23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 pan., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Immunities) Bill I960. Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority Bill
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. As the Government has now had the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee for nearly two and a half years and the reasons in support of the recommendations for nearly eighteen months, will the Minister say whether the Government has yet made any decision in relation to those recommendations? If it has not, will he say what the reason is for the delay? Finally, can he say when the decision may be expected?
– The AttorneyGeneral, with whom I have discussed this matter from time to time, has said that it is largely a matter of policy whether certain recommendations will or will not be made the subject of legislation. The answer that I am prepared to give is that the recommendations are still the subject of active government consideration. They have not been pigeon-holed. At this moment that is the only answer I can give.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the statement in this morning’s “ Age “ that the administration of the present Amalgamated Engineering Union ballot is being handled in such a way as to give a great advantage to the sitting Communist candidate, Southwell? Is it a fact that nonCommunist candidates were given by the returning officer only five days to copy the names and addresses of 34,000 members entitled to take part in the postal ballot, whereas this information has, by virtue of his union position, been available to the Communist candidate for several months? Is it a fact that Communist leaflets and ballotpapers have been delivered to some voters by the same mail, thus indicating Communist knowledge of the date of posting? Is it a fact that the organizer, the campaign secretary or the general factotum for the Communist candidate, Southwell, is a member of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party?
– I have noticed the statement in the “ Age “ to which the honorable senator has referred. Indeed, representations have been made to the Minister upon this matter, and he has caused inquiries to be made. The officer of the Electoral Office who is conducting this ballot is an experienced man and must be deemed to be carrying out his duties in a thoroughly proper way unless the opposite can be shown. It is a fact, I understand, that the secretary or organizer for the Communist candidate Southwell, is a member of the Australian Labour Party executive. This is another instance of the co-operation between those political parties in the election of persons to key positions in various unions. The Government wishes to avoid any semblance of interference in a trade union election hut, as I have said, it has caused an inquiry to be made by an electoral officer into the conduct of this election.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As the Government has belatedly seen the error of its ways in increasing the sales tax on motor cars, and as it stated that the increase was not imposed for the purpose of increasing revenue, will the Treasurer refund to the people who suffered from this error of judgment the additional sales tax paid by them?
SenatorPALTRIDGE. - The honorable senator is at fault in assuming that the Government made an error when it increased the sales tax on motor vehicles last November. Heis again at fault when he reads into the removal of the extra tax an acknowledgment of an error by the Government. The plain fact, which was stated particularly in this chamber at the time the legislation was before us, was that the tax was imposed as a means of dampening down excess activity in the motor industry. It was freely and clearly stated time and time again that when the tax had had the effect which the Government sought, it would be removed immediately. Honorable senators on the Opposition side are protesting.If they are not prepared to accept that as a statement of fact, I ask them to read in “ Hansard “ the many references I myself made to the fact that this tax would be removed as soon as it had achieved its objective. When the desired effect had been achieved, the tax was removed in pursuance of a promise given. There is nothing to support a case that this variation of the sales tax should be treated differently from any other variation of sales tax. The Government has considered the feasibility of making a refund and has rejected the idea.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, and I preface it by saying that there has been certain criticism that the private trading banks have been unduly harsh in dealing with applications for rural credit. Will the Minister inform the Senate what is the policy of the trading banks in respect of credit advances for primary producers?
– It has been represented to the Treasurer that the policy laid down, both in the statement and in the directive, was not being followed. As a result of those representations the Treasurer requested the Governor of the Reserve Bank to confer with the trading banks. The trading banks have advised the Governor of the bank that they are prepared to say that they fully understand the natureof the directive as issued and as it applies to primary production and production for export. Moreover, they are satisfied that their branch managers have thoroughly understood what the directive does in fact intend. It is important to note that they have stated that if there are cases in respect of which it is believed that a grievance exists and the directive is not being carried out, the head offices of the banks will examine those particular cases on reference to them by the aggrieved persons or by persons who believe themselves to be aggrieved.
It is important, too, that discussions along the same lines have had reference to the supply of statisticsby the banks to the central bank in respect of information being provided, it being required, I understand, that a more precise classification of advances should be furnished by the trading banks so that the avenues of advances may be closely followed. The conferences in respect of that matter are continuing.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that Western Australia recently has suffered very severe losses from bush fires, floods and cyclones. As such national disasters occur from time to time in all States and as the cost of insurance cover, if it can be obtained, with private companies, both for individuals and for States, is very great, will the Commonwealth consider establishing a national disasters commission similar to the war damage commission? If that were done the burden of loss might be spread more equitably over the community as a whole, so that it will not weigh down only the residents of afflicted districts, who are doing such a magnificent job in developing the outback areas of Australia.
– I understand that this question has been considered by the Treasury since the dissolution of the war damage insurance scheme after World War II. That scheme was, of course, different in many aspects from the kind of scheme that might operate in time of peace. I recall that there has been a good deal of correspondence on this question, and that the reasons for -rejecting the proposal for such a scheme in time of peace are set down somewhere. I shall endeavour to obtain the document for the honorable senator so that she may study it.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a reference in the newspaper “ Muster “, under the heading “ Free Speech “ and over the name of Stewart Howard; to the question of literary censorship? The article stated -
Last week, the Commonwealth Government - and note the point, the Commonwealth Government, not the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board - confirmed the ban on “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.
Is it correct, as the article went on to state, that the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board in fact recommended that the book should be released? Has the Minister any comment to make on the reasons for the decision to override the view of the board? Having read the book, may I say that the decision is one with which I most heartily concur.
– I have not seen the article in “ Muster “ referred to by the honorable senator, but I have seen a number of other articles along the same lines. It is on record that I have stated in the Senate a number of times that the Literature Censorship Board is an advisory body only, as are the Tariff Board and a number of other boards that have been appointed by the Government. Sometimes the Government accepts and sometimes it does not accept the advice of those boards. In this case the Government did not accept the advice of the Literature Censorship Board and it continued the ban, which has existed for some 30 years.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health the following questions: - First, is the Government aware that there is a great and increasing shortage of qualified dentists in Australia? Secondly, is it a fact that many Australian children are not receiving adequate dental attention for the reason already mentioned, and also because many parents cannot bear the considerable expense of dental treatment? Thirdly, is the Government aware that a considerable number of Australian graduates in dentistry have been attracted to Great Britain by the more remunerative opportunities that exist there under the national health scheme? Fourthly, is the Government aware that business firms in Britain interested in dental supplies are circularizing dentists in Australia and are offering most attractive terms to induce Australian dental graduates to go to the United Kingdom? Fifthly, is it true that 170 qualified Australian dentists left for Britain last year and that some hundreds of qualified Australian dentists are now domiciled there? Sixthly, has the Government any plans for correcting this serious position by (a) consultation with bodies representing Australian dentists and (b) a national dental health scheme?
– I believe that some Australian dental graduates have gone to Great Britain, and that they have done so because of added inducements in the form of higher salaries, &c, which are offered under the national health scheme. I think the remainder of the question is a matter for the Minister for Health to answer. If the honorable senator places the question on the notice-paper, I shall see that he gets a reply from my colleague.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: What becomes of the radio-active waste, if any, at the Lucas Heights establishment near Sydney?
– There is some radio-active waste from the Lucas Heights establishment. It is a matter with which I am quite familiar, although naturally I am not technically expert upon it. That waste has very little radio-active content; it is a very weak effluent. The most elaborate precautions are taken to deal with it because of its possible effects, not only on the public, but also upon the scientists at the Lucas Heights establishment. The matter is not determined entirely by the scientists at Lucas Heights. The procedures that are followed are adopted after consultation with and confirmation by the State health authorities. I am advised that, with all the precautions that are taken, there is not the slightest possibility of any danger to the community outside the establishment or to the staff engaged at Lucas Heights.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister arrange for me to be informed of the number of workers unemployed in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Gympie, Mary, borough, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Ingham, Innisfail, Cairns, Warwick, Southport and Dalby? Will he also arrange for me to be informed of the total number of workers now unemployed in Queensland?
– I cannot possibly be expected to state offhand the detailed numbers of persons unemployed in the long list of towns mentioned by the honorable senator. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I will secure a detailed reply for him. In the meantime I can tell him that as recently as October, 1960, there were in Australia 15,000 more job vacancies than there were persons available to fill jobs.
Honorable senators opposite are interjecting, and I am surprised that they are not interested in learning the true figures concerning the employment situation in Aus tralia at present and in the recent past. Up to date, in spite of the misleading outcry by the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters, the number of persons unemployed in Australia represents only l.S per cent, of the total work force. That figure is nowhere near, and under the administration of this Government will never get near, the figure howled from the house-tops by the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Have representatives of the timber industry applied for protection under the emergency tariff legislation? If so, what has been the result of such application? If the application has been refused, will the Minister state the grounds for refusal? Has the Minister seen statements in Tasmanian newspapers, particularly one attributed to Mr. Leitch, president of the Tasmanian Timber Association, to the effect that the economic position of the Tasmanian timber industry was worsening? Has consideration been given to the particular disability of the Tasmanian industry because of its isolation from the mainland market?
– In view of the importance of this question to honorable senators representing Tasmania, I thought the wiser course was not to give an answer off the cuff but to get some accurate information. The answer supplied by the Minister for Trade is that no representation has been made by the timber industry for protection under the emergency tariff legislation. A recent Tariff Board report recommended that the present rates of duty applying to imports of timber should not be increased. So, comparatively recently, the situation of the timber industry has been considered by the Tariff Board. What is happening at present is in accordance with the usual procedure adopted by the Minister for Trade. He has set up a panel representing all sections of the sawn-timber industry. That panel, which represents the industry as a whole, will have discussions with officials of the Department of Trade on Thursday of next week. Thus, the Department of Trade is moving promptly to have discussions with the industry concerned in order to learn whether any cause of complaint exists, and to determine whether anything should be done. As to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, in which he asks whether consideration has been given to doing something for Tasmania in particular because of its isolated position, 1 remind him that under the Constitution it would not be possible to have tariffs that discriminate between one State and another.
– Despite the assur ances of the Minister for the Navy, and despite the reply given by the Leader of the Government to Senator Lillico, 1 should like to say by way of preface to my question that unemployment in the building industry and allied trades is definitely increasing and that numerous building contractors are on the verge of bankruptcy. I ask the Minister for National Development, as the Minister responsible for administering the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement: What financial measures does the Government propose to take in order to arrest the worsening of the already acute housing shortage that exists in every State, and which is accentuated by the mounting number of immigrants arriving in Australia and by the demolition of houses for the erection of city business buildings?
– Senator O’Byrne’s question is based upon the assumption that unemployment is serious in the homebuilding industry. To say the least, that is an unsound assumption upon which to proceed. The purpose of the Government’s policy was to dampen down building activities, but it is the Government’s aim in the future, as it has been in the past, to maintain full employment throughout Australia. 1 keep in as close touch as I can - and I am certain every other Minister in the Cabinet does also - not only with building statistics but also with employers, employees and persons engaged in the building trade generally. I can only express my own view. Never previously haveI heard such gross exaggeration in the discussion of any subject as there is at the present time upon the degree of unemployment in Australia.
– The press is making the charges.
– The honorable senator is doing his best to help. Wait until unemployment occurs and then ask the Government what it is going to do. Until that time arrives do not cry “ wolf “.
As to housing, I am certain that nobody can give accurate figures about the present situation. Figures at the end of December, which are the only ones available, showed a very healthy situation throughout Australia. Figures becoming available now for January - they are becoming available from day to day - show that housing activities lessened during the month of January. This is what the Government expected because the building rate of 100,000 houses a year was beyond the resources of men and materials to bear without the most expensive construction at the expense of young people who are wanting homes. The Government’s policy has had the effect of reducing that level of activity, and in the long run that policy will give us more and cheaper homes than we could have had in a boom that was inevitably going to bust.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. When will he be in a position to announce to the Senate detailed plans about the reequipment of the Royal Australian Air Force with the Mirage jet fighter?
– The question raised by the honorable senator has exercised the minds of those in the Department of Air and also the people of Australia. For some considerable time officers of the department have been making a very close examination of all possible types of machines that might meet our peculiar needs. I am veryhappy to say that the choice of the Mirage fighter has been accepted with unanimity. Specifically answering the honorable senator’s question, we expect to have the first units here in 1963 and hope to be in a position to form a unit proper in 1 964. While I am on the subject, may I just add for the honorable senator’s benefit that we hope the aircraft will be substantially manufactured in Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: What was the number of persons registered as unemployed at the end of February, 1961, in Australia and in each State? If, in giving an answer, the Minister refers to the number of unfilled vacancies, will he also state how many of those unfilled vacancies apply to persons who are actually unemployed?
– I find it difficult to understand the last part of the question. Unfilled vacancies are an indication that jobs are available and I do not see how that can be tied to the number of persons unemployed. In answering a previous question on this matter, I said that unemployment throughout Australia at present was in the vicinity of 1.5 per cent., which is lower, probably, than the percentage in any other industrialized country. If the honorable senator wants the figures broken down, State by State, I shall have to ask him to give me notice of the question. I still do not understand the last part of the honorable senator’s question, beyond the fact that he acknowledges that unfilled vacancies exist at present.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs aware that application has been made for extradition of a man resident in Australia and, I think, an Australian citizen, who is- accused of what the Soviet Union calls a war crime? Have we an extradition treaty with the Soviet Union or with any other Communist country? If so, will the Government, in addition to giving the matter full ministerial consideration, lay down rules and procedures to ensure that no person innocent of crime, as we in Australia understand crime, will be surrendered to the tender mercies of a totalitarian state?
– I have read in the newspapers that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is requesting the extradition from Australia of a former resident of Estonia, although no formal request for such extradition has yet been received by the Australian Government. The Australian Government does not have an extradition treaty with the Soviet Union, nor has the Australian Government ever recognized the right of the Soviet to govern the formerly independent country of Estonia which, having been invaded and ravaged by the fascists, was then invaded and ravaged by the Communists. We do have extradition treaties, dating from a considerable time past, with some countries which are Communist, but not with the Soviet Union. In general, the position as to extradition is laid down in the treaties themselves. A country requesting the extradition of a citizen must make a prima facie case for the extradition of that citizen. There is a hearing before a magistrate’s court, the processes of habeas corpus are open, and it is not outside the competence of the Australian Government to refuse to hand over to countries which we consider do not meet standards of justice as we know them persons whom those countries require. I remind the honorable senator that we refused to hand over formerly a Yugoslav who was required on what we thought were improper grounds.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether the Treasurer was. correctly reported in the press last week when it was stated that he had accused the private associated banks of not administering the Government’s credit restriction policy according to the wishes of the Government? If the Treasurer was correctly reported, can the Minister tell the Senate in what ways the private associated banks are not administering the Government’s credit restriction policy according to the wishes of the Government? Will, the Minister inform the Senate how much of the private associated banks’ surplus funds, which they have been compelled to deposit from time to time, are now deposited with the central bank? If there is a shortage of cash or credit in Australia for home building and the employment of unemployed workers, who number 6,000 in one industry alone, cannot some of those surplus funds of the private associated banks be made available to try to stabilize the economy?
– I think every member of the Senate will agree that the honorable senator who has asked this question is the last member of this chamber who should ask another honorable senator to give a reply to a question based on a press report. However, if he considers his first question important, as I presume he does, I will have a look at the report and discuss it with the Treasurer and find out whether it merits a reply. Offhand, I do not know the amount of the special reserve deposits. The last figure I saw was about £300,000,000, but I am speaking from memory. As was pointed out by Senator Spooner a few minutes ago, the third question asked by the honorable senator is based on a misunderstanding of the conditions which exist in Australia to-day, because there is no measure of unemployment and the building industry is proceeding very well indeed.
– By way of preface to my question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, I refer to the disappearance of the fishing vessel “ Lincoln Star “, with seven persons aboard, off the west coast of South Australia more than a week ago. Can the Minister inform the Senate of any routine plan of search and rescue his department has evolved for use when a disaster occurs at sea within reach of bases under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation? Was such plan used in the case of the “Lincoln Star”? Will the Minister inquire into the effectiveness or otherwise of the co-ordination between all bodies and organizations which searched for the “ Lincoln Star “? If it is possible to improve such co-ordination will he see that this is done?
– Aerial search and rescue is a function of the Department of Civil Aviation. A search of the nature referred to by the honorable senator would be undertaken in co-operation with the navigation section of the Department of Shipping and Transport because it involved the loss of a ship. I believe that the detailed procedures have been laid down, and were reviewed a year or two ago when the Department of Civil Aviation took over this full function from the Royal Australian Air Force. I will ask for a report on what happened in the case of the “ Lincoln Star “ and will, inform the honorable senator of the position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Housing co-operatives in Tasmania have been officially notified1 that the rate of interest charged on loans is to be raised1 by three-eighths per cent, as from 1st April, 1961. Is this increase in accordance with the Government’s policy, or should interest on loans remain at the present rate until 30th June, 1961, when the new housing agreement with the States will come into operation?
– The general principle is that money for housing is made available at the interest rate applicable at the time when the Commonwealth makes the money available to a State. There having been a recent increase in the interest rate, advances from the Commonwealth to the States from that time forward will carry the higher interest rate. From that it follows, I would think, that the States would increase their interest rates on loans to building societies as from the date from which they pay the higher interest rate.
– It started in April.
– I think it started in February. The State, having borrowed money at a certain rate of interest, should make that money available to the building societies at the rate of interest which it ;s paying.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Is the Postmaster-General aware of the extreme complications and loss of time and temper consequent upon the introduction of the new Elsa telephone system when people are looking up telephone numbers in outlying districts? They must turn from one part of the book to another, first to find under what district the number can be found, then to find whether a call to that district is an extended local call or a trunk call, and then to find the dialling code to be used for that district. Will the Postmaster-General consider inserting conspicuously - that is, in large letters - at the commencement of each district listed in the -°xt telephone book, which I think is due to be issued in August, the required dialling code and whether a call is an extended local call or a trunk call?
– Officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have put a great deal of time and thought into the compilation of the latest telephone directory. They have, at least in their opinion, included in the book sufficient information to make it easy to find the number required. I think it is fair to say that it will be merely a matter of time before the system contained in the present directory will be just as acceptable as that in the old directory. However, I shall be very pleased to pass on to the Postmaster-General the honorable senator’s suggestion that certain information be placed conspicuously in the new directory to be issued in August.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask it because of the assertion he made that the increased sales tax on motor cars was to be retained only until such time as it had served its purpose. Will the Minister elaborate that statement and advise the Senate to what extent, or in what way, the increased sales tax has improved the economy, apart from causing wholesale dismissals of employees in the motor car industry?
– The honorable senator’s question revives the subject-matter of a pretty lively debate which took place during the last session. He will recall that the Government gave precise and detailed reasons then for the actions it took concerning the motor vehicle industry. It was pointed out that the activities of that industry-
– You wanted to dampen it down.
– If the honorable senator will contain himself in patience I will show that the objective of the Government was achieved. It was pointed out at the time that this industry was imposing upon the economy a number of demands which, however they were regarded, were in excess of what might be considered fair or equitable. Senator Sheehan has mentioned employment. He might be interested to be told again that the motor vehicle industry was actually taking employees from other industries in the twelve months prior to November last by offering incentives with which the other essential industries could not afford to compete.
– My friend has said, “Rubbish”, but he will probably remember that during the debate on this matter, I read from advertisements in the public press the details of incentive payments which were being offered by some motor manufacturing companies and which were, in fact, having the effect of taking men from other industries. It was also stated - and stated quite fairly - that the motor vehicle industry was imposing a demand for raw materials and for imported materials which had the effect of introducing distortions into the economy in many ways.
The Government made it quite clear that while it regarded this as an important industry, the motor vehicle industry had reached, for the time being, a condition of overrobustness which was acting to the. detriment of the economy generally. Consequently, the action taken by the Government was designed to produce a dampening down in that industry. The dampening down having been achieved, particularly as a result of the imposition of the additional sales tax, the higher sales tax imposed last November has now been withdrawn, as was promised by the Government at the time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation which is supplementary to a question that was asked by Senator Laught concerning the loss of the ill-fated “ Lincoln Star “. Does not the Minister consider it desirable that such ships should carry flares which could be released at will and which would be a guide to any other ship or aircraft in the vicinity?
– The question is properly one for my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. My recollection is that provision for this type of apparatus is already made. I do not know why it was not used in this case.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Has the Minister been informed that some of the officers of the Department of Social Services in Queensland have a peculiar idea of when applicants for the unemployment benefit are unemployed? Is he aware that some workers who have been postively dismissed from their employment, and who have been assured by their employers that they will be reengaged at a future date, are not considered by the Department of Social Services to be unemployed? ls he also aware that employees who have their employment terminated, and are paid the cash equivalent for annual leave due to them, have the sum so paid divided by their daily wage rates, and that the result obtained is applied to cause an additional daily waiting period for the receipt of the unemployment benefit? Will the Minister kindly refer section 107 of the Social Services Act to the Director-General of Social Services for a common-sense interpretation so that injustices inflicted on unemployed workers in Queensland may be terminated?
– I am quite certain that the employees of the Department of Social Services in Queensland, whoever they may be, would not have any peculiar ideas about the administration of the relevant act. I would be absolutely positive that they are administering the act in accordance with the directions given to them by the Director-General of Social Services. I am quite certain that whatever is done in Queensland is common practice throughout Australia. Having held the portfolio of Social Services myself for some time, I am equally positive that whatever is being done by the officers concerned is being done in the most sympathetic way possible.
What Senator Benn has said, in effect, is that he dislikes certain provisions of the act and he thinks that departmental procedure in the administration of those particular sections is incorrect. That is a different thing from making a statement against the officers. On those technical aspects, if the honorable senator will put the question on notice I will get a reply from the Department of Social Services in explanation of the procedure that is adopted.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning employment. Is it a fact that Mr. Albert Monk, of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, stated at the Citizenship Convention which was held in Canberra recently that in an agricultural producing country it was considered necessary to have 1.5 per cent, of unemployment to take care of the seasonal labour requirements of primary producers?
– As I was not present at the Citizenship Convention, I am not perfectly certain that the report I saw, and which has been quoted by Senator Branson, is accurate. If that is the view of Mr. Monk of the A.C.T.U., it shows the advances that have occurred in the Australian Labour Party’s thinking from the time when its members considered 7 per cent, of unemployment to be virtually full employment. I merely want to add that unemployment will not be allowed by this Government to grow, and as a result of that resolution of this Government I commiserate with the Opposition.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. In view of the fact that unemployment is now snowballing in Australia, particularly during the last two or three weeks, does the Government intend to allow the immigration intake to continue at the same rate as previously and thereby add to the numbers of unemployed, or does it intend to take stock of the position and curb the rate of immigration until such time as jobs are found for unemployed Australians?
– I think that the answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the time to review the immigration intake will be when unemployment in Australia begins in fact to snowball. As that is not so at the present time, the question is without relevance.
Perth Airport Terminal Building
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, by saying that I understand that a contract has been let for the carrying out of certain works at Perth airport. I ask the Minister: What is the exact nature of the works to be undertaken? What is the amount of the contract? Was the contract let to the lowest tenderer and. if not, why was that not done?
– It is true that a contract recently has been let on behalf of the Department of Civil Aviation for the erection of a terminal building at Perth airport. It is equally true that the calling of tenders and the acceptance of them are matters for the Department <of Works. :.I shall refer the question to the Minister .for Works and obtain an answer for the honorable senator.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport say what progress has been made with the standardization of the railway between Albury and Melbourne and when it is expected that the line will be open for traffic?
– I have no precise information, but I may say that the Victorian Minister who is responsible for the work expressed satisfaction, during a conversation I had with him recently, with the progress “being made. My recollection is that the line is due to be opened towards the end of this year. I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and see whether precise information on the subject can be given.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has he seen the latest bulletin put out by the automobile industry in which it is stated that 6,000 employees of the industry have been dismissed since the credit restrictions and increased sales tax on motor vehicles were introduced by the Government? Can the Minister say whether those 6,000 employees are still on the scrap-heap, or whether the Department of Labour and National Service has found jobs for them?
– I have not read the bulletin issued by the automobile industry, although it is common knowledge that that industry has been making public statements for some time regarding the number of people it has been dismissing from its plants so that, as my colleague, the Minister tor Civil Aviation, has already pointed out to the Senate, more labour and man-power would be available for more urgent works in this country. As to the exact number who have changed their employment from the automobile industry to other industries, I have not the figures before me but I shall get them for the honorable senator. Indeed,
I understand that very shortly the Department of Labour and National Service will publish statistics showing the jobs available in Australia and the number of people who are applicants for th.m. Those statistics in themselves will answer the question that the honorable senator has asked.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that at a meeting or Australian Country Party senators I tendered my resignation as leader of the party in the Senate. My resignation was accepted with regret and Senator Wade was elected unanimously asleader of the party in this chamber.
– by leave - I lay on the table the following p?.per: -
Report of chairman of Board of Inquiry on accident which occurred on 10th June, 1960, in the vicinity of Mackay, Queensland, to Fokker Friendship F27 aircraft VH-TFB owned by Australian National Air Lines Commission.
It will be remembered that following the unfortunate accident involving a TransAustralia Airlines Fokker Friendship 211 liner at Mackay on June 10th last, I appointed a board of accident inquiry to conduct public hearings into the tragedy. For the information of honorable senators, I now lay on the table of the Senate the report submitted to me by Mr. Justice Spicer, who acted as chairman of the board. Copies are available from my office for any honorable senator who requires them.
Because of the widespread public interest in the accident and the importance of the board’s findings to the aviation industry, I made a public statement on the main issues covered by the report at the time I received it. However, there have been several subsequent developments which I should now mention to the parliament. The board made three recommendations. The first dealt with the installation of flight recorders in Australian airliners. The chairman observed that it was impossible to reach any firm conclusion as to the cause of the accident as there were no survivors and no means of knowing what occurred on board the aircraft during the last few minutes of the flight.
The chairman added that it would have been enlightening to have had a record of the readings of the aircraft instruments and of any cockpit conversation between the pilots during those last few minutes. The board commended the efforts of the Department of Civil Aviation to foster development of a suitable flight recorder and recommended that this research should be pursued so that suitable recorders could be installed in Australian airliners at no distant date.
I am, pleased to announce that technical developments in this field have now made it possible for my department to require the installation of suitable flight recorders in Australian airliners. The date of installation and the equipment to be used will be decided after consultation with the airlines and the Aeronautical Research Laboratories, which have done some very valuable research on this subject.
The chairman’s report observed that there would be a legitimate objection to the installation of these recorders if the recorded material was available to operators at the conclusion of every flight. To meet this problem, the department’s specification will state that the recorder must have a device which will automatically erase all recordings of cockpit conversations at the conclusion of each successful flight. Provision will also be made for the captain to override this automatic erasure if he considers it necessary. I believe that Australia is the first country in the world actually to make it a requirement for the fitment of flight recorders which record cockpit conversations as well as instrument readings.
The second recommendation of the board deals with altimeters. The chairman said the evidence did not justify a finding that the captain or the first officer, or both, misread the altimeter, or that the altimeter misread the actual height. However, the chairman added that there was no doubt that misreading of altimeters had been the cause of some aircraft accidents. He suggested further investigation into improving the presentation of height information by an instrument employing a single pointer.
The problem of altitude presentation has been receiving the close attention of aviation authorities throughout the world for many years. A great deal of research has been done both overseas and in Australia by ‘the Department of Civil Aviation in conjunction with the Aeronautical Research Laboratories and the. Department of Supply. No complete or satisfactory solution has been found so far. However, we have accelerated our research, programme in this field, so that every reasonable step is being taken to satisfy the board’s recommendation.
The final recommendation of the board was that consideration should be given to revising the visual descent procedures used at night at Mackay because of the large sectors, such as the ocean area, where there are no visual cues. The board also suggested that it would be appropriate for similar provisions to be made at other airports at which similar conditions exist. These visual descent procedures are a matter for each airline to devise, according to its needs and operating methods. The Department of Civil Aviation, however, asked the airlines to consider the board’s recommendation on this point and discussions are now proceeding between the department and the airlines to develop standard visual descent procedures which will be common for all aircraft.
In addition to its three recommendations, the ‘ board observed that the Fokker company proposed to make certain modifications to the airliner’s pitot static system, which operates certain cockpit instruments, including the altimeter. The modification kits necessary to do this work will be available to Australian airlines during May and it is anticipated that all Australian Friendship airliners will be modified by August. Since the accident, special check procedures have been in force to ensure that operations will remain completely safe. These procedures will remain in force until the necessary work is completed.
I was gratified to read the chairman’s acknowledgment of the work performed by the accident investigation team led by technical officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. I myself visited Mackay and saw at first hand the salvage and investigation work going on there. The efficiency and skill displayed reflected great credit on every one concerned.
Finally, I think all honorable senators will want me to pay a well-deserved tribute to the four members of the Board of
Accident Inquiry - Mr. Justice Spicer and his three assessors, Captain Murray, Captain Ritchie and Professor Shaw. They devoted skill, care and patience to an extremely difficult task. Although their efforts were not rewarded by the discovery of a positive cause of the accident,their report has been of great value to my department and the aviation industry. I am sure also that their report provides a valuable reassurance to the Australian public that there was nothing in the events surrounding this accident which faults the safety system on which Australia’s proud civil aviation record has been built.
– I have received from His Excellency the Administrator a commission to administer to honorable senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
– -Pursuant to Standing Order No. 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator K. M. Anderson, Senator A. Hendrickson, Senator T. M. Nicholls, Senator j. O’Byrne, Senator R. W. Pearson and Senator I. A. C. Wood to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That, during the unavoidable absence of the Deputy President, the President be authorized to call upon any one of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to relieve him temporarily in the chair, without any formal communication to the Senate.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 38, I lay on the table my warrant appointing the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications: - Senator K. M. Anderson, Senator D. C. Hannaford, Senator
.- I move-
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Mr. President, it is an honour to initiate this debate and to re-affirm our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and, through her, to the British Commonwealth of Nations. During the last 50 years great advances have been made in the arts and sciences. Some nations have lost power and glory. Others are rapidly exerting a powerful influence on world affairs. New forms of citizenship have been developed in many Commonwealth countries, and changing forms of administration have enhanced the office of our constitutional Monarch. Our present gracious Queen brings to her high office charm and understanding and a sincere ambition to foster peace and goodwill among all nations of the world. The office of our constitutional Sovereign is our richest possession. Therefore it is our special privilege to reaffirm our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen.
Mr. President, I thank my leader for the opportunity given to me to move for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. While we were listening to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator, General Sir Dallas Brooks, our thoughts returned to the late Viscount Dunrossil, who opened the Parliament last year. On 3rd February, 1961, the Australian people heard the sad news that Viscount Dunrossil had passed peacefully away. This man, who was born on 10th August, 1893, had crowded remarkable performances into his 67 years of life. He was a brilliant soldier. He served in World War T. with great distinction and was awarded the Military Cross. He was mentioned in despatches three times and he suffered war wounds. For 30 years he was a member of the House of Commons and held the office of Speaker for eight of those years. He had sincerity of character and possessed cool and calculated courage. He was possessed of charming dignity. He always displayed friendly informality. He was a cultured man - wise and witty. He possessed a great understanding of human nature. He displayed Christian charity and endeared himself to everybody. His memory will be revered in Australia, and because his mortal remains are wrapped in the warm Australian soil we will always remember him.
The ambition of the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government during the past eleven years has been to render service to the Australian people. The living standards of our citizens have been progressively improved. We have had full employment. The people have been usefully and profitably employed. In the past the unfortunate unemployed have carried the burden when the economy has been disturbed, but the present Government during its term of office has consistently legislated to prevent this occurring. People know that during this Government’s term of office every person able and willing to work has had every opportunity to do so. The Government’s efforts have resulted in real development on a wide national scale. Proof of this may be seen everywhere. Vitality and expansion are expressed by gigantic steel frames being erected in industrial areas. Established factories in the cities and in the country give a high level of employment and production. New suburbs are developing in every State. Home building is proceeding in almost every country town and village. We are living in an era of housing expansion such as we have never seen before in this country. New styles in architecture are giving to the workers of Australia homes that are useful and graceful. Such homes will not become slums. Last year, more than 90,000 dwellings were completed.
His Excellency the Administrator outlined proposals envisaged for future development. Development in the next decade will surpass that during the last one, and the last decade was a very great one for the Australian people. I suggest that never have we seen so much development, so much employment and so much real expansion in Australia as during the last ten years.
The past ten years of phenomenal development have revealed slight weaknesses in our economy. The Government seeks to correct those defects so that 0U future may be safe and secure. Now is the time to make a calm appraisal, and to take stock of our situation. There is no need for panic or hysteria. People with an axe to grind, either politically or industrially, are doing this land of ours a grave injustice by their ill-considered criticism of the Government’s economic proposals. The Government took action last November to arrest the dangers that threatened our way of life. It took action to curb inflation and to safeguard our overseas balances. People in control of government must make decisions, and this nation is fortunate in having the present Ministry in control, lt is hard to judge the varied problems and to find the correct solutions. Events have proved that the application of the credit squeeze was amply justified. Results have shown that it was not necessary to continue the 10 per cent, added sales tax on motor cars and the Government has promptly removed it. Surely nobody would blame the Government for its action. The credit squeeze has curbed speculation. In the rural and urban areas land speculation had been a major factor in the cost of homes. The measures taken by the Government relative to hire purchase were realistic and are proving advantageous to the economy. Hire purchase encourages people to enjoy goods now and pay for them later. In my opinion hire purchase is an expensive system of borrowing. It mortgages the future. In moderation it may be of great worth to the people, but the advances made by some hire-purchase firms have gone completely beyond the realms of sound finance. Hire purchase certainly contributes towards inflation.
The findings of the Arbitration Court and the Tariff Board should be studied, and in these fields there is ample scope for investigation by the economist. Some people say, “ Muzzle the economist “! That is good advice if we apply it to his predictions and forecasts, but when he spends his time in examining the past and, by analysis, shows which measures were correct and which measures were mistakes, he is usefully employed. However, he is proceeding beyond his sphere when he propounds national policy. That is the function of persons actively engaged in politics. They should avail themselves of the work of the economists by discarding past mistakes and using proved methods. Ministers of this Parliament have formulated Government policy and are responsible to the people of Australia for the decisions that have been taken.
His Excellency stressed the need for increased production in Australia. The primary producer has raised his production figures. Our bountiful harvests in wheat, oats and barley have greatly assisted our economy. Last year we produced 1,600,000,000 lb. of wool - almost a record production - but unfortunately for Australia, the price of wool fell. In November, 1959, Australia had 65,000,000 bushels of wheat in store, and in November, 1960, 61,000,000 bushels, which means that we sold the whole of the 1959-60 crop plus 4,000,000 bushels. The harvest for 1960-61 is estimated at 236,000,000 bushels; some estimate it at even 250,000,000 bushels. Assuming that the estimate of 236,000,000 bushels is correct we will produce 60,000,000 bushels more this year than we produced in 1959-60.
– That is not taking barley into account.
– I shall deal with that directly. It is anticipated that we will sell the whole of this year’s crop with the possible exception of 20,000,000 bushels. China has been taking 300,000 tons each week during February and a further 750,000 tons will be shipped by June or July this year. A total of approximately 37,000,000 bushels of wheat will go to China. It is said, and no doubt it is true, that China may even take up to 1,750,000 tons of wheat all told. A ton of wheat represents approximately 37 bushels so I leave it to honorable senators to calculate the number of bushels involved. The Australian Wheat Board has sold also 40,000 tons of flour, or approximately 2,000,000 more bushels of wheat. Somebody mentioned oats and barley. We have had good crops of both oats and barley, and virtually all our exportable quantity of those products has been sold overseas. It may be of interest to know that China is interested in taking extra quantities of oats. Because South Australia has bulk handling facilities a large proportion of the wheat sold to China has been shipped from that State. South Australia’s port silos and terminals are being cleared thus making room in silos in the country for wheat that previously has been held on the farms.
The Department of Trade is doing good work in pushing the sale of Australian wheat and flour, but when we analyse the figures we must realize that our traditional markets have increased only slightly. Sales to China are therefore a great boon to our economy. In fact, up to date the sale of cereals to China has added £2S,000,000 to Australia’s overseas balances. A feature of government activity is its effort to sell our products overseas. Good results are being obtained. We are gaining markets not only in Europe and Asia but also in Africa and South America. Trade is also improving with Canada, but Canada could take much more of our sugar and dried fruits if we in turn bought more from that country. Oil is one product that Canada could sell to us.
I said earlier that the people of Australia must solve two main problems. Their first task is to restrain inflationary trends, and the second is to curb the drain on our overseas reserves. We should examine these reserves or balances not merely on an annual basis but with a view to introducing the principle of averaging. It is important to realize that these reserves are not under the control of the Government. They do not belong to the Government but are in the Bank of England at London. It is a question of bank-to-bank finance. Some people say that the Government is running down the reserves, but the Government does not touch the reserves. They are in the Bank of England and the transactions that take place are on a bank-to-bank basis. In the past we have witnessed great fluctuations in our overseas balance of payments. By a sound policy of trade expansion and by granting sensible credits we have remained solvent. In 1956, Australia exported goods to the value of £773,000,000. In 1957 the value of goods exported was .£978,000,000, an increase of £200,000,000 for the year. In 1958, the figure was £811,000,000, and in 1959 £805,000,000. In answer to the calamity howlers let me say that in 1960 the value of exports amounted to £927,500,000.
In 1953, the Government reduced .taxation by £118,000,000. I hope that in the near future pay-roll tax will be abolished just as this Government abolished federal land tax. Pay-roll tax places a burden on our cost structure in both primary and secondary industries. We are a great exporting nation. Our exports are chiefly primary products, but with the industrial revolution that has taken place Australian manufacturers should be able to compete for quality with any country in the world. The major factor governing their ability to export on the world markets is, of course, costs. The lifting of import controls showed in stark realism that many Australian manufacturers cannot compete on the world markets because of their relatively high prices. Under our arbitration system wages have risen steeply and are higher than ‘those in many other countries. If Australia is to meet world competition then both our Arbitration Court and our Tariff Board must work in close co-operation because decisions of those two bodies virtually determine the whole of our cost structure.
The secondary industries of Australia should endeavour to increase their exports and thus assist to build up our overseas credits. The Government does not want, nor can anybody expect, the agricultural and pastoral interests to carry the whole burden of producing export income. The Government has given valuable tax concessions to these worthy people and to manufacturers who may be able to export. To my way of thinking the Government should grant concessions by easing pay-roll tax and allowing further tax deductions. These matters, of course, would have to be worked out by people well versed in taxation law.
We have heard a good deal in this chamber about the decrease in our balance of payments during the first half of .1 960-61. It was estimated that by 31st December, 1960, our visible reserves would be £376,000,000. In the first six months of 1960-61, the value of exports fell by £54,000,000 in comparison with the corresponding period in 1959-60, but imports rose by £108,000,000. With the addition of invisible payments, the deficit on current account is £1 69,000,000 greater than it was last year. The large fall in export income in the first six months of 1960-61 was caused by a fall of £38,000,000 in the value of wool and sheep skins. The price of wool fell by 15 per cent., and the quantity exported dropped by 8 per cent., although, as I said earlier, we produced .1,600,000,000 lb. of wool. Other exports that receded in price were grains - with the exception of wheat - meat, butter, iron and steel. Wheat, flour, sugar, petroleum oils, zinc, copper, vehicle parts, machines and machinery, had high export values. That is rather interesting, particularly in relation to machinery. I shall deal with some of the other items later.
I know that Opposition senators will now sit up and take notice. Imports of iron and steel were £24,000,000 greater in value and timber imports were £7,000,000 greater. Other increases in imports were in yarns, textiles, apparel, vehicles, rubber and pulp, both paper and board. I mentioned a little while ago the fall in the price of wool. I am pleased to say that the latest trend in the market shows that prices are tending to rise. Every Id. rise in the price of wool means £6,00Q,000 extra to our overseas trade balances. These factors give the calamity howlers an opportunity to grind an axe in relation to our economy. They clamour for either the re-introduction of import controls or the devaluation of the Australian £1. When import controls were in operation, some people shouted to high heaven that these gave rise to vicious rackets. I remember honorable senators opposite, including Senator Hendrickson, posing questions about vicious import controls. They affirmed that import controls gave great protection to Australian manufacturers, thereby causing prices to rise, but now that the controls have been lifted they want them re-imposed.
We have a good, flexible banking system, but the bankers must ensure that credit is granted sensibly, because so far this year our overseas balances have fallen by £215,000,000. The old-established practice of placing money in banks on fixed deposits or investing in government or semigovernment securities is being by-passed by a new hire-purchase investment market. It is claimed by some people that hire purchase creates employment. I ask myself why, if it creates sustained employment, there is such a great army of unemployed in America, where hire purchase is used perhaps more than in any other nation. To my way of thinking, hire purchase, good as it is in some regards, is not the true answer to the establishment of sustained employment. I think the States should co-operate in establishing uniform hire-purchase laws. The thrifty man, who pays cash for his goods, also pays for the losses sustained when goods under hire purchase are repossessed.
The present credit squeeze has had a desirable effect, even if it has only caused people to realize that borrowing does not bring affluence. Hire-purchase finance has had a serious effect on the credit available to those industries that produce our export earnings, the chief of which are pastoral and agricultural. The banking system must grant sufficient credit to credit-worthy people engaged in these pursuits so that they can increase their production. In order to achieve extra production, increased man-power is urgently needed. The Commonwealth Development Bank should be able to make credit available so that labour displaced, for example, from the motor industry, can be profitably employed in primary production, thereby increasing our exports and overseas earnings. In relation to the Commonwealth Development Bank, I digress for a moment to refer to two matters that came to my notice last week. I attended the opening of an establishment producing agricultural implements which was financed, in part, by the Development Bank, with the idea that the farmer must have suitable machinery. I think that is quite in order, but I should like to mention one or two developments on the river Murray. I refer to the Golden Heights and Sunland schemes, whereby publicspirited men, including the chairman of the district council, and others having the knowhow, have set out to encourage people to settle on small holdings on high ground. The organizations are purely voluntary. Overhead charges are very small. A magnificent pumping system has been installed and the whole area has been laid out in sixacre units. A person may have a holding of six, twelve or eighteen acres. The whole area has suitable drainage and pipes are laid out. At the turn of a tap, each area of six acres can be irrigated. It is intended to grow citrus, vine and deciduous fruits. The virtue of the projects is that they are guided by practical men who know the markets, the potentialities of the soil, what to plant and where to plant it. If ever there was an opportunity for the Development Bank to participate in a very worthy cause, it is here. 1 admire the energy and citizenship of the public-spirited men of Waikerie. Ramco and other places, and I wish them well.
His Excellency the Administrator announced that legislation will be introduced to incorporate in the income tax law continuing provisions relating to the deductibility of interest as a business expense. The Parliament will also decide whether life insurance companies and superannuation and provident funds are to invest a proportion of their funds in public authority securities. This will afford all senators an opportunity to discuss this question on its merits. A portion of these funds at least should be invested in gilt-edged securities to protect the individual contributor.
Other legislation will seek to amend the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act so that further assistance may be given to export industries. Taxation measures are always under review and it is pleasing to know that consideration is being given to the granting of certain taxation concessions for the encouragement of exports, but the business man and the primary producer must go abroad to sell their products. This cannot be done from an office in Australia, but perhaps even here we might be able to encourage people to go out and sell their goods. Trade commissioners can assist, but fundamentally the onus of selling is on the producer. I am sure that every honorable senator will approve of the Government’s action in stimulating trade and good relations not only with the United States of America, Great Britain, New Zealand and other countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations but also with countries which are our near neighbours, such as Malaya, Ceylon and Indonesia, to mention only a few. The effect that the European Common Market may have on Australia is being studied closely.
The mineral resources of Australia are great. The Government has assisted in the rapid development of many of them. Our mineral exports earn foreign exchange. Mining operations are also a great stimulant to the development of isolated areas. The search for oil is being carried out vigorously.
In the petroleum refining industry, alone and in association with plants for the production of petro-chemicals, £100,000,000 will be invested in works already in progress or planned for completion in the near future. Our expanding secondary industries create demands for iron and steel and engineering, chemical and construction material. The increased demand for power and fuel must also be met. The Government has stimulated the exploration and development of new iron ore deposits. The decision to permit the export of iron ore from certain areas has had good results. 1 should like to point to a shining example of good co-operation between the Government and industry. I refer to the increased production of coal. Mechanization in the coal mines has also played its part, but great credit should go to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Spooner, for the part he has played in increasing the production of coal by assisting all engaged in the coal-mining industry to increase their production. Whereas the greatest annual production of black coal up to 1949 was 14,000,000 tons, or just a little more, in 1960 almost 22,000,000 tons were produced.
– That is the figure for Australia.
– Yes, for Australia. Aren’t we all Australians? This will please you, senator. The New South Wales production was 17,076,000 tons. Last year’s production of coal was an all-time record. Our opponents told us that this could not be done, but I will not go back into the past. We rejoice that we have had the co-operation of everyone in the industry from the man on the bottom rung of the ladder right to the man at the top. Because we have had that co-operation, nearly 22,000,000 tons of coal were produced in one year.
– You have had a lot of luck, too.
– That may be so, but we got the coal.
– How many miners were sacked?
– Do not let me get on to that. I can give you the answer. We did not put troops in the mines; but I will not refer to that. I think you will be quite happy to let me leave that alone because you must turn over in your bed in uneasiness when you recall the episode to which I refer. It is important to note that last year 1,500,000 tons of black coal was exported from Balmain, Newcastle and Port Kembla; but if we modernize the ports we will be able to export 2,500,000 tons of coal.
– Are you going to do anything about it?
– Yes, I am pleased to say that the Government is right behind New South Wales, lt has said to that State, “ We will help you overcome your problem of developing and improving ports. We will not restrict our help to New South Wales. We will also attempt to modernize ports throughout the length and breadth of Australia.” The Japanese estimate that they will have 25,000-ton carriers, but Newcastle harbour will take ships up to only 12,000 tons. So, you can see how necessary it will be for improvements to be made to out ports if we are to sell coal to Japan.
– How much money is the Government putting in?
– I think Senator Ormonde will be tickled pink to hear that Australia expects to be able to export 3,000,000 tons of coal a year in the very near future.
– That is very good.
– It is. I am sure that you will rejoice and I am sure it will bring great prosperity to your State.
– I want to know what the Government will do about it.
– The Government will assist, as you will find out in due course. The increase in the production of steel in Australia has been spectacular. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited expects to produce 4,000,000 tons of steel a year in the near future. The people of South Australia and Western Australia realize the great worth that the establishment of iron and steel works in their States will be to their economies.
Transport costs enter very largely into our cost structure and there is room for the standardization of our railway gauges. If they were standardized our costs would be reduced. The conversion of the Albury to
Melbourne line to the 4-ft. 8i-in. standard gauge is nearing completion. The standardization of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill is a necessity. I cannot emphasize that too strongly. It is one of the things that are crying out to be done. If men and materials are available, the place for them is doing work such as that. Let us have men usefully employed in such work. 1 have mentioned the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line, and I think Western Australia also can claim that the standardization of the line from Kalgoorlie to the environs of Fremantle and Kwinana should be proceeded with, particularly as an iron and steel works will be established at Kwinana and South Australia will have one at Whyalla.
I notice that television is to be provided in thirteen provincial areas in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Speaking personally, for the time being I would gladly agree to do without television in provincial areas of South Australia if the standardization of the South Australian railways was proceeded with vigorously. The first step is the dieselization of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line, the cost of which would not be excessive. I want to make it abundantly clear that although at the present time we are pressing for that work to be done immediately, we are not. sacrificing standardization for dieselization. They must go hand in hand. The amount required for dieselization is a little more than £1,000,000 spread over three years. South Australia has made a provision that when that line is converted to 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge the cost of converting the 3 -ft. 6-in. gauge diesel engines will be borne by South Australia. It is estimated that the diesel engines will pay for themselves within three years by the saving in running costs. The expense of watering engines will be eliminated. On that line the watering of engines is very expensive.
Another matter about which I wish to speak is the storage of water in South Australia. If South Australia is to maintain the wonderful rate of development which has occurred there, the storage of more water is imperative. With the exception of the river Murray, South Australia has no great water supply. The river Murray is our only permanent stream. Practically every available catchment area has been utilized for the storage of water. Even the underground supplies, which are by no means great or inexhaustible, have been drawn upon. Therefore we must go to the river Murray for water, and the proposed dam at Chowilla, 38 river miles above Renmark, offers the best potential spot for the storage of this water.
New South Wales and Victoria are controlling the tributaries of the Murray and the Darling, and rightly so. As a result, there are no longer uncontrolled freshets and minor floods. We must, therefore, store surplus flood waters in wet years for release and use in dry years. The location of such storage must be below the lowest tributary, namely, the river Darling, because uncontrolled flood waters must pass this point irrespective of their source. The storage must be large. Evaporation will be great and storage must be big enough to make good any deficiencies extending over three years.
The site for this proposed dam is 38 river miles above Renmark and 122 river miles below Wentworth. The embankment will have an. average height of 43 feet and will be 3i miles long. The proposed full supply level will be 105 feet above sea level, which is 2 feet below the present upper pool level of lock No. 10. It will not affect Wentworth. Flood gates can handle the largest floods likely to occur. The reservoir must impound 4,750,000 acre feet, which is twice the quantity in the Hume reservoir. It will cover 400 squares miles of grazing country. The- dam will benefit New South Wales and Victoria, and South Australia will be assured of water in drought years. With this dam completed, South Australia could take water on an annual basis rather than a monthly basis.
Another important factor is this: The freshets that used to occur kept the water in South Australia fairly free from salinity, but as these might not be available in the future, the stored water in the dam can be released to reduce the salinity of the water in South Australia, thus acting as a freshet.
The use of water for domestic purposes in South Australia is increasing every year. Some short time ago it stood at 70 gallons per person per day. It is now 110 gallons, and the amount used by each person is expected to rise to 140 gallons a day in the near future, so that enormous extra water supplies are needed for this purpose alone.
Let me put it this way: South Australia used, in 1953, 180,000 acre feet of water for irrigation and 7,000 acre feet for domestic and other purposes. In 1959, the State still used 180,000 acre feet for irrigation but the quantity used for domestic purposes had risen to 120,000 acre feet. This was a total of 300,000 acre feet, or almost double the quantity that was used six years earlier in 1953. Under the River Murray Agreement we will get 650,000 acre feet. By 1970, if we continue to progress as we are doing now in South Australia, we will use all that water.
– What will you do then?
– I thought the honorable senator realized that the proposed dam is absolutely necessary and I hope that he will support South Australia in this matter. Extra water is absolutely necessary if South Australia is to progress after 1970. Water is the limiting factor. For twenty years the average flow of the river Murray was 9,000,000 acre feet. It is now reduced to 6,000,000 acre feet because of the diversion of its tributaries and also because of storage within the tributaries by Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. No one quarrels with that. It is good policy. I point out, however, that the construction of the dam at Chowilla is an absolute must for South Australia
No doubt other honorable senators will speak about the elections which are Jo take place in Papua and New Guinea for the reconstituted and enlarged Legislative Council. We know what the Government intends to do to assist pastoralists and others in the Northern Territory.
– How do we know that?
– It was mentioned in the Administrator’s Speech. The Commonwealth Government, in consultation with the States, will try to legislate to protect the public from monopolies and restrictive trade practices. A bill to place the law relating to marriage on a uniform basis throughout Australia is contemplated. During the last sessional period of the Parliament, the whole structure of social services came under review. The revised means test for age, invalid, widows’ and war service pensions is now in operation. These benefits have been acclaimed by every fairminded Australian citizen. They have proved to every one that this Government realizes that thrift is one of the best attributes of our way of life. It is now possible for many thrifty persons to reap some reward in their old age. The hospitalization of war service pensioners brings relief and joy to those worthy people.
Between 1961 and 1963 the Commonwealth Government and the States will proceed with a plan for the expenditure of £100,000,000 on university education. The whole scope of tertiary education will be examined by the Universities Commission and its findings will assist the Government to give Australia the best possible tertiary education. This Government has increased the number of Commonwealth Government scholarships offered each year from 3,000 to 4,000. This will mean that we can have at least 16,000 to 20,000 students enjoying the benefits of Commonwealth scholarships every year because most courses are of four, five or six years’ duration.
This Government’s ambition is to see that all men and women available are usefully employed under the best working conditions possible. It also wants to provide that any person who is unable to work because of illness or for some other good reason is given relief through our social service benefits. Members of the Australian Labour Party are circulating throughout their electorates details of the benefits that are available under social service legislation. I am delighted that they are doing so. I suggest that they have omitted only eleven words and that they should place at the bottom of their pamphlets this statement - “These benefits have been provided by the Liberal-Country Party Government “.
As a further safeguard to individual security, this Government has provided that our peace-time defences are far better than they have been at any other time in our history. It has achieved close co-operation with the United States of America. We can feel a certain sense of security and satisfaction because the Americans have perfected the long-sought-for ideal missile. It is powerful, relatively cheap and is a mobile, solid-fuel rocket. Two solid-fuel rockets have been developed. The Polaris missile is in use and the Minuteman is planned for service in 1962. It has been fired. Both missiles carry nuclear warheads. Polaris has a range of 1,500 miles and is carried by a nuclear-powered submarine. It can be fired from a submerged position. Practically all the cities of the world are within its target areas. The Minuteman is a landbased intercontinental ballistic missile. It has a range of 6,500 miles. If a surprise attack were made on the United States of America, it is thought that submarines equipped with Polaris missiles would be safe. The Minuteman weapons could be located in isolated underground fortresses. They could be fired from railway trucks. To destroy the Minuteman weapons would be a tremendous task.
We must ask ourselves whether submarines will always be difficult to destroy. Whether we speak of the Polaris or the Minuteman weapon, it must be admitted that the United States has made a tremendous advance in the development of rockets for peaceful and military purposes. The cost of solid-fuel rockets, compared with the cost of weapons using liquid fuel, is in the ratio of five or seven to one in favour of those using solid fuel. Australia has a weapons development treaty with the United States and works in close cooperation with that country, and it is gratifying to know that we have such missiles at our disposal.
I have spoken a good deal of what the Government has done and intends to do. A calm review and analysis of the past actions of the Government and of its proposed future policy shows that it was right to remove import controls, that interest rates were due to be increased, and that booming credit needed curbing. Those are the answers to the calamity howlers and to some of our Opposition friends, whose chief mental occupation is to jump to conclusions of a hasty and ill-considered kind, to knock down every constructive principle and to run away from all responsibility. They do not acknowledge that they have an interest in maintaining the prosperity of the Australian nation.
If we have an understanding of the right use of hire purchase, and if we have a flexible banking system that exercises sensible jurisdiction over bank credit, particularly in the import field, together with all the other advantages we possess, Australia’s future must go from strength to strength. Of course, there are always difficulties to overcome. Life is like that; but life is better under a Liberal and Country Party government. On the solid foundation laid during the last ten years, the present Government will lead the Australian nation to ever greater achievements and will give the people the highest possible standards of living. Because of that, it has been a privilege for me to move the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator.
– I deem it a privilege to have the pleasant task of seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I endorse the sentiments expressed in the motion that Senator Mattner has moved. At the outset, I express the deep regret and, indeed, the great sorrow that I am sure all members of the Senate feel because of the passing of our late Governor-General, one of the great Governors-General of Australia and one who will be remembered by all of us. It was an honour to have had him with us even for such a short period.
It may be of some advantage, Mr. Acting Deputy President, to have a quick glance in retrospect at the happenings of the last twelve months. By so doing, we may have a better chance to forecast the possibilities for the future, and we may gain a better appreciation of the measures outlined in the speech of His Excellency the Administrator. During the last twelve months the policy of the Government has been, broadly speaking, to continue the expansion and development of Australia. I think all must agree that the Government has succeeded to a great degree in achieving that objective, in spite of the difficulties that Senator Mattner has referred to. Quite early in the period, we ran up against difficulties which arose from the growth of a second banking system, as it has been called, over which there were no controls. That was something that the Government had to face. It was an entirely new development and a very difficult one to handle. This second banking system had access to the cream of our money markets and was able to deprive our trading banks of many of the sources of their funds.
The system has appealed to those people who pay scant attention to the security of their investments provided they are promised a high return. Already, we are seeing the foolishness of such investment. In
New South Wales, two fairly large companies have been unable to pay the people who lent them money the returns that had been promised. We have also the example of the notorious vending machine companies which induced a number of foolish and credulous people to invest in them, in spite of the repeated warnings of many reputable people to keep away from such ventures. Human nature being what it is, apparently it is only necessary to promise a high enough return for somebody to be induced to support the scheme one proposes.
We have seen hire-purchase transactions in Australia reach an all-time high, particularly in relation to the motor industry. I believe that far too much money had been lent out by the hire-purchase companies to assist young unmarried people of both sexes to purchase motor cars for which they really had no use. It should not be thought that I am decrying the hire-purchase system as such. Wisely used, I think that such a system can be of great benefit to the community. I am told that hire-purchase transactions in America to-day have reached the stage where, if one goes along to pay cash for a relatively large purchase, one is regarded with suspicion and as not being credit-worthy. Are we to have such a position in Australia? I, for one, devoutly hope that that will not be the case.
In considering the extreme lengths to which hire purchase has gone in America, the only conclusion to which I can come is that by encouraging hire purchase we encourage the development of a thriftless race of people whose ideas must necessarily be geared to hand-outs by governments and to living on social services. That is something which, I feel, we must avoid at all costs. In New South Wales we have seen the erection of many multi-storied buildings, all of them using huge quantities of steel and making heavy demands on the building trades work force. In many cases, the construction authorities concerned are paying very high wages so that the buildings will be completed quickly. All this has helped to reduce our overseas balances, to put up the cost of land and buildings. If it has not denied our young people an opportunity to start homes of their own, at least it has imposed on them costs that are almost beyond their capacity to meet. So in the long run a reduction of this kind of building must be in the interests of the people.
It is all very well to say that building provides employment. It does. But erection of the kind of buildings that I have mentioned does not bring real wealth to our country.
– Do you mean to say that they are not an asset to this nation?
– They are assets, but they are not bringing in wealth. Senator Cooke knows as well as I do that such building is not bringing real wealth into the country. In my opinion as a layman, the office space that is being provided in these buildings must very nearly have reached saturation point. I am not an expert on this matter, but that is my opinion, particularly when one takes into account the fact that the cost of these new offices has risen to such a high degree. The builders of the home units that have been springing up like mushrooms all over the place in the suburbs of Sydney are experiencing very great difficulty in disposing of them. It seems that, if the spate of building of those units has not ceased, at least it has slowed down to a very great extent.
– So has the building of homes.
– Nothing of the kind has happened in regard to homes. It is all very well to rise and utter a lot of catchcries about homes. In a moment or two I shall cite some figures to indicate exactly what the position is in relation to the building of homes. The population of Australia has been increasing by approximately 200,000 persons a year, or at the rate of 2.4 per cent. - the highest rate of increase in the Western world. In spite of that increase, if the home-building position is not satisfactory at least it is far better than it has been in past years. The figures I have before me show that the number of houses and flats built in the year ended 31st December. 1960, was higher than the number built in 1958 and 1959. Indeed, the total for that year was the highest for the seven years following the commencement of the tabulations to which I am referring.
I mentioned earlier that home units have not been selling well, but the building of houses and flats is still proceeding apace. Although I suppose many of us believe that never enough money is available for home building, the fact remains that a lot of money is being made available for that purpose. I return to the point that I mentioned earlier - that the cost of houses and land, particularly in the capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney, has risen out of all proportion.
During /this financial year new social service benefits have been introduced. Many people said at ‘the time that the Government was not giving the pensioners enough to live on. I propose to cite some figures that I used some time ago. I am quite certain that many people do not realize that a person who is eligible for a pension but who has not saved one shilling is in quite as good a position financially as is the person who has saved £2 10s. a week for 40 years and has amassed savings totalling £5,200. Any one who doubts my word may capitalize the sum of £5,200 at the rate of 5 per cent, a year and ascertain whether my figures are correct.
Now I wish to deal with the position of the primary producer. It is fairly obvious to us all that inflation hits two classes of people in particular - those who are on fixed incomes and the primary producers. I am afraid that this fact has been largely overlooked. Many unthinking persons ask, “ Why do you not do something for the primary producers? “ Such persons need only to sit down for five minutes and cast their minds back to ascertain what has been done over the years for the primary producers. I was very gratified indeed to read in yesterday’s Sydney press a statement by Mr. T. M. Scott, the president of the Graziers Association of New South Wales and the chairman of the two joint bodies that were formed last year, in which he pointed out to the people of Australia the dangers of inflation and the fact that the measures that have recently been adopted by the Government were taken with a view to helping primary producers. Knowing Mr. Scott as I do, I was not surprised to learn that he had expressed that view. I can understand many of our primary producers feeling that not sufficient is being done to help them. As one who has spent his life on the land, I know that there is a feeling of frustration in the minds of many of them. Costs, over which in many instances they have no control, have been rising rapidly, and the only recourse the producer has is to cut down on necessary maintenance work and any improvements he may have had in mind. To do that is not good economics, but many have had to resort to that means to reduce their costs.
We may have to face up to something worse in the very near future - the occurrence of droughts similar to those we experienced in the 1930’s. The primary producer is in a far better position today to cope with droughts than he was in the thirties, but if droughts do occur they will make the going very hard indeed for him. That fear exists in the minds of the primary producers. So, if at odd times they do have feelings of frustration, it is understandable.
Let us consider some of the concessions that have been granted to primary producers since the Labour Administration went out of office in 1949. Taxation concessions have been granted which have enabled producers to build up their assets to a very great degree. But many of the people who have received those benefits say that it is something which has merely come about and they do not express any appreciation to the Government for having granted them. Moreover, primary producers have received assistance in the conservation of water, the storage of fodder and the erection of buildings for share farmers. In addition, they have enjoyed the benefit of lower interest rates than have most other sections of the community. Even when the last so-called credit squeeze was applied, the importance of the primary industries and export industries was acknowledged and the banks were given strict instructions that in relation to those two categories of people interest rates were not to be raised nor was credit to be withheld to the point where they could not carry on.
During the last nine or ten months, 1 have made quite a lot of inquiries throughout New South Wales about rural finance. I started in the south and went through the central west and up into the north. In spite of having heard quite a number of alleged complaints, I have yet to find one instance of a primary producer not having been given enough carry-on finance by his bank. As I said, I have heard quite a number of complaints, but when I tracked them down they could not be substantiated. Only to-day we were told by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Treasurer in this chamber, that if there are any such complaints the people concerned are invited to submit their cases to the head office of the bank in question. I am very confident that such persons would receive the necessary carryon finance.
– There must be a lot of propagandists.
– There are a lot of propagandists on the opposite side of this chamber, but they do not get very far because the things out of which they try to make propaganda are not worth two bob. We have also had the benefit of the establishment of the Development Bank, which has been in operation for only a comparatively short time but which already has lent quite a large amount of money. Indeed, if its rate of lending continues on the present scale, it will be necessary to ensure that further finance is made available to it. There are some unsatisfactory features in the bank’s operations at present, but by and large it is doing good work.
In the last few months several trade missions have gone overseas seeking new markets and endeavouring to expand old ones. They have done good work. The primary producers have been fortunate in having as Minister for Trade Mr. John McEwen, who has done a great deal to develop overseas markets. In his endeavours to expand our overseas markets he has been ably assisted by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann).
The men who are engaged solely in producing wool are feeling the pinch more than men engaged in other spheres of primary production. We know that this is because of the fall in the price of wool. We must remember that many of the credit restrictions that have been applied in the last three or four months would not have been necessary if the price of wool had risen instead of fallen. However, there is some comfort to be gained from the latest statistics regarding wool. It is now estimated that the wool clip will yield 4,636,000 bales, although earlier in the season the estimate was in the vicinity of 4,925,000, which is 289,000 bales higher than the latest estimate. Yesterday, I saw that the price of wool at Newcastle had risen.
– And at Goulburn.
– Yes. I realize that it is risky to make forecasts in respect of the wool industry, but it does seem that the price of wool may hold and even improve.
New South Wales wool-growers are probably not aware that over the last twelve months or so thousands of bales of wool, which would otherwise have been sold in New South Wales, have gone to Melbourne. This has occurred because of the need to cut costs. Growers can send their wool to Melbourne markets more cheaply than they can send it to markets in New South Wales. Perhaps the situation would be different if New South Wales had a lively State government. However, the people of New South Wales elected1 a Labour government, and possibly they are getting what they deserve. Of 632,000 bales sold recently in Melbourne, 212,000 came from New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government has set up a committee to inquire into the wool industry. This was done at the request of the wool-growing organizations, which agreed among themselves to seek such an inquiry. With my 40 years’ experience in the industry I know how hard it is for the wool-growing organizations to agree on anything.
The committee inquiring into the dairy industry has at long last issued its report. The report has pleased some people in the industry and has displeased others. That was only to be expected. Turning to fruit growing, we find that a wasp is being introduced from Hawaii to combat the fruit fly. In Hawaii, the wasp has almost wiped out fruit fly, and we have great hopes that it will do valuable work in Australia. This year, £6,000 is to be spent on fumigating wrapped fruit, so it will be seen that the fruit grower has not been overlooked.
I should like to pay a tribute to the splendid’ work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has done a lot to assist the primary producers and other sections of the community. In the last 41 years it has spent £40,000,000 on research, and the country has benefited to the extent of £2,000,000,000. Most of that money has gone into the pockets of the primary producers.
I propose to say something now about rural finance. Despite the fact that carryon finance is being made available, no provision is made, either through the Development Bank or elsewhere, for the son of a farmer or share-farmer to obtain the finance necessary to buy his own property. Such a person may have all the necessary qualifications and experience, but in most cases if he cannot get finance from the vendor he is unable to buy a property of his own. I am sure that production could be increased if such young people could obtain properties of their own. Many properties are at present held by older people who are not using them to their full capacity. At present, the Development Bank is precluded by its constitution from assisting young men to acquire properties unless they can show that the properties they wish to acquire are capable of development. If Australia is to expand its export markets it must do something to assist these young fellows to get on to the land.
We have been told that the Government’s policy has been one of stop and go. If that is so it will be easy for the primary producer to understand why, because his returns are governed by seasons and by most of the pests that nature can devise. If Australia’s economy is geared to exports of primary produce, and if those exports fall, then the economy must suffer. If the economy is not geared fairly closely to the export of primary produce the alternative is to hold reserves at a very high level, which in itself would cause unnecessary hardship.
We have heard stories about unemployment. I am always surprised at the headlines one sees in newspapers the moment a few hundred people are unemployed. When that happens strictures are passed on the Government alleging that it has brought about unemployment. But what happens when we have full employment? Do we see tributes from the press? No, the press does not give one word of praise to the Government when we have full employment. Over the years this Government has maintained a rate of employment higher that that maintained in most other countries. At present, we have some temporary unemployment in certain places, but the position will improve. All I ask is that honorable senators opposite show a little patience. 1 should like to say something about the criticism that has been levelled at the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). Treasurers seem to suffer from an occupational hazard in this regard. No matter who holds the office, the Treasurer is the man to blame when things go wrong. But when things go right the Government, not the Treasurer, receives the applause. When things go right the credit is given to the Government, although very often the Opposition seeks to claim the credit. It was ever thus, but it is most unfair. It does not matter whether the holder of the office is Sir Arthur Fadden, who was kicked to death while he was Treasurer, or Mr. Harold Holt. It is unfair to criticize only the Treasurer. The measures that have been taken were not measures conceived by the Treasurer alone. They are measures agreed to by Cabinet, and a little fair play in this regard would be more in keeping with the Australian way of life.
Let us see what will happen during this sessional period. Senator Mattner referred to Asia and Africa. We know what Mr. Menzies has said in this regard. We have been told of the experiments that are soon to be conducted at Woomera. Those of us who have seen Woomera will realize that the area offers great scope for experiments of the kind envisaged. The money that has been spent on Woomera will pay dividends in the future.
What of the economic position? I have dealt with that to some extent. One panacea that is offered by the Opposition is the reintroduction of import restrictions. I remind honorable senators that the Government gave an undertaking to lift import restrictions as soon as possible, and it has honoured that undertaking. Why should it re-impose them? Do honorable senators opposite want a totalitarian or socialistic government which will control every blessed thing in our lives or do they want a government that will encourage free enterprise? They cannot have it both ways. The lifting of import restrictions will mean that costs will be reduced. Our manufacturing people have, had it too good for too long - there is no question about that. They have not had to worry about their costs because they have been able to pass them on. In addition to the duties imposed by the Tariff Board they have had the benefit of import restrictions. Now that the Government has lifted these restrictions people like Mr. Anderson are saying that the only thing for the Government to do is to re-impose import restrictions. That is what the manufacturers want, but the Government is not going to do that because it has to consider the interests of the people as a whole.
Something has been said about the repeal of the increase of sales tax on mo lor cars by 10 per cent. Once again Senator Paltridge was right in what he said. When he introduced the measure imposing this additional sales tax he said that the impost would be lifted as soon as it had served its purpose. Honorable senators need only refer to “ Hansard “ to confirm that statement. The Government has carried out its promise. It was the obvious thing to do, but I should like to say that the action of one of our big motor car companies in putting off a number of men on a week’s pay can be described only as despicable. I sincerely hope that when people buy cars they will remember that fact and buy a car manufactured by another firm.
Complaints have been made about the proposals in regard to interest deductions, but these complaints have not been general. I was speaking to a business man not so long ago who told me that he thought it was a wonderful idea. He said that it would put a stop to a lot of this take-over business. After all, as the Treasurer pointed out at the time, with the present concessions a company which borrows money at 10 per cent, and pays company tax at 8s. in the £1, really gets its loan at 6 per cent.
– The vending machine people could not do it.
– They tried to. I am not going to say very much about insurance, because we have not yet had the precise proposal put before us. However, some years ago insurance companies, particularly some of the large companies, helped the Commonwealth Government and the rural sections of our community by making finance available. What do we find to-day? Admittedly one company did undertake the Ninety-mile Desert scheme which has been carried out with great benefit to those who have participated, but generally speaking insurance companies are after quick and high profits in the same way as most other people. As I mentioned earlier they prefer to put their money into bricks and mortar. They should take the long-term view. They would be far wiser if they were to invest some of their money in the rural section of the community. They would obtain smaller returns but they would place their policy-holders and shareholders on a much sounder basis. It would be much better than investing their money in bricks and mortar.
His Excellency mentioned the aim of the Government to develop exports. This has been touched on by Senator Mattner. Mention was also made of industrial disputes. In spite of the fact that this Government is supposed to be the enemy of labour, according to the Opposition, it has experienced very few industrial disputes. I am beginning to think that employees must like us. I notice there is no comment from honorable senators opposite.
His Excellency referred to the Government’s policy on iron ore. It has been shown conclusively that there is a potential in the export of iron ore that could help us materially to build up our credit balances overseas. Senator Mattner referred to the £100,000,000 investment in petrol refineries. I have no time to refer to that, nor have I time to discuss the split wheat payment of 2s. a bushel. I feel, however, that our farmers understand the position and are reconciled to this delayed payment just as the wool-growers were eventually satisfied with the 20 per cent. levy.
Papua and New Guinea was referred to by His Excellency. I was fortunate enough to visit Papua and New Guinea recently. I made inquiries, particularly from native members of the Legislative Council, and their opinion coincides with that of European people that it will be 40 or 50 years at least before the people of Papua and New Guinea will be ready for self-government.
Before I conclude I should like to mention that one section of tha community - those engaged in the timber industry - does give us a great deal of concern. We have been trying to bring about decentralization, and unfortunately there is unemployment in many country centres. I was surprised to learn to-day from an answer to a question that the timber interests have not made representation to the Tariff Board, under the emergency legislation that was passed a little while ago. I do hope that some action can be taken speedily.
I was also pleased to hear His Excellency say that in its export drive the Government intends to provide assistance to the States for the construction of roads in the north in the development of the beef and mineral industries. All I say in conclusion to our friends of the past, who perhaps have some qualms about the future, is that the Government is not going to put its policies into reverse just now. It will continue to implement the policies that have brought prosperity to this country.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
– We discuss the AddressinReply in very sad circumstances indeed. All of us are saddened at the death of Lord Dunrossil, who, after such a short time in Australia and at the culmination of a great career, was taken from us. It is sad indeed that a man who came to our country to spend a term as Governor-General, looking forward to retirement in his own country, should be cut off while he was here. On behalf of my colleagues and all the people of Australia, I extend sincerest sympathy to his widow and his four sons in their sad loss.
To-night I desire to move -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply: - “and the Senate deplores the faulty leadership of the Government in directing the Australian economy resulting in -
loss of overseas funds;
failure of the public loan market;
retarded national development;
injustice to wage earners;
inadequate social services and housing;
high interest rates, and
shortage of steel “.
One approaches these problems more in sorrow than in anger. It is unfortunate that during the twelve years of the LiberalCountry Party coalition, in a time of expansion throughout the world, we should continually, and almost continuously, have to face up to circumstances in which the Government, being itself satisfied and suggesting to the world that the economy is moving evenly, freely and progressively, suddenly has to put on the power brakes and bring the economy almost to a halt. It seems that the Government’s only solution is to stop and start again. When one compares Australia with other countries, the much vaunted, tremendous rate of expansion, about which the Government continually tells us, does not bear close investigation. Australia’s advance measured in any terms whatever, whether in terms of imports, exports or national income, does not compare favorably with that of any other Western country with the possible exception of Spain. It does not compare with the advance made by Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, Canada or the United States of America. I and others have placed before the Senate figures in support of the contention that we have not had in Australia the growth of which we are capable. One of the reasons, of course, is the Government’s stop and go approach to the economy.
Despite all the advisers and the collective brains of the Cabinet, it seems that the only solution, when the Government cannot see its future way clear, is to put on the brakes. I wonder in what circumstances this Government could continue in an even tenor, planning for the future, not for twelve or eighteen months but for ten or fifteen years? What circumstances would allow it to do that? Would a big export income make things easier for the Government? I do not think so, because in 1952 we had a very favorable balance of payments position overseas. We had a tremendous income from our wool, and the Government panicked because we had too much money. Now we have reached a stage at which the Government is praying for a rise in the price of wool to solve its problems.
In my amendment, there is so much to be talked about that it is impossible to cover all aspects of the problems that face the people of Australia. It is quite obvious, from listening to Government supporters to-day and reading ministerial statements from time to time that the Government does not realize how serious the position is and how much more serious it is becoming daily. It is of no use for Senator McKellar to tell us that the housing position is all right, because, we know that it is not all right. It is of no use to cite the December figures.
The honorable senator or anybody else has simply to go to any estate agent anywhere and ask him whether he is selling any houses. The agent will say that where he sold ten houses he now sells two. It is obvious that those persons who were building houses in very large numbers are not building extensively and that the building they are doing is slowly coming to a halt. Apparently, because the fringe bankers and such people have been borrowing money at a higher rate of interest than suits the Government, and the motor industry has been selling too many motor cars, the whole of the community, men, women and children, young people, being married, with the responsibilities and problems of setting up homes - everybody without exception - must suffer while the Government re-orients its policy.
In February, the Government brought down a number of measures which it thought would solve the problem of inflation. The most important one, the Government said, was the elimination of import licensing. But at the time when the Government eliminated import licensing there was no internal demand in Australia for its elimination. Normal importers and retail stores were, under import licensing, bringing into this country all their requirements in a settled economic atmosphere. Without pressure from this quarter, the Government lifted import licensing. One would have thought that the lesson of 1952 would be remembered, because in that year import licensing had to be re-imposed in Australia after having been lifted by the Government in 1950. What happened in 1950 has happened again now. I am afraid that it will always happen because if an importer, advantaged by lower costs or even greater efficiency in some countries, can bring to Australia materials which he can sell at a higher profit than that at which he can sell the Australian-made article, he will do so. Importers are not only concerned about bringing in essentials at a lower price. Increases take a long while to be reflected in the cost structure and all our inquiries to date do not show that inflation has been altered. On the contrary, all our investigations show us that costs of Australian manufactures have increased, not decreased, since November. I have been referring to essentials.
Importers also bring in non-essentials. 1, know that the Government’s reply is that in. the whole scheme of things they represent only a small percentage of the total import bill. Of course, that is arguing both ways. When import licensing was in operation, if one made an application to import a few thousand pounds’ worth of goods and made the case that they were only a small percentage of all imports, the Government would not allow that, because it said that the combination of all the small percentages made up a substantial percentage of the import bill.
When one sees the goods that are coming into Australia now because import licensing has been removed, it brings home the fact that it is a good thing to have some restrictive method of import licensing applying almost at all times. I have read that 600,000 lb. of chickens have been imported in tins. The Australian chicken industry has a tremendous future. With rising prices of beef and lamb, more and more Australiaa families are eating chicken. This is a tendency which follows the American example very closely. This industry should be encouraged in every possible way. It is a primary industry giving more employment than most other primary industries and providing a relatively cheap luxury food for Australian tables. We cannot continue to import these tins of chicken and retail them in chain stores at 15s. a tin and not upset the Australian industry. 1 have even seen packaged American rice for sale in Australian shops in the last three months. Californian oranges have been sold in th? fruit shops. It is so ridiculous; it is laughable.
We are plagued with an overseas balances problem. That is the most important problem facing the Government. The Government is attempting to solve that imports problem by restricting credit.
– Which is hurting everybody.
– That is right. In Australian manufacturing industries unemployment is emerging automatically. The problem that faces the Government is one that it refuses to face up to. The contradiction is that it faces the problem in theory, but in practice there is only one real solution. Even with the most extreme application of credit restrictions, you just cannot apply them to one importer and not to another because the banks are in business and part of their business is public relations, in one instance they are insulting a client for one reason; in another they are only half insulting the next client; and in another they are helping the third client because they like what he is importing. The stage will be reached where, although credit restrictions get down to bare bones, you have no control over what comes into the community from the amount of money that is available for imports.
After the war we saw that one of the problems associated with licensing was that it took some time to ease up. With the very restricted amount of money available for imports after the war, some of the luxury goods that were imported were most amazing. I remember imports of items such as nylon, lt was new and could be put into retail stores and marked up 100 per cent, or 12S per cent, on cost for sale. Importers did not have to worry about importing cottons and sheeting when they could have that tremendous mark-up on that new and unusual material which was so attractive to the public. The Government must face up to the fact that even if credit is cut to the bone, money is still left in the hands of importers. They do not all borrow from the banks. There are many importers with cash, reserves and resources, as well as overseas arrangements over which the: Government has no control and under which very little money physically changes hands. So, in that restrictive field you leave in the hands of the importer the right to bring in what he thinks is best for the country, and 90 times out of 100 what he thinks is best for the country is what is best for himself.
We have a tremendous overseas balances problem. I want to spend a little time discussing it and the difficulties that are naturally associated with it. As we all know, we are going down the drain to an extent that is rapidly becoming extremely dangerous. The Government has already put about stories that it might approach the International Bank for a loan of £50,000,000. The Government’s only approach to these problems is to borrow more money. But surely it must understand that if you continue to borrow you delay the fatal day of reckoning, and the longer it is delayed the more serious is the problem. Our overseas balances are slipping right away. If you ask the Government what it is doing about the problem, all it can say is that by credit restrictions it hopes to control imports and bring the balance of payments somewhere into line. I think every member of the Government will admit that up to this point their prognostications on the beneficial effects of credit restrictions on imports have been absolutely wrong.
The Government could look at a number of problems. Has any member of the Government added up the amount of money that we have sent abroad in the last ten years on what are called “ invisibles “, such as dividends, insurance and shipping freights? I saw a figure which I tentatively suggest to the Senate because I cannot believe that it can be right, although I took it out of a reasonable journal. From 1950 to 1960 “ invisibles “ cost Australia £3,000,000,000. Is the Government doing anything about that? To-day’s problem must be faced in a tangible and corrective manner. One of the things the Government talks about is free enterprise. I suppose a Government supporter has to have a sense of humour to speak about free enterprise to-day. They must laugh to themselves when they talk about it.
There is an answer to the shipping problem. We have to build an Australian shipping line for our overseas shipping, or we have to so encourage Australian shipping companies that they can build ships that can go overseas. The answer is not simple; but after all, Australia is one of the few countries in the world without an international shipping line. It is not beyond us. If the Government gave strength, direction and encouragement to people who might do it, or gave a lead itself by moving into the field, as it could well do, the Australian shipyards would continue to build ships and we could take part in this important international business.
Has any member of the Government looked at the matter of insurance? A number of countries have placed certain percentage restrictions on the amount of insurance that may be repatriated. This is reasonable. After all, the Government apparently thought the situation was so serious that it increased the sales tax on motor vehicles to 40 per cent, and placed severe restrictions on credit for hire purchase. As a result, warehouses are filled with refrigerators, stoves, radio and television sets which are normally purchased through hire-purchase companies. It is a good thing that they can be bought on terms, lt is important to the people of Australia that they should have access to these valuable accessories. These goods form part of our way of life and they are important to the people. Surely the Government will not deny the people access to the ordinary modern conveniences! A country like Australia should have grown big enough and strong enough to provide these things.
We have shown our ability to progress in many fields. In the past fifteen or twenty years, for example, we have organized one of the most outstanding airlines in the world - Qantas. It was not beyond the capacity of Australian man-power to put that organization in world class and it has more than held its own with every other airline in the world. To-day, a modern aircraft costs nearly as much as a ship. A Boeing 707 jet airliner costs about £3,700,000. That is a substantial proportion of the cost of a ship. So we have shown that in big business - and particularly in the top airline business - Australia can hold its own.
In at least one aspect of our export trade I see some glimmer of hope. We have a potential export trade in coal, the size of which cannot be properly assessed. One of the great problems affecting that trade is the shortage of suitable harbours, but this Government has adopted the attitude that that is a problem for the States. It should realize that only a small percentage of the national income is handled by the States and they have to carry fundamental responsibilities. Education and health alone consume a large part of their budgets. When they are faced with the problem of catering for the export of coal by the construction of harbours they must plan over a period of years and proceed slowly. It is vital to the national interest that we sell more coal abroad, and this is a task that should not be done slowly. The provision of harbours is a matter of urgency and only the Commonwealth Government has the capacity to do the job. I think this is a field that the Government should move into quickly if it wants to help balance our imports and exports.
One could talk at length about this problem of trade generally, but there is much ground to cover and I wish to refer to Australia’s overseas financial position. Before I do so, however, I shall quote the statement that was made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in December. The right honorable gentleman said -
Confidence is in the air in Australia. Who can resist this confidence when on every side there is such evidence of growth.
As I read that statement, I have in my hand some comments by English writers on finance. I suppose everybody knows that we tried to convert a £10,000,000 sterling loan in London a short time ago, but 82 per cent, of the £10,000,000 sterling was not subscribed and was left with the underwriters 82 per cent, of £10,000,000! That is what this Government has done to Australia abroad. It has completely destroyed the confidence that overseas investors should have in us. No country in the world has a better potential or a better natural growth. God has blessed us abundantly. Where else can a person from overseas find a country where there is such potential growth and political sanity; where there is no inter-racial problem and where we can expect that things that are happening in so many other countries will not happen here, at least in our time?
– You admit that there is political sanity?
– It is there all the time until we find ourselves racing into an economic phase like the present, which seems so unnecessary, under this Government’s stop-and-go policy. What was the reaction in London to this Government’s policy? British commentators everywhere have been making nasty comments on our prospects. The “ Investors Chronicle “ recently told its readers -
The menu facing Australia in 1961 looks much less appetising than the lavish fare provided in the past year.
The London staff correspondent of an Australian publication reported the comments of the “ Investors Chronicle “ further in these words -
It said the adverse balance on current account for the year looked as if it could be around the Worst-ever figure of £A450 million.
It suggested that if that happened and capital inflow failed to rescue the Australian reserves position, then devaluation might be unavoidable by August.
In other words, it is the capital inflow that is keeping us up and once confidence is lost that must dwindle to a degree. The “ Economist “ commented -
That is a statement that is hardly likely to encourage British investors., The diplomatic correspondent of the “ Financial Times “ who is at present visiting Australia said -
There is a general expectancy in industry that unless the Government eases up on its restrictive policies or re-imposes import restrictions, the economy is in for a quite definite downturn.
The correspondent was also reported to have expressed some nervousness over the conclusion that Australia would have to rely on the continued inflow of foreign capital. So we know that although the Government claims this is a temporary phase, that is not the position. All these top economists have stressed the fact that we must have a continued inflow of overseas money to hold our position. That is undesirable. It is better to be able to balance our import-export budget without the inflow of foreign money because at present it is entering Australia in circumstances that are not beneficial to this country. No less an expert than Mr. Staniforth Ricketson has said that we should have an inquiry on the importation of money to see how it is applied in Australia, and to see that it does not have the same serious effects that it is now apparently having in Canada.
These are the things that worry us and there is much more I could say if time permitted. The Government has said that things are improving. It points to the fact that it has already lifted the additional 10 per cent, sales tax on motor vehicles. That is evidence of how much the Government knows. Only a few weeks ago, members of the Government were talking down to us. They were saying, “ After all, we have all the means of advice at our hand. We have access to all the information. It is bad luck that our critics do not know as much as we know. If they did they would not be talking as they are.” But now members of the Government have turned about. They have taken the extra 10 per cent, sales tax off motor vehicles. It should never have been imposed. Surely it was obvious that there was a perceptible downturn in the economy before the Government’s economic measures were introduced in December. There had been announcements to the effect that the rate of re-possessions by hire-purchase companies was higher than it had been for many years. Those were the pointers, the things that were happening in the community.
Already, because of the abolition of import licensing in February, the storehouses are full. The Australian Chambers of Manufactures have made the vital point that stocks are building up - Australian stocks, rather than imported stocks. Goods are being imported because they carry a better mark-up value and consequently are the first to be sold. If there is a build-up of stocks in warehouses, factories and retail stores it is only a question of how long it will take for the effect of that build-up to reach manufacturers in Australia. The Government may attribute any reason it likes to the great dismissals of labour in the motor industry, but I point out that dismissals have occurred in other industries. Thousands of people have been put out of employment in the textile industries in the last three months. More than 30 timber mills on the northern rivers of New South Wales have closed. Those things have occurred not because the industries concerned wanted them to occur. They should be like a banner in front of all of us, indicating the very serious position that is facing Australia because of the Government’s inept approach to these great problems.
I suppose one should reconcile oneself to the inevitability of the results to which I have referred, since the Government is governing almost as a past-time, as an incidental. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) left the country twice last year. The Treasurer left the country too. Having delivered his Budget speech, he went abroad and was out of the Parliament during all the time that the Budget was being discussed. When things are serious there is only one place for the members of the
Government to be, and that is at home. They should be trying to overcome the problems that arise. I suppose we were lucky - perhaps I should say “ unlucky “ - that the Prime Minister was here as long as he was before going overseas again recently. No doubt it was not the problems facing the Australian economy that kept him in Australia, but the pleasure to be gained from watching the fifth cricket test between the Australians and the West Indians, and of being here in Canberra for the nice social game. I am not being uncharitable when 1 say those things. We must face the facts of life. The problems for the Government to solve are here in Australia.
It is nice for the Prime Minister to call on Mr. Kennedy in America, but the occasion for such a visit would keep. Let the Prime Minister attend to his own problems in this country first. It is also nice for him to address a gathering of Australian ambassadors in Europe, although I do not know that all the ambassadors were present. I saw two of them here to-day. The Prime Minister is now attending a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London. I remember that on one occasion he was sent to see Colonel Nasser. It is not as though we were achieving great results from these journeys abroad; the results are not tangible. Our problems at the moment are here at home. If the ability of the Prime Minister is as great as he tries to make us believe it is, one might be pardoned for thinking that he would be here in Australia attending to his responsibilities. The same may be said of every member of the Government.
The Government seems to think that it has matters under control. It tells us so, but at the same time it is asking men in Melbourne and Sydney, “ How are we going? What has happened? “ Surely the fact that it is doing so indicates lack of control. Members of the Government are on the telephone four and five times a day, trying to ascertain from the results of gallup polls how the Government is getting along. The story they are getting back is a very discouraging one indeed. The Government is not doing well, and consequently the economy is going down the drain. Something tangible must be done to lift Australia to its proper status in the world. It is not sufficient to speak of our great expansion; we must produce figures to prove to the world that expansion has taken place. That is something that the Government cannot do.
We have to provide homes, not only for Australians, but also for migrants if our immigration policy is to be successful. We must reach the stage where a migrant can come to this country with the reasonable ambition that he will be in a home of his own within six or twelve months. After all, people are not simply given homes. Everybody who gets a house has to pay for it. If the Government is unable to do those things that are so necessary for the maintenance of the comfort and decent living standards of Australians, and so essentia] to the advancement of this country, it is time that we had another government which will set about doing them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve the right to continue my remarks at a later hour.
– I associate myself with the expressions of loyalty that are contained in the motion before the Senate and also with the expressions of regret at the passing of Lord Dunrossil. I join in expressing deep sympathy with his widow, Lady Dunrossil.
I think it fair to say, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that Senator Armstrong has painted a most depressing picture. If we are to believe him, we are all ruined - the end of the world has come. I do not think that Senator Armstrong enhanced his reputation by his cheap allusions to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his absence overseas. 1 perhaps have a peculiar approach to this kind of thing in that I believe that when the Prime Minister of a country is overseas he is entitled to the support of all political parties in the Parliament for the national work that he is doing. It ill behoves a senior member of the Australian Labour Party to speak in such a peculiar way of the Prime Minister when he is overseas doing his job.
The Australian Labour Party has moved the amendment before the Senate for the purpose of criticizing the Government for its alleged faulty leadership in directing the Australian economy - faulty leadership despite the fact that we have had a 27 per cent, increase of population in the last decade; that the gross national production of the country has increased by 53 per cent, in that period; that the volume of factory production has gone up by 90 per cent.; that the volume of rural production has gone up by 25 per cent.; that in ten years 1.000,000 homes have been built, and that in the life of this Government the coalmining industry, the greatest mineral industry of all, has been completely re-vitalized and re-organized.
Let us try to get our problems in perspective. I know that on occasions like this, in the thrust and parry of debate, one is inclined to over-exaggerate and to paint too rosy a picture. The great task is to try to look at things in a reasonable way, but the difficulty is that so frequently we fail to see the wood for the trees. We fail to get things in perspective and to make a correct assessment. What we have done while we have been in government has been consistently to follow a forward, balanced policy. We have aimed consistently at developing our natural resources, at encouraging overseas investment in Australia to make up for the deficiencies in our financial resources, to get increased production from the man on the land, and to develop our secondary industries.
I do not think that any fair-minded critic could say other than that we have succeeded in those great objectives. To those who oppose me politically, I say that it is not a bad thing to look at what we have done in the years we have been in office and to compare that with what happened when Labour had the conduct of affairs in Australia. When we assumed office we had to import coal. We even had to import houses. We were without building materials and tradesmen.
Senator Armstrong made a slighting reference to our policy being one of encouraging private enterprise. What was the policy of the Labour Party when it was in office? It was one of petrol rationing, prices control and capital issues control. They were part of the pattern. They were facts of life when Labour was in office. It is good to remember that the leopard does no! change its spots. If we look at the policy that is now being advocated by the Labour Party, we find it is of the same pattern as the policy that was so unsuccessful during the years that that party was in office.
To-night we heard Senator Armstrong advocate the re-introduction of import licensing. The theme of the policy that is advocated by Labour’s political leader is the need to obtain greater constitutional powers to give greater control over business activity. There could be no better method ‘than that of stifling business activity and holding back national progress and development. I agree with Senator Armstrong when he says that the balance of payments problem is the. greatest single problem that we in Australia have to face, and I propose to deal with it at greater length, if time permits, as I develop the theme of my speech. But I wish to say at this stage, in case I omit to do so later, that the decision to abolish import licensing was no casual decision but was made after the most careful consideration of all the circumstances. Like every other great decision that has been made by this Government, it is constantly being reviewed. I say in the most simple terms that the last review, which was made a few weeks ago, showed that what is happening is in accord with our anticipations of what would happen when we removed the restrictions at this time last year. Of course we knew that the volume of imports would rise. Of course we knew we would lose some of our overseas balances.
Let us not forget that, small though we are as a people, we constitute one of the great trading nations of the world. From memory, I think we rank amongst the first ten trading nations of the world. But we have people like Senator Armstrong saying, “ Re-impose import restrictions “. What a short-term view that is. How shall we continue to be a great trading nation if we close the door on competitive traders? Would not the natural reaction be for them to close the door on us? What future would there be for us if we, as a trading nation, were not prepared to enter into competitive trading? That is the big issue in this matter of import licensing. It is not a question of whether one finger is hurt or whether something else occurs. The great issue is this: Remembering how much of our future turns upon the export of our rural products, how shall we develop and expand unless we stand for a policy of multilateral trade?
– Do you believe in protection?
– Of course I believe in protection. The foundation of our policy is the elimination of import licensing and the affording of protection to Australian industries when circumstances justify it.
We heard a lot of criticism at question time this afternoon, and later from Senator Armstrong, about the unemployment situation in Australia. I wonder whether those who criticize take into consideration the position in other countries. The latest unemployment figures that are available show that some 73,000 people in Australia are seeking employment, that number constituting approximately 1.7 per cent, of our total work force. They are the latest authentic figures. Let no one think that I utter them in any casual way. I believe that the future of Australia depends upon our mantaining full employment. Although the matter of unemployment does not come within the administration of my portfolio, from day to day I scrutinize the employment figures to assess how we are progressing in relation to this policy we have put into operation. I repeat that in Australia 73,000 persons, or 1.7 per cent, of the total work force, are seeking employment. In the United States of America 5,750,000 people, or more than 7 per cent, of the total work force, are unemployed.
– It is. In Canada the position is worse. Seven hundred thousand Canadians, or more than 10 per cent, of the work force, are out of work. In the United Kingdom 418,000 persons, or 1.9 per cent, of the total work force, are unemployed. The constant allegation, the theme song, of the Labour Party for all the years it has been in opposition has been that there is unemployment in Australia. The figures I have cited show what the position is in Australia and other countries. Having regard to all the problems that we face in establishing ourselves as an industrial community and in developing our rural resources, and having regard to the constantly recurring problem of the balance of payments. I believe it is quite true to say that no other country in the world has a better record than has Australia in providing employment for its citizens.
For ten years Labour has been crying wolf about the economic situation. When we decided last November that the time was appropriate to introduce a period of consolidation, Labour again criticized us. Let honorable senators opposite not forget that the man in the street in Australia is a fairly intelligent sort of bloke. He is able to tell what is false and spurious. He knows as well as we do that when unhealthy conditions arise, when there is over-full employment and men are moving from job to job, the bubble will burst.
– All 73,000 of them?
– I am talking about the man in the street. Do not be carried away by any thought that you can cry wolf and bring down the Government on that issue. Did honorable senators opposite read the results of the gallup poll published in the newspapers over the week-end?
– Do not take any notice of that.
– Of course honorable senators opposite will not want to take notice of those results. A gallup poll was taken in December and another in February. The gallup poll taken in December last showed that 39 per cent, of persons interviewed supported the Government. The poll taken in February showed that the number had increased from 39 per cent, to 40 per cent. In other words, during those critical months when the impact pf the Government’s actions was being felt - at a time when surely one would have expected the popularity of the Government to have declined because it had’ introduced restrictive measures - the gallup poll showed that the popularity of ‘the Government had increased by 1 per cent, and that the popularity of the Australian Labour Party had fallen by a corresponding amount.
Let me give honorable senators opposite a word of advice. I know that they will not accept my advice because I have not yet discerned any constructive ideas coming from the other side of the chamber. The Opposition relies on destructive criticism, but I give it this advice: Lay off this theme song of unemployment. In the Army we had a song entitled, “ His Comrades Don’t Believe Him”. That is happening to the Australian Labour Party to-day. The Australian public does not believe it.
I think that the main thing to do in the present circumstances is to look at the conditions existing at the time and try to reach a reasoned judgment as to whether the Government’s action was right and justified. By November last the consumer price index had risen by 5 per cent, in twelve months, and the wholesale price index had risen by 6i per cent. In other words, as at November last, prices had risen by between 5 per cent, and 6 per cent. I do not propose to traverse the employment figures again. 1 do not think anybody would deny that in November of last year, on an Australia-wide basis, we were in a dangerous situation of over-full employment. I subscribe to what Senator Armstrong said about hire purchase. I am not a critic of hire-purchase business. It is part of our way of life. It is part of our industrial structure. But last November the hire-purchase debt stood at £440,000,000- an increase of £60,000,000 during the year. I think that Senator Armstrong moves in circles somewhat similar to those in which I move, and I am sure that he will agree that not all hire-purchase .companies have criticized the Government’s move to restrict their activities. The hire-purchase companies knew that they were heading for trouble if they continued at the level of activity that had been reached last November.
In addition to the circumstances that I have outlined there was a tremendous boom on the stock exchange, a great boom in real estate and1 a great boom in building activity. In other words, instead of steady balanced development on a good foundation we were in a period of boom. We had reached a condition which must have resulted in a reaction inevitably leading to a debacle.
As I understand them, honorable senators opposite claim that if Labour had been in office the situation about which I have spoken would never have occurred. Well, for once in my life I am inclined to agree with the Labour Party because I cannot imagine that it would have attracted sufficient public confidence, sufficient overseas investment for this country to have reached the level of industrial activity that has been reached under this Government during the years it has been in office. May I direct the attention of honorable senators opposite to what their own leader has advanced as the panacea for all economic ills. I propose to refer to press reports of a television interview given by Mr. Calwell in Brisbane last week-end. According to the press reports Mr. Calwell advocated four measures by which he would alter all things and bring about a bigger, brighter and better Australia. It is true that the four measures were subject to one fatal weakness - they could not become operative unless they were approved by referendum. I suppose Mr. Calwell felt in his own mind that there was so little prospect of his proposals ever being agreed to in a referendum that he could let his hair down and advance a policy which, no matter how impractical it may be, would sound well. Mr. Calwell’s first point was that he would seek greater powers and, with greater powers, he would govern interest rates. Is that not the very thing that this Government is doing now without waiting for a referendum? What virtue is there in. the Labour Party’s advocating the control of interest rates when this Govern^ ment is doing it at the present time in a way that is selective, that will get us the right results and that requires the minimum of government interference? Mr. Calwell next proposed that he would take power to levy customs and export duties. I forebear to comment on that. That is a newspaper report of what he said. I do not understand what it means, because the Commonwealth already has those powers, and I do not think that Mr. Calwell would advocate granting to the Commonwealth powers that it already possessed. There seems to be something missing in that report.
Mr. Calwell’s next proposal was the introduction of uniform company law. For the life of me I fail to see how uniform company law would make any contribution to the present situation. In any event, I understand that the States have met and have practically agreed to introduce uniform company laws. Mr. Calwell’s next proposal was an old one. He advocated the re-introduction of capital issues control, which is the twin brother of prices control and all that goes with it. All I can say in respect of capital issues control is that this Government is a long way ahead of Mr. Calwell, because it gave this matter very serious consideration and decided against the re-introduction of capital issues control.
Of course, when you put on the brakes, as the Government had to do, there is always an adverse initial critical reaction Do not forget that the voice of the critic is always loud, but the voice of the critic is not the voice of the man in the street, lt is the man in the street who makes his own assessment of whether the Government’s actions are for the good of the greater part of the population. I have learned never to ignore the voice of the critic but always to listen to it. By listening you can learn, and 1 try alway to listen, but I do not think that the voice of the critic can prevail against existing conditions. The voice of the critic is not justified in being loud in Australia, having regard to the conditions that now exist here. Those conditions are the very foundation of all business activity. What is the reason for the great progress that has been made by Australian companies? Why have various businesses forged ahead? It is due to some extent to the managerial capacity of the people in control of the companies’ affairs, but is also overwhelmingly due to the prosperity and development of Australia. The big and small companies have had their share of the progress that has occurred and that progress is founded upon the full employment and prosperity of the Australian population generally. Who can deny this contention? The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, which I saw a few days ago, showed that of 1,200,000 adult male employees 197,743, or 16.6 per cent., earned less than £18 a week and 122,596, or 10.3 per cent., received £35 a week or more.
– What would that buy them?
– Senator Toohey interjects, “What would that buy them?” That is a very poor approach to a situation such as this. We on both sides of the chamber should be proud of the extent to which we have maintained employment for the Australian population and increased their remuneration.
I have only a few minutes left. I agree with Senator Armstrong and, I think, with most observers, that our really great prob lem is the balance of payments problem because, although we are developing so much industrially we are still such a great primary producing country that 80 per cent, of our exports are primary products which have to face international competition at world parity prices. Again, let me remind honorable senators that the difficulties we are experiencing are not difficulties peculiar to Australia. Recent figures show that in the United States of America over the last three years the overfall deficit on trading operations was no less than three and a half billion dollars a year. That is the extent of the leeway that the United States has to make up. In the United Kingdom the deficit for 1960 was over £100,000,000. New Zealand, in November, 1960, had a deficit of £23,000,000 in comparison with a surplus of £27,000,000 for the same period of the previous year. These things go in cycles.
We could, of course, take the easy way out as Senator Armstrong advocated. We could’ go back to import controls so dear to the heart of the socialists. We could allow a government official to make the decisions, and in saying that I am not decrying government officials. By and large, the government official might be more intelligent than we are. I am not decrying him, but no single official can make the momentous decisions that are involved. We could go back to the situation where no young man could get a start in business because those who had been established in business over a longer period had the import licences. We could go back to the situation where those who had licences and did not want goods themselves could sell their licences on the black market to some one who did. We could set the clock back and revert to circumstances such as that.
This time last year we had first-line reserves of £500,000,000 and second-line reserves of £200,000,000. We knew when we embarked on our present policy that the Labour Party would attempt to bring about unsettled conditions. We knew that manufacturers would oppose our policy. Those were reasonable anticipations. But let me repeat what I said earlier. At the end of twelve months operations our survey shows that the situation we are in to-day is that which twelve months ago we anticipated we would be in to-day; and we provided a sound foundation for the continuance of this policy in the future.
There are other things I should like to say, but time will not permit. It is, of course, the duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition to oppose. I have said that before on an occasion such as this. I am quite certain that if you contrast on the one hand what has happened under the free enterprise principles of the Menzies’ Government during the last ten years with what happened under the socialist Government in Australia you will see Australia to-day as a nation growing in stature and importance, a nation in which the population is increasing and the people are employed and enjoying a standard of living higher than was ever anticipated a decade ago, and social services are equitably distributed throughout the community. When you see all those things, then most of the criticism we get for inaugurating a necessary period of consolidation as a necessary prelude to another period of development, is unfounded. Make no mistake about it. The progress and development that has occurred in the last decade in Australia will be small compared with the progress and development that will occur in the next decade. When all these things are appreciated, then the criticism we are receiving to-day will fall into its proper perspective.
.- The Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) gave a word of advice to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but after his long diatribe in trying to bolster up a very weak case we can more truthfully say to him that his comrades do not believe him. At no time since 1949 when this Government came into power has so much confusion existed in the minds of the Australian people as to which way the Government is going. Over a period of years circumstances assisted the Government to cover up the basic defects of its economic policy. I should like to quote immediately from a report on the economy by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia in which is set out a survey of 23 major manufacturing firms covering all sectors of secondary industry from heavy engineering to food and drink and from electrical goods to textiles. These firms were simply asked to state whether their production was up, down or the same, compared with the position prior to the November economic measures. Here is the result. In production four were up and nine were down, in employment four were up and nine were down, in sales four were up and eleven were down, in stocks twelve were up and two were down, in orders one was up and fourteen were down, in costs fifteen were up and none were down, and in demand one was up and fourteen were down. Notwithstanding these facts, the Minister has just spent half an hour telling the Senate and the people of Australia that everything in the garden is rosy. If he were truthful he would repeat the words of his leader, Sir Philip McBride, who when recently addressing the Liberal Party, advised party members to support their Government even when they thought it was wrong. Sir Philip said, “ We as good Liberals have the responsibility of supporting our own Government “.
The Minister has just given the people of Australia an outline of the situation which the people of this country know to be wrong. It is affecting their everyday life and their bread and butter. The Minister will not fool any one with the case he presented to-night. He said that we must enter into competition in a competitive world, but we on this side believe that the Government’s policy, during the inflation that has continued over the last ten years, has destroyed our ability to compete in a competitive world. In every field of industry we face rising costs. That applies to our basic industries, and particularly to the wool industry on which our economy has depended so much for so long. The following report appeared in this morning’s edition of the “Daily Telegraph” -
The loss of as little as 10 per cent, of the European market would put Australian woolgrowers out of business, Sir William Gunn said yesterday.
Figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that Australian wool exports earned £186,522,000 in the seven months ended 31st January, 1961. This is a fall of £36,502,000 on earnings for the corresponding seven months in 1959-60. Lower prices and a drop in the volume of wool exported caused the fall.
Although the Minister tried to give the impression that the economy is stable in every field, in primary industry, and particularly in the wool industry, we have costed ourselves out of our markets. Recently the Government had a windfall of the kind that it has had so often. Like Canada and America, we have amassed a huge surplus of wheat. It was a windfall that we found a market in China for our wheat, which relieved the Government’s position, but what of the wheat industry’s future? Tasmanian fruit-growers cannot see any future for their industry, yet the Government and its supporters repeat that everything is right with the economy. Continuing inflation has brought about an instability that for many years has been offset by high prices for our products and world shortages. Conditions have assisted the Government to cover up the basic weaknesses of its economic policy. Now the community has been thrown into confusion as a result of sheer lack of leadership by the Government. When news that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was going to the United States and then to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London was broadcast, I heard some one say that the Prime Minister had better make the most of his trip because it would be the last he would get for a long time. I believe that that is the general attitude throughout Australia.
This Government has long outlived its usefulness and it is time for a change of government. Industrialists, businessmen and employees do not know from day to day where they stand. There is no continuity of Government policy to enable them to plan for the future. Despite denials in Government circles, the tally of unemployed grows daily. In my home town of Launceston, the large textile firm of Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Limited announced that 100 employees were to be dismissed and 1,200 were to be put on a four-day week. While the Minister speaks in generalities and abstractions, in such a small community as Launceston, 100 are to be dismissed and 1,200 are to go on to a four-day week. That is in only one section of industry. How are we on this side of the chamber to believe what the Minister says? This state of affairs has bewildered the public, but still there is no sign of leadership from the Government. It does not know where it is going.
The Opposition amendment suggests that we should deplore the Government’s leader ship, which has resulted in continuing inflation. That is appropriate, in view of the impact of inflation over a period of years. There has been a creeping inflation, but the Government has taken no positive measures to counteract it, with the result that to-day there is confusion in the community. The amendment refers also to the drain on our overseas funds. It is a very serious state of affairs that a young country, with such a great future and such a big task in front of it, should be living on funds borrowed to the maximum extent from the International Monetary Fund and from investors who are seeking only the highest profits that they can skim from the Australian economy. The Government continually adopts expedients, but wants us to believe that the country is prosperous, lust like a gambler, it takes risks to overcome the immediate problem, without any long-range policy for the future.
We realize that the whole of the Western world is in a very difficult situation. Whether or not that will be adjusted, only the future will tell. Senator Spooner said that unemployed in the United States of America numbered 5,750,000. That is an under-estimation. I have read that they number 7,000,000, or 8 per cent, of the work force. The United States has internal economic problems that are similar to ours. The system followed by both countries has been basically the same. We have been living from hand to mouth on an inflationary wave which has followed the orthodox cycle of war, boom and bust. In the same way, after the 1914-18 war, we had a boom until 1927 and 1928 and the bust of the 1930’s. The cycle was repeated with the 1939-45 war, which was followed by the short period of adjustment, which the Minister has just criticized, when a Labour government took the only measures that could be taken to adjust the economy after the strains of war. This Government came into power with all the reserves that had been built up in the short period of stable government. It opened the floodgates and allowed inflation to run riot. To-day we are on the verge of the traditional, inevitable bust. We have heard the unemployment figures for the United States and Canada, which are following the same economic system as ours. A sneeze in the United States is equivalent to influenza in Australia.
Nothing can be done to alter the situation until the Government gets down to attacking the fundamental and basic ills of our economic system. I stress that point because inflation and the costing of our goods out of the competitive markets of the world are the effects of ten years of mismanagement and lack of leadership by the Menzies Government.
– America had a recession in 1956. They had more unemployment then than they have now.
– We had a business recession here, too. As soon as a rather serious drought comes, as it does in the natural cycle, it affects our economy just as it would affect the economy of any other country; but in other parts of the country there have been bumper crops and we have found some expedient to get us over the immediate crisis. But the time is running out. Parts of the eastern world are encroaching on our traditional markets, and inflation has increased our costs to such an extent that we just cannot compete, and our opportunities for marketing are becoming more restricted all the time. That has to be pointed out time and time again in order to impress upon members of the Government that they are not attacking the basic problems so as to provide a sound economy. As long as that continues, we will have insecurity and confusion in the minds of the Australian people.
Senator Spooner has claimed that great work has been done in developing our natural resources. I should like to ask members of the Government what they have done to develop our natural resources. There is no doubt that they have exploited them. Instead of Australia having a virile steel industry, the Government has encouraged a monopoly of it. The Government’s greatest financial supporters and contributors to party funds are the big organizations such as the steel companies. One of the problems facing the Treasury to-day is the amount of money that is being spent on importing steel. Instead of Australia being developed nationally and having a steel industry which can supply our steel needs, the Government has tolerated a virtual monopoly in that industry. The same company has also had a monopoly over the natural iron ore resources and, instead of retaining those resources for future generations, as an expedient the Government is selling our birthright by opening up the field for the export of iron ore to other countries which in turn will produce steel which will be returned to Australia in the form of imports.
– Do I understand that the honorable senator opposes the export of iron ore?
– I say that a commodity such as iron ore should be held in reserve and our steel production should be doubled so that instead of exporting iron ore we could put Australian workmen, know-how and technique into the production of steel for export as a finished product. That would give Australian workmen the opportunity to share to the full in their country’s natural resources.
In regard to other aspects of national development, the Government proudly acclaims the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme. But hand-in-hand with Government policy, we have also seen an enormous increase in the cost of land along the Murray and Mumimbidgee rivers where irrigation waters will become available. The people of Australia will not obtain the benefit of that investment to the extent they should because a small section of the community is skimming off the cream. The cost of production of goods in those irrigation areas will be such that they will not be able to compete with other goods. So, again we will have the cycle; we will have surpluses of goods that cannot be exported on to the world’s markets.
Although the Snowy River scheme has been continued by this Government, it was not its creation. The scheme was the creation of this Government’s predecessor, a Labour Government. What has been done in the field of national development, apart from the Snowy Mountains scheme? We hear about the standardization of railway gauges that is being carried out. T will admit that that is rectifying a mistake that was made by previous generations. But from the point of view of national development, all this Government is doing is selling out our national resources to overseas people who are obtaining the main benefit from those resources. So, although we hear Government supporters speak of the development of our natural resources and national development, the Government is doing very little other than selling out the heritage and birth-right of the Australian people to overseas investors. As another expedient, it tries to balance its budget by saying that our exports are such and such and our imports are balanced by investments in Australia. But every penny that comes into Australia from overseas is here to get its pound of flesh. I believe that a nation such as ours, with the future that is before us, should be making provision for the saltingdown of all our natura] resources and any profits that are made by Australia, should be salted down to make a greater life for this generation and the generations that will follow.
Another part of the amendment that the Opposition has moved refers to the injustice to wage-earners. The situation is that on one hand profits and prices are uncontrolled. We see the growth of monopolies and the scandalous things that are happening under the policy of the Government, such as the international vending machine companies and other get-rich-quick, gold brick organizations which are operating in the community. On the other hand, the Federal Government goes before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and says that the ordinary wage-earner should not receive a higher wage, quarterly basic wage adjustments, or any marginal increases, because they would adversely affect the country’s economy. That just proves the inconsistency of the policy of the Government. Its assistance is being directed to making the rich richer and giving the exploiter greater opportunities whilst at the same time using the institutions of the country to deprive the biggest section of the greatest people in Australia - those who produce the country’s wealth - of a fair share of their production.
My remarks also apply to another section of the Opposition’s amendment relating to the inadequacy of social services and housing To-day we heard Senator Spooner say that the housing situation was quite adequate, but wherever you go in Australia housing is a very deep social problem. People setting up homes are trying to borrow money. They have to commit themselves for 30 or 40 years ahead, and they find that the cost of borrowing money is very great, if they can obtain the money. Every increase of £ per cent, in interest rates on housing loans means an increase of 10s. a week in the repayments. When the Government claims that it is doing anything in respect of housing, it is only trying to fool the public.
The problem of high interest rates has continued. In another part of our amendment we have directed attention to and deplored the policy of the Government in regard to increasing interest rates. Advertisements of companies appear in the newspapers offering returns of 15 per cent, whilst some claim that they will return 150 per cent, on an investment within eighteen months, and from 12 to 15 per cent, interest per annum. We have seen the same thing reflected in hire-purchase rates and, in turn, in bank Tares and those of other financial institutions. This is all being done with the imprimatur of the Government on it. In the community to-day there is an immoral approach to money-making because people say that anything goes so far as this Government is concerned. It is a case of “ Get in for your cut and the devil take the hindmost”. We on the Opposition side, speaking for the broad masses of the Australian people, believe that the Government has given no leadership. Its economic policy is disastrous. Unless its policy is altered) drastically present and future generations of Australians will be deprived of their heritage.
– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply that has been moved by Senator Mattner and supported by Senator McKellar. I join with them in an expression of loyalty to the Throne. I also express my profound regret at the recent death of the GovernorGeneral, Viscount Dunrossil. His death was a great shock to the Australian community, for although he was in office for only a year, he had been accepted and the people of Australia had taken him to their hearts.
The Administrator’s Speech referred to the conference of Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations that is to be held in London this week. Senator Armstrong deplored1 the absence from this Parliament of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies), who is attending that conference in London. I believe that
Senator Armstrong’s criticism was most inopportune. Our Prime Minister will represent the people of Australia at the conference, and it is sad that such an important gathering should be the object of criticism by a member of the Opposition in this Senate. We should keep in our minds the great tasks that face our Prime Minister, and reflect on his statesmanship and the contribution that he will make to the well-being of the British Commonwealth of Nations, including Australia, at a time when Commonwealth relations are subject to many strains and stresses.
In the Administrator’s Speech, we have the pattern of legislation that is to be submitted during this sessional period. The Administrator referred to the economic policies of the Government, and I shall refer to them and the speeches of other senators as I proceed. First, however, I wish to refer briefly to two items in the Administrator’s Speech which are outside the field of economics. His Excellency said -
Acting on the advice of the Australian Universities Commission, my Government is proceeding with a three-year programme of Commonwealth and State aid to universities from 1961 to 1963 involving expenditure of the order of £100 million. The Universities Commission is now examining the most desirable pattern of development for tertiary education. My advisers have increased the number of new Commonwealth university scholarships offered each year from 3,000 to 4,000.
That is a very important statement. The achievement of the Government in this connexion should have general approval and approbation. The need for professional men in Australia is greater than it has ever been previously. That can be said also of the need for tertiary education. It is good to know that the Government has recognized the need and1 has made such a substantial contribution to the development of our universities in conjunction with the States. This is a magnificent increase in the number of university scholarships. I know that there is a desperate need in New South Wales for more doctors of medicine. Another honorable senator directed attention to-day to the acute shortage of dentists. It is encouraging to note that the Government is helping to meet that demand. The Administrator also stated -
My Government has initiated discussions with the States about arrangements to be made when the current housing agreement with the States expires in June next. I am advised that more than 90,000 dwellings were completed in Australia during 1959-60.
References have been made in the press to negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States on a new housing agreement. I trust that the Government will ensure in the new agreement that adequate finance is made available to the co-operative building societies. At present, 30 per cent, of all money supplied to the States for housing must be diverted to the co-operative building society movement, and I hope that, despite opposition, the Commonwealth Government will ensure that at least that percentage is maintained.
I turn now to the economic situation and I shall repeat a statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to the effect that the economic and social policies of the Government since 1949 may be described as servicing the ambitions of the Australian people. Those policies have been, in brief, to maintain a vigorous programme of national development, to continue a planned immigration programme, which is continuing at the rate of about 125,000 a year, to maintain a high level of employment amounting in effect to full employment, to carry out where practicable improvements in the size and scope of our social services, to provide an adequate level of home building and home ownership and, last but not least, to maintain stability of costs and prices. It is true that the first five objectives have tended to operate in the opposite direction to the last objective; but the continuing task of this Government has been to endeavour to integrate all those issues and to get them operating in harmony. That, Sir, has not been easy to do.
Perhaps I may give just one example of the way in which the objectives to which I have referred tend to run in opposite directions. Let us take, for instance, our immigration programme. I have heard in this place vigorous speeches on all sides eulogizing the immigration programme and advocating its continuance. I may say that I subscribe to the views that have been expressed in that connexion. The expression, “ We must populate or perish “, has been used throughout Australia for many years. Yet, the immigration policy imposes added consumer demands, as well as increased demands for the services provided by public utilities, such as schools, hospitals, water supply and electricity authorities, and transport services.
The demands of an additional 125,000 or 135,000 people each year must have a tremendous effect on such services and also an inflationary effect on costs and prices. Yet, we have accepted the challenge posed by our immigration policy. As a nation, we believe that it is a challenge that we have to meet. It is only now, after there has been a slight turning-back, that we find the weak sisters amongst us beginning to wilt under the pressure. I put that forward as only one example of the way in which the objectives of the Government may tend, in a sense, to find themselves sometimes in conflict. Because they are worthy objectives, we have to hold them in the interests of the Commonwealth.
It was because costs and prices were tending to undermine the Government’s long-term objectives that it took measures to stabilize the economy, measures which have been the main subject of the debate this evening. I do not need to elaborate those measures beyond saying that they were the lifting of import controls in February of last year and then, in November, the imposition of increased sales tax on motor vehicles as a means of steadying down the motor industry, and the curtailing of credit. Those measures were calculated to prevent an unhealthy economic boom in the community. I use the word “ unhealthy “ advisedly. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said that he does not believe in booms, and there is no doubt that we were tending to feel the effects of an unhealthy boom at that time. I have read the report of a broadcast talk by Mr. Calwell, in Brisbane as recently as last Sunday night. Amongst other things which he advocated for the curing of our economic ills, a matter to which I shall return later, he said that had he been in power he probably would have taken action to limit the boom in the motor car industry. He said that he would lift the credit squeeze, and he went on to say that all booms need controlling.
– Yes, that is elementary. Even Mr. Calwell has to accept the need for such control. The Government set out to deal with a situation which was becoming unhealthy, a situation in which the employment opportunities and the future prospects of the people of Australia were being prejudiced.
– The Government succeeded only in bringing about a lot of confusion.
– I am satisfied that the Government did the right thing. Senator Armstrong has referred to a stopstart economy. That is a very glib phrase to use, but it is not really a serious contribution to the debate. Do Senator Armstrong and the other people who have made critical references to this so-called stopstart policy, really suggest that in a country like Australia, with a small population, a vast area, great variations in climate, so that there are droughts, floods, cyclones and tempests all occurring at the same time, it is possible to produce a set of economic principles which are to apply for all timer It is elementary that in a country of this kind we must have change. If we adopt the simple analogy of a sea captain who takes a ship to sea, we gain some idea of the real position. If the captain of a ship which is three miles out to sea from Sydney receives a wireless report that there is a cyclone in the Tasman, does he stay on the same course and simply say, “ I will beat it “? Does he sail his ship straight through the cyclone? Of course not! He changes course.
Except for those of us who are a bit timid, we fly from our homes to Canberra, and how often do the aircraft change course? How often does an aircraft either fly higher or descend because of climatic conditions? As honorable senators who come from New South Wales know very well, the aircraft may fly to Canberra via Mittagong or via the coast, according to the weather conditions at the time. I suggest that our economy must be changed in a similar fashion. We have to change course, and it is a wise skipper, a wise pilot and a wise government that changes course in the light of circumstances over which it may have no control. The rigidity suggested by Senator Armstrong is a form of thinking which, to my mind, will not commend itself to those who have the interests of the nation at heart.
I have before me a statement by the Commonwealth Statistician which gives some idea of the nature of the problem presented by the boom with which we have been confronted and the degree of overemployment that was consistent with it at the time that the Government decided to take action. The Commonwealth Statistician, in one of his reports, produced figures which showed that competition between rival employers for labour had resulted in a labour turnover figure running at 5.9 per cent, in the case of males and 6.1 per cent, for females each month. Translated into a yearly figure, this means that the number of separations per month over average employment per month reaches almost 72 per cent., which is equivalent to three-quarters of the whole labour force changing jobs each year. When it is realized that a conservative estimate of the loss incurred by any worker leaving his job is £30, made up of a number of causes such as loss of interest in the job, loss of materials incurred in training the new man, as well as the time taken in advertising, it can be seen how the wild demand for labour has added enormously to the costs of manufacture. These added costs have not apparently worried the manufacturer, as he knew he could pass them on to the consumer. In fairness, I point out that the comments on the figures obviously were not those of the Commonwealth Statistician but were press comments. I should not like to have it suggested that the Statistician was entering into the field of comment. I quoted that report to indicate that we were at a point of time when there was over-full employment, when there was an unhealthy movement in the employment situation, a degree of boom which had to be reduced, and when a steadying influence had to be introduced.
Much has been said about our adverse trade balance. Strong pressures are being put upon the Government to reimpose import restrictions. Even without the added stresses that are caused by an ambitious programme of development, it is always difficult to hold the Australian economy in balance. We should never forget that, even with a small population of 10,000,000 persons, Australia ranks amongst the ten top trading nations of the world. As a trading nation we are subject to fluctuations of wOrld prices. Earlier to-night, Senator O’Byrne advocated a more or less isolationist policy - a policy under which we would sit down within our own frontier and conserve all our assets and resources, and in. no way embark upon an exploitation of those resources for our own development. How silly it is to suggest that a country which ranks as one of the ten top trading nations of the world and has great natural resources - I think Senator O’Byrne referred to iron ore - should sit down and conserve those resources within its own boundaries! If there is to be trade, it must flow both ways; there must be reciprocity.
It should always be understood that the fall in our export income in recent years has not been the result of a decline in the volume of our exports. The volume of wool produced has risen by 48 per cent, since 1949-50, but our income from wool’ has been declining. In the first six months of this financial year, the value of wool exported was £164,000,000 - a drop of £37,000,000 from the figure for the corresponding period in the previous financial year. That fall is the result of circumstances over which we in this country have no control. I suggest with great respect that the Opposition, when it refers to our overseas balances, does not understand that as an exporting country we are subject to world prices.
Primary products account for more than 80 per cent, of our total exports. In fact, in 1959-60 they accounted for 86 per cent, of the total volume of our exports. The volume of primary production varies widely according to seasonal conditions and is subject to prices obtained on overseas markets. Wool is our predominant export. This Government has made an effort to get as great a diversity in our exports as possible in order to try to cushion the economy against the very thing that happened when our income from wool dropped - not because the quantity produced had dropped, but because the price had dropped.
It may be asked why, in the face of our difficult balance of trade situation, import licensing was removed. When import restrictions were in force, they were the subject of the most critical and trenchant opposition from all sides, not the least of which came from the Opposition itself. But to-night the Opposition has suggested that we should reimpose import restrictions. “We must remember that Australia has an international obligation to refrain from import licensing except for balance of payments purposes. When we removed import restrictions there were in existence inflationary pressures which suggested that it was desirable to take that action as a means of sharpening competition and to assist the economy to meet demand. Of course, this is not the complete answer. We should not forget that under the system of import restrictions manufacturers have, in effect, been operating under what may be regarded as a special tariff cover or protection, which has tended to enable them to be not as competitive as they may have been in different circumstances. A Government which holds the balances fairly must have regard to that fact as well as other considerations.
I say that the action that was taken by the Government was proper. The Government holds firmly to the view that the answer to our balance of trade problem is not to restrict imports but to encourage exports, and everything it has done and is doing is directed to that end. We have heard to-night a reference to national development and what Senator O’Byrne thinks about it. He would help export industries by husbanding and retaining our mineral wealth in Australia and not let us export it in order to earn overseas reserves. That is his solution. But it is not the Government’s solution, and it is not the solution I advocate. We must export or we will perish.
It is the policy of this Government to encourage exports, and its policies in the future will be directed to that end. Indeed, I understand that in another place to-night the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) dealt with this aspect of the matter at considerable length. We must get the manufacturing industries into a position where they can export, and the way to do that, I suggest, is to provide incentives and assistance at governmental level. I believe it is the Government’s policy to do that. The expansion of manufacturing industries so that they can provide not only for the home market, but also for export, will in turn provide more employment for the work force. If the Labour Party wants to oppose that, approach, it will prejudice the people whom it says it has come here to represent.
I believe that national development will play its part in increasing our export income.
Some reference was made to-night to standardization of railway gauges. It is obvious that if we are to have an expanding steel industry we will need good transport to handle the products of the industry. Some reference was made to-night to the coal industry. We are developing and expanding the coal industry, but it is one thing to obtain an order for the supply of coal to Japan and another thing to get the coal there if we do not have adequate shipping and port facilities. We have the miners to win the coal from the ground, but in the past we have fallen down on facilities for shipping coal overseas. The Government has recognized the need to assist the States in this matter and that assistance will be forthcoming, thus enabling the coal industry to enter into the export trade.
Let me end on this note: The key to Australia’s future development is not restrictions. This country will not develop if we place a limit on imports. Our manufacturing industries rely on imports. We must have more imports, but we must balance the cost of imports by selling our commodities overseas. If the Labour Party thinks that Australia can be kept in a watertight compartment it under-estimates the Australian community and its personality. Australia is one of the ten largest trading nations of the world. Our future lies in trading with other countries. The success of the Government’s export drive is vitally important to this country.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. The Opposition’s reasons for moving the amendment are clear from its wording. This Government can claim a record for bungling the economy. The economy has been an off-and-on economy since 1949. We have had recessions and booms in many industries, including the timber industry, the coal industry, the building trade and primary production. My claim that the Government has created a record for bungling the economy can be substantiated.
Before Parliament resumed I felt that the economy of Australia was in a rather shaky position. I am sure that thought was uppermost in the minds of most people throughout Australia. Sitting in this chamber to-day and listening to honorable senators opposite endeavouring to reassure themselves and the people of Australia that our economy is healthy, I have become convinced that the economy is not only shaky, but that it is crumbling almost beyond repair due to the bungling of this Government since it has been in office. I recall that during the campaign prior to the elections in December, 1949, members of the present Government, who were then in opposition, claimed that the Chifley Government had been responsible for creating an inflationary spiral. I wonder how the present Government justifies the claims that it made in 1949, having regard to conditions that exist in Australia to-day. I suggest that the Labour Party could very effectively use at the next elections the tactics that were adopted by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in 1949. If we compare prices and costs in 1949 with those of to-day t - present Government does not show up in a very good light.
Let me deal for a moment with the employment situation. Senator O’Byrne told the Senate earlier this evening that a large woollen mill in Launceston had dismissed some of its employees and had placed a considerable number of other employees on a four-day week. I was not aware of that situation until Senator O’Byrne. referred to it this evening in this chamber, but I do know what has taken place in Hobart. Just prior to my departure from Hobart yesterday I was told by a certain organization that 130 carpenters were out of work in the city. On Friday night of last week 100 carpenters were out of work in Hobart. Last Monday was Labour Day in Tasmania, and consequently was a holiday for certain employees, but on Tuesday one employer dismissed 30 men simply because he could not obtain finance to carry on his jobs. Those 30 men were thrown out of work because of the Government’s economic squeeze. Hobart is a small city compared with Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, yet 130 carpenters are out of work there. If those conditions prevail in Hobart it is reasonable to assume that similar conditions prevail, but on a larger scale, in the other cities of the Commonwealth. It must be realized that many other industries and trades will be affected by those 130 carpenters being out of work.
Some reference was made to-day to the timber industry. The fact that carpenters are out of work does have some effect on the timber industry, but it affects other industries as well. It affects other building trades industries such as plumbing, painting, furniture manufacturing, electrical trades and so on right down the line. I suggest quite seriously that once the building trade is affected the whole economy also is affected. The building industry is virtually the lifeblood of the. Australian economy in that it is closely related to so many other industries.
Let me give an illustration. Recently I had to hire a taxi to go from my home to my office. As I was travelling in the taxi. I drew the taxi driver out in conversation. He did not know who I was. I asked him about the employment position and what effect it was having on the hiring of his taxi. He said that only a short time before seven taxi cabs were on his rank whereas to-day there were only four, and another man intended to go off as soon as he could find a job. I then put a deliberate question to him. I asked him to what he attributed the falling off of business. I said, “ Is it because people have purchased their own motor cars and are travelling to work in them?”” He said, “No. It is mainly due to the Government’s economic measures and to loss of jobs. We are not getting the usual type of working men hiring a taxi to go out of an evening or to take their families somewhere of a weekend.” That is only a minor illustration but it does show clearly the trend into which we are drifting to-day.
Senator O’Byrne mentioned that a number of employees in Launceston were working a four-day week. The same position exists in the Austral Bronze factory in Hobart, one of the larger factories in that city. A meeting of unionists was called to decide whether they would work a fourday week or have 30 of their workmates dismissed. That is not a very nice decision for employees to have to make. It means in effect that they have to decide whether they will cut down their own wages or put their workmates out of a job. The men decided to work a four-day week to obviate the necessity for the company to put off another 30 employees in addition to a number who had recently been dismissed from that factory, whilst others had left the factory and their positions had not been filled.
The stage has been reached where men in textile mills, in the metal industry, the motor industry, the timber industry, and in a number of other industries have had to reduce their own wages. Quite recently 1 had it brought to my notice that certain timber mills in the northern part of Tasmania, in the far north-west, and in the Circular Head district had closed down. Another mill dismissed 15 men and a number of men - I forget the exact number - were dismissed from still another mill. In addition, some mills are working a fourday week in order to obviate dismissals. That is the mess into which we are getting.
Senator Spooner did say that the economic measures imposed by the Government on 15th November last were having the effect that the Government anticipated. That may be so, but I have wondered whether they were introduced for another purpose. In November, 1960, the Government knew perfectly well that the trade union movement would be applying to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increase in the basic wage. It is my firm conviction that the Government introduced these economic measures in November anticipating the effect that they are now having. It realized that the effects of these measures would coincide with the hearing of the basic wage claim and that that would have a psychological effect on the commission. On this occasion the Government has not opposed the increase in the basic wage although it has submitted evidence to the commission. We remember that at approximately this time last year, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the present Government became a party to the basic wage claim and opposed an increase. No doubt the repercussions brought about by that action have had some effect upon the Government, which on this occasion decided not to oppose openly an increase in the basic wage but to employ a back-door method.
In addition to those industries in Tasmania which have considerably reduced their staffs over the past few weeks a silk and textile factory in southern Tasmania has sacked 200 of its employees, and it is anticipated that there will be a further retrenchment in that industry in the near future. The picture does not look very bright for the State of Tasmania, and 1 am confident that other States are in a similar plight.
It is reliably estimated that the amount of tax that has been collected by the Government as the result of the imposition of the increase of 10 per cent, in the sales tax on motor vehicles on 15 th November last, was £3,250,000. Allowing an average of £80 extra sales tax on each new motor car sold while the higher rate was in force, it is estimated that £3,250,000 extra was collected as a result of the 10 per cent, increase. The Government has done everything in its power to attract the motor industry to Australia. Having got it here, the Government is doing everything in its power to cripple the industry and take away from the workers in it a reasonable standard of living. It is noticeable that most motor firms which have come to Australia are controlled almost entirely by overseas interests. Although we can produce more motor vehicles than can be used in Australia, we cannot export them to countries where the parent companies operate. Why have not the Government and the companies done something to open up markets for our vehicles in other parts of the world? Holden motor vehicles arrived in a number of south-east Asian countries only in 1957. after we had been producing them for eight years. It took eight years to find markets for them in that area. The Government’s economic policy has now been attacked by the press, which has always endeavoured to play up to the people the good government that we have. For once, the press has let the Government down.
– Which one?
– The whole of the press to-day is sniping at the Government’s economic measures, and for the first time in my life I admit that the press is correct. I am with the press on this occasion. Time will not permit me to refer to all the matters 1 should like to raise, but I wish to refer particularly to the neglect of safety measures in some government departments. On 2 J st and 22nd February the Government conducted a national industrial safety conference in Canberra. I had the honour and privilege of representing the Hobart Trades Hall at that conference, which I think served quite a useful purpose. The opening address, which was given by Sir Dallas Brooks, was very good. The first paper was presented by the Tasmanian Secretary for Labour, Mr. Tuting, and the general consensus of opinion was that it was the best paper presented. I give the Government credit for organizing that conference, and an earlier one in 1958. I did not have the good fortune to attend the latter, which was the first national industrial safety conference, but from all reports it was very successful. The Government having organized these conferences, one would expect that government departments would be quite safety-minded, but I am sorry to say that this is not the case. A report in the Hobart “ Mercury “ of 21st January, 1961, states that the coroner, Mr. BrettinghamMoore, recorded a finding of accidental death resulting from an employee’s fall into the lift well at the Hobart General Post Office. I do not attribute any neglect to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Lane, or any of his staff. I lay the blame directly at the top. The man was killed on 6th December, 1960. In October, 1958, a report on the condition of the lift stated that modifications were necessary. In November, 1959, one year and one month after the report was made, a requisition came through for the work to be done and a contract for the job was let in December, 1959. Despite that, the work was deferred until November, 1960. Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Had the work proceeded in November, 1960, it is possible that the chap would not have been killed, but the work was then deferred until 7th December, one day after he was killed. I do not know whether I am correct in saying this, but probably as a result of his being killed the work was not commenced until 10th January, 1961. I suggest that in view of the facts which I have given this evening about this job, there is a case for somebody to answer. I should like to know whose fault it was that the work was not proceeded with immediately the contract was let in December, 1959. I did not know the man, but he was only 42 years of age, a com paratively young man. I assume that he was a married man and had a family. That is a natural assumption. This kind of happening is very serious and I would say that because of the neglect of some one at the top of the ladder the widow of that man will probably spend the rest of her life on a pension. I do not know whether compensation will be paid to the widow or the children. In any case, I believe the position should be clarified.
My time has almost expired. I should like to conclude by making an appeal to the Government to do something for age pensioners, particularly those who are sick, who do not receive any income other than the pension and are living on their own and paying high rents. Recently I heard of a pensioner who had incurred medical expenses totalling more than £300 during the past twelve months. If it were not for the assistance which that pensioner receives from her family, where would she be? That is the kind of thing that we want the Government to consider. I support the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. In fact, I go a little further and say that in view of what I have heard to-day and the position as we know it, it is time the Government resigned and left the management of Australia to a party which can do a far better job than this Government has done since December, 1949.
– First, I wish to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty contained in the speech of the mover of the motion and also with the expressions of regret at the passing of the GovernorGeneral. Without elaboration but in all sincerity I say that we have lost a great man whose life was work. I support the Address and oppose the amendment.
At the outset I shall refer to what I consider was a most extraordinary statement made by the mover of the amendment, Senator Armstrong. I shall mention it now because later I shall have to justify by hard argument some of my assertions and I do not want this matter to be left out when I am elaborating other matters. Senator Armstrong deplored the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from Australia at this time. I want all honorable senators to understand what that means. This is not merely a question of whether the Prime Minister should go overseas. That has been answered by two previous speakers, especially Senator Spooner. Every Labour Prime Minister who held office for more than four months went overseas. Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hughes while he was a Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley, all went overseas with the goodwill of the whole Australian community and certainly with no niggardly grumbling from the Opposition. At present the Prime Minister is overseas at one of the most important moments in the history of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The present conference is the first meeting of Prime Ministers in which only half the members are of European descent; all the others are of Asian, African or other descent. Whether this new British Commonwealth of Nations, which is quite different from the old British Empire and the later British Commonwealth of Nations with which we are familiar, can endure is one of the great questions of the moment. It is possible that it may not endure. If it does not it will be the worse for us, our children and the world as a whole.
The Prime Minister’s position at the conference is that of one of the three senior men. The only Prime Minister who has held office longer than he has is Mr. Nehru, the Prime Minister of India. Furthermore, as is well known, our Prime Minister is an intimate friend of the other Prime Ministers, and the fact that he has been a conciliating force between men with completely opposite views is known to everybody except Senator Armstrong, apparently. That has been said; again and again from the most authoritative sources and it has never been denied by any competent authority. It is a great thing for the Commonwealth of Australia to have as its Prime Minister a man who can reconcile the point of view of Mr. Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, with that of other members and speak to Prime Ministers of other parts of the British Commonwealth as an elder statesman. I say very deliberately that the person who at this moment deplores the absence of the Prime Minister from Australia must deplore his presence at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and any one who does that deplores the existence of the British Commonwealth.
I come now to the practical matters contained in the Address. I support the policy which the Government introduced recently and which it altered more recently. I support both the introduction of the policy and its alteration. Of course, it is quite easy to say that the Government has twisted and turned. You, Mr. Acting Deputy President, have well answered that argument. It is necessary to restrict imports in some way. I know that any method we can adopt is open to objection. I hate all of them. I am not one who likes restriction at any time. I do not believe that it is desirable to make this Commonwealth a country that lives within itself and does not trade with other countries. On the contrary, I hope our trade will increase and that we shall become, not only a great primary producing and manufacturing country, but also one of the great trading countries of the world. In fact, we are already great in relation to our size and population.
Trade is not an evil thing, although much of the false agitation for the policy of protection seems to be based on such an assumption. To-day, of course, the advocates of protection are more restrained. They have, won the battle. But I can remember the days when free trade and protection were live issues, and when the assumption of many of the fanatical protectionists was that you should. and could, exclude, everything from this country and produce everything yourselves. Nothing is more absurd, and as the world grows more complex that policy becomes even more absurd because the more your manufactures grow, the more you need imports. That is the great thing that has been borne in on us by our experience. Therefore, the old free trade-protectionist fight is obsolete. It is dead, because both sides were arguing from assumptions which might have been fairly true once, but which certainly do not apply in the world of to-day.
Persons who put up the argument that, we should restore controls of imports by licensing are also on weak ground. That practice was adopted as an emergency measure. It was a course taken only to restore the balance of trade, but it became a sort of unintended protection for industries that had never proved that they needed protection or that it was desirable to protect them. One of the great objections to tariffs, particularly as they were developed in the United States of America, was that they were clumsy; that Mie rates were determined by lobbying, which was not always necessarily of a bad kind, and by false estimates of what should be done. Therefore, the tariff often did not protect at all; sometimes it hampered many industries. In any case, the industries that were protected tended to become monopolies because they were sheltered from all competition. It was said, “Protection is the mother of trusts”.
– It built America.
– I am not denying that, although even that assertion must be taken with a grain of salt, because nothing could have prevented the United States from growing, and the extent to which tariff protection assisted it is exaggerated. In many ways, it harmed America. I am not arguing against tariffs, hut against tariffs of the old sort such as we had in former times. They were determined by debates in both chambers of the Parliament. The rates went up and down, and all sorts of lobbying occurred.
I remember an amusing case in which accusations were made that certain manufacturers had forwarded goods to be sampled. Some people held up their hands in pious horror. Mr. George Reid - later Sir George Reid - who was then the leader of the free trade party, said, “Well, a manufacturer sent me a box of chocolates, and I wish to inform you that I ate all of them “. Of course, it did not affect his judgment.
We have got away from that, and set up a Tariff Board to which I give full credit. The Tariff Board has cleansed our tariff of many of the impurities that were in it. It has forced persons desiring protection to prove their case. I think I have mentioned before a most ridiculous case that occurred in 1929, before the Tariff Board was set up. A gentleman argued that he was producing an Australian article - a toy of some kind - and he wanted protection. He got it, and the result was that the price of every toy of that description was increased by 6d. throughout the Commonwealth. When some one went to investigate the value of the industry, he found that the man had a shed in a backyard - I think it was at Paddington - a lathe, a few simple carpentry tools and a boy to help him. This was the great Australian industry that was protected, and all its products and similar goods, too, cost 6d. more. We have got away from that.
I am not deaf to the arguments that the Associated Chambers of Manufactures and private manufacturers and people who understand the position have put to me that often the Tariff Board seems to operate slowly. It has to hear evidence, and that necessarily involves time. Consequently, it happens that an industry may be seriously damaged before the Tariff Board has determined whether the industry should have protection or not. But in a serious case the Minister for Customs and Excise can be approached and, on sufficient evidence, can give temporary protection until the Tariff Board determines the case.
This Government has realized the need for greater speed, and has increased the membership of the Tariff Board. The hearing of cases is more speedy; but some of the manufacturers still think the process is too slow. That is a statement that we should all treat with great caution. When I find persons wanting a sort of blanket protection and trying to maintain something that was never intended to protect industry, but had the effect of ruining a number of legitimate industries, I wonder whether their motives are entirely honorable. Some industries were not efficient and were not compelled to be efficient because there was no competition. If they have a good case, why cannot it be proved before the Tariff Board? If they can find another method’ of control or of stopping imports, and if it can be proved after due inquiry to be effective within the tariff, let us have it.
I want to put to the Senate the specific evils - some were mentioned by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) - that I have found in the system of import licensing. I believe that if that system had continued it would have been a great corrupting and constricting force. Putting it in general terms, there was too much bureaucratic control of business.
That meant control of private business by public officers, and not only by senior public officials under general rules laid down, but also by the detailed inquisition of a comparatively minor official into the affairs of a private business.
Secondly, a great knowledge of business was acquired by junior officers, and while it was necessary in the public interest that the broad details of business should be thrown open, it is not right in a competitive world that any man’s business should be pried into in a detailed way by twenty, thirty or perhaps ultimately by hundreds of comparatively junior officials.
Thirdly, there was the sale of licences. Those of you who had any dealing with this matter will know that it was constantly brought before us. I do not know how many discussions have been held on it, but on our side, it was discussed again and again and we argued what could be done about it. It was perfectly legal. If we wanted to prevent it or suppress it by law, that itself might have led to greater evils. Then there were allegations of corruption. I, as a Senator, had allegations of corruption made to me, and I found there was no evidence to support any of them. There was no evidence to support any of the allegations of corruption that were ever made. But it is not a good thing for the Public Service to work in an atmosphere in which a large proportion of the public believes there is corruption. Those charges did not come from only the irresponsible press or from irresponsible individuals. We heard them everywhere. We heard these things spoken about as though they were the accepted thing. For that reason alone I rejoiced with all my heart when I heard that the restrictions had gone - I hope forever.
As I have already said, there was also the fact that many of the industries that were fostered either were unnecessary or could be dispensed with. Therefore, I say that if we want protection let us leave it to the Tariff Board. If any other measure is necessary, let it be temporary. I was amazed to hear Senator Armstrong say that no one had asked to have import controls removed. That was demanded of me privately time and again. If there were importers who did not want the controls removed, I deplore their attitude because, as Senator Spooner said earlier to-night, one of the worst effects of the licensing system was that it helped to establish certain industries and to deter others. In particular, it helped to deter the enterprising young man who was prepared to take some risk. In this country, one of the most important things is that every enterprising young man should be encouraged and not discouraged.
I pass to the policy of the Government in endeavouring to increase exports. Some people, after hearing the speech of His Excellency the Administrator, expressed dissatisfaction because more legislation had not been promised. A government’s record must not be judged solely by the number of laws that are brought forward. I am very happy when we repeal a few laws because I think there are too many. Sound and solid administration which goes on all the time is more important than the passing of laws. “ Whate’er is best administered is best”. I give the fullest credit to the Department of Trade, the work of which I have seen abroad. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the officers of that department are assiduous, hard-working and intelligent. They are always seeking new ways to promote trade. I have found that there is in the department a fertility of resources which I never expect from government departments. In general, we expect a government department to carry on in the old and more established ways. Probably, the more departments stick to the ancient ways the better, but here in the field of trade is room for enterprise. We are going out to capture markets. The Department of Trade is the friend, the ally and the supporter of every kind of Australian trade.
I have heard criticism of our attempts to capture markets. Such criticism has come not only from Labour Party supporters but from other people also, but I can see no other way to extend our trade than to try every likely area throughout the world. However, our trade should never become mere government trading. Everything should be done, as far as it can be, on a trader-to-trader basis. The fewer the restrictions the better. It is a positive help to have the services of men who know the business they are dealing with. As honorable senators know, many of our trade commissioners have been recruited from fields that they understand.
– And many have not, too.
– The honorable senator’s experience may be greater than mine, but I say to him that possibly those trade commissioners may have learned in other ways. Sometimes a man who is brought up in one sphere understands another sphere quite well. The trade commissioners whom I have met are men who are not only diligent in what they do but are also knowledgeable about what they do. One or two new measures in relation to trade have been proposed, but as I have not heard Mr. McEwen’s statement in another place I cannot say exactly what they are. I do not think I should refer to the measures without having read the statement, although I happen to know something about them, but I think that whatever the Opposition may say, there will be much that it will secretly approve.
I come now to the Department of National Development, in respect of which there are two or three references in the Administrator’s Speech. F rst, the search for oil is being continued, and secondly, the export of iron ore is it) be approved. I wish to say with all humility that I have a suggestion to make to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) with regard to oil. I know that the production of oil from coal is at present very costly. I am not a chemist or a geologist, but I have spoken to chemists and geologists who have told me that they think it is not a vain dream that within a comparatively short time it may be possible to produce oil from coal at a greatly reduced cost. I commend that suggestion to the department for investigation. Of course, the great achievement of the Department of National Development is the Snowy Mountains scheme. We are all happy to see that the scheme is not only proceeding at a proper pace but has got ahead of it and probably will be completed long before the time stated.
A measure foreshadowed in the Administrator’s Speech is one to protect free enterprise against the development of monopolies and illegal trade practices. Of course, this matter has been spoken about all through our lives. The stock socialist answer used to be that it could not be done, that monopolies were inevitable and that that was the way capitalism was developed.
– That was the old socialist faith which I believed in when I was sixteen, but I have now grown far beyond sixteen, and I no longer believe it. The fact is that the free development of enterprise does continue. New industries arise, even in the land of monopolies. America used to be referred to as the land of trusts, and it was. The early part of this century was a period during which the most callous exploitation by huge industries occurred. But those industries have not succeeded in squeezing out small industries. They have not succeeded in preventing small industries from arising and they have not reduced everybody, as the socialists told us they would, to the position of helots. That is so partly because the socialist case was wrong. I think there is something latent in capitalism which allows it to renew itself and which, despite every effort of the big industries, allows little industries to come up. The anti-trust legislation of the United States has been a success. Mr. Booie used to say every week in the “ Worker “, “ What a failure it is! “. It it not a failure; it is a success. Only a week or two ago some very highly placed and very rich men in the United States were sentenced to imprisonment for breaches of the anti-trust laws. It is probably true that there are in every country men who ought to be gaoled, some of them in big industrial undertakings and some of them in other places.
I am confident that when the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has prepared the proposed legislation it will be good legislation, and I hope it will meet with the full support of the Opposition. This is an attempt to continue free enterprise, not to shackle it and ultimately lead us to socialism. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610308_senate_23_s19/>.