23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether there was any delay in the Royal Australian Air Force’s participation in the search for “ Lincoln Star “ which was lost in South Australian waters? Did the R.A.A.F. refuse to permit a civilian observer from the fishing fleet to be carried in the searching aircraft? Are talks as to who shall contribute to the cost of the operation held prior to the commencement of a search for a vessel?
– I can assure the honorable senator that there was no delay by the Royal Australian Air Force in commencing the search for “ Lincoln Star “. I was at the Edinburgh base when the call for assistance came and I am very proud to tell the Senate that within less than two hours of that call coming an R.A.A.F. plane was fully manned and on its way. That is a service that we are very happy to provide. Permission for a civilian observer to go in the aircraft was not refused. It is my recollection that the man who was nominated was a Mr. Wilson. It was claimed that he had special knowledge of all the activities of the fishing fleet, and when his services were made available to the crew of the aircraft they were readily accepted because obviously they would be a big help in the exercise.
Talks as to cost are never undertaken prior to an exercise. When a call is made for the saving of life, no delays at all are permitted. The Minister of Works in the Government of South Australia and the relatives of the victims of the tragedy have publicly expressed their appreciation of the part played by the R.A.A.F. in the search for the missing men.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, relates to the statement made by the Prime Minister prior to his recent departure for overseas to the effect that the Government was considering giving additional assistance for oil exploration in Australia. Is the Minister yet in a position to advise the Senate of the nature of the additional assistance referred to by the Prime Minister?
– I give the general reply that we shall keep on searching for oil until we find it. It is not generally appreciated that there have been three discoveries of oil in Australia and its Territories in recent years - one at Rough Range, one at Meda near Broome, and one at Puri in New Guinea - none of which was in commercial quantities. The present is rather a difficult time in the. history of the search for oil because we have not had any dramatic occurrences which stimulate investment, and there is a world surplus of oil. Against that background I think we are doing very well, and I think that our efforts may be successful much sooner than most people imagine. In the last three years our annual expenditure on the search for oil has been £5,000,000, £7,000,000 and £11,000,000 respectively. At present, the Government is maintaining the subsidy programme. I have not yet heard of anybody who has criticized the soundness of the Government’s procedure or the basis on which it has been developed. The Government has the benefit of the report from the French petroleum institute. My department is conferring with the various companies engaged in the search for oil and with the mines departments of the States to see whether agreement can be reached as to the soundest step to take next. It may take a few weeks to reach finality on that matter, and I would like to have those discussions completed and to have the benefit of all the professional advice available in Australia, before bringing down proposals for a new programme. In the meantime, the current programme is continuing, but I hope to have further proposals for a new programme in the near future.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether petroleum products are being exported from Australia as a result of the development of oil refineries here? If so, what countries are the principal buyers, and what is the approximate value of these exports?
– Yes, a nice export trade is being developed by the existing oil refineries in Australia. Last year, exports from those refineries amounted to about 1,500,000 tons, and the income earned therefrom was about £22,000,000. The exports were largely to New Zealand, but an appreciable quantity went also to areas further afield, such as Singapore and parts of Africa. Indeed, while going through some papers recently I was intrigued to discover that Australia has exported fuel oil to Argentina. This trade is developing. It is a trade that we want to see developing, because not only does it earn export income for this country, but it also makes more room for our coal trade.
– In view of certain statements made recently in Brisbane by leaders of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, I ask the Leader of the Government whether it is a fact that £300,000 was made available last year by the Commonwealth for civil defence. Is it true that last year only £33,000 of that amount was used? If so, why was not the whole of the allocation for this most serious and important work used?
– I think that civil defence is a matter that comes within the portfolio of the Minister for the Interior, but I have some general knowledge of the matter. The Government’s role in civil defence is that of co-ordinator. The Government aims to get the States together to act on a co-ordinated programme, with the States carrying the responsibility for the detailed work. I cannot say why all the allocation in question was not used. I suppose there was no need to use all of the money that was available. Perhaps the work required to be done last year was completed without expending the full allocation.
– Has the Minister for National Development read Australian press reports of 10th March relating to the suggestion of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Mr. Warren McDonald, in respect of the future development of northern Australia? Are these suggestions in line with the Govern ment’s policy? If not, does the Minister think that the Government’s policy of continuing development of the resources of northern Australia would be improved by adopting Mr. McDonald’s suggestions in part or in whole?
– Mr. Warren
McDonald is a strong advocate of the creation of a northern Australia development advisory commission of some kind. Quite a number of other people hold the same view. I can recall a television programme in which Mr. Keast, who is now with the Consolidated Zinc organization, advocated the same thing. I can only express a personal view on the matter. I do not subscribe to the view that that is the panacea for our difficulties in the north. This area, which is a tremendous slice of Australia, comes under the jurisdiction of three administrations - the Government of Western Australia, the Administration of the Northern Territory, and the Government of Queensland - and within the boundaries of those three areas each of the administrations has full legislative and executive authority.
I personally am of the school of thought which believes that the best way in which to help the north is for us all to get behind individual projects as they arise. I believe we would do better if we supported projects like those at Weipa and Rum Jungle and got behind the construction of new beef roads. I believe that, if you take each proposal as it arises and get behind it, you will do more than by trying to draw up a blue-print for an area which comprises one-third of Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: How many physically handicapped persons are registered for employment in each of the various States? How many such persons have been placed in employment since the campaign to encourage their employment was launched last year? In view of the difficulty which confronts the department in placing in employment even able-bodied persons, does the Minister believe there is any chance of physically handicapped persons being employed full time? Where the unemployment of physically handicapped persons is of long duration and is due solely to their physical deficiencies, will the Minister consider having such persons transferred to the invalid pensioners list, if that is financially advantageous to them?
– Because of the detailed information required in relation to the number of unemployed physically handicapped persons in the various States, I ask the honorable senator to place her question on the notice-paper. All I can add is that according to recent statements by employers and the Department of Labour and National Service large numbers - the details escape me for the moment - ‘have in fact been placed in employment since the campaign started.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate whether the Government has considered the recommendations of the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry? In view of some of the recommendations, does the Government intend to continue to pay the present subsidy until the termination of the agreement on 30th June, 1962? If the answer is in the affirmative, can he say whether the Government is prepared to subsidize the industry after 1962?
– The Government set up this committee of inquiry and furnished it with terms of reference which required it to make recommendations designed to place the industry on an efficient, economic and stable basis. That being Government policy, the Government will honour its undertaking to pay the subsidy until the termination of the present agreement which, I think, will be in 1962. The Government, because of its evaluation of the worth of this industry to the Australian economy, has expressed itself as being willing to discuss with the industry and the State governments a further stabilization plan to cover the five-year period after 1962.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for National Development, I refer to the recently issued report of the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee and the possibility of synthetic fuel production in Australia. Has the Minister considered the advisability of discussions with the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria in respect of the provisions of a small refinery to be attached to the generators of the Lurgi gas system at Morwell, where the corporation has vast gas generating plants and the necessary fuel to keep many more such generators going? Has the Minister been apprised of the tact that refining equipment costing not more than £9,000,000 would permit the production of approximately 100,000,000 gallons of fuel a year, even with the present gasification equipment?
– Yes, I remember the report of the body known as Curac. My recollection is that the committee rather inclined to the view that the best prospects for greater uses for coal lay with the development of gas, rather than fuel, for industrial purposes. The membership of the committee includes Dr. Andrews, who is the chairman of the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria. I have heard from time to time, of course, of proposals that liquid fuel should be produced by that organization. 1 know that there are people who advocate very strongly that the end result of such an undertaking would be satisfactory, but as such a large capital sum would be involved, and as the matter is allied so closely to the activities of the Gas and Fuel Corporation, one of Victoria’s greatest industrial enterprises, it is for the corporation to consider the pros and cons of the proposal and to make the required arrangements.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of preface, I refer to the statement made by the Minister yesterday that in lieu of an expected growth of 5 per cent, in air passenger traffic, there has been a decline this year which at present is running at the rate of 3 per cent. In the light of the substantial drop in air traffic, does the Minister not consider that the committee that was established to rationalize the services of Trans-Australia Airlines and AnsettA.N.A. might usefully be called together to consider methods of effecting economies?
If there is to be any re-arrangement of air services on account of this decline in passenger traffic, could attention be given to ensuring that services throughout the day are spaced more widely rather than concentrated as at present? By way of illustration, I point out that four aircraft, two owned by each of the airlines concerned, leave Adelaide between 7 a.m. and 7.15 a.m. for the eastern States each day. After their departure, there is a gap of about seven or eight hours before another aircraft leaves on a direct flight to the eastern States.
– The effect of traffic movements either up or down is a matter that is continually before the rationalization committee. It is not generally understood that the committee is in continual session. The body consists of a chairman, who is the co-ordinator, and representatives of the two major airline operators. Meetings are convened as required. In the past, this has meant that meetings have been called for every day of the week when certain problems have had to be dealt with. The question of traffic movement continually engages the attention of the committee. Senator Laught has again raised the question of the spacing of services. I am aware that in South Australia the situation is as the honorable senator describes it. In the other more removed parts of the Commonwealth the situation is the same. The honorable senator will appreciate that both major operators, in order to gain the optimum employment of their equipment, need, to have the equipment, at the most convenient times of the day, on routes where the traffic is densest. For that reason, the outlying parts of the Commonwealth are, unfortunately, at some inconvenience because the operators are seeking to achieve the best results from their equipment. I assure the honorable senator that time-tables and the convenience of the public, as well, of course, as the important matter of economic operating results, are continuously before the committee. I shall refer this question again to the committee to see whether anything can be done in the present circumstances.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization had any notice of the reported offer by Dr. P. A. Wright, of Armidale, New South Wales, to donate, I think, £5,000, contingent upon similar donations being made by four other persons, for the purpose of trying to find a remedy for bloat in cattle and sheep? If the Minister has had notice of the offer, will he say whether the offer has been accepted?
– No, I have heard nothing at all of the offer. I shall ask my colleague whether he knows anything about it.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to the report in this morning’s edition of the Melbourne “ Sun “ of a claim by Mr. Leslie Runton, a clothing manufacturer of America, that he has worked out a treatment for wool which produces a fabric containing the best qualities of wool and synthetics? Mr. Runton further claims that his treatment might even make synthetics obsolete for men’s wear. The treated cloth is said to have give and stretch and to return to its original shape when tension is removed. It is further claimed that it will not pill - that is, work into small pills - that it does not show a tendency to mat down like felt, and that it absorbs less moisture than conventional wool. If the Minister has not seen the report, will he investigate this claim, in view of the great importance of the wool industry to this country and the possibility of giving a great primary industry a real boost?
– I have not had an opportunity to discuss this report with the Minister for Primary Industry. It is needless for me to say that anything that affects the wool industry is of very great concern to senators on both sides of the chamber and, indeed, to every man, woman and child in Australia. Because of the immensity of the claims made for this new fabric, justice can be done to the subject only by my referring the matter to the Minister for Primary Industry and asking him to let me have a full report on the claim so that I may make it available to the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the. Minister for Health aware of the sad death of a child from Tasmania while en route to the United States of America for specialist heart treatment? There have been reports of other deaths in similar circumstances in recent years, after citizens of various States have raised large sums of money to assist the victims. Does the Minister consider that Australian doctors are incapable, of performing the necessary operation? If this is so, would it not be better and far less heart-breaking for the relatives of the victims if a team of specialists were sent to America to learn the necessary techniques so that the operation could be performed in Australia, as the long air journey involved in seeking treatment overseas probably adds to the danger to which the patients are exposed? Could such a project be included in the programme envisaged in the current National Heart Campaign?
– I know that from time to time people do go to -the United States of America for specialist operations. They go generally to a designated clinic which specializes in a particular type of operation. However, a person who goes would not go on the Minister’s decision or on the Minister’s judgment. He or she would go on the judgment of his or her medical advisers in this country irrespective of the Government. I shall take up with the Minister for Health the question whether such specialist clinics and specialist training should, or could, be provided at the expense of either the State or Commonwealth Governments.
– My question to the Minister for National Development relates to the construction of motor oil refineries as distinct from the type of refineries at present being set up in Australia. How many motor oil refineries are at present being constructed in Australia? Where are they being constructed? If and when they are completed will sufficient motor oil be refined in Australia to permit of export? How much will the refineries save Australia, m imports, and what is the estimate of export income from this industry?
– I assume that Senator Scott is referring to what we call lubricating oil refineries?
– I had better ask for the question to be put on notice. Very rapid development is taking place in the establishment of oil refineries. A new refinery is being assembled in Victoria, another one is being constructed1 alongside the present refinery at Botany Bay and another one is in contemplation in Queensland. . All in all there is fairly dramatic development in oil refining in Australia and I think if I ask Senator Scott to put his question on notice I shall be able to give him a more interesting reply than I could otherwise do.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say when we may expect a report from the inter-departmental committee which was set up by the Government some time ago to examine the two recommendations of the Boyer committee on the Public Service which were not adopted at the time when this chamber made various other amendments to the Public Service Act? The two recommendations to which I refer relate to conditions of employment for physicallyhandicapped persons, and to women who, when they marry, should be allowed the right to decide for themselves whether they will continue in employment as permanent officers in the Public Service, provided they qualify in all other respects and continue to comply with the terms of employment laid down.
– I well remember the circumstances of this committee being established and the statement being made that its report would be prepared promptly. If Senator Buttfield puts her question on notice, no doubt such action will stimulate a reply on these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Early last year there were rumours that Abbotts Laboratory Inc. of Chicago, Burroughs Wellcome and also the Glaxo people of London were out for a take-over of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. Did anything result from their inquiries last year? If not, are negotiations likely to be renewed this year or even later?
– The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have not been taken over by any group of individuals or firms, nor do I believe that they will be. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Health.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation is supplementary to that asked by Senator Laught about the falling off of passenger traffic on the major airlines operating in Australia. Has the Minister any figures relating to traffic carried by the airline company in Western Australia known as MacRobertson Miller Airlines? Has any approach been made by MacRobertson Miller Airlines to the Minister for additional aircraft to carry freight and passengers to the north-west of Western Australia where great developmental projects are now being carried out?
– During the whole of the last completed year, the traffic carried by MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited showed a small decline. That may be rather surprising to the honorable senator, but he will recall that in the year before last there was certain exploratory activity in the north of Western Australia. Afterwards, certain decisions were reached, and those decisions are only now being implemented. As a result of that sequence of events, the traffic during the last year fell off. It appears likely that there will be some increase in traffic during the current year. As the company believes from time to time that there is a need for additional equipment or for a variation of equipment, its representatives talk to my officers.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be in a position to commence taking evidence in connexion with stage four of the Government’s television programme, which includes the introduction of television into country districts of South Australia? Will the board at the same time be empowered to make recommendations regarding any relay stations which may be considered necessary to give adequate cover for the whole area?
