania who sit on the opposite side of the chamber. I have in mind particularly the speeches of comrade Senator Lillico, comrade Senator Henty and, to a lesser degree, comrade Senator Marriott. But first I wish to deal with a remark made by Senator Mattner. The honorable senator told a little story, which was the product of his imagination, about some illegitimate children which he referred to as being unity tickets. I do not know what the honorable senator was driving at in his imagination, but I do know about the reality of the Australian Country Party, Liberal Party and Australian Democratic Labour Party unity ticket.
The introduction of that unity ticket has resulted in a colossal increase of indirect taxation, a considerable increase of direct taxation and a considerable curtailment of credit for home building, for small businesses and for general developmental work. Those activities will be considerably retarded because of the action of this Government in taking out of the public purse this year in direct and indirect taxes approximately £170,000,000 more than it took last year. That is the result of the introduction of the unity ticket to which Senator Mattner subscribes. I do not think 1 need to refer to him any further. That little story he told is probably like some of the other stories that were the cause of his failing to regain occupancy of the presidential chair in this chamber and which led to a man of greater dignity being elected to that high office. I leave the honorable senator at that. We know him of old.
– You could walk under a snake’s tail without stooping.
– You honorable senators give it, but you do not get it very often. You must learn to take it when you get it. Senator Marriott said he had not heard any constructive suggestion put forward by the Opposition. All I can say is that, when Senator McKenna delivered his outstanding speech - and he was ably supported by Senator Marriott’s colleague, Senator Wright - Senator Marriott must have had his headphone switched off. He must also have had it switched off when most of the other Opposition senators were speaking. I shall deal later with the other remarks that were made by Senator Marriott. They can be coupled with the statement by Senator Lillico that the seamen and waterside workers were holding up the people of Tasmania to ransom and that their actions were leading to high freight rates. There is another side to the story.
Senator Lillico had a lot to say about the returns that could be obtained if more effort were put into the development of this country. He implied that if the worker were to put a little more in we would get a little more out, and there would not be so much inflation. I do not think I am misinterpreting what the honorable senator said. 1 believe that the workers of Australia are making a mighty effort - a far greater effort than ever before in our history. If Senator Lillico wants any proof of my statement, let him. look at the huge turnovers and profits, including the undisclosed profits, of the big companies that are reaping the benefit of the energy that is being spent by the masses. A lot of effort is being spent, but only a few are getting the benefit of it. If the benefit were to flow to the masses, Australia would be a vastly different country to-day. I strongly advise Senator Lillico to look at the figures quoted by Senator McKenna. They are recorded in “ Hansard “ and are available for any one to read. They are most informative.
Referring still to the efforts being put into the development of this country, Senator Lillico said -
The shipowners raise their freight rates very largely for the reason I shall outline. Not long ago, at a port where 1 live, six ships-
Six ships, mind you - were tied up for two or three days because one man had to handle a greasy rope without gloves. If the honorable senator expects that sort of thing to continue without having dearer freight rates, he is living in a very different world from that in which the rest of us are living.
I think those last few words could aptly be applied to Senator Lillico. What do the honorable senator’s remarks mean? They mean that the shipowners, the big companies, were prepared to tie up six ships for three days rather than pay the price of a pair of gloves to enable a man to take hold of a nasty, spiky, dirty, greasy rope which could have torn his hands to pieces. Those shipowners were prepared to hold up the country to ransom and thus considerably increase freight rates to Tasmania. That gives both sides of the story. Just imagine these big combines which make the huge profits that are reported in “Hansard” refusing to pay 15s. or 16s. for a pair of gloves and allowing ships to be held up, with a consequent increase of thousands of pounds in freight charges! Who is holding up this country to ransom?
– People like you.
– It is the gentlemen whom honorable senators opposite are trying to protect. Honorable senators opposite are down on the workers who do the work and who, if they have not gloves, can have their hands torn to pieces. Senator Kendall regards himself as being a seaman, but he does not know much about seamen’s work. He knows perfectly well without my having to tell him that, if a waterside worker or seaman had to handle a dirty, greasy rope that might have spikes sticking out of it he could have his hands torn and perhaps not be able to work for two or three weeks. Let us be human and fair minded! I do not deny that there are some irresponsible persons in the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers Federation, but there are just as many irresponsible persons amongst the shipowners, and Senator Lillico’s statement bears out that contention. I do not think we need to dwell any longer on that point.
Senator Lillico referred to the Montagu Swamp scheme in Tasmania. He said that he had spoken to a man who would have been prepared to clear the area for £10 an acre. Senator Lillico stated that 48 or 49 farms, each of an average size of 110 acres, had been established at a cost of about £2,000,000. It is stupid to suggest that any man would be prepared to clear that country for £10 or even £20 an acre. A lot more would be entailed than simply going through it and slashing out the scrub, leaving the roots to rot in 10, 20 or 30 years, as was the practice when Senator Lillico and I were boys. Times have changed, but Senator Lillico has not kept pace with the change.
I raised this matter in this chamber on a previous occasion. At that time Senator Lillico was a member of the Tasmanian upper House - the most undemocratically elected legislative chamber in the world. I do not think that any legislative body in the world is elected on a more undemocratic principle or with more taint of racketeering than the body of which Senator Lillico was formerly a member. He well knew what was going on in relation to the Montagu Swamp. He could have spoken about it in the Tasmanian Parliament. His Liberal Party colleagues, who outnumbered the members of the Labour Party in the Tasmanian upper House by fifteen to four, could have stopped this scandalous waste that he has described. He claimed that he had no say in the matter. On one occasion he and his colleagues refused Supply to the Labour Government, thus forcing an election for the lower House. But those brave men in the Legislative Council in Tasmania would not face the electors. They sat pat in their cushy seats while the Labour Government in the lower House faced the electors and was returned to office with, I think, an increased majority.
When all this money was being wasted on the Montagu Swamp scheme, Senator Lillico was a member of the upper House in Tasmania and was a party to what was going on. If he has any criticism to offer about that waste he should also criticize the experts who are guiding this Government. This Government provided the finance for the scheme and was guided by its experts on soldier settlement. Before Senator Lillico throws bombs at the new Labour Premier of Tasmania, who is doing a magnificent job under difficult circumstances, he should throw a bomb or two at the experts who advise this Government. Senator Lillico was in the box seat in Tasmania and could have done something about the Montagu Swamp scheme, but he did nothing.
– What is the franchise of the Tasmanian Legislative Council?
– Until recently membership of the Legislative Council was restricted to property owners, returned servicemen and a few professional men. Membership has been extended recently to include spouses of those people.
– That is not right.
– I am not wrong.
– What are the restrictions on membership?
– The Minister has had his say. I will deal with him shortly.
The upper House in Tasmania is the most un-democratically elected legislative body in the world. The Liberal Party majority in the Legislative Council opposed the Labour move to extend the franchise for the election of its members. Any suggestion that the franchise be extended was a little too democratic for them. I hope that Senator Lillico will note what I have said about greasy rope, seamen, waterside workers and his bosom pals the shipowners.
I pass now to the speech made by another of my comrades from Tasmania Senator Henty. I cannot let some of his remarks go unchallenged. Some of his statements were completely at variance with those made by his own Prime Minister and by the Minister who introduced the Budget in this Senate, Senator Paltridge. So that I will not misquote Senator Henty or Senator Paltridge I have with me copies of their speeches as recorded in “ Hansard “. Senator Henty referred to imports and credit restrictions. He as good as told us restrictions would take the place of obnoxious import controls. He said that the Government had lifted import restrictions but that it would now control imports with credit restrictions. He as good as told us in plain English that credit restrictions would curb an excessive flow of imports into this country, keeping the flow under control. He stated that the level of imports must not increase, otherwise our overseas balances would suffer. Therefore, it had to be curbed. The Minister stated in his speech -
Steps have now been taken to see that another sudden increase in imports does not develop.
We recall that Senator Paltridge said that the recent rate of imports also suggests, notably, that local supplies have not increased to match the rise in demand and the demand is spilling over into a demand for imports. He also stated that speculation in shares and other securities is disturbingly active and prevalent. Senator Paltridge gave us the impression that, in order to supply the needs of this country, we must have more imports. He stated that the increased demand for goods must be met by imports. It is apparent that the two Ministers are at variance on the matter. On the one hand, Senator Paltridge favours an increase of imports, while on the other hand, Senator Henty will curb imports by restricting credit. Nobody should know better than Senator Henty, who is a businessman, that the restriction of credit will not stop one penny’s worth of goods from being imported into this country. He knows that perfectly well. But he also knows that the restriction of credit will curb the activities of small importers small businessmen who were depending on bank overdrafts to enable them to finance the importation of goods. It certainly will curtail their activities. Of course, if the big wholesaler increases the quantity of goods he imports he will have the cash to pay for them; he does not need to get a bank overdraft.
Senator McKenna has referred to the colossal amounts of undisclosed profits that have been made by big companies in Australia. Formerly, the banks wielded all the power in Australia, but they are now taking second place to the monopoly companies. I repeat that the curbing of the activities of the banks will not curb the activities of the big importers, those who import hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of goods each year. As I have said, the hardships endured by the small importers will be increased and they will have to pay more for their goods. As a result, the consumers will have to pay more for their purchases. The restriction of credit, instead of curbing inflation, will accentuate inflation. At the same time, some of the small men will be pushed out of business.
The restriction of credit is adding to the difficulties of people who want to build their own homes. Frequently, a potential home builder finds that, no matter what may be the value of the security he offers to a bank, he cannot get an overdraft in order to purchase a block of land. Government senators know that what I am saying is true. This Government has “ screwed down” on the small businessmen and curbed their activities. The result has been that additional trade has flowed to the monopolies.
In addition to restricting credit, the Government intends to impose taxation this year to yield £170,000,000 more than last year. Consequently, this amount of money will be taken out of circulation. How does the Government expect to get out of the present economic jungle by firing a doublebarrelled shotgun, as it were, at the people? The Government’s policy will not curb inflation, but will cause untold damage to our economy and to everything else. Inflation will be worsened because interest rates will be forced up. The bankers do not control everything to-day, and the action that the Government is taking will have the effect of putting more profit in the hands of the monopolists. I have never heard anything more stupid than the assertion that the Government’s policy will assist our economy. I notice that Senator Henty is smarting a little; he will probably smart more as I proceed with my speech. He has been very much to the fore in treating as piffle the remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget. The Minister was notably silent, however, when Senator Wright repeated Senator McKenna’s assertion that the Government will take from the people in this financial year in taxes £125,000,000 more than it needs for governmental purposes. I expect that ultimately this money will be lent to the States or appropriated in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme, and the taxpayers of this country will be asked to pay interest on the money that they initially contributed to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. All honorable senators have heard about the thimble and pea trick that the banks used to pull. This Government has left the banks cold in its exposition of the thimble and pea trick.
Supporters of the Government claim that the economy is stable and that taxation stands at a reasonable level. Let us have a look at what has happened during the time this Government has been in office compared with what was done during the last year that the Labour Party formed the government of this country. The implementation of this year’s Budget proposals will mean that increased taxation will fall heavily on the family man. Customs duties will increase by about £13,000,000 and excise duties will increase by about £11,000,000 compared With last year. The proceeds from sales tax will increase by £16,193,000. Income tax payable by individuals will increase by almost £68,000,000. In the last complete financial year that Labour was in office, customs receipts decreased by £871,000, compared with the expected increase of £13,000,000 this year over last year. Excise duty revenue during the last year of office of the Labour Government increased by £624,000 over the previous year, compared with an increase in the present year of £11,500,000 over the previous year. Listen to this one. In the last year of office of the Labour Government sales tax collections decreased by £7,264,000, whereas the sales tax collected by the present Government this year has increased by £16,193,000, compared with last year. I know that these figures hurt honorable senators opposite, but the figures are on record and we have not forgotten them. Then we come to income tax.
– That was a deficit Budget.
– No, that Budget showed a surplus. I intend to finish quoting these figures, and I am not going to be drawn off the track by the honorable senators who are interjecting. I pass to income tax on individuals. In the last financial year that Labour was in office, income tax collections decreased by £14,405,000, but this year, under this Government, income tax collections have increased to the extent of £67,870,000. I know that Senator Henty finds this a little hard to take, but it was he who said that what Senator McKenna had said was piffle. What I am saying is on record and cannot be disputed.
– If the Labour Government had been in office another year there would have been no income tax because there would have been no incomes to tax.
– I can understand that this is hurting Senator Scott. He knows perfectly well that at that time this country had the most stable economy of any country in the world, and he knows that now we are lagging behind five or six other countries.
I think I have quoted sufficient figures to show that the Government that is in power to-day is raking money off the family man, who can least afford to pay. It taxes even the everyday commodities he buys from the grocer. On occasions when I have asked questions of the Minister representing the Treasurer in this chamber he has told me that no sales tax is imposed on such articles. I do not know whether the Minister is telling an untruth or whether the publishers of the grocers’ journal are not telling the truth, but I know somebody is a little bit out in their reckoning.
Everybody in this country could give instances of how the Government is fleecing the family man. The most wicked tax of all is the sales tax. To-day, when driving from the airport, I heard an honorable senator say that one of the things wrong in this country to-day is that too many homes are built without garages, and that the motor car to-day is just as essential for the life of this country as butter. It was a colleague of honorable senators opposite who made the remark to which I have just referred, and I agree with him. I believe that the motor car is essential to the economy of this country and that the bottom would fall out of the economy if it were not for the motor car. But this Government has imposed a colossal tax on motor cars. Apparently it thinks that they should be reserved for the privileged few. Honorable senators opposite know the great hardships that the Government is imposing upon the working masses because of this colossal sales tax.
If the sales tax were imposed only on motor cars it would not be so bad, but the Government has imposed this tax also on the commodities that little babies and others have to eat. Honorable senators may laugh, but two full pages of this pamphlet that I hold in my hand contain lists of biscuits that are carrying a 12i per cent, sales tax. Whilst biscuits for human, consumption carry a 12i per cent, sales tax, dog biscuits are free of tax. In other words, the lady’s poodle is far more important to this Government than the new-born child who eats arrowroot biscuits.
– You should know that a new-born baby does not eat biscuits.
– Senator Henty probably had arrowroot biscuits when he was a baby. He was a baby about the same time as I was. Many young children eat a lot of arrowroot biscuits, yet the Government has imposed a sales tax of 121 per cent, on this commodity. On the other hand, bird seed to feed budgerigars and other birds bears no sales tax at all.
I go a little, further. I notice here a mixture by the name of blancmange. We all know what blancmange is. At some time or other it is eaten in every family home. There, is a 12i per cent, sales tax on blancmange. Then there are breadcrumbs, on which there is a tax of 12i per cent. If Senator Scott does not know what breadcrumbs are used for, let me tell him that they are used to stuff the duck on Christmas Day. The next item is cakes. I suppose the family man is not supposed to eat cake. Cakes carry a tax of 12i per cent. If honorable senators opposite suggest that working-class families should not buy cakes but should save money by making their own cakes, let me tell them that cake mixtures also carry a 12i per cent, sales tax. Not satisfied with that, the Government has imposed a tax of 12i per cent, on cake containers.
Every wife likes to have things clean in her home. Cleaners for cleaning the home carry a 12i per cent, sales tax. The detergents - we hear advertisements telling us how useful they are for the health of the nation - also carry a 12i per cent, sales tax. Everybody likes a bit of coconut, and I think the workers are just as entitled to a bit of coconut as are the people on middle-class incomes. Coconut also carries a 12i per cent, sales tax. 1 notice that Senator Henty has left the chamber. 1 am sure he likes his little bit of curry occasionally.
– He is certainly getting it now.
– There are sixteen different varieties of curry, so honorable senators can have their choice. Sales tax at the rate of 12£ per cent, is imposed on that every-day commodity in the home. Custard powder, for the. family which cannot afford to buy eggs at 6d. each, such as the family with six or eight children, is subject to 12i per cent, sales tax. Do honorable senators opposite contend that dates are not an essential food? Yet, dates are subject to 121 per cent, sales tax. Se, too, are desserts of various kinds. Disinfectants which are essential in the home are subject to same rate of tax.
Many women in Australia to-day cannot afford a new dress when the old one is worn. If they want to buy dye in order to change the colour of their dresses, they must pay sales tax at the rate of 124- per cent. A woman who has dyed a dress and thereby saved a little money may think she can afford some essence to sweeten her food. There are ninety different essences to choose from, but no matter which one she chooses she will have to pay 121 per cent, sales tax ou it. I come to an item which, apparently, the Government considers is not. essential in the home; otherwise, it would not have increased the rate of tax on the item. T refer to self-raising flour. There are eleven different kinds of self-raising flour and all are subject to 20 per cent, sales tax. Has any honorable senator opposite the courage to stand up and tell the housewives of Australia that self-raising flour is not essential in the home? There is no sales tax on poodle-dog biscuits. Why put it on selfraising flour which every home needs?
Gelatine, another commodity that is used in every home, is subject to tax at the rate of 124 per cent, ls there a home, in which baking of any description, is done, which does not use ginger or ginger preserves? Both those commodities are subject to tax at the rate of 1 2i per cent. I know that honorable senators opposite do not like to have too much slop when they are eating a curry or a stew. There are gravy salts and things of that kind which are used for flavouring in curries and stews, and those commodities are subject to 124 per cent. tax. The Government is not satisfied with taxing the items I have mentioned but must also tax the ice-cream that the toddlers eat. There are thirteen different kinds of icecream mixture, and the Government has imposed tax at the rate of 12* per cent, on all of them. Jelly is another commodity which children particularly like. There is hardly a home in Australia in which jelly crystals are not purchased and made up for the children. That commodity also is subject to 1 24 per cent. tax. So, too, are meat tenderizers
If the housewife wants a mop to clean up the home, she must pay 10 per cent, sales tax on it. Apparently, the Government became considerate in that case and slipped up on collecting 24 per cent. People who want to eat imported nuts have to pay sales tax at the rate of 124 per cent. The same rate applies to lemon peel and mixed peel. I should like to see the wife of any honorable senator opposite trying to cook without ever using either of those commodities.
– Could not the honorable senator simply ask for leave to incorporate the list in “ Hansard “?
– I take it that the honorable senator does not eat his meals without pepper. Perhaps that is what keeps him warmed up. Other people like pepper as well as he does, but if they buy it they have to pay 124 per cent, sales tax on it. If there is a bit of a smell around the place which the householder wants to remove with some phenyle, sales tax at the rate of 124 per cent, must be paid. If the workers’ wives cannot afford wall-to-wall carpet - and the majority of them cannot - and have to put down lino or something of that nature, they must have polish for it. All kinds of polish are subject to 124 per cent, tax. If they have not time to cook a pudding for dinner, they must pay 124 per cent, on the pudding they buy. For a mixture to make a pudding, tax at the same rate is incurred.
I am sorry that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is not in the chamber at the moment because I now want to refer to the sales tax on salt. Does any honorable senator opposite say that salt is not an essential commodity? If my word is doubted, honorable senators may refer to the “ Queensland Grocers Journal “, where they will see that salt is subject to sales tax at the rate of 124 per cent. Senator Henty, in answering a question in this chamber, said there was no sales tax on salt. Who is telling the truth - the printers of this journal or the Minister? I shall leave honorable senators opposite to fight that out amongst themselves.
The person who wants to freshen up a bit or to wash the baby’s clothes with soap flakes must pay 124 per cent. tax. If he wants to purchase soap of any kind be has to pay the same rate of tax. I suppose it can be said that shaving sticks are an essential commodity. I notice that no honorable senator has a beard, at any rate.
The Government has increased the sales tax on shaving sticks to 16$ per cent. In other words, apparently the Government thinks that men should either grow beards or buy electric razors. I point out, however, that those who buy electric razors will find that the sales tax has gone up to about 25 per cent. Starch, another essential commodity in the home, is subject to 12i per cent. tax. We could not get along without toilet rolls in the home, and this commodity also incurs tax of 12i per cent.
Does anybody dispute that commodities of that nature are essential? I ask honorable senators opposite whether those things can be done without. Is it not true that they are used in every home? The Government imposes sales tax on the commodities that most people use. The man with six or eight children has to pay six or eight times the sales tax that the bachelor is obliged to pay. Talk about British justice! There is no British justice in a scale of that kind. 1 say that this Budget will increase inflation instead of curbing it, because whenever sales tax is increased the increased cost is passed on. The price of the commodity concerned goes up and wages tail along behind. There is a tendency all through the current Budget proposals to increase prices rather than to bring them down.
There was no need whatever for the Government to increase sales tax to provide the additional revenue that it required. According to the Budget itself, the Government could have eliminated sales tax almost entirely. By budgeting for a small deficit the Government could have achieved that objective. There is an amount of £125,000,000 which has not been earmarked for any specific purpose and without which the Budget could have been balanced. Last year, collections from sales tax amounted to £164,000,000. This year, the Government will, it is estimated, receive £1 80,000,000 from the sales tax. If it used the surplus of £125,000,000 for which it is budgeting, it could almost eliminate the sales tax. Do not say that it cannot be done and do not get on the old band wagon, as Senator Marriott did, and say that the Opposition has not put forward any constructive suggestions. The Government’s own figures show where much relief could be given.
– Tell me on what items the rate of sales tax has been increased in this Budget.
– I have not the individual items here. The increase in revenue from the sales tax this year will be about £16,000,000.
– There is no increase in the rates.
– I have here the figure for the overall increase. You cannot trip me up that way. The overall increase will be £16,193,000. The revenue from the sales tax has continually increased. During the time this Government has been in office it has increased from £7,264,000 to the colossal sum of £180,000,000. Laugh that one off.
– That is not an increase in the rates.
– Of course it is, and you know it is. You cannot get away from those figures. When you come up with this story about taxation, it is two-way traffic. If the supporters of the Government want to help the workers of this country and if they want to make the economy more stable, they should not shoot the masses of the people with a double.barelled gun. They should not take an extra £170,000,000 from them in taxation and also curb their opportunities for obtaining credit through the banks when they want to build a home. The Government is shooting the people with two barrels, and I say that is unfair and unjust. In spite of what Senator Lillico said, the workers of this country are doing a good job. Australia’s production and the colossal profits made by the big companies through the efforts of the workers show that the workers are doing a good job.
For the benefit of Senator Lillico and others, I point out that science is progressing. A much smaller number of employees is engaged in primary industries to-day than in the past, but the production from those industries has increased, because of the progress of science. Will we say that the more science contributes, the longer hours the workers of this country will work, or will we let machines make the burden lighter for the masses of the people? Does the farmer of to-day employ men to chip around stumps? Does he plough with a single-furrow plough around stumps so that the plough gets caught in the roots and he is thrown head over heels on to the ploughed field? Of course not. He sits on a tractor and does in one day what would have taken him a fortnight in the past. The same applies in industries all over the country.
Therefore, I say to the Government: Be a little reasonable and let the people enjoy some, not all, of the benefits that science provides. If we are not to enjoy some of the benefits that science provides, what is the good of science? We might as well forget about it. Do not put all the blame on the workers and do not come up with the old Communist bogy every time you are hit with something you do not like, because, to use Senator McManus’s words, there are no Communists on either side of this chamber.
– It is customary - in fact, it is almost traditional - for a speaker to comment upon the remarks of the previous speaker and to endeavour to rebut the arguments adduced by that previous speaker. I find myself in some difficulty in that respect. I am unable to answer the arguments of Senator Aylett, the previous speaker, because I could not quite follow them. He gave us a long list of items on which sales tax is imposed - a list of which everybody is aware. I am not quite certain why the honorable senator gave us that long list, because we all know it, or what deductions he made from it. I could not follow his arguments at all. Therefore, I am not able to comment upon them or rebut any of them.
Apart from Senator Aylett’s speech, which I think was extraordinarily confusing, the debate on the Budget has revolved around the matter of inflation, generally speaking. Sometimes the discussion has been a long way from inflation; at other times I think it has been very close to it. I think some of the discussion calls for comment, and during this speech I propose to refer to the remarks of previous speakers on this very vital subject. Of course, no one will deny that there is inflation and no one will suggest that it is not the most serious of all our internal problems. No one will deny that much has been said about it by critics in all walks of life and that many reasons have been given for the present inflationary condition of the economy. One hears discussions in the trains, in hotel bars, in Parliament, in the homes of the people - in fact, everywhere one hears discussions on this all-important national question.
One set of critics blames the Arbitration Commission. In a most interesting and learned speech, Senator Wright put the responsibility for inflation on the Arbitration Commission. He has many supporters. Another set of critics blames the trade unions. Many people consider that all the trouble springs from the inability of members of the trade unions to work a little harder. Then there are the critics who blame the great and ever-increasing army of public servants. That is the third section of criticism. Other critics blame the Government for spending far too much money on government works and services. In the opinion of many people, that is the sole cause of the inflation. Other critics lay the blame for inflation on the monopolistic companies. They say they are responsible for the creeping inflation which is about to paralyse this country.
We often hear criticism of the associated banks, which in the eyes of some people have a share of responsibility. Some critics say that the allegedly grasping tendencies of the retail trade are responsible for what is called the creeping paralysis of inflation. Other critics blame the hirepurchase agreement companies. One must not omit reference to the farmers. I have heard some people say that farmers were responsible for inflation because the price of wool rose too high on one or two occasions. When we look at all the causes of inflation about which we sometimes hear, we find that nearly all sections of the population have some responsibility.
Although I have not been quite serious in my remarks, I believe that there is a good deal of misinformed public opinion about the real causes of inflation. All the critics that I have mentioned cannot possibly be right. I have not mentioned one critic, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I propose to say a few words about his submission, because it does call for a reply. In a very thoughtful speech he made some remarks about inflation which I feel I should answer. He said -
I think it is beyond argument and doubt that the Commonwealth is held responsible for the economy of the nation . . . The Government itself admits responsibility for the economy and is, in fact, held responsible by the people of Australia for it.
I wish to join issue with the Leader of the Opposition on that first proposition. It may be true that most people, through the medium of the ballot box, hold the Commonwealth Government politically responsible for inflation, but I remind Senator McKenna that for eleven years the people of Australia have agreed with the policies of this Government in relation to this politically difficult subject.
– I would not stress that too much if I were you.
– It happens to be true and I think it is worth stressing. The Federation of Australia is composed of six separate, sovereign, responsible States. Under a constitution such as ours, which reserves great power to the States, it is quite fallacious to suggest that the Commonwealth is in fact absolutely responsible for present conditions. How can it be? As an illustration, let me refer to my own State, Western Australia, a sovereign State. This year it has completely ignored, to the extent of £1,000,000, the federal fiscal pattern in regard to payments to the States. The Western Australian budget is £1,000,000 in deficit. This Government has no control over Western Australia if that State is in deficit. It is true that something could be done by this Government but it has no authority over a State that chooses to overspend. The only way in which this Parliament could be responsible in the absolute sense suggested by Senator McKenna would be as a unitary parliament, with full, sovereign, absolute power in Canberra. That does not happen to be the fact and Senator Lillico, in a thoughtful speech last week, became very hostile at the thought that it should be so. Senator Wright also might join issue with anybody who thought that we should have a unitary system of government with full sovereign power vested in Canberra. However, that is the only way of making this Parliament absolutely responsible for counter-inflationary measures.
I admit that it is difficult to define Commonwealth responsibility in regard to such a nebulous issue as inflation. I am prepared to say that the Commonwealth Government should accept the lion’s share of responsibility. I do not know what that means, but it means a good deal. I certainly think that there is a common responsibility to be shared by the Commonwealth and the States. After all, the Federation is a partnership. It involves, of its very essence, a co-operation and sharing of responsibility. I suggest that Senator McKenna is quite off the beam when he insists that the Commonwealth Parliament has absolute responsibility in this matter.
He went on to develop his argument and he postulated two propositions. First, he said that there were a number of gaps in the Commonwealth’s constitutional power. That, of course, is perfectly true. It does not need argument. He said that there were gaps in the constitutional powers over corporations, capital issues, consumer credit, matters relating to hire-purchase agreements, industrial relations and interests other than bank interests.
That, of course, happens to be perfectly correct. There are constitutional gaps with respect to those powers. No one will argue the first leg of Senator McKenna’s proposition. It happens to be factual. He then proceeded to argue, although mainly by inference, that our inflation stemmed from that lack of power. That is the second proposition upon which I join issue with the honorable senator. If the factors he mentioned are highly inflationary - he said they were mainly responsible for the inflationary condition - it is strange that tha States have not done something about them. Take, for example, New South Wales, the great Labour State, the biggest employer of labour in Australia. It has an adequate reserve power in respect of matters pertaining to consumer credit, in other words, types of hire-purchase agreements. If too much credit had been issued in New South Wales and that had had an inflationary effect on the economy of the State and consequently on the economy of Australia, it would have been very simple for the New South Wales Parliament to pass legislation of an anti-inflationary nature to restrict and control consumer credit. Nothing would have been simpler.
– Are you not forgetting section 92 of the Constitution?
– Section 92 would not have stopped New South Wales from doing that. New South Wales has not done anything about it, although it has the power. Of course, there may be reasons other than those postulated by Senator McKenna why the States, particularly New South Wales, have not moved in regard to hire-purchase. I do not intend to discuss the matter here, but it can be argued - in fact it has been argued - that a high level of hire-purchase credit is not inflationary but has the reverse effect on an economy. I respect the argument; I think it needs to be developed at another time and in another place. I put that argument into the ring, as it were, because Senator McKenna has advanced the view that excess consumer credit is inflationary. In answer to Senator McKenna .1 say that the States could, and, if necessary, should introduce legislation to correct that state of affairs. I suggest it is quite possible that an excess of credit from this source is not inflationary but in fact is antiinflationary.
– The Government seems to think it is inflationary, because it is damping down consumer credit.
– I suggest it is damping down consumer credit, not because it is inflationary, but because it is limiting investment in other respects. If I am wrong I stand to be corrected, but I suggest that that is the reason.
Let us now take another element of Senator McKenna’s argument - the matter of industrial power. The honorable senator said there were thirteen wage-fixing authorities in Australia. Of course, that is quite correct. He said that the Constitutional Review Committee referred to that situation as being one of exotic profusion. I do not intend to argue that point, because I am talking about this matter in the context of inflation. Presumably Senator McKenna argues that one wage-fixing tribunal would be more anti-inflationary than are thirteen. If that presumption is correct, I assume Senator McKenna now asks the Senate to come to the conclusion that the existing wage levels are inflationary, and that those tribunals have granted wages that are too high.
– Too high in relation to resources.
– That they are too high in relation to every other factor that is germane to the matter of inflation. If I state Senator McKenna’s argument correctly, he suggests that our wage levels are too high because we have thirteen wage-fixing tribunals, and that one central wage-fixing tribunal would reduce the level of wages. That is rather an extraordinary argument for the Leader of the Opposition to advance. Having read his speech, I cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that that was the tenor of his argument. I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) to correct me if I am wrong.
– You are wrong.
– In any case, Senator McKenna’s argument does not satisfy me that inflation stems from gaps in our Constitution. I am prepared to go some distance with Senator McKenna and to say that it is possible that a little degree of inflation may flow from those gaps. But that degree of inflation is secondary, and I shall refer to it again later. The main stream of inflation does not flow from a lack of constitutional power.
– Let us suppose that the New South Wales Parliament legislated for a 30-hour week.
– Do you mind if 1 develop my argument? You may question me later if you wish. Senator McKenna has done no more in his argument than to endeavour to show - not to my satisfaction nor to that of Senator Lillico - that all power should be concentrated in Canberra. In other words, he has endeavoured to show that there should be, in effect, in Australia, a unitary form of government with absolute power in relation to all matters appertaining to government. I think that was the real tenor of Senator McKenna’s argument.
I suggest that the honorable senator’s argument did not show that this lack of constitutional power had an inflationary effect on our economy. I still remain to be convinced that we would not have inflation in Australia if all power were concentrated in Canberra. I believe it is quite possible that, with a unitary form of government, our level of inflation would be even higher than it is. I shall leave the political implications of a unitary form of government to other people to discuss, because I want to confine my remarks to the matter of inflation and to one of the alleged causes of inflation which receives quite a high degree of publicity. I refer to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
My very able colleague, Senator Wright, said this about the Arbitration Commission only a few days ago -
I believe it is the responsibility of those on this side of the chamber to look at the Australian wage-fixing apparatus, which is unique in the world, and which is sacrificing this country by destroying the value of money. There is imposed on us a direct responsibility to overhaul the system before it destroys us and before it destroys the nation, which is more important.
That is a rather serious condemnation of our arbitration system. I want to say something about it. If it were true that our wage-fixing system was having that effect, I would agree wholeheartedly with Senator Wright that we must do something, and do it quickly.
But I join issue with the honorable senator on this question, lt is characteristic of us all that, when we strike trouble, we want to find a scapegoat. At the moment, the popular scapegoat is the Arbitration Commission, lt is the bete noire of some of those who seek the causes of inflation. Those people who say, “ Let us abolish the commission “ or “ Let us change its constitution “ or “ Let us do something to it because it is responsible for inflation “ should be prepared to suggest a better system of wage fixation. There are many people other than Senator Wright who criticize along those lines. That is a fairly common criticism in Australia at the moment. It is of no use whatever to come into this chamber or go anywhere else and say “ Let us abolish the commission “ or “ Let us to a very material extent modify its functional purpose or aims “ unless you can suggest something to put in its place.
I ask those who wish to scrap it entirely whether they wish to return to what is sometimes called collective bargaining, or what other people call the law of the jungle.
Do those people who want to subject our arbitration tribunals to the will of the Parliament or, even worse, to the wishes of the Government, want to make our wage levels and conditions of employment the subject of party political intrigue and policy? Is that the wish of any one in this chamber? Surely not! If we do not want to abolish the Arbitration Commission or do not want it subjected to parliamentary or governmental control, we must want to do something about its function or to alter its basis of adjudication. Of course, the present well-known basis is the capacity of industry to pay.
– What does that mean?
– That has been well discussed in judgments of the commission, and I shall refer the honorable senator to one as I proceed. Does any one wish to alter that basis, which is very well-known to honorable senators other than Senator Wright? If we want to alter that basis, what are we to put in its place? Any one who criticizes that basis must rise and indicate what is to be the new basis of adjudication.
Those who criticize along those lines must, by the very nature of their argument, also insist that the adjudications of this tribunal in past years have been wrong. They must insist that the 1959 decision to increase the basic wage and the decision early in 1960 to increase margins materially were wrong, and that the amounts granted were too high. If you deny the bona fides of this court or its competence, you must go the whole hog and say that those decisions were wrong.
– Of course they were hopelessly wrong.
– In that case the honorable senator must say by how much they were wrong. He is then usurping the rights of the tribunal itself and that raises another question that I wish to pose to critics of this matter. If you wish to abolish this court, what will you put in its place? Who should decide by how much the court is wrong or by how much it is right? Who shall decide when it should alter a basic wage and when it should not? I think that people who criticize this court must complete their criticisms by answering those questions.
Let us assume that the arbitration com- mission was wrong in 1959 when it increased the basic wage and margins. Let us suppose that it set too high a figure as the base rate and let us suppose that it should not have increased margins. Does that mean that we should blame the tribunal for that wrong? Let us assume that the basic wage should not have been increased. Does it necessarily follow that the commission was wrong? Surely that is a complete non-sequitur. I will try to demonstrate what I mean by that statement in a few moments.
Let us take the 1959 basic wage case. Let us assume that the court was wrong and let us now inquire why it was wrong. In that case all trade unions in Australia were the applicants. They were represented by seven counsel - all very keen and learned advocates.
– And well paid.
– They were well paid and they spoke with one voice. Who were the respondents? The judgment of the court refers to them as the employers generally. I do not know what that means. Mir. Aird, who is a very learned and able man, represented them and he was assisted by a junior. Mr. Aird represented all employers, from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General MotorsHolden’s Limited down to the humblest employer in the land. All the employers, even the farmers, irrespective of their interests, were represented by the one counsel. Has any one ever heard of anything more Gilbertian? Were the States, which are the largest employers of labour, represented? No, they were not! The Commonwealth Government intervened and sat on the fence. It took neither one side nor the other. The State of South Australia intervened and opposed the application. The State of Tasm’ania intervened and supported the application. But the States of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, which employ more men and women than anybody else in Australia, did not have the courtesy even to come to the court. They ignored it.
Surely the judges of the court are not expected to know what is in the minds of the largest employers of labour in the Commonwealth. What an impertinence for those
States, including my own, to ignore a tribunal that is fixing a base rate for their workers. Surely those States should have had the courage to go along to the court, put their cards on the table and say whether they supported the application. That is why this court is not working too well. I shall develop that point briefly. The court is not working too well, not because it should be changed, not because its constitution should be changed and not because its function should be changed, but because representation is lacking.
There could only be one result in 1959. On the one hand, the applicants were ably represented by their advocates and on the other hand the employers were not fully represented. Mr. Aird and his junior represented the employers generally and also the pastoralists’ association. Were the wheatfarmers represented? No! Were those fruit-growing industries, which were referred to by Senator Wright with such vehemence and eloquence the other night represented? Was their case pleaded before the court? No! Were some of the other industries that are suffering at the moment represented? Were the timber and the mining industries represented? Did anybody come along and plead the case of those industries, which are suffering the ill consequences of inflation? No! The primary industries, other than the graziers, were not specifically represented. All those parties ignored the court.
– The hearing would never end if every industry submitted its case.
– All those industries, had a right to be represented. I would even go so far as to say that they had an obligation to be represented. If they do not exercise their right they have no reason to complain, through the medium of some honorable senators, that they are having a bad trot at the hands of the arbitration commission.
I propose to quote some passages from the judgment in that case and I am sure that when I do honorable senators will see my point clearly. As I read the judgment 1 ask honorable senators who are listening to me whether they believe that Mr. Justice Kirby would have made this statement if the case for the primary industries had been adequately presented to him. In his judgment Mr. Justice Kirby, who was referring at this stage to the economy of the country, said -
I have referred to the bumper harvest of wheat. In this regard we will have difficulties of disposal and, pending disposal, storage facilities will have to be provided. Nevertheless a large wheat harvest must be regarded as propitious particularly when it follows a year when drought forced us to import wheat.
I want the Senate to note the last sentence -
Nevertheless a large wheat harvest must be regarded as propitious particularly when it follows a year when drought forced us to import wheat.
The judgment continued -
Whatever the difficulties of selling and without brushing those difficulties aside I cannot as a matter of judgment regard a surplus of an essential primary product such as wheat as a matter for foreboding rather than satisfaction in considering national economic strength.
No primary producer who understands the economics of his industry will agree with that proposition. We had a drought and next year we had a surplus of wheat that could not be stored; and for those reasons the basic wage should be increased. Surely the facts of life in regard to the wheat industry were not presented to the court. Why on earth were they not presented? I suggest that the fault lies fairly and squarely on the wheat-growers.
– Are you sure they were not presented? I was present in the court day after day.
– I am quoting from the judgment. Here we have a remark from the second judge, Mr. Justice Foster, who said, when discussing the economy of the country -
Mr. Aird pressed the view that a basic wage rise will increase costs to farmers, and so tend to discourage them and to reduce their investment and thus bring about a reduction in primary industry.
The learned judge continued -
Neither economic experience nor the material before us-
I emphasize that - supports this view. . . .
– What did he mean by “ material “?
– He meant that there was no evidence before the court on which he could find otherwise. There was no representation by the critical industries involved, including the wheat-growing industry and many others, to give him any other evidence. He took cognizance of what was before him and passed judgment accordingly. Finally, Sir, I want to refer briefly to the remarks of the third judge, Mr. Justice Gallagher. He said -
I have set out in very general terms the arguments of the unions and of the employers, and I have also summarized the essentials of the submissions of the Commonwealth. It has to be decided whether or not there is a case for an increase in the basic wage. As to this question, there is evidence that the 1957 drought seriously affected production, and that this combined with reduced prices resulted in considerably lower returns from exports, and in loss of overseas reserves. The Australian economy, particularly on its rural side, undoubtedly suffered a reverse. However, during 1958 there was a change for the better. Seasons improved, there was a bumper harvest of wheat, there were big gains in the production of barley and oats, the dairying industry improved both as to production and prices, meat, sugar and the fruits each gave reasonably satisfactory returns. Again, wool prices which had fallen from 80d. per lb. in 1956-57 to 63d. per lb. in 1957-58 and which by January, 1959, had further fallen to 43d. per lb. showed a sudden and spectacular improvement, and by April had almost returned-
I emphasize the word “ almost “ - to the average for the previous year. And the wool clip for the season is expected to reach a near record level.
– About one sale!
– Senator Wade should have gone to the court and argued this case, because no one was present to argue the wheat-growers’ case.
– They should have been represented.
– They were not. How could one advocate represent all sections of the employer class? How could one unfortunate advocate - a most learned man and a most capable one, too - argue the merits of the case of, say, General MotorsHolden’s, which earned an increment of £13,000,000 in that year, and at the same time argue the disabilities of the apple industry in Tasmania?
– It is amazing what a good lawyer can do.
– He would have to be a remarkable man. I have heard it argued in certain quarters that the judges of the commission should know all these things and that there is actually no need to have representation before the commission at all. I have heard it said, “ Why cannot the judges know these things? “ I have heard that said by serious-minded farmers. That suggests that these judges, who are able men, should at one minute be judges and the next minute turn themselves into advocates for the Tasmanian apple industry, for the tobacco industry, for the fixed income earners of Australia - the pensioners and people in receipt of superannuation payments - for the airlines companies and so on. That is where you get to. That is the intolerable position you get to if these people are not adequately represented.
– Do you suggest that one or two members of the commission should be economists rather than legally trained men?
– I see nothing wrong with having an economist who has the judicial mind of a well-trained judge, but I have yet to meet an economist who has such a mind. A lot of foolishness is talked about lawyers, but when the whips crack you always come to them; you do not go to the economists or to bush lawyers.
Returning to the basic wage case, I say that a proper decision on the evidence was given. Any one who has read the evidence could come to no other conclusion. The case was put very ably for the unions and very badly, or not at all, for the employers. No one could say that it was a wrong decision on the evidence. Any one who says that the increase was too great treats these judges with the greatest of contempt. They are honorable and capable men and they acted on the evidence before them and on their knowledge of the matter.
– Do you not agree that a lot more evidence could have been put before them?
– I am very sorry that it was not put before them. I suggest that if it had been adequately put before them, there might not have been an increase; but nobody knows that. I shall come to that aspect of the matter in a minute or two.
Let us now have a look at the second case last year - the margins case. There was the same doleful story of representation. It was even worse than in the basic wage case. Only the State of South
Australia intervened and opposed the application, and only the State of Victoria intervened and sat pat. No other authority or industry specifically was represented in the margins case - not one! Yet every union was represented - and very capably represented - and the consequence was that the margins case was won by them. Lest honorable senators think that this commission - this maligned commission - did not base its decision on some very important factors, let me quote from the commission’s judgment in that case. I have said - and it has been said many times - that our Conciliation and Arbitration Commission bases its findings on the capacity of industry to pay. That is true, but it is not the complete truth. The commission bases its findings on a second vital principle, which I now propose to read to the Senate, because honorable senators are not very often aware of it. In its combined judgment, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission stated -
The Commonwealth in its submissions emphasized the desirability of economic stability in the community in order that the economy may expand and in particular that overseas investment may continue to be attracted to Australia. Despite the anxiety expressed in some quarters that too much investment from overseas may lead us into difficulties regarding interest payments and capital repayments, there can be no doubt that, on balance, investment from overseas is of benefit to this country and its continued inflow should not be discouraged, particularly in view of its importance regarding our international reserves.
– Did they need evidence to convince them of that?
– They wanted argument as well as evidence. ‘ The judgment continued -
We are conscious of the desirability of attempting to maintain the economic stability which this country has achieved.
That, I think, is a most profound judgment from this commission, and it should be well understood by every person in the community. Whose fault is it if the decision is wrong and that stability has not been achieved? It lies at the door of the employers who have not argued their case properly. Of course, I question that there has been a wrong decision. The court continued -
We have looked at the increases which we propose to grant in this case in the light of the submissions about economic stability and we do not consider that such increases are so likely to affect that stability that the economy will be adversely affected. If marginal increases cannot be granted in times of economic prosperity such as the present, it is difficult to imagine when they can be granted.
There is the second fundamental principle which exercised the mind of this commission in its deliberations and decisions. Can anybody say that that second proposition is not a wise one? Would anybody like to disagree with it or alter it? Who can suggest in these circumstances that this commission is not able to carry out its functions?
– Was that when the learned judge said that industry could afford to pay the increased margins?
– On the case submitted to them the judges said that industry could afford the increased margins. There was a great how-do-you-do from the employers - mainly from those who were not represented - after the decision was given. The clamour came from those who did not take sufficient interest in their industry, and they included many farmers. I am sick and tired of hearing farmers complain about this margins increase, but not one of them had enough interest in the hearing, or enough sense of responsibility to do something about obtaining direct representation in the court.
– You forget that we are peasant types.
– That remark, Sir, is not the complete answer to my submission
The third interesting decision of this commission was made in the basic wage case earlier this year. That was a different kettle of fish. In that case, an application for an increase in the basic wage was refused. Let us consider the representation on this occasion All unions were very ably represented. What of the respondents? Just listen to the list. Mr. Aird and Mr. Dey appeared for the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, the Metal Trades Employers’ Association, the Metal Industries Association of South Australia, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the Motor Traders’ Association of New South Wales and the respondent members of the following organizations: - Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, Employers’ Federation of New South Wales. Victorian Employers’ Federation, and South Australian Chamber of Manufactures Incorporated. Mr. Aird also sought leave to intervene with Mr. Dey for the following organizations: - Associated Chambers of Manufacturers of Australia, Australian Council of Employers’ Federations, Australian Metal Industries Association and the Graziers’ Federal Council of Australia Mr. Gilbert appeared for the State of Victoria and the State of Queensland. You see, they all came along to this hearing! Mr. Tucker appeared for the State of South Australia and Mr. Eggleston, along with Mr. Frost, for the Attorney-General for the Commonwealth. Mr. Wilson intervened for the State of Western Australia and Mr. Richardson, Mr. Williams and Mr. Walker for the A.C.S.P.A. Mr. West appeared for the State of Tasmania.
Leave was granted to all these gentlemen to intervene. Mr. Tucker, for the State of South Australia, said that his submissions would be substantially along the lines of the submission he made in 1959 and that he preferred to follow the respondent employers and support their submissions. Mr. Wilson, who represented the State of Western Australia, sat on the fence. He said that the State neither supported nor opposed the application, but by intervening in it hoped to assist the commission with submissions at some stage. I pause here to say that perhaps we should be grateful that he did come along, and some others, too. To honorable senators who seem to find some amusement in my remarks I repeat that none of the agricultural industries was represented.
– What was Mr. Eggleston’s contention?
– He argued very ably, as the result of the case would suggest. The Commonwealth, of course, intervened and opposed the application, as did a number of other employer organizations which had never set foot inside the court before. The result quite obviously was due to the evidence submitted and the advocacy of those who appeared before the tribunal.
Just to show how much weight was placed on the new evidence, and the advocacy on behalf of the new respondents, let me read some passages from the judgment of the commission. This is what the learned Chief Justice said -
As has been mentioned earlier, the Commonwealth in these proceedings opposed the appU.cation by the unions. Mr. Eggleston also gave us a review of the economy and in his submission made the following general comments: -
Then follow Mr. Eggleston’s comments, which are well worth reading. I do not propose to read all of them to the Senate at the moment, but I will give one or two extracts. This is what Mr. Eggleston said -
It is not to be doubted that these increases-
That is the increases asked for - will raise costs and price levels significantly and that further secondary effects of that kind will follow upon them. They will also give a further strong stimulation to the demand for goods and services, and indeed have probably begun to do so already.
The final remark of the commission is very interesting. It is -
Such a clear statement of the Commonwealth Government’s attitude,-
And it was a clear statement made by counsel - supported as it is by submissions and economic material, is a matter which this Commission must seriously take into account.
Of course, the commission did take the matter into account, plus the other evidence that was placed before it with the result that the application was refused. This result only goes to show what I have been suggesting, namely, that the commission has not been at fault in coming to its decisions. The fault lies with the employers. They have not had the sense of responsibility that they should have had as industrial leaders to present the facts to the tribunal. That has been mentioned by the commission on more than one occasion.
I shall not develop this argument any further. I think I have made the position perfectly clear, and I sum up my argument by saying that it is not by any means established that this commission has caused the inflation that is upon us now or has caused it at any other time. I suggest that if the commission has made any errors of judgment, those errors could have been avoided if the interested parties had shown a higher degree of responsibility by placing before the commission their respective points of view. It is fallacious to suggest that one advocate can express the views of the innumerable different classes of employers in Australia before the one tribunal at one time. It is a Gilbertian situation, but it has happened more than once. In fact, it has happened on almost every occasion. I suggest that it is more correct to say that if the commission - and I am putting the matter in the worst possible light - has been in any way responsible for the inflation we have at the present time, the commission is merely reflecting the state of our economy, and is not the cause of bringing this inflation about. That is to say, the commission is an effect and not a cause, because it can do no more than carry out its duties in the manner that has been laid down by statute. I do not think my friend Senator Wright, or anybody else, can bring to this chamber any evidence to show that the commission has made a serious blunder on the cases presented to it.
If the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission is not the bete noire of our economic situation, what factors are responsible for our difficulties? As I have said, I do not think that Senator McKenna’s arguments carried very much weight. I do not think that the factors he gave as the causes of inflation are the real causes, although some of them may be secondary causes. I suggest that there are five main causes, as distinct from effects or secondary causes, of the inflationary condition from which our economy is at present suffering. The first, high defence expenditure, is well known to all of us. Such expenditure has never been higher. It is a record for peace-time or so-called peace-time. For ten years, we have been expending on defence at least as much as we spent during the war. Of course, nobody objects to that, but does anybody deny that every penny of that money is inflationary?
I come to the second factor. I do not think anybody will quarrel with me when I say that this Government has endeavoured to maintain full employment. Last year’s Budget was a typical budget brought down substantially to achieve the desirable object of full employment or the highest possible degree of employment. It was a deficit budget because it had that purpose. Did anybody object to that? Does anybody object to the policy of full employment that this Government pursues? On the other hand, does anybody deny that expenditure on those things is inflationary?
– Why should it be?
– For the reason I have just given. Last year, our Budget was a deficit budget and we printed millions of pounds worth of paper money. If that is not inflationary, I should like to know what is. That was done for the express purpose of maintaining full employment.
The third factor, with which I think nobody quarrels, is again inflationary, as everybody realizes. I refer to the maintenance of our terrific rate of industrial development. On the one hand, we have a vast migration programme, and on the other, enormous annual increases of private investment. I do not need to quote the figures; they are available and we all are aware of them. That high rate of private investment attracts and even invites a corresponding degree of public investment. Those who criticize public expenditure overlook, I suggest, the fact that it is quite impossible for our rate of public expenditure not to be complementary to the high rate of private expenditure. Our public investment is represented by power supplies, housing, health services, transport, including railways, and other public works. Surely nobody suggests that private investment would flow into this country at the present rate if our public investment did not walk arm in arm with it. Nobody imagines that such expenditure is not inflationary to a great degree. We cannot measure the inflationary consequences of the expenditure, but everybody admits that such consequences flow from it. Does anybody advocate the cessation of that high rate of industrial development? Surely everybody agrees that it is desirable in the circumstances. That being so, we must accept the inflationary consequences.
There is a fourth factor which I think also is inevitable. It is the well known objective of this Government to maintain the highest possible living standards, not only for the wage-earners, but also for the pensioners and all members of the community, in all classes. Taking into account other aspects of our economy, I think we in Australia probably have the highest living standards in the world. Those standards have been achieved not without a high degree of inflation. The inflationary consequences of maintaining such a policy are great. Consider, for instance, our social services vote. I think we spend per capita more money on social services and health services than any other country. Every penny of that expenditure is inflationary. Does any one want to have it otherwise? We all want to see such expenditure, but at the same time we must not disregard the consequences of it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– At the outset, I want to congratulate Senator Vincent on a very interesting discussion of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and various arbitration cases. I think he has laid low for ever any idea that this Government did not actually brief counsel to appear before the commission during the hearing of the last basic wage application. May I say, with some knowledge of the gentleman whom the Government engaged, that he faced on the other side a very able and experienced counsel. The case that he put up was very interesting. I think it will give great food for thought to those people who have kept this Government in power for eleven years. I am. referring to that noble band of men who, as a political party, are the greatest barnacles that ever stuck to a political ship. I say that with the greatest of respect to you, Mr. Deputy President, because I understand that you are one of the band. I suppose if you are caught in a web, it is a case of all in together.
My colleague, Senator Armstrong, in the course of a very able speech that he delivered in this chamber recently, asked, “ Can the members of the Australian Country Party go to the people in their electorates and point to progress that has been made in the interests of the country people during the ten or eleven years that this Government has been in office? Senator Wade, that valiant Victorian, rushed in on behalf of the group of barnacles to which I have referred, and said, “ What about depreciation allowances? “ I have some knowledge of the Australian Country Party in another sphere. I do not think for a moment that the late Sir Albert Dunstan, who led the Victorian Government for a long period of years, would have been satisfied with that record of achievement after eleven years of government. Senator
Wade rushed in valiantly with that interjection when my colleague was speaking, but he did not say anything about wheat, butter or wool. Of course, he and his colleagues do not know even to-day where they stand1 on the subject of wool marketing. They do not know whether they want the wool-growers of this country to be held to ransom by the buyers who, as every one knows, are more interested in pies than in any other form of wool-buying.
The honorable senator did not say anything about what this Government had done for the poultry-farmers, nor did he mention meat production or the cattle industry. With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy President, so long as these people are marked number two on the Government’s Senate team, what do they care? They sit complacently in this chamber - a very nice place, it is true - and are handsomely remunerated for their services. They tag along with the four or five honorable senators who sit on the front bench on the Government side and say to themselves, “ Oh well, we might get one ministry out of the five or six “. Of course, age takes its toll. It disgusts me that persons who hold the balance of power in the political life of the nation achieve nothing for the people whom they purport to represent in this place.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question’ -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved1 in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600906_senate_23_s18/>.