– The position is that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has almost completed the arrangements for stage three of its programme with the allocation of thirteen new licences to provincial towns and closely populated rural areas. In the near future the board will proceed to analyse the problems that will have to be solved’ in the extension of television under stage four. The honorable senator has from time to time pressed’ for the extension of television to country areas, and I think he may know something of the complexity of the technical problems that are facing the control board. I have the assurance of the Postmaster-General that this matter is being attended to, and it is hoped in the very near future to make a start on arrangements for the extension of television to those areas not already being serviced.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the fact that some sections of the Australian press continue to criticize the development of Canberra as the National Capital, thereby causing many taxpayers to have serious misgivings about the right of the Government to allocate large sums of money for the development and beautification of Canberra, and in order to prove to all interested Australians that we have a capital city of which we can toe justifiably proud, will the Minister for the Interior suggest that the News and Information Bureau make a colour film of Canberra and have it made available for showing in all the Australian States and Territories, and also circulate it in overseas countries?
– I shall toe very happy to bring the suggestion made by the honorable senator to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. Criticism is sometimes levelled at the Government for its development of Canberra, but my experience leads me to believe that people who come here with some bias against Canberra invariably leave full of pride in the efforts that are being made to make this city a real national capital. Whether we be Victorians, or Western Australians, we are all Australians, and I am quite sure that as time goes on the rising generation will bless those who to-day are planning to make Canberra a capital worthy of a great nation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: - 1 and 2. It is not practicable, except at the taking of a census, to ascertain the number of persons unemployed in Australia or in any State of Australia. However, the number of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service at 24th February, 1961, and the number receiving unemployment benefit at 25th February, in each State and in Australia, were -
The figures of persons registered for employment are of those who claimed when registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced at the date shown. The figures include persons - (i) who, since registering, had been referred to employers, but whose placement had not been confirmed at 24th February, 1961, (ii) who, since registering, may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service, and (iii) receiving unemployment benefit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary industry, upon notice -
What are the prices paid to growers per bushel case on an “ on rail “ basis in each of the exporting States this season for the following varieties of apples, viz., Jonathan, Cleopatra, Granny Smith and Dunn’s?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information: -
It is not practicable to provide a simple answer to the honorable senator’s question. There is no regulation or generally established arrangement in respect of the prices paid to growers for export apples - official or otherwise. The matter is entirely one for negotiation between individual growers and merchants. Industry selling practices differ in the various States and it is not possible to secure reliable information on returns received by growers as a whole in any State. As an indication of the relativity of export prices as between the States, the following are the minimum prices presently established by exporter groups in the States for sales of 1961 season’s apples to United Kingdom importers: -
These prices are all on the basis of cost and freight per case to United Kingdom port in sterling currency.
Debate resumed from 14th March (vide page 158), on motion by Senator Mattner -
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
Upon which Senator Armstrong had moved, by way of amendment -
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 “.
– Mr. President, when the Senate adjourned last night I was speaking in support of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I mentioned that one subject that was causing me some alarm was the present tendency for State Governments and Australians generally, when they encounter problems, to refer them to the Commonwealth Government. In other words, there has been a tendency towards granting greater powers to the Commonwealth Government. I believe that that is a tendency that we members of this Senate must resist, because if we follow it to its logical conclusion, with the whittling down of State powers and the building up of federal powers, it could lead to a virtual dictatorship. The centralization of powers in one federal government could bring about the ultimate extinction of State governments with all power then being vested in this Parliament. Of course, if our opponents on the other side of the chamber happened to be in power, the next step would be the abolition of the Senate because that is their declared policy and platform. All power would then be vested in one House.If there was a ruthless leader of either political complexion, who could dominate the rest of his Cabinet, we could finish up with a virtual dictatorship of Australia.
– Where did you get the crystal ball?
-I read a very interesting book on the problem of the centralization of powers in the central government and the abolition of the second chamber, which lead to the position where a dictatorship is possible. That problem is confronting America to-day. The great bulwark against the extreme socialist or Communist doctrines of to-day is the decentralization of powers. We, as members of this chamber, should be ever-watchful to ensure that the Commonwealth Government shall never become all-powerful at the expense of the States.
Last night I addressed myself to the subject of tourism. I did not refer to one facet of it, and I should like to do so to-day; that is the part that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has played, through his department, in trying to assist tourism. One of the things that he has done since taking over this portfolio has been to improve vastly the facilities at our air terminals. Recently he announced that the new cocktail lounge and speedy service bar at Sydney airport is expected to open in June. Senator Paltridge also stated that similar facilities would be made available at Melbourne airport later this year. He said that similar facilities were planned for Brisbane and Hobart and were already in operation at Perth and Darwin. Senator Paltridge said that fifteen firms, including one from New Zealand, had tendered for the three-year concession at Sydney. In a press statement he said -
My department was highly impressed with the successful company’s ideas. It has undertaken to provide facilities equal to those at leading overseas airports. The finished product should provide a first-class service to the travelling public.
I place on record my appreciation of the contribution made by the Minister for Civil Aviation and his department to the tourist industry.
Senator McKenna based the whole of this speech on an allegation that this Government lacked leadership. That was an amazing statement coming from the leader in this chamber of a political party that has been itself in great trouble with its leadership. When Senator McKenna referred to the leadership of the Government he must have been referring to Mr. Menzies. Senator McKenna could not have been referring to anybody else, because Mr. Menzies is the leader of the Government. It is an interesting exercise to look at the record of this person whom Senator McKenna ‘claims lacks the qualities of leadership. Mr. Menzies was elected to the Legislative Council of Victoria in 1928. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria from 1929 to 1934. He was an Honorary Minister in the Mcpherson Government from 1928 to 1929. He was Attorney-General and Minister for Railways from 1932 to 1934.
Senator Cant is interjecting. I know that my recital of Mr. Menzies’s record hurts honorable senators opposite, but could they produce a leader with ‘a similar record? Mr. Menzies was Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Industry from 1934 to 1939. He was deputy leader of the United Australia Party from 1936 to 1939 and leader of that party from 1939 to 1941. He has been leader of the Australian Liberal Party since 1943. What can the Labour Party claim about its leaders over that period? Mr. Menzies has led a party that has not been split, whereas the Labour Party has always been troubled by factions within it, and it could not be claimed that some supporters of some of those factions are loyal supporters of the Labour Party. This man whom Senator McKenna claims is not a leader was Prime Minister of Australia from 1939 to 1941 and, to the great distress of .the Labour Party, he has been Prime Minister since December, 1949. So much for Senator McKenna’s criticism of one of the finest Australians this country has ever produced.
– You will get on.
– I hope that I get on better than some honorable senators opposite, who have been sitting on that side of the chamber for more than ten years now.
In his Speech the Administrator referred to atomic energy. When we talk of increasing exports we must remember that we are competing in a very competitive market. Costs become an important fac tor. I am sure that the cost of production of many things could be reduced if manufacturers would take a greater interest in the use of radio isotopes. It is interesting to note the extent to which radio isotopes are used in America. One paper company in America saves more than 193,000 dollars annually by using isotope thickness gauges, which cost less than 10,000 dollars a year to use. In the manufacture of pressure vessels, such as boilers, the use of isotope radiography has led to an annual saving of 100,000 dollars on the cost of doing the work with X-ray machines. In America one large petroleum company, by using catalyst circulation meters at an annual cost of 2,400 dollars, is able to produce an extra 2,000,000 dollars worth of petrol annually without incurring any increase in production costs. As far back as 1956 the United States Atomic Energy Commission sought information from 40 industrial isotope users. That information showed that by using isotopes those industries were saving between 300,000,000 and 400,000,000 dollars a year. I know that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has been doing everything in its power to encourage industries to make greater use of radio isotopes. The commission, in its report for the year ended 30th June, 1960, states -
Two changes were made in the Advisory Service during the latter half of the year. Firstly, a direct consulting service to industry was initiated on a limited scale. This had been one of the objectives of the Isotopes Section for some time.
This change allowed of more extensive direct assistance to commercial and industrial organizations. Charges are made for services and materials supplied by the Commission. Six projects of this kind were undertaken in the first four months and eight more planned.
Some time ago, I suggested to the Minister concerned that the commission should establish a school and invite leaders of industry to send selected employees to that school. A school of this kind is conducted in England at week-ends. Those who attend the school are shown the uses of radio isotopes and the savings that can be effected by their use. The commission’s report continues -
Early in 1960 the Section-
That is, the Isotope Section - took the initiative .in making direct approaches to various firms. The industries concerned welcomed these approaches, and a number of successful! applications ‘of radio-isotope techniques resulted.
Both changes stimulated interest in the Advisory Service, as well as enabling its limited resources to be applied to the best advantage. The number of new enquiries has increased substantially in recent months.
From memory, I think that in the preceding year there were about 310 inquiries, but during the last financial year about 500 letters were dealt with and ten lectures delivered.
– ls the use of isotopes confined to commercial processing?
– Some use has been made of isotopes for agricultural purposes. They are used widely in food processing. One of the first big plants to use isotopes in the world was the Westminster Carpet Company Proprietary Limited of Victoria. I understand that some experiments are being undertaken in Victoria on the use of isotopes in food processing establishments. Firms experimenting with radio isotopes are co-operating with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and with the Wantage Radiation Laboratories in England.
I want to pay a tribute to the wonderful effort of the people of Australia. They have done a tremendous job in making Australia one of the great nations of the world. Let us remember that although we are a nation of a mere 10,000,000 people we rank as one of the top ten trading nations of the world. A very high proportion of our gross national product is exported. That proportion is more than three times the proportion of the gross national product exported by the United States, and as compared with Japan, which is one of the world’s most active exporters, our proportion of exports is even higher. I pay a tribute to the people of Australia because it is they who, by hard work, drive, initiative and ability, have achieved this state of affairs. The Government takes credit for the fact that it has created the necessary climate.
One of the difficulties we face in this year, 1961, is that the prices we have been paying for our imports have risen while the prices we have received for our exports have fallen. The year 1951 was a year of boom, 1952 was a year of recession, but 1953 was considered to be a normal year. If we take 1953 as the base year, we find that the decline in our terms of trade over the past eight years has been approximately 35 per cent. In other words, what we now receive for a given quantity of exports will pay for only about 65 per cent, of the imports it would have bought eight years ago. Let me put it in a slightly different way. Assuming we paid comparable prices for our imports in 1953 and in 1960-61, our estimated £880,000,000 worth of exports this year ‘Would have produced1 an export income of approximately £1,350,000,000 in 1953. In 1960, the value of the goods we were able to import from the proceeds of our exports was 35 per cent, less than in 1953. So, we would have needed to export 50 per cent, more in 1960 to enable us to bring in the same value of imports as in 1953.
It cannot be said that there has been any falling off of the volume of our exports. The fall in export income over recent years has not been the result of a decline in the volume of exports. For example, the volume of wool produced has risen by 48 per cent, since 1949-50, but our income from that product has declined. In the first six months of this financial year the value of wool exported was £164,000,000, which represents a drop of £37,000,000 on the return for the corresponding period in 1959-60. They are circumstances over which we have no control, because wool is sold on the open market for whatever the purchaser is prepared to pay.
We as individuals know that if our capacity to spend is reduced from £1,000 to £650, there is no easy way in which to adjust the situation; we just have to do it the hard way. The same is true of Australia as a nation. We soon get into trouble if we spend more than we earn. Consequently, the Government has had to take certain action, with which I entirely agree. I believe the Government was courageous in taking the action it did. Yesterday Senator Toohey almost castigated this Government because some of its supporters had criticized it. Of course, they criticized1 us. Goodness me, some one will always be hurt when certain restrictive measures need to be taken. Our supporters have criticized us, and they have done so trenchantly. The Government expected that they would, but it had the courage, on the eve of an election year, to deal out the medicine that it thought was necessary for the nation. I think it is a tribute to this Government that its own supporters should have criticized it. At least it shows that the Government had courage. I wonder whether our opponents would have displayed the same courage in similar circumstances. 1 congratulate the Government upon the policy it has adopted to govern the affairs of this nation - a policy of sustained development such as we have seen over the last twelve years, an immigration programme which means the bringing in of 120,000 new people each year-
– One hundred and thirty-three thousand.
– Senator DrakeBrockman reminds me that the intake is 133,000 per annum. Our policy has not been like that of Canada, which has brought in some 200,000 migrants in one year and none in the next. What has been the result there? Canada has approximately 700,000 persons unemployed. But this Government has steadily kept up its immigration programme
– And it has maintained full employment.
– That is so. Moreover, our standard of living is still as high as that of any other country in the world. Judged by world standards, Australia is a remarkably lucky country. The pitiable thing is that a large section of its population, in the midst of a prosperity which is unique in the world, whines continually, demanding shorter hours, picturing the horrors that are attendant upon having only three weeks’ holiday in a year; and such people strike every time some Communist agitator who has wormed himself into place and power gives the order to delay progress by instigating strikes. Also, there are employers who moan about the most modest taxation in the civilized world, but who have the fullest order books. Some of these people should buy a few overseas journals and study the condition of affairs in other countries. 1 refer particularly to the United States of America with approximately 6,000,000 unemployed, and Canada, where between 10 per cent, and 1 1 per cent, of the work force is unemployed. The United Kingdom is in real conflict about the matter of wages and hours. France is fighting for its life with a major war in Algeria on its hands. China is just emerging from a vast drought which appears to have killed off millions and to have put millions of others on a starvation diet. There has never before been a country of 10,000,000 people who have lived in such a period of expansion and on such a scale of luxurious prosperity as do the people of Australia to-day. Australia’s condition and standards astound every visitor.
When Senator McKenna challenged the Government in relation to the economic measures it had adopted, I was amazed to see him hang his hat on a challenge to leadership. Of course, it is the right of the Opposition to oppose, but it should also put forward some constructive suggestion to meet such problems. But I have not heard any such constructive suggestions.
– Even Senator Dittmer is quiet.
– Senator Dittmer is yet to speak. He may produce some constructive suggestions.
– He certainly will.
– I wish to repeat something that I said yesterday, because I believe it to be of vital importance. It is this: I hope the Government will move very quickly towards a decision about the standardization of the railway gauges in Western Australia, despite the fact that there may be some opposition from other States. The standardization of the railway gauge in Western Australia would mean a lot not only to that State but also to the nation as a whole. If the gauge of the line from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana was standardized and the agreement which has been signed by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. and the Western Australian Government was put into operation, the out-flow of capital for imports of steel could be arrested. The more quickly the scheme is put into operation, the better it will be for all concerned in Australia. 1 support the motion, but I oppose the amendment.
.- In addressing myself to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, there are two matters particularly on which 1 agree with the Government. They are, first, the sentiments of loyalty that have been expressed to Her Majesty the Queen and, secondly, the deep regret that has been expressed at the untimely passing of Lord Dunrossil. I had not intended, Mr. Deputy
President, to mention anything about your leader, the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies, had I not been compelled to do so by the challenge thrown out by Senator Branson. He put your leader up as, I think he said, Australia’s greatest statesman. He said that he would go back into history, but he did not go back far enough, nor did he tell us very much.
Let me take Senator Branson back to 1914, when the same right honorable gentleman to whom I have referred resigned his commission in the University Rifles on the outbreak of war. When the late Billy Hughes was a member of the Menzies Government, he said that Mr. Menzies “ cannot lead and will not follow.” Surely Billy Hughes was right. In 1938, when Mr. Menzies was serving under the late Mr. Lyons, because of a disagreement over a proposed national insurance scheme, he walked out of the Lyons Government. Let us come to 1941.
– Do not come too much later.
– I intend to come right up to date, if the honorable senator wishes to listen. In 1941, when the greatest test of leadership was thrown at Mr. Menzies’s feet, he failed dismally. To use a military term, he deserted in the face of the enemy. It devolved on the Australian Labour Party, led by the late John Curtin, an infinitely greater statesman, to take over the reins of government and steer Australia through the greatest crisis we have ever experienced.
Soon after the Curtin government took office, the War Advisory Council was constituted. Mr. Menzies was invited to join the council. He joined it for a while, but because he could not get his own way he walked out of the council, too. Let us come up to recent times. Only last year, he made his inglorious trip to the United Nations, where he scored an all-time low. In support of his proposal he secured only four votes, the lowest number ever recorded in the history of the United Nations. We remember, too, that he made a trek to Cairo, when he was going to put Egypt’s Nasser in his place over the Suez crisis. He was there for about five minutes and had to beat an ignominious retreat from Egypt. Despite the fact that almost every country of the world violently opposed the South
African policy of apartheid, the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies supported that policy.
Criticism of the great Labour leaders that we have had, although they were infinitely greater statesmen than Mr. Menzies could ever hope to be, has been indulged in even by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner). Listen to the mean, contemptible statement that he made during his speech in this chamber recently. His comment arose from Senator Armstrong’s criticism of the frequent absences from Australia of the Prime Minister. Digressing for a moment, I may say that during a television programme that I saw two or three weeks ago, I heard the compere say in purporting to read from his diary, “The latest information is that Mr. Menzies leaves to-morrow on his ten months’ annual overseas tour “. Senator Spooner stated, on the occasion to which I have, referred -
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 not 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.
What a mean, despicable statement to make! The same honorable senator supported the Government that deserted in the face of the enemy in 1941. He knows, or should know, that it would have been a case of God help Australia had there not been a Labour Party to take over the reins of government at that time. He also knows that the petrol rationing, the prices control and the other control’s that were absolutely necessary in time of war had the effect of making the Australian economy, at the end of World War II., more stable than that of any other country. Derogatory statements are made by comparatively new members of the Senate. Perhaps if they had longer experience of this Parliament they would not have had the temerity to speak as they do.
This Government, Mr. Deputy President, is the most arrogant and carefree government in the history of the Commonwealth
It is absolutely arrogant and quite carefree. 1 propose to make a suggestion to the Government which may be helpful to the community at large. I suggest that arrangements might be made for the Government’s economic, policy to be made known with the weather forecast each day. At present, the whole country is in a quandary. Business people are perplexed and the workers are frustrated. Particularly during the last twelve months, the Government has hit right and left like a punch-drunk fighter. Apparently it has been quite insensitive to the economic effects that its wild and reckless swings might have on the community generally. As a result, the community is on tenterhooks; it just does not know where it is going because of the continued, rapid and violent changes of economic policy.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber referred last night to the new words and phrases that are being used in referring to the economy. Twelve months ago, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) adopted a military style of speech. He told the people that the Government was going to make a two-pronged attack on inflation. What were the prongs of the attack? One of them was the lifting of import controls. Obviously, the removal of import controls or restrictions would mean that imports from other countries could flood into Australia. That is what is happening at the present time. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, which is not a pro-Labour organization, issued a warning at the time the controls were removed. It stated, amongst other things, that in removing import controls the Government virtually was importing unemployment into Australia. Unfortunately, that is what has happened.
I do not propose to enumerate the unnecessary goods that are being imported, but it cannot be denied that a host of nonessential luxury goods are being imported, to the detriment of Australian industry, although similar .goods of better quality could be manufactured in Australia. All that we have had from the Prime Minister, this statesman to whom Senator Branson has referred, have been inane and senseless appeals to big business to show restraint. What was the reaction of big business to those appeals by the Prime Minister? Im- mediately it was known that import controls had. been lifted, every aircraft that left Australia was full of representatives of big business seeking to place big: orders overseas for cheap-labour goods.
My time is very limited, and there are many matters to which I should like to refer. I shall have to skip over some of them rather briefly. What was the second prong of the attack? It was the unprecedented step of appearing officially before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to oppose any increase in the basic wage. While Ministers and supporters of the Government were tearing, round the country, prattling about the unprecedented prosperity of Australia, the Government was appearing officially before the commission to oppose any increase whatever in the basic wage. In effect, it was saying that, although the country was unprecedentedly prosperous, the workers should not be permitted to share in the prosperity. In order that we should not be mistaken, about it, the Government is appearing again this year before the commission to oppose any increase in the basie wage. A report in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 2nd. March reads - “ The future economy of the nation may depend to a large extent on the decision of the Commonwealth. Arbitration Commission on the basic wage case,” Mr. S. T. Frost told the commission, yesterday.
After saying that, and thus informing the commission that the Government opposed any increase in the basic wage, he said that the Commonwealth was not supporting either party in the case. That just does not make sense. He said that the future of the economy might depend to a large extent on the commission’s decision. In’ fact, the Government is again opposing any increase in the basic wage.
There is prosperity in Australia at present, but it is a one-sided prosperity, which is being enjoyed by big business undertakings. Honorable senators opposite do not like, to hear these facts. The increased interest rates that have been imposed under this Government’s economic policy are costing the worker who has a housing loan from £15 to £20 a year extra in interest. Those who are seeking financial accommodation, either to build or buy homes, cannot get it. At present, because of the economic policy, the whole economy is on tenterhooks; no one knows where it is going. Every industry is being adversely affected. The building and allied industries and the textile industry are at an all-time low, yet the Government says that the measures are having their intended effect. That means that the effect was deliberately planned. This Government’s deliberate policy is to induce shortages and create the unemployment to which 1 shall refer in a moment. Criticism of the Government is coming even from its own supporters, who hitherto have supported the Government throughout, right up to the hilt, in every move. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in another place last week, mentioned in a question that 45 sawmills in his electorate had closed down. Last week also, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), complained in another place that the credit squeeze was having a very grave effect on the people of Queensland. He suggested to the Government that the restrictions should be eased in Queensland. Although he did not have the temerity to say so. possibly he would like to see them eased only in the electorate of Wide Bay.
Let us consider the extra 10 per cent, sales tax imposed recently on motor vehicles. That was only a few months ago, and it was made a national issue. Ministers were even saying that it was so important that it might precipitate a double dissolution. It was so important that the Prime Minister attended in the chamber to see the vital vote. Senator Wood, to his everlasting credit, stood out. That dramatic senator from Tasmania, who was very critical of the Government, voted against the measure on the first occasion, but when it was recommitted he did what he has done before. He did not have the intestinal courage to vote against the Government, and he walked out. Those honorable senators who have been here for a few years remember that that is not an unusual course for that senator to follow. Only a few short years ago he moved an amendment to Government legislation and, because of the pressure used on him, he finished by voting against his own amendment.
In spite of repeated requests from this side of the chamber, the Government was adamant that the increase in sales tax would not be removed for at least twelve months. Then, on the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure for overseas, he said in a press statement - without consultation with and obviously without the knowledge of his Ministers and colleagues because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) did not know about it - that the extra 10 per cent, sales tax had been removed. This indicated forcibly again that the Government is becoming more and more a one-man band. As a matter of fact, Bob Dyer has nothing on Bob Menzies in copping the lot. At present, he is Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. A short while ago, in addition to holding those two important portfolios, he was acting Treasurer during the absence of Mr. Holt, and Acting Attorney-General during the absence of Sir Garfield Barwick. Decisions are being taken by the Prime Minister without the knowledge of, and without consultation with, his colleagues.
My time is fast running out, and I do not want to miss having something to say on the very important matter of unemployment, to which Ministers invariably refer in terms of percentages, as it sounds a lot better that way. Saying that only 1.7 per cent, of the work force is unemployed does not sound nearly as bad as saying that 80,000 persons are unemployed. In answer to a question to-day, even Senator Gorton admitted that on the latest available figures 73,000 were registered as unemployed. He should, and probably does know, although he will not admit it, that many thousands more unemployed are not registered for unemployment benefit. The cool, callous, inhuman approach of these wealthy Ministers, sitting there in their comfortable chairs, is to refer to the desperate plight of the unemployed in terms of percentages. Senator Spooner, for instance, in answer to questions last week, said that the unemployment position in Australia was of no consequence at all. The Government did not think it was serious. Yet on its own admission 73,000 persons - a fair crowd in itself, but taking their dependants into consideration, well over 200,000 persons - are suffering because of unemployment. Let me put it to the Senate this way: If Senator Spooner were not the wealthy man we know he is, and if he were to become unemployed and have to depend on an unemployment dole, what would be his reaction?
What would be the reaction of Mrs. Spooner if Senator Spooner went home and said, “ Darling, 1 am out of work, but do not forget there are many more unemployed in America and England than there are here “. I suppose Mrs. Spooner’s reaction would be to say, “ It doesn’t matter, Willie, dear, provided we are part of what the Menzies Government considers to be a very small percentage. We will say nothing about it because we might embarrass the Government or cause a panic.” We are told not to talk about unemployment because we might cause a panic. That apparently would be the reaction of those patriotic people who, in effect, say, “ We will not tell anybody we are unemployed because that might embarrass the Menzies Government and in addition it might cause deflation in the profits of the big industrial undertakings “.
To-day’s Melbourne “ Age “ reports additional dismissals from the motor industry. It is futile and stupid on the part of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in this chamber to tell us that 70,000 odd persons are unemployed and then to pluck some figure out of the air, or think of a number and double it, and tell us that there are so many unfilled vacancies in Australia. I reply as simply as I can, trying to elucidate and make common sense out of what the Minister says, “ What in the name of God is the good of telling a baker who is dismissed in Queensland that there is a vacancy for a turner and fitter in Tasmania? “ That is the position as far as unfilled vacancies are concerned. We do not know the nature of those vacancies, nor do we know where they exist. As Senator Toohey pointed out last night, thousands of unemployed people would not be qualified to take the positions that are waiting to be filled. Those are facts but this Government will not face up to them.
The only answer we invariably get from responsible Ministers - it would be more appropriate to term them irresponsible - is that the Government is watching the position. Is that going to pay the grocer’s bill or the butcher’s bill for the poor persons who are unemployed? The Government has no conception of the distress that is caused to not only the unemployed breadwinner but also his family when it brushes off the matter by saying that there are not as many unemployed in Australia as there are unemployed in Canada, America or somewhere else. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is in the chamber at the present time, has been oozing the expression recently that the Government is “ dampening down “ activity. I would say that it is soaking everything down; and in many industries it is using not just an ordinary garden hose but a fire hose to soak everything down. That is the only impression we can get from the conditions that are obtaining in this country to-day. The Government is like the ostrich which buries its head in the sand.
To-day Senator Branson referred to the danger of concentrating power in Canberra.
– That is right.
– That proves how hypocritical this Government is. In 1956, of its own volition, it constituted a select committee to inquire into constitutional reform. That committee submitted a preliminary report in 1958 and its final report in 1959, recommending certain constitutional reforms which, of course, would have to be carried at a referendum. If all parties were to support the recommended reforms no doubt such reforms would be endorsed by the people. The Government admits - we hear it said repeatedly in this chamber - that it has not the constitutional power to deal with certain matters which gravely affect the economy of this country. I suggest that the Government does not want any such power because it is too cowardly and prefers to hide behind its constitutional difficulties.
The select committee that inquired into constitutional reform was composed of six members from the Government side and six members of the Opposition. Excepting in one instance the recommendations placed before the Government were made unanimously. Yet the only answer we can get from Ministers when we ask whether the report has been considered and whether there is any possibility of these matters being placed before the people at a referendum, is that the Government is watching the position or is examining the report. If the Government has any sincerity, or any desire to cope with the problems confronting the nation, it is time that it attempted to obtain the requisite constitutional power to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with such matters as restrictive trade practices, uniform company law and various other matters such as profits and prices control. Is it right or just that workers’ wages should be continually pegged while prices .and profits are allowed to run sky high with no control whatever? I do not want to go into the astronomical profits that have been made by various companies in Australia over the past few years. To be an effective national government, this Government must see that the Commonwealth Parliament is clothed with the necessary power.
I think my time has expired. In conclusion Jet me say that this Government is a government of guilty men. It has sold or given away the country’s assets to its friends during its period of office. It has been kept in office by bringing out the little red rabbit every now and again. I ‘suppose it has another one in a box in the backyard ready for the end of the year. It is like a military force which, seeing inevitable defeat, adopts a scorched earth policy. The Government reminds me too of an oldfashioned draper’s shop; it is full of bloomers. I strongly support the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong and I even hope that some members on the Government side will see the folly of their ways and will not walk out but will vote for the amendment.
– In speaking .to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I should like to associate myself with previous speakers in their expression of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. I should also like to express my deep regret at the passing of our late Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. I had an opportunity to meet Viscount Dunrossil in London early last year prior to my departure from that city. I was immensely impressed with him and felt very pleased that we had chosen a man of such eminent personality and fine character to be the Governor-General of Australia. I am sure we all deeply regret that his term of office was so short and was terminated so abruptly. We have lost a man who had gained eminence in world affairs, a man of great character, and one who T am sure, would have graced the office of Governor-General of Australia in a most distinguished way.
The subject before the chair is the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech that was delivered by His Excellency the Administrator at the opening of the Parliament last week. Of recent years, we have adopted the practice - a very good one, I think - of having a formal opening early in each year. I have noticed that most of the speeches that have been delivered in this debate have been directed in the main to the economic measures that were recently introduced by the Government. I most heartily support those measures and I believe that ultimately the people of Australia will acknowledge our wisdom in introducing them. The Government’s object was to prevent the boom conditions from reaching the stage at which the economy could no longer stand the strain and would burst. We have all heard the expression “ boom and bust “. In many countries, unfortunately, a boom has been followed by a burst. The Government realizes that if that happened in Australia it would be infinitely more destructive of our economy than the relatively minor disruption that has been brought about by our recent financial measures, which, admittedly, have been followed by adjustments in employment in certain industries. That is fully admitted. We regret that these adjustments have brought a certain amount of unemployment in their train, but I suggest that this is of a temporary nature. The effects of the Government’s measures are not very apparent at the present time, but we believe that they are in fact bearing fruit and that in the not-too-distant future they will restore the stable condition of our economy that we previously enjoyed.
The Opposition, Sir, has loudly criticized the Government’s policy. The main theme of its attack .down .the years has been that the Government has brought about inflation - that has been the Opposition’s catchcry - and has done nothing to remedy the position. Now that the Government has introduced measures designed to check inflation, the Opposition claims that the Government has done the wrong thing. The Opposition has rejected, almost in their entirety, the economic measures that the Government has introduced. Its attitude has not been consistent in this respect.
The amendment moved by Senator Armstrong ‘Claims that the manner in which the Government has directed the Australian economy has resulted in ten grievous consequences. Honorable senators are familiar with the terms of the amendment and, if time permitted, each of those alleged consequences of the Government’s policy could be debated on its merits, i am sure that, gwen the dme, I could effectively answer each of these allegations. I say without hesitation that the allegations enumerated in the amendment cannot be sustained; .they are very wide of the mark.
Some very interesting speeches have come from the Opposition side of the chamber during this debate, but before I deal with the points .that were raised in them I should like to say that, in moving the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, Senator Mattner made an admirable speech, and the motion was ably seconded by Senator McKellar. Senator Mattner’s speech covered many facets of government.
– It was a long speech.
– Yes, and a. good one. It was evident that Senator Mattner had given a lot of thought to ‘the many .aspects ©f the affairs of the nation, with which he dealt. I ‘congratulate him on ‘his very fine speech. Although I did not hear the whole of Senator McKellar’s speech in which he ‘seconded the motion, I ‘believe that it was .quite up Co the ‘Standard of the speeches that have been delivered on similar occasions in previous years.
When introducing his amendment. Senator Armstrong laid great stress on the fact that the Government had removed import controls. I have always suspected that Senator Armstrong was a high protection man. Over the years I Have always felt that he was a great believer in giving Australian industries all possible protection. On this occasion, he has gone further than that by advocating additional protection by means of import controls. He said that in his opinion the Government had accentuated the difficulties in the economy by removing import controls. I think that he would have been better employed in telling the people of Australia the remedies that his party would apply in carrying on the affairs of this country if it were in office.
I have gone to the trouble of culling from statements that have been made by supporters of the Labour Party over the years a number of ‘points they made, and my notes make interesting reading. The points that I have noted and which I shall enunciate arose from A.L.P. federal conference decisions, A.L.P. leaders’ policy speeches, key A.L.P. parliamentarians and the writings of A.L.P. theoreticians, a term which I think applies to the type of individual who is exemplified by Senator Cameron, who sits on the other side of the chamber. Some of these points, as I have said, are very interesting.
It is we’ll that I should tell the people of Australia that the Australian Labour Party, if it were in government, would introduce stringent banking controls, control of prices, profits and .rents, control of interest rates other than bank interest rates, capital issues control, extended import controls, Which would ‘appeal to Senator Armstrong, and control of .marketing within Australia. A Labour government would restore and extend federal land tax, which this Government in its wisdom abolished as a means ‘O’f raising federal revenue; and it would impose savage discriminatory taxation, an -excess profits tax, increased death duties, a capital gains tax and, possibly, a capital levy. I say “ possibly “ because I believe that the imposition of a capital levy would not be too popular among members of the Opposition. However, one Labour senator has strongly advocated a capital levy.
– Was he Senator Cameron?
– I would rather not mention names. I will go so far as to say that it was a prominent member of the Labour Opposition in the Senate. The matters I have mentioned indicate .the type of ‘government that would be imposed on the people of Australia by .the Labour Party.
I believe in all sincerity that the average Australian does not want that type of government because, in effect, it would mean that the -strait-jacket of socialism would be applied to the whole Australian economy. We know that when we went to the people on 1’Oth December, 1949, they were sick and tired of that type of administration; and they elected a Liberal-Country Party government which believed in a free-running economy instead of the strait-jacket economy that had been imposed on the people in the post-war years. I do not want to under-estimate the difficulties encountered by the Labour Government in the post-war years. I know that they were very considerable. But that Government failed to rise to the occasion. By 1949, the Australian people were heartily sick and tired of Labour and consequently the present Government came into office.
I wish to deal with one or two speeches made by members of the Opposition. I refer to some remarks made by Senator Toohey. He went to great pains to direct the attention of the Senate-
– Where is he from?
– He is a
Labour senator from South Australia. I have a high personal regard for him and his undoubted ability. He referred to comments that had been made by prominent Australian people on the economic measures that were brought down in November, 1960. He pinpointed one or two individuals. He referred to Sir Barton Pope, who is the head of the great firm of Pope Industries Limited, which has its head-quarters in Adelaide. When I interjected, probably in a most unparliamentary way, Senator Toohey tried to trap me into saying that I was charging Sir Barton Pope with lying when he made a statement criticizing the Government’s economic measures. I suggested that Sir Barton Pope had an axe to grind, and I do not think I was very far wrong in making that suggestion. A good many people had axes to grind as a result of the economic measures brought down by the Government. That has been suggested in an editorial published in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ under the heading “ A time for calm, not hysteria “. That editorial contained these words -
The pack is in full cry. Everyone with an axe to grind, political, industrial or personal, is grinding it furiously since the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday.
I suggested, without impugning Sir Barton Pope’s character, that he was one who looked at the present situation in a way which was not altogether correct because he applied his mind to only one aspect of the economic measures, and that was how they affected his industry or firm. I suggested that the dismissals from Pope Industries Limited in Adelaide were premature, and were not consequent upon the Government’s economic measures. I suggest, further, that there has been a good deal of over-production in the electronics industry in’ many parts of the world. That is not confined to Australia. That part of the industry in which firms such as Pope Industries Limited are engaged in South Australia has been rather adversely affected in recent months. Overproduction rather than the Government’s economic measures has ‘been responsible for the dismissals.
– The industry has reached saturation point.
– I believe that that is correct. Senator Pearson has put his finger right on the point. There has been over-production in the electronics industry and it has reached saturation point.
Senator Toohey also quoted a statement by Sir Douglas Copland. 1 believe Sir Douglas is an eminent man in his sphere of activity; I do not know him personally. From time to time H have read pronouncements he has made on economic affairs in Australia and other parts of the world. He has held very important positions, including that of Australian High Commissioner in Canada. However, there are divergences of opinion among economists. Sir Douglas Copland was expressing a personal opinion, which may be right or wrong. T would not believe for one moment that he is infallible. His statement, to which Senator Toohey referred, in connexion with the Government’s economic measures and unemployment, could easily be wrong. I humbly predict that it will be proved wrong and that employment will pick up. I believe that Sir Douglas Copland’s estimate of the number who will be unemployed towards the end of the year will be far wide of the mark. Do honorable senators opposite think that the Government is composed of nitwits? The Labour Party knows as well as I do that the Government must go to the people later this year. Does the Opposition think that the Government would bring down measures for the purpose of creating a large pool of unemployed. and then face the people at an election with any prospect of success? The suggestion is too farcical for words. I am sure that the outcome of the measures taken by the Government will be as it has predicted. The Government will face the people confident in the knowledge that it has created economic stability throughout the country. The Government will go to the people in the sure knowledge that it will be returned to power. If the pool of unemployed referred to by Professor Copland did exist, our friends opposite would gird their loins and prepare to take over the reins of government because if that large pool of unemployed’ was a reality, not even I would suggest that the Government would be returned at the elections.
Senator McKenna referred to leadership. We have heard him speak on this subject on other occasions. I do not propose to deal with his remarks at length because they were adequately dealt with by Senator Branson. The leaders of the Government are extremely able men. I am proud to serve under Mr. Menzies, against whom there has never been a breath of suspicion during his political career. I am proud to serve under Mr. McEwen, the Deputy Leader of the Government. All members of the Government are men of integrity and ability. They are assisted in their onerous duties by capable and efficient public servants. The charge that the Government lacks leadership is completely unfounded.
I thought that Senator Hendrickson made an excellent speech yesterday. It was one of the best speeches that he has made since I have been in the Parliament. He made a worth-while contribution to the debate. He adopted the Labour Party line throughout his speech, but he did not descend to personalities. A short while ago we heard Senator Sandford speak. He made an unfounded and violent attack on the record of the Prime Minister. I deprecate remarks of that kind.
Reference has been made to criticism from outside the Parliament of the Government’s economic policy. But on the other side of the picture certain men prominent in the business world have supported the Government’s policy. One of those men is Mr. T. M. Scott, president of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. Mr. Scott is a man of high standing in the community. From the outset he has defended the Government’s economic policy. Mr. Scott is a primary producer, and he is well aware of the effect of the inflationary trend on our great exporting industries. He was forthright in his support of the Government’s policy. In a recent press statement he said that the Government’s policy was the correct one. He said that the policy was designed to keep down internal costs and to give the primary producer and the exporter an opportunity to meet competition on the world’s markets. Sir John Allison, who is an eminent businessman, has stated that the Government’s financial policy is the correct one. The Government’s action has been supported by Mr. Chislett, who is an official of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. So on the one hand we have men like Sir Barton Pope and Professor Copland criticizing the Government, but on the other hand we have equally eminent men supporting the Government.
I have given a good deal of thought to this matter, and I am sure that the Government has adopted the right course. The situation that confronted the Government was most disturbing. On the one hand overseas prices were falling, and on the other hand internal costs were rising. The boom conditions prevailing, if allowed to continue, could have ended in disaster. That is why the Government took action early last year, and again in November last. We know that the Government’s action has caused a certain amount of disruption. That was only to be expected. Adjustments of this kind cannot be made without causing some difficulties, but 1 honestly believe that the policy pursued by the Government was the correct one. I wholeheartedly support the Government. I support the motion and I disagree most strongly with the terms of the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong.
– At the outset I wish to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty, and with those of sympathy at the death of the Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. I propose to address myself to some of the remarks that have been passed by Government supporters, and also to some of the actions of the Government. We have heard honorable senators opposite bemoan the lack of equilibrium in Australia’s economy.
Some honorable senators opposite likened the economy of this country to a pyramid resting on its apex, and said that action must be taken to stabilize the economy so that production might expand, and so that the welfare of the people would not be impeded. It is interesting to see what cure the Government, proposes for the very sick economy which it claims exists at present. One of the important questions which arises from the statements of honorable senators opposite is this: Who more than this Government is responsible for the present state of the economy? This Government has been in office for almost twelve years. Therefore, if any one is to be blamed for a sick economy, it must be this Government. 1. say unhesitatingly that the blame can be placed squarely on the back of the Government. There is a stream of inflation in the economy,, which has existed ever since this Government assumed office. The Government is so inept at administration generally that it is quite unable to deal with the problem. When we ask the Government why the economy is lacking equilibrium, it says, “ We1 are importing too much at the present time. We lack the funds to- pay for those imports and to maintain a satisfactory balance of pay men rs.’* If we are importing too many goods, why are we doing so?
May I say here that 1 have never approved of import licensing. I was happy when the Government put the boot into import licensing- and I- said at the time that if Labour was returned to office within the next ten or. twenty years one of its first actions would be to investigate the licensing of imports.. There has never been a more unsatisfactory scheme for admitting goods into the Commonwealth than the licensing system. Honorable senators may recall that back in 1-949 the Government prepared a booklet and said that it would shun the exercise of controls. But it introduced import licensing. I am happy about the fact that the Government is more or less relying upon, tariff charges upon goods admitted to Australia, in addition to other controls that it has introduced in a more surreptitious way. Let me emphasize that I stand for tariff protection for Australian industries.
To return to the point I. mentioned a while ago, the Government has fed- inflation by its own actions. Whether it is aware of that I do not know. I shall return to the point later and explain exactly where it failed to exercise governmental action which would have dealt with inflation. Members of the Government can recall as well as I do that, when this Government assumed office in 1949, there was in existence a regulation which allowed it to exercise control over capital issues. But it was not satisfied with that regulation. It could have retained that regulation, and if ever there was any justification for the retention of it, it was the expenditure of more than £20,000,000 upon the establishment of the: ammunition filling factory at St. Mary’s, which is not very far from this city. But in 1953, prior to an election, the Government repealed that regulation. Then what happened? All the country’s financial resources were made available to every company in the Commonwealth. We saw notes, redeemable and otherwise, being sold by companies, reputable and otherwise. We saw the sale of debentures daily and saw, not on isolated occasions but as a general rule, advertisements in the press seeking such finance. Advertisements relating to the sale of preferential shares, ordinary shares and capital issues appeared constantly.
Having cultivated inflation, the Government, because this is an election year, is not willing, to take positive action to rectify the failures of the past. I shall explain in a minute- or two what it. proposes to do. If an excess of goods, is entering Australia, this Government is to be blamed. The Government has tariff measures that it can use to deal with the import of goods. Australia is a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Government exports wheat at a guaranteed price, but whether it is exported to red China or not matters not. As I have indicated, it has guaranteed prices for certain commodities and has other forms of protection that it can apply internally. There is no reason why the Government should not exercise full* control through its tariff legislation.
Om balance of payments is unsatisfactory. The- Government is alarmed at the situation, but it is no more alarmed thani are members of the Opposition. Every one in Australia has cause to be alarmedabout it. When did the Government discover that the balance, of payments: was. unsatisfactory? It has ‘been most unsatisfactory for the past six or seven years. It has been going up and down like a yo-yo. The Government has allowed the various trading companies to import .shiploads of goods in certain years, but in other years it has clamped down upon imports. Now it states that it is determined’ not to reintroduce import licensing. In that regard, I stand beside .the Government. I hope import licensing is never re-introduced.
– Then you do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition.
– II have some knowledge of the evil of this .system.
– You do not agree with your leader.
– You do not “know what you are talking about. You live in Kalgoorlie, which city exports gold and has never been an import city. A system Which allows the Government to say to one person, “ You may have a licence to import goods from Japan “, and to another. “ You are not entitled to have a licence “, and which enables persons who have been in the country for only a few years to go to wholesalers and entice them to import goods on licences held by the newcomers provided, they pay as a rake-off a percentage of the value of the goods imported’, is a rotten system.
The balance of payments is related’ to .the import of goods. We were told only recently that the volume of goods coming into Australia is ‘far too .great and that it must be reduced. Back in 1949 the Government pledged itself to release the whole of Australia’s commercial activities from controls of all descriptions and said it would handle excess imports of goods by means of a credit system.. It said that it would not grant credit to allow persons to import excess quantities of goods. But the present problem is a double-edged affair. The Government .also says that ‘the demand in Australia for goods imported from Japan and elsewhere is far too great. Let us look ait some of the goods that are coming into Australia at the present time. The Government has allowed peanuts to be imported from New Guinea, notwithstanding mat in Queensland we can grow an excess of peanuts. It is allowing tinned ham to be imported from Canada at the same time as it is doing its utmost to sell ham on the world’s markets. Moreover, it is allowing dairy produce to be imported from New Zealand, Denmark and other countries. 1 can take honorable senators along to any departmental store and show them .the dairy products to which I refer. The Government is allowing textile goods, toys and other commodities to come in from Japan in almost unrestricted’ quantities.
I repeat that the Government says ‘that an excess of goods is entering Australia and that -the demand internally is far too great. But it is allowing timber to be imported, despite the fact that 24 mills in the northern rivers area of New South Wales are closed’ and nearly all the sawmills in Queensland either are working on short time or are closed. <I pause for a moment to say how important the saw-milling industry is to Queensland. Townships depend for their existence on the activities of the mills. If we travel around the saw-mills in the hinterland of Cairns, we find that they either have been operating for a reduced number of hours or have closed, much to .the detriment of the whole of north Queensland.
Notwithstanding the fact that 3,600,000 tons of steel was manufactured in Australia last year, the Government .is allowing steel to come in from other countries. Those are some of the commodities that are being allowed to come in, Mr. President. Nearly all of them could be manufactured in Australia. We certainly can produce timber, steel and textile goods. We also can grow peanuts. By encouraging the dairyfarmers, we «ould produce all the dairy products required for .consumption in the Commonwealth.
One of the ways in which the Government proposed, back in November, to cure the ills of the economy and to set the pyramid back on its base, was to compel life assurance companies to invest 30 per cent, of their funds in Commonwealth bonds or semi-government securities. The Government said that it was entitled to do that. I do not know whether the Government believes in outright compulsion, but when that announcement was made it confirmed an idea that I had had in my mind for a number of years regarding the Liberal Party and the Australian Country
Party. It confirmed that there is a communistic cell in the Liberal Party and Country Party in this Parliament.
– That is complete rot.
– There are two Country Party members in that cell and three Liberal Party members. They are in this Communist Party cell and they advocate without a blush that the Commonwealth Government should compel the life assurance companies to contribute to the loans of the Commonwealth. Of course, that is communistic. It is nothing but outright compulsion.
When did the Government become aware that the life assurance companies were not contributing to the loans of the Commonwealth and to semi-government loans? It must have been asleep, because it was in 1953 that the life assurance companies commenced to invest their surpluses in hirepurchase companies and other companies which paid high dividends and high interest rates. That had been going on since 1953, but it was not until 1960 that the Government took action to set matters right. Traditionally, life assurance companies have sought investment in Commonwealth stocks and bonds over the years because such investment gave them security for their funds. They changed that policy in 1953 because of the greater returns that were offered to them by various companies functioning in Australia. It only wanted to be set off by this communistic cell in the Liberal and Country Parties in this Parliament-
– Mr. President, I take offence at the remark that there is within the Liberal and Country Parties in this Parliament a Communist cell. No one ever takes too much notice of Senator Benn, but that statement, I suggest, is going too far.
– Will you hear me on the point of order, Mr. President?
– It amuses me to hear the Minister say that he has taken offence at the statement referred to. We on this side of the chamber have had to listen to such statements being made about the Australian Labour Party for the past ten years. When we have risen and said that they were offen sive to us, you have always ruled, Mr. President, that such statements were not offensive. I did not mention an individual when I made the statement.
– I listened very carefully to Senator Benn’s remarks. He said that we had within this Senate members of the Liberal and Country Parties who were members of the Communist Party. I defy anyone to prove that any honorable senator on this side of the chamber has accused a member of the Australian Labour Party of being a Communist. I support the Minister’s contention that the remark is offensive.
– I regret that I have had to rise on this subject, Mr. President. I had no intention of doing so, but I am shocked to think that honorable senators on the Government side have become so touchy all of a sudden. In the debates in this chamber words are spoken from both sides in the spirit of the debate at the time. As a rule, no individual is mentioned. I think that what Senator Benn has said in explanation is pretty true. As a rule, we on this side of the chamber suffer most from statements that are made about association with a certain political party. I suggest that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) withdraw his request, since no individual has been cited. When all is said and done, what Senator Benn has said is nothing to what has been said on numerous occasions about honorable senators on this side. I believe that there is no cause for honorable senators opposite to take exception to the remark. I ask the Minister to take it in the spirit in which it was spoken, since no individual has been referred to. I hope, Mr. President, that you will allow the debate to proceed.
– Senator Benn’s statement that there are Communists in the Australian Country Party is a deliberate untruth. It is personally offensive to me as a member of the Country Party and I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– That is really a second point of order. Are you supporting the Minister’s point of order?
– Yes, Sir.
– I repeat, Mr. President, that I find the statement offensive. I do not want to take a point of order. You have ruled in the past that when exception has been taken to a statement it should be withdrawn. If Senator Benn withdraws the statement, the debate can proceed.
– I think that this matter calls for a little clarification. It is my responsibility to rule whether or not a statement is offensive. The mere claim by an honorable senator that a statement is offensive to him does not mean that the statement is automatically withdrawn. I have ruled all along that the use of the word “ Communist “, when applied directly to an honorable senator, is out of order, as also is the word “ Fascist “, but in the round of debate I would not rule that the remarks of the honorable senator are offensive.
– I shall now resume my remarks.
– Keep them responsible.
– There was an interjection.
– See that you give proof.
– I am not called upon, any more than the honorable senator is called upon, to provide proof. I have listened to him making rash statements about Senator Cant and others. Let us see how the economic measures are affecting certain organizations. To-day, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) referred to the reduced income of a certain airline operator. It is easy for honorable senators on this side of the chamber to understand that, because there has been an all-round reduction of incomes throughout the Commonwealth. What that airline operator suffered in the way of reduced income is being suffered by all the trading companies in the Commonwealth. As I mentioned earlier, sawmills in Queensland are closed or operating part-time, plymills are suffering and their workers are unemployed. Approximately one-half of the number of unemployed persons in Australia are domiciled in Queensland. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has told us that it is not practicable, except at the taking of a census, to ascertain the number of persons unemployed in Australia or in any State. I agree with him. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) told us last week that there were 73,000 unem ployed workers in the Commonwealth. I tell the Senate that one-half of that number is in Queensland. Unemployment does not distribute itself uniformly over the Commonwealth. There can be pockets of unemployment. One-half of the 73,000 unemployed are in Queensland, and nothing but the dole is facing them. In Central Queensland, some seasonal workers have been unemployed since August of last year, and there are no prospects of their being employed for several weeks yet.
The base rate of unemployment benefit for a married person is £3 5s. a week. This rate was fixed in 1951, when the basic wage was £12 ls. a week. To-day, the basic wage is £14 ls., yet the Government does not contemplate increasing the unemployment benefit. If it is the pleasure of the Government to create unemployment deliberately by clamping down on credit throughout Australia, and to look around with its thumbs in the lapels of its coat, beaming upon the 73,000 workers unemployed and saying, “ You are evidence that our scheme is operating satisfactorily “, it should be the Government’s pleasure to increase the rates of unemployment benefit.
There is a shortage of homes in Brisbane, and it is evident that the Government does not propose to do anything about the situation. I understand that the Government will continue with its migration programme. A percentage of the migrants will continue to find” their way to Brisbane. I do not know whether it is known in the United Kingdom by those who intend to come here that in Brisbane no migrant is allowed to register on the waiting list for homes until he has been a resident of the State for at least two years. If that fact is not known in the United Kingdom, it should be made known. The Government should set in train urgently the construction of homes, particularly in Brisbane. There is a serious shortage of homes there, and the Government should relieve the situation considerably. The State governments are not replacing public servants who retire or die, and they are not engaging any new hands at all. Some State governments have not taken on additional staff for the past two or three months. The Commonwealth Government, when explaining why it had to do certain things, said that it was prepared to pay its way, and that it would balance the budget this year. It is. an easy matter for the Government to balance its budget, lt has only to increase taxation to provide more revenue, and it will thus balance its budget, but nobody can tell me that it has effected any savings in the months that have so far elapsed in this financial year, and it is fairly certain that it will not effect any savings between now and 30th June next.
The Government of Queensland is causing the railway line between Townsville and Mr Isa ito be reconditioned. That is necessary for the development not only of the Mr Isa mine, but also of the district generally. It is interesting to note that it is very difficult to learn from this Government what rate of interest the Queensland Government will be charged. It was necessary for ‘the State to borrow £20,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government to undertake the project. Let me mention what is happening in regard to railway construction in other States. The following passage from the Budget Papers, last year is important: -
Under the Railway Standardization (New South Wales and Victoria) Agreement Act 1958, the Commonwealth has agreed to finance the construction of a- standard gauge- rail length between Albury and! Melbourne, at! an estimated cost of £10,726,000^ Each State is, to repay 15, per cent, of the cost by instalments over a. .period of 50 years. Expenditure to 30th June, 1960, totalled £5,769.,000; and an- amount of £4i750,000’is required in 1-960-6.1 foi caves’ the major portion of the work outstanding.
That applied to Victoria and New SouthWales. Each of ‘those States will pay 1:5 per cent, of the sum borrowed, or a total: ofl 30- per. cent Queensland will have to repay, the full’ £20.000,000 borrowed from the: Commonwealth Government, and I expect that the- rate of interest will be considerably higher thant the rate that New South’ Wales, and Victoria! will be required to. pay on the loam that I have just mentioned’.. me passage- continues -
The Commonwealth is also providing funds for rail! gauge conversion1 work in South Australia under the- Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement. Act 1549. The State is to repay three-tenths of the cost of this, work by instalments’ over- a period, of 50 years.
Queensland has. to. repay its. loan in. twenty years. It. is not a matter, of repaying only 30. pet cent of the amount borrowed;. Queensland will have to refund every penny. of it. There is an example of discriminationbetween the States. Queensland, of course, is on the wrong end all the time. An honorable senator from Queensland illustrated the progress that State, was making in several industries. I recollect looking at a photograph of the Prime- Minister of Australia (Mr. Menzies) walking up the steps to board the Qantas plane for overseas. Just prior to his departure he made a promise to see that funds would be made available for the construction of roads in Queensland. He referred to roads leading from railheads such as Quilpie, Yaraka, Longreach and probably Winton - roads that run. towards the sunset. It is rather interesting to mention that on two occasions the Queensland Government approached the Prime Minister for funds to carry out constructional work on those roads but was refused on both occasions. Before the Prime Minister’s departure he said - evidently as a square-off to the State of Queensland as he was aware of the damage that has been done to that State as a result of the little Budget or credit squeeze of November last year - that money would be- made available for the construction of those roads in the Channel country.
Mr. President, we have an organization known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The taxpayers have to support it.. They provide the salaries, of its officers and meet its other costs.. Tt is one of the worth-while organizations operating in. the- .Commonwealth. Although, it furnishes reports and advice to the Commonwealth,, it would appear that the Government is quite happy to disregard that advice altogether. I propose to read from the report that was furnished, to. the Parliament by the C.S.I.R.O.. last year.. Under the heading “ Big. Gains in Beef Production” the following appears on page 26 of the report -
The tremendous productive potential of some tens of millions of acres of well-watered but. comparatively undeveloped land in eastern Queensland below the Tropic is strikingly illustrated by the most recent figures from a large grazing trial. This experiment on native spear grass country near Gladstone has now been in progress for several years.
That is a simple report. Tens of millions of acres in a- well-watered1 area could quite easily- be converted, into beef-raising country,, but the Government does not propose to do- anything about it. Probably it is going to allow the State Government to take this matter up.
– That is the domestic function of the States.
– All right, just wait a while. The article continues -
Improved pastures based’ on cultivation and sowing of a grass-legume mixture turned off beef at the rate of 153 lb. live-weight per acre. Unfertilized native pasture showed a net production for the year of only 15 lb. live-weight per acre, while native pasture oversown with Townsville lucerne and topdressed with superphosphate and potash produced at the rate of 110 lb. per acre.
The improved pastures not only carried more slock, but brought the stock to killing weights one year earlier than did the unimproved native pasture. The topdressing and oversowing of native pasture with Townsville lucerne should be profitable under commercial conditions.
The establishment of similar high-producing pastures in other parts of the subtropics depends on success in finding suitable pasture legumes. A world-wide search for these key plants has met with some success, and several potentially valuable species are now being adapted for local conditions.
I bring this matter up for the reason that the beef industry faces a golden future. There will be no such thing as cheap beef in the future. I examined the Melbourne “ Age “ last Thursday to ascertain the price of beef in Melbourne, and I was staggered at the price that Melbourne people are required to pay for their beef. Prices are gradually increasing throughout the- Commonwealth and the opportunity exists to raise as many beef cattle again as are being raised in the whole of Queensland at the present time. Queensland’s cattle population at present is 6,000,000 but we could raise another 6,000,000 cattle by the expenditure of perhaps an extra few million pounds. No product finds a more ready market overseas than does beef. I charge the Government with absolute neglect of the beef industry of Queensland.
– I refer to Standing Order No. 408, and I seek the indulgence of the Senate to make a personal explanation.
Senator Benn, in the course of his speech, said on two occasions that there was a Communist cell within the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in this Parliament. The clear implication of that remark was that I was politically associated with Communists. I took a point of order that the statement was offensive to me, but it was ruled to be not offensive. I there fore categorically deny that I am associated with Communists. No Communist cell exists within the Government parties in this Parliament; and 1 give the lie to Senator Benn.
– I should like to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the speech of His Excellency, the Administrator, Sir Dallas Brooks, and to associate myself with the expression of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. It is the earnest desire of all that this second decade of Her Majesty’s reign will see a solution to the problems that beset the world, and particularly the Commonwealth of Nations, at the present time. Having had the honour to travel over a great part of the country that has just been visited by Her Majesty and by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, I am certain that their visit will do much to cement the ties that bind us to those countries.
I join with all Australians in our sorrow at the death of Lord Dunrossil. Tributes have been paid in this, chamber and in another place to his wide background of public service and to his deep humanitarianism. I had the opportunity of being in the Northern Territory last year during the centenary celebrations there, and I believe that the warm friendliness of both Lord and Lady Dunrossil, particularly to the people of the outback, earned for them the respect and the enduring affection of all sections of the Australian community.
In his reference to the meeting of the Prime Ministers in London, His Excellency said -
The dramatic movement towards independence for many people in the Commonwealth makes this meeting of the highest importance.
Sir, in the face of such a statement I very sincerely regret that some members of the Opposition have referred to the absence from Australia of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in a way that reflected little credit upon themselves or this Parliament. Such loose criticism shows a very sorry appreciation of the really important and impelling issues that confront the people who are attending that conference. Since World War II. many millions of people have joined this unique association of nations. It has been described over the years as an experiment in human living, as an experiment in international living together, and is an experiment in inter-racial co-operation; out because it has no legal bonds, treaties or agreements it is essential that from time to time, and as regularly as possible, the Prime Ministers of the countries concerned should meet in conference.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Deputy President, prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the Commonwealth of Nations and the importance of the meeting in London of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. I believe that we must encourage regular consultations if we are to relieve the strains and tensions that arise in an association of people of different traditions, different races and different creeds and of divergent ways of thought and mind. The task is not an easy one, but it would be a bad day for all of us if differences in outlook and opinion were to remain unresolved in such a way as to weaken the bonds that exist between the member countries of the Commonwealth.
Naturally, Sir, at such a conference Australia should be represented by the Prime Minister. A vicious and personal attack was made on him this afternoon by Senator Sandford, but who in Australia is better equipped to carry through a task of such delicacy than the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies? In addition to his prestige, through his office, he is an advocate and a statesman of world standing, trained and skilled in clear, objective thinking. His opinions, Sir, will be respected by the conference and beyond it. He stands above the slings and arrows of the petty and the mean because his dedication to Australia anc! to the ideal of a great and effective Commonwealth of Nations is recognized throughout the world. At the same time, he never fails to seize an opportunity to strengthen and preserve the ties of a common language and a common way of life that bind us to our great friend and ally, the United States of America.
Sir. most of the time in this debate has been taken up in discussing the present economic situation and the series of measures that have been adopted by the
Government to restore a better balance between supply and demand in the economy and also to give greater stability to costs and prices. Just before the suspension of the sitting, Senator Benn treated us to an amazing exhibition, in more ways than one. The policy he advocated for the control of imports, was the direct opposite of that put forward by the leaders of the Opposition. When Senator McKenna was speaking earlier in the debate on leadership, he had evidently forgotten that the leaders of the Labour Party, at least in this chamber, have some very poor followers. Senator Benn went on to advocate control by tariffs. He quoted a long list of imported goods, but what he failed to say was that every item in the list he quoted was admitted under tariff and that any grower or manufacturer of any of these items is at perfect liberty to submit a case for emergency tariff protection if the industry is seriously affected in any way.
We have had a great deal of criticism from the Opposition, but all of it has failed in one particular. Not one honorable senator opposite has made one constructive contribution to the debate. Indeed, at times one might have thought that the main purpose of the Opposition was to weaken the Australian economy and to destroy the confidence of all sectors of it. That is the impression that any one would gain from the debate. Last night, Senator Maher made an objective appreciation of the problems that are facing Australia. He pointed to the difficulty of maintaining a high rate of economic development on the one hand and reasonable stability in our balance of payments on the other. After all, Sir, that is the very crux of the financial problem at the present time.
Earlier in the debate - I think it was on one afternoon last week - the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) dealt at length with the development that has taken place over the past twelve years. Senator McKenna followed him, and in his speech he gave grudging recognition to this development. But I would agree with Senator Branson that every Australian has reason to be proud of the fact that, with a population of approximately 10,000,000 people, Australia ranks amongst the ten top trading nations of the world. In addition to that, Sir, only 5 per cent, of the nation’s male work force is in receipt of less than £16 a week. But it would be an act of economic folly to overlook the fact that whilst such development has increased our international status, has lifted our standard1 of living in Australia, has maintained a full employment policy and has also assisted in the absorption of migrants into the country at a rate previously undreamed about, it has, nevertheless, made heavy demands upon our capital resources and at times has accelerated inflationary pressures. In the past, Sir, these demand’s on capital resources have been met from good export earnings and from a free flow of capital from overseas, but for some time our total export income has been shrinking, particularly in the rural sector, and there is little reason to hope that Australia’s export income from primary products will rise as world prices tend to move downwards.
Senator Wade, Senator Wright and other supporters of the Government have directed attention to this state of affairs on many occasions and have warned us of the effect that this downturn in rural incomes would eventually have on the Australian economy. The extent of ‘that effect can best be gauged by the fact that more than 80 per cent, of our exports are primary products, and in the years 1959 and 1960 they accounted for 86 per cent. During the same years, the price of wool, our major export, fell to its lowest level in ten years. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) indicated last month that the value of wool exports may fall during 1960-61 by another
Now, Sir, this dramatic fall in our overseas income has been complicated by a steadily increasing demand for imported goods. The Menzies Government has at all times been aware of the danger of the erosion of overseas funds and of the need to contain inflation. During its term of office it has taken corrective action on a number of occasions, and on each occasion it has achieved the desired result.
Let us look at what it has done in the present set of circumstances. It has been claimed that this Government is a stop and go government, but that, Sir, I for one completely deny. In February of last year both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced a series of measures designed to check the boom which they knew was developing and which they believed would ease the run on overseas funds. If a section of the public or the business community was slow to apprehend the intention behind that, it was no fault of the Government, which made its objective abundantly clear twelve months ago. In the Budget and later in November, the Government followed its policy by intensifying the credit squeeze. Those are not the actions of a government that does not know where it is going. Indeed, they are the actions of a government that has been consistent and courageous at all times. It knew that the actions it took would make it unpopular; but it also recognized that it had a responsibility to Australia as a whole to maintain a stable economy. That does not mean that its policies are inflexible. The Government has already proved that if at any time it is possible or necessary to remove any restriction it will do so, and I have the greatest confidence that lt will continue to do so in the future.
Last night Senator Toohey, in his speech, quoted to the Senate some of the opinions of people whom he termed, the “ critics “. In reply, I should like to quote some opinions that have been given as recently as yesterday and to-day. They appear in the daily newspapers. The first opinion to which I shall refer appeared1 in this morning’s Melbourne “ Sun “. It is the opinion of Mr. Eugene J. Kaplan, of the United States of America. He said -
We were aware of the dynamic nature of the Australian economy almost from the day we landed.
The newspaper article also contains the following: -
Mr. Kaplan told a press conference that his mission here was to look at opportunities for American investment in Australia.
His mission report would be widely circulated to the American business community.
When asked what part of Australia most impressed him - Melbourne is the mission’s last port of call-
And, of course, the best in my opinion-
– Those are your words.
– Yes, they are mine. Continuing the quotation from the article -
Mr. Kaplan said, “Each part of Australia has something special to offer.”
While w Melbourne the mission expects ‘to interview about 150 Victorian business men -who might .be interested in American : investment here.
Let me repeat die opinion of that American expert -
We were aware of ;ihe dynamic nature -of the Australian economy almost from die day we landed.
There is no pessimism in that opinion; that is a very positive statement.
Now let me refer to what our own Australian people are saying. I quote the following from to-day’s Sydney “ Sun “: -
Exporters and employers to-day agreed with the Federal Treasurer, Mr. H. Holt, that Government clamps had relieved pressure on Australia’s economy. . . .
The President of the Australian Exporters’ Federation, Mr. A. Sparks, said he was sure the Government’s economic measures would !be correct in the long run. . . .
The executive director of the Employers Federation, Mr. P. J. Self, said the Government was forced to bring the economic situation under control. “ The federation does not share the view of some that the economic measures will lead to serious unemployment.”
Later in this article the opinion of an economist is given. The opinion of one economist was given to the Senate last night, and it is always very interesting to compare what economists think. The article reads -
The senior lecturer in economics at Sydney University, Mr. Kingsley Laffer, said the measures were working well. “ They are tightening the economy without causing undue hardship,” he said. 1 suggest to honorable senators that those are the up-to-date opinions of people who have a great interest in the economy and who see exactly what the Government has not only tried to do but has done. I am sure that statements such as those to which I have referred will do much to refute the stupid criticism that has been made by the Opposition, and assist in building confidence in the future.
Many other matters are referred to in the Administrator’s Speech, but as most of them will be open for discussion when the relevant legislation is before the Senate, T will leave my remarks on them until then. There is one matter contained in His Excellency’s Speech to which I should like to refer briefly, and that is the election this month for the newly constituted Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea. It will be interesting to see whether any native women are elected to the council. I hope that in whatever plans the Government has in mind for the women of New Guinea it will see that these women emerging from a primitive society are encouraged to exercise their full citizen rights and take their place in the political, economic and social life of their community.
As I have said, I am supremely confident that the action taken by the Government is correct and is having the effect that the Government desired. Therefore, I support the motion and reject the amendment.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [8.r8].Almost every honorable senator who has spoken on the .motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply has taken the opportunity to express his or her personal loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and also to express regret at the untimely death of Her Majesty’s late representative, our GovernorGeneral, Lord Dunrossil. I associate myself with everything that has been said on those matters by honorable senators.
On this occasion the Administrator’s Speech was awaited not only by .members of the Parliament but also by Australians generally with more than usual interest because we had been passing through a period which verged upon an economic crisis, and Australians of all kinds were anxious to know the Government’s views on that crisis and its intentions for dealing with it. There were problems, such as the balance of payments and the credit squeeze, which had to be solved. I say that we are not in what one could call a serious crisis in Austrafia at the moment, but we are certainly in a position which could develop into a serious crisis, or a depression of the type of which many of us have unhappy memories. Although I feel there is not generally a serious economic crisis in Australia, there is a serious personal crisis for many Australians who, because of recent happenings, have been forced into unemployment for the first time for many years.
I think it is desirable to quote the figures in order to show the extent of the crisis in each State. These figures were supplied to us only this afternoon. AH of us know that not every Australian who is unemployed registers for employment, and that therefore the figures that were given do not represent the full extent of unemployment throughout this country. The figures, which refer to persons registered for employment, are as follows: -
Those figures show that 73,072 Australians are at present suffering what is in some respects a humiliation - the humiliation of being unemployed. The figures seem to indicate that Queensland is in a worse position than any other State.
It is not always easy to get a clear picture by looking at the total number of persons who are unemployed, but when we see the figures as they apply in each State we can fully understand the gravity of the situation. To understand more clearly how unemployment affects small communities .1 propose to quote from a letter written by a union official in Geelong, which is a Victorian provincial city. He states - . . more than 600 members of the Vehicle Builders Union have been dismissed from Fords and three smaller factories that do contract work for Fords, namely Geelong Auto Assemblers, Geelong Bodycraft and Birmide Auto Castings.
Through this reduction Henderson Spring Works and Pilkington Glass Works have also been forced to retrench.
According to another leading union official the number could grow considerably in the next week or two. The letter continues -
The credit squeeze has also hit other places, particularly the building industry. Imports are blamed for the dismissal of employees in several woollen mills and it was announced last week that 40 employees had been sacked from a new carpet factory which opened last year.
Those dismissals are having a serious effect on the retail trade in Geelong.
What happens when a person becomes unemployed? It is true, as the Government claims, that a considerable number of jobs are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service and’ that many people who lose their employment are subsequently placed in those jobs. But if the unemployment situation is not improved considerably many Australians will, for the first time in years, suffer the indignity of being unemployed. The average Australian worker is not nomadic. He likes to stick to a particular job because be believes that if he stays with a certain firm he obtains some permanency of employment. He believes that the average firm will show some loyalty towards him, and will retain ‘him in employment. But if he is sacked he loses that permanency. He loses the niche that he thinks he has made for himself in the industrial sphere. He may lose his right to retirement and other benefits. He may be forced to change his home. He may even be forced to leave his wife in one city while he seeks employment in another.
At present many Workers are suffering another disability. Overtime has been worked in many industries for so long that the worker has come to regard his £3 or £4 a week that he earns in overtime as regular income - as something ‘that he will always have. Many Australian workers have entered into commitments for the purchase of homes or furniture and other things in the belief that they will continue to earn a certain amount of overtime. But with the credit squeeze employers have had to restrict their activities. The worker has lost his £3 or £4 a week overtime which he was using to pay for various things that he had contracted to buy. In a number of cases young wives have been forced to go to work. I regret that this state of affairs should exist in our society. A young couple marry and, finding it impossible to buy a home on one salary, both husband and wife go to work. They may have contracted to pay as much as £5 or £7 a week in interest payments on a home. Some of them are lucky ,if they are paying no more than that. Suddenly the wife’s employment terminates, and the husband finds that he has to maintain the home and continue to make high interest payments on it, whereas both he and his wife had expected to be able to work during the early years of their married life in order to pay off the home. In those circumstances unemployment is a serious personal problem. It is no good any of us saying that the number of persons unemployed1 represents only 1.7 per cent., 2.2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of the work force. For the man who is out of work the figure is 100 per cent. I have no doubt that the Government, for humanitarian reasons as well as electoral reasons, would like to see employment ‘booming once again. The Government must make Ml employment its ‘primary objective. Tt must plan to this end, because full employment is necessary if we are to have ia happy community and happy family life.
One regrets to see Australians unemployed, but the people who are suffering most from the present unemployment crisis are the immigrants or new Australians. In many cases they may have been sacked because their knowledge of English was not the best. Naturally, they have been the first to go. I have seen press statements by new Australian organizations - I do not know how representative they are, but at least they have a membership - in which they state that they propose to conduct demonstrations because of the way their members are suffering. If demonstrations or deputations are to be organized they should be held at the trade union level. We should not encourage demonstrations of such a nature as to divide people into Australians and new Australians.
Let me say again that I do not think we are experiencing a grave depression or a grave crisis. I do say, however, that if the present trend is not arrested it will lead to just such a crisis. I hope that nobody in Australia will attempt, for political or other purposes, to make the crisis worse than it need be by crying calamity or by endeavouring to destroy the confidence of the people in the fundamental soundness of our economy. Australia is a prosperous country. It is a country with immense resources. If it is well governed, and if its people are worthy of it, then there cannot be another depression of the type that occurred years ago. Therefore, let us forget politics and be constructive in what we say. Let us tell the Government that employment is a problem of 100 per cent, magnitude for the man who is out of work. Let us tell the Government that it must deal with the problem. Let us not cry calamity, as was cried in 1929, thereby helping to make the depression of those days far worse than it need have been. I was one of those who were employed’ during ‘that depression. I was the only member of my family who had a job then. T have always believed that unemployment snowballed at that time because the small investors, the small businessmen and some of the big businessmen became scared unnecessarily and that they contributed to the worsening of the depression because they lost confidence.
Let us not do anything to cause business people and others who contribute to the economy to lose confidence. Let us demand that the Government takes action where action is necessary. Let us point out to the Government the need for action, but let us not say that this is a country in which there need be a depression. It would be useless for any political party to make capital out of our present troubles, perhaps to win an election, and then to discover when it assumed office that it was faced with an impossible situation similar to that with which the Scullin Government was faced in 1930.
I believe that, because of the way things were going, some kind of pull-up was inevitable. We have had a wonderful period over the last ten years. But there always comes the time when things catch up with you. We had high prices for wool and other primary produce which gave the appearance of a very high level of general prosperity. As happened in the 1890’s when the huge old buildings that one can see all over Melbourne were built by people who believed the boom of that time would last for ever, so within recent years similar huge palaces have been built. So many have been built that one wonders whether, when they are all completed, it will be possible to let all the office space that will be available.
In the period through which we have just passed we in this country have had an abnormal degree of prosperity. We have attempted to develop our secondary industries at an abnormal rate. But we have not been paying sufficient regard to our primary industries which, whatever one may say about the need for secondary industries, are and always will be the backbone of our economy. I repeat that one thing which has caught up with us is that we have been concentrating so much on the extension of our secondary industries that we have not given enough attention to the welfare of our primary industries. To-day our primary industries are faced with big problems which this Government must solve. We have passed through a period in which hire purchase has been allowed to run riot and during which all kinds of things have been done which can be done in a period of boom but for which one day we must pay. We must now face up to the fact that we have to pay for some of the things that have been done. I believe that our country is strong and prosperous enough to be able to pay for everything. A country having an economy such as ours should not fall into a depression. So 1 say: Let us not run down this country. Let us demand that the Government right the situation and let us always maintain confidence in the fact that it is a country in which we will see progress and in which there will not be a depression.
I referred a moment ago to our primary industries. In that connexion, I desire to refer to a statement that was made recently by Professor Campbell, who is Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney. He said1 that unless the whole community woke up to the seriousness of the cost-price squeeze for the man on the land, Australia might soon be in trouble. He said that the problem is here to stay for years. He pointed out that over the past ten years rural costs in Australia had risen three times as much as those in Canada and six times as much as those in the United States, and that at the same time the Australian farmer had little control over the price he received or could demand for his product, most of those prices having fallen. Professor Campbell had1 some very interesting comments to make on the need for action to assist our primary industries. What he says has happened in this country was forecast nine or ten years ago by an economist named Colin Clark who many people said did not know what he was talking about. I simply say that, in relation to our primary industries, it has been shown that Mr. Clark knew very definitely what he was talking about and that all the chickens in primary industry which he predicted would come home to roost are in fact coming home to roost.
Now that I have got that off my chest, most people will ask what I think ought to be done about the situation. Whilst I am not an economist and do not pose as an expert upon these matters, I intend to make some suggestions which I hope will be regarded as being constructive. First, T believe that the job of pulling things around is a task for the Government, from which we are entitled to demand wise leadership. If it does not provide that leadership within the next twelve months, it will be replaced. That is democracy. We must also have co-operation from the business interests and the trade unions. I hope that, in regard to the problem we are now considering, the trade unions will not play politics. It is in their interests, as well as the interests of the Government, to pull together for the good of the country.
The criticism that has been levelled at the Government has been that its policy has been one of fits and starts. In February of last year the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a statement in which he suggested that we were on the threshold of great prosperity. In August, he presented a budget which did not lead us to a very much different conclusion, even though there were one or two hints that things were not going as well as they might. But, in November, we were told suddenly that we faced a grave situation which necessitated drastic action being taken. But we are now told that some of the drastic measures which in November we were told had to be taken are no longer necessary.
I have spoken to businessmen and have asked them, “What is your opinion about what is happening? “ They have said, “ The credit squeeze and other things have hit us, but we knew that the way things were going something had to be done and we had to pull up “. But they have added, “ Our disagreement with this Government is that we cannot be sure where it is going from one week to another “. The objection that businessmen have to this Government is that it does not seem to have any continuity of policy. In one month we are told that certain action is vital to the welfare of the economy, but two months later we are told that it is not vital. In November we were told that certain things had to be done in relation to insurance companies, but to-day we are told that what was then contemplated need not be done, but that the situation will be dealt with in another way. The result is that there is a feeling of insecurity amongst businessmen. They say, “ We are prepared to co-operate with the Government if it will tell us where it is going. But we cannot co-operate when at one moment it leads us to believe that we are in a period of great prosperity and then, suddenly, when we are in the middle of that period of great prosperity, it tells us that we face a crisis and that drastic, measures have to be adopted.”
Just recently, 1 spoke to a businessman who said he was so impressed by the Treasurer’s statement early last year about the prosperity that lay ahead that he borrowed every penny he could to extend his business premises. He borrowed right up to the limit in the belief that he was going to help in this great period of prosperity for Australia - and, of course, in the belief that he was going to do pretty well out of it for himself, too. Having borrowed every penny he could, having extended his building and having had it finished only a week, he got a letter asking him to reduce his overdraft to such, a degree that he has had to sack about one-third of the people he employed. He asked me, “ How can you nin a country on that basis? “ I say, therefore, that the first thing that is needed so far as this Government is concerned is the restoration of confidence in business circles by making business people feel that there will at least be some permanence in the Government’s economic policy. I suggest that there should be more consultation, at regular intervals, between the Government and those bodies that represent business and industry. So far as it can, the Government should take them into its confidence and at any rate give them the feeling that they can plan ahead free from fear that the Government will do things overnight to destroy all their plans.
I come to the trade unions. To-day, the trade unions are carrying out the task, which they have always carried out, of preserving the rights of their members and seeking to improve their wages and conditions. Over the years the Australian trade union movement and its recognized organizations have accepted the principle that they should rely on arbitration as the means of settling industrial disputes. I think it is extremely dangerous at a time such as this, when there is the possibility of an economic crisis, that there should be clear signs in the trade union movement of a desire to get away from arbitration. The arbitration system has its faults. There have been delays in it; there have been difficulties; there have been all kinds of allegations and assertions; but if you go to an Australian Council of Trade Unions conference - I have been to a number of them - you learn that when the delegates are asked to decide whether they want arbitration or not they always say that they stand for arbitration. 1 should say that the average man in industry is very foolish if, on an occasion when there is a risk of grave unemployment, he raises the cry, “ Let us get away from arbitration. Let us go in for straightout collective bargaining.” Collective bargaining is all right in a period of prosperity, but it is not good in a period of unemployment and depression.
One of the reasons for this attempt to get away from arbitration at a time which 1 regard as very significant,, is that a considerable sector of the trade union movement is under Communist control or influence. I do not believe that the greater part of the trade unions of Australia is under Communist control or influence, but the Communists exercise considerable power in the unions that matter. They concentrate on the unions that control the economy of the country, such as those that deal with power, steel, building and transport. You do not have to worry about other unions, Mr. President, if you can run the unions which are concerned with power, steel, building and transport, because if you control those unions you have a throttle-hold on the economy of the country. The Communists are gaining control.. In. many instances’, unfortunately, they are doing so because of unity tickets. I shall not spend a great deal of time on this subject because I have spoken of it before and no doubt I will be speaking of it again. But this is a political election year. It also happens to be a year when the big trade unions will be holding their elections. Undoubtedly, in those big trade unions there will be unity tickets. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), has said that he expects Labour to win this year. I should say that he is a supreme optimist if he expects to win a general election in an atmosphere of unity ticket after unity ticket in the big trade unions of this country over the next twelve months.
Having said that, I wish to issue a warning about the attempt, sponsored largely by the Communist Party, to introduce anarchy info the control of the trade unions. Within the last twelve months the Communist Party has quietly and unobtrusively set to work to establish, so far as it can., in big sectors of industries what it calls area committees and shop committees. Such committees have always existed in some industries and have done good work where they have confined their activities to the particular problems of the work-places in which they existed. To-day, not only are they in the few industries where they have alwayS been, but the Communist Party is sponsoring their extension to other industries as widely as it can. In addition, it is endeavouring to give them a constitution which will enable them to deal with matters outside their proper purview and outside the ordinary problems of the workplaces where the committees are to be found. Those problems should be the responsibility of the union officials. It is the duty of the organization and the officials of the union itself to deal with them. Already such committees have been established in a number of important places in this country. Area committees and shop committees are taking to themselves the right to take out of the hands of the elected officials of the unions control of big industrial disputes in which the unions may be concerned.
This is a very grave development. I predict that there will be serious industrial trouble as a result of it, because many union officials will find themselves defied when they endeavour to maintain industrial peace. Also, the unions are being told that that is the way to get round the power of the Commonwealth Industrial Court to fine them. The union officials may send, out all the telegrams in the world telling unionists not to go on strike, but they will do so because the area committees or the shop committees have told them to do so. There was a classic example of a try-out of a strike of that kind recently at Yallourn, when the unionists defied the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and the officials of their union and said they were going to conduct their own strike. It is most significant that in all such strikes in recent weeks the statement has been made, “ Under no circumstances is our dispute to be settled1 by arbitration”.
I conclude my reference to this matter by saying that I understand the attitude of the Communist Party in this respect. The average Labour, official’ is* a sensible man. who makes his decision according to his assessment of what is best for the union. The Communist union official makes his decision,, first, according to what the Communist Party tells hiro he must do, and secondly, according to what is good for the union. The Communist Party sees in the present economic trouble an opportunity to make the situation., worse, an opportunity to, agitate the troubled waters, with profit to itself. I do not say that all the disputes that have occurred have been Communistsponsored. In. many unions the workers have legitimate grievances and adopt their own ways of settling those grievances; but I do say that the Communist Party is running true to form at the present time in frying to use the current situation for its own ends, by causing industrial disruption.
I hope, that the Communists will be defeated. I hope that good men in the trade unions will reject the unity tickets and elect decent officials of the kind who developed and pioneered the trade union movement and made it probably the best trade union movement in the world. I also hope that all sections of the community - government, business and trade unions - will co-operate in dealing with this economic crisis. 1 believe that the crisis can be averted. I think that we are a big enough country and a strong enough country to settle this problem and to see to it that good Australians are not out of work. I hope that no-body, for any purpose whatsoever, will endeavour to destroy the confidence on which the future progress of Australia depends.
.- At the outset, Mr. President, I wish to associate myself with the remarks that I believe every speaker has made regarding the most untimely death of the late GovernorGeneral, Viscount Dunrossil. It was a tragedy that a man of his great attainments was not spared to continue to serve this country as its Governor-General for many years.
Most of this debate has centred on the measures which the Government felt obliged to take in view of Australia’s economic position. I agree entirely with Senator McManus’s reference to the role of Communist-controlled trade unions. In recent weeks we have seen the partial stopping of the steel industry, one of Australia’s key industries, by trade unions which undoubtedly are under Communist influence. At a time like this, when we are struggling with a balance-of-payments problem, when we are living beyond our means and not cutting our coat according to the cloth we have, the partial stoppage of an industry which is vital to the Commonwealth is something that no honorable senator, indeed no one in the Commonwealth, can commend in any way.
– There is an onus also on employers.
– My understanding is that the strike at the establishment of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was brought about for frivolous reasons. We have the most comprehensive machinery in the world for fairly adjusting wages and conditions. However, we have reached the position where, when the findings of a tribunal do not suit one section of the people, they take direct action. They are not so much striking against their bosses as penalizing the whole community because the findings of the tribunal do not meet with their wishes. I do not think that there is any gainsaying that.
Only a few days ago it was stated that the wool cheque for the first eight months of 1960-61 was down by 18 per cent, in comparison with the corresponding period of 1959-60. In another place, only last week, Mr. McEwen said that if 1953 prices had obtained, our exports would have returned £1,300,000,000 instead of £880,000,000, so by comparison with 1953 returns there has been a decline of nearly 33i per cent. In those circumstances it was perfectly obvious that something had to be done in an attempt to rectify the position. There must eventually come a realization by the manufacturers, trade unions, and above all the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, that our standards of living and everything we enjoy in the Commonwealth are based upon our ability to pay our way in the world. We must trade, and we must pay our way. If we build up an edifice of costs - if you like, a standard of living - that is not commensurate with our earnings from world trade, we are erecting a structure that must become top-heavy and that will topple over. We are in exactly the same position as an individual. If he finds that his income is not meeting his expendi ture - I think most of us have been in that position - he must either increase his income or reduce his expenditure, or, if possible, do a little of each. That is exactly what the Government is attempting do do.
We have heard alternative suggestions for meeting the position. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which is not partial to the Government - at least, that is my impression - referring to the four-point plan enumerated by Mr. Calwell on television in Brisbane, said that it must fill his supporters with dismay and strengthen the hands of the Government. But at long range the Opposition has a policy for improving the position. It would put before the people by way of referendum the 22, 24 or 26 amendments recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee and, if possible - I think it would be remotely possible - have them agreed to. It would reintroduce import licensing and, as stated by Mr. Calwell and the Premier of Tasmania, a national scheme of price fixing. Of course, centralization of authority is dear to the heart of the socialist. It has always been trotted out as a means of curing all our economic ills. It is contended that if power were concentrated in one spot in the hands of a few - in this instance, it would be in the hands of one party in a one-house parliament of the Commonwealth, because the Senate would not exist - we would be a long way towards curing our economic ills. Right through history, such concentration of authority has always been followed by regimentation, bureaucratic control, and infringement of the rights of individuals. In many instances, it has resulted in tyranny. In any event, those measures would not effect a cure, for the simple reason that they would be dealing with an effect, and would not get down to the root cause of the trouble. Price control is nearly as old as civilization. It was tried in the time of Diocletian during the decline of the Roman Empire nearly 2,000 years ago, and all it did was to aggravate the position. It always drives enterprise underground and brings about stagnation.
– How would you curb the profiteer?
– As I have said in this place before, many people are averse to profits, but not if they are on the receiving end. If there were no profits, there would be no progress. 1 believe that of the profits of the major companies in Australia approximately one-third goes back into industry, one-third goes to the Commissioner of Taxes, and one-third is paid out in dividends. I hope I shall never live to see the time when these concerns which have meant so much to Australia reach a stage of stagnation when their profits are negligible.
I give the Government full marks for abandoning import licensing with its black market in licences and its sale of licences at substantial profits. Manufacturers know that the enervating influence of import licensing makes it virtually impossible for secondary industries in this country to compete on the markets of the world. If you take a plant out of a hot house and place it in a field with other plants that have ‘been used to the rigours of the climate, the hot house plant will wither and die. You cannot expect it to compete with the other plants. For too long some manufacturers in Australia have sheltered behind the protection that is afforded by import licensing knowing full well ‘that there is a complete embargo against outside competition up to a certain limit, the limit imposed under the import licensing system. It is a healthy and good ‘thing to abolish import licensing, and I commend the Government for having the courage to remove this prop - this blanket protection - and make secondary industries in this country stand at least partly on their own legs and try to compete in the markets of the world.
It has been submitted in this place again and again that 80 per cent, of our exports are primary products. That means that a few people are responsible for the national income of this country on which our standard of living depends. In turn the income earned from our exports goes to provide the raw materials and plant necessary for the expansion and development of secondary industry. On the other hand it has often been said that 80 per cent, of our imports comprise raw materials, plant and other things necessary for the functioning and expansion of secondary industry. So much depends on this section which I believe is supporting the whole edifice of the economy of this country, and yet it is the section that has had its income so drastically curtailed because of fluctuations in the prices of primary products in the markets of the world.
I was very interested to read the last report of the Tariff Board, which is continually investigating the economy of industries in Australia. The board is held in the highest esteem by members of this chamber. In commenting upon the conditions of secondary industries in Australia, the board said -
However, there is a limit to the extent to which rising costs can be continued. It is clear that industry cannot continue to absorb further costs not matched by productivity increases and a country as dependent on overseas trade as Australia cannot afford to relax its vigilance with regard to its cost structure.
Similar statements have been made in this chamber from time to time. We will reach the position where, unless the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission relates its findings to the cost structure of this country - to the amount of money which can be earned on world markets - our internal economy will be in trouble. Senator Maher, only yesterday, referred to a term that is used in this context in America. If wages are increased without production being increased - in other words if wealth is not increased, because production means wealth - the American worker is said to receive only a wooden diamond. The same position obtains in Australia. Unless we can increase our productivity, unless we can increase our exports and earn more money in the markets of the world, any increase in the standards of wage-earners, or in the standards of any one else in this country, will be completely illusory and inflationary. No real value whatsoever will be added to living standards.
A good deal can be read into the statements that the Tariff Board has made about secondary industry. The board pointed out that the abolition of import licensing would mean that secondary industry would be freer to go on world markets and could, in all probability, buy its requirements more cheaply. It would not be tied to import licensing, it would not be regimented, but would be free to buy its requirements where it wished. The board pointed out that it must be a distinct advantage to secondary industry if it could do that. It went on to say -
Nevertheless indications are that in 1960-61 overseas competition in certain sections of the Australian market will be keener than for some years. To meet this competition some Australian producers will need .to achieve an overall continuing improvement in efficiency in production and .selling methods.
The board said further - lt seems clear that as domestic and overseas competition increases, more attention must be paid to management control.
Reading between the lines, the whole of the Tariff Board’s report shows very clearly that, in the opinion of the board, there is room for greater efficiency in the management of secondary industry in Australia. If we want to deter that increase in efficiency, the best way to dp it is to shelter behind import licensing. I believe, Mr. President, that increased efficiency has got to come if the objective of the Government is to be achieved, that objective being that secondary industry shall play its part in adding to the national income of Australia. Let us take a leaf out of the book of Mr. John Ogden, the managing director of Welded Products Limited, who was reported in the Hobart “ Mercury “ of 5th March to have stated -
The export drive must fail unless our manufacturers fight for new markets overseas.
They will not do that if they have a blanket protection that allows them to exploit their own local market, free of competition above certain limits. He continued -
You cannot sell products from an air conditioned office in Melbourne or Sydney. Overseas buyers will buy our goods if they are cheaper or better and if the Australian manufacturer gives a better service to the new nations growing up around the Indian and Pacific oceans who are creating a magnificent potential market for Australia.
Mr. President, those are my views in regard to the secondary industries in Australia.
In the few minutes remaining to me, I would like to say something about the Tasmanian press. Some time ago, I was amazed to see in the press a statement over the signature of a Tasmanian Labour member of the House of Representatives, in which he criticized this Government for not doing enough in regard to the search for oil. That statement was headlined. I heard some one say that while the hand was the hand of Ronald, the voice was the: voice of Nicholas, because we heard a similar statement in this chamber only last week. A measure was introduced intothis chamber in 1959, the objective of which was to assist the search for oil. It added greatly to the Government’s responsibilities in that connexion. It was stated at. the time that, in the aggregate of every £8,000,000 spent on oil search in Australia, the Commonwealth Government would find £3,000,000. That was the effect of the measure that was passed by the Senate, although the Opposition voted against it. Of course, the Opposition was. entitled to vote against the measure if it thought that the Government should not. commit itself so deeply in regard to oil search, but for a member of the LabourParty, through the columns of the press, then to condemn the Government and attempt to make political capital by stating that the Government was not doing sufficient in regard to oil search in Australia was, in my opinion, just about the ultimate in hypocrisy. The person to whom I refer, by voting against the measure, tried to prevent the Government from assisting the search for oil, but subsequently he stated that the Government was not doing sufficient in that connexion. I replied to that statement.
Another statement by this gentleman appeared in the press only a few days ago. I suppose it is only human nature for members of the Opposition to attempt to make all the political capital possible out of what the Government has been compelled to do in regard to the economy of this country, but the statement that was made by this man shows his kindergarten knowledge of the measures that have been passed by this chamber from time to time. Amongst other things, he is reported to have stated that I am still smarting from criticism levelled at me by members of my own party for not raising my voice in support of the farmers in my area. Well, if I have been criticized in that way, all I can say is that I have not heard the criticism. He went on to say, in regard to the emergency tariff legislation that was passed by this chamber, I think about twelve months ago, that it was no protection to the pea grower in Tasmania during the time that quickfrozen peas were being imported from the United States of America.
– We would like to know the author of that statement.
– The author was Mr. Ron Davies, M.H.R. ‘It is obvious that the legislation did not give any protection to the Tasmanian pea-growers against American imports, because at the time of those imports the measure was not in operation. He then went on to say that the legislation was not invoked when blue peas were being imported from Scandinavia. I might say that it is impossible to produce blue peas in Tasmania. He said also that the legislation was- not invoked- to protect the timber industry in Tasmania. 1 believe that that matter is being taken up this week. It is a strange thing that, in spite of all the complaints that have been made in regard to the flood of imports coming into this country, only three applications have been made so far for the imposition of an emergency tariff to protect the industries affected One would have thought that if the frequent complaints that our own industries are being undermined by a flood of imports were genuine, there would have been many applications for protection. In my opinion, the only scientific and logical way to afford protection to the industries of this country is for inquiries to be conducted by the Tariff Board and appropriate action taken in the light of its report. Protection should not be afforded by a bureaucratic system which imposes import restrictions upon some industries and determines the quantities of goods that can be imported by those industries.
Mr. President, I support the motion for the adoption of ‘the Address-in-Reply and, needless to say, I oppose the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
– Mr. President, in common with every honorable senator in this chamber, I wish to unite with the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply in expressing my loyalty to the Crown. I also associate myself with the expressions of sympathy that have been made to the relatives of our late Governor-General, Lord Dunrossil. I feel certain that the thoughts and prayers of all persons in the community, ‘particularly the women, will be with Viscountess Dunrossil when she begins her long, sad journey home, and particularly when she reaches her homeland, which she left only a little over a year ago. When she set out for Australia with her husband then she had great confidence in the service that they would be able to render to this country. We will all be deeply sympathetic for Lady Dunrossil When she leaves for home in the very near future.
I come now to the motion before the Chair and the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong. 1 support the amendment and oppose the motion. I was rather surprised that when Senator Lillico made the statement that price control was about 2,000 years old and was in existence at the time of Diocletian, he did not also remember that at about the same time something else which is being challenged so much to-day also came into existence. That was the time when Christianity was born. When Senator Courtice asked what Senator Lillico would do to the profiteer, he might well have thought of the gentle Nazarene who went into the temple and flayed the moneychangers and the usurers of that time. This shows that even 2,000 years ago there was a policy to deal with those who made exorbitant profits at the expense of the community as a whole.
– What about what the new translation of the New Testament says about tax gatherers and other evil men?
– I shall come to the tax gatherers presently, but I will leave the evil men to Senator Wright, who knows more about them than I do.
In regard to the present economic position, although 73,000 workers, men and women, are listed as unemployed at the present time, we should not lose sight of the fact that those 73,000 unemployed include many married men whose dependents are also feeling the effects of the present credit squeeze. Instead of there being just 73,000 people living in sub-standard conditions, the number is much closer to 200,000, when we include the dependents of those people and perhaps even as high as 250,000. The Government’s talk about the number of unemployed being a certain percentage of the work force is no satisfaction to those people, because to them their jobs represent the whole of their way of life. When the bread-winner is unemployed, it is not much consolation when meal-time comes around to be told that they are not too badly off because they represent only about 1.5 per cent, of the work force of the nation. We have to look at the human side of this problem of unemployment and see its effect upon each individual concerned.
That is why at this juncture the Australian Labour Party has moved this amendment. We are not satisfied that the Government has done everything it possibly could have done to prevent the development of the present calamitous position. We realize that to-day every government is faced with problems similar to the ones which face this Government; but we say that over the last couple of years the Government has not endeavoured to evolve a policy which might have cushioned the effects of recent economic trends.
We all know that in this chamber just before Christmas we had the spectacle of the Government fighting to the death to have certain legislation passed by the Senate. The legislation was regarded as of such great importance that it was felt the Government could easily stand or fall as a result of the decisions made in this chamber. Within a few short months, without the Parliament being called together to discuss the situation, the position was reversed. The Government decided that the sales tax legislation, which we were told was necessary, should not be continued because certain groups in the community brought full pressure to bear upon the Government. In addition, the Government’s attempts to bring in credit restrictions have also been opposed by very strong elements in the community. Many of the credit restrictions are necessary, but many of them are belated.
For years we on this side of the chamber have been hammering at the excessive interest rates charged by hire-purchase firms. We have also protested against the high interest rates offered by these firms, rates which have attracted into the hirepurchase business so much money that could have been much better used in housing the people or carrying out other worthwhile projects. We are not against hire purchase. It has enabled people to have in their homes many amenities which they could not otherwise have obtained. We oppose, and always will oppose, the high rates of interest that are charged to people who can procure such necessities for their homes only on the instalment plan. Once upon a time, of course, it was called “ time payment “. Now it has become much more respectable and much more expensive, and it is called “ hire purchase “. The hire-purchase companies have drained off a great deal of money that should have been spent on projects of national value. They have been able to attract that money because of the high rates of interest they have offered.
According to the statistics placed before us many people are receiving unemployment benefits while many thousands of jobs remain unfilled. This point has been taken by other speakers. We are not told the kind of work that is available or where it is available. I think it would be found on investigation that many of those jobs are for unskilled workers. That is the crux of the present situation. The only man who can be certain of holding down a job is the man who has been educated to one skill or another. It is rather disturbing to find that there are so many unskilled people in a community which, over the years, has prided itself on its education policy. 1 think this is important, because it shows that over the years there has been a great lack of technological education in all the States. That is not due to a lack of interest in education by the States, but to the fact that they are unable to finance their education programmes.
I happen to be on an education committee that is investigating the problem of education in the various States of the Commonwealth. We find from our work on that committee - and I know this from my own work as a teacher some years ago - that the Cinderella of education has been technical education. The ordinary worker in industry has not been regarded as so important in the scheme of things as the person who was going on to a university. Only about 3 per cent, of the children who start school at the age of five or six years go through to our universities. The other 97 per cent, leave school before they reach that standard: they do not go on to a university at all. Yet the whole of the emphasis in our education syllabuses and programmes has been on education for the universities. I am a great believer in university education. I was able to have the advantage of a university education. 1 think its main advantage is that one learns how much one does not know. From coming into contact with people with much more mature minds than your own, you realize how little you really know.
In the world of to-day, the technician and the scientist are of very great value, and I should like to see more emphasis placed on the technological side of education. This is where the Commonwealth can come in. At the present time, the Commonwealth Government enters into the field of education at two levels; one is the preschool level, where the Commonwealth makes grants to pre-school centres, and the other is at university level, where grants are made to State universities. The vast field of education between those two levels is not touched at all by the Commonwealth Government. If the Government is to give any real assistance in the realm of education, I think it has to take a much more liberal view than it has taken up to now. I suggest that at the tertiary stage of education the Government should help by providing assistance on the technical side. I should like to see some expression from the Government of its policy in this regard. 1 am rather puzzled at the attitude of some Government supporters towards red China, lt is inconsistent to refuse to recognize Communist China and, at the same time, to trade with mainland China. The Government is acting as if Communist China and mainland China is not one and the same country. By trading with mainland China we have been able to sell £27,000,000 worth of wheat and flour. That trade could easily become worth £60,000,000 by the end of this year. 1 only hope, since we are dealing with a country that we do not recognize, that we are not paid in a currency that is not recognized. It would be hard on the farmers if, having sold their wheat to a country that technically does not exist, they were paid in a nonexistent currency.
– The transaction is one of cash against documents. The wheat is paid for before it goes overseas.
– The Government is hypocritical in not recognizing red China when, at the same time, it is prepared to trade with that country and take its money.
I do not hold any brief for mainland China, but I believe we should deal with these matters with some sense of probity. If you agree to trade with a country, surely you must recognize that that country is entitled to elect its own form of government, which is the matter at issue in the recognition of mainland China.
Consistently over the years that 1 have been here I have advocated the adoption of a national policy in relation to disasters that beset Australia from time to time. In January this year the people of Australia were distressed to hear of bush fires that had ravaged certain parts of Western Australia. 1 was particularly saddened to read about those bush fires, because they destroyed the home in which I once lived, the school I once attended and the church in which I once worshipped at Dwellingup. During the night, without warning, hundreds of people were rendered homeless. Timber mills were destroyed. The entire State suffered a serious setback. While those fires were raging in the south-west of the State, floods were occurring in the northwest of the State at Onslow and Carnarvon. Onslow was twice hit by cyclones. Onslow is a port on the north-west coast and came into prominence during the atomic tests at the Monte Bello Islands. It came into prominence more recently as an outlet for the rich north-western pastoral area. Carnarvon, which was recovering from last year’s floods, was again ravaged by floods. Serious bush fires also broke out at Karridale in the south-west corner of the State. I cannot speak too highly of the wonderful courage of the people of those areas. They did everything possible to fight the fires and to keep damage to a minimum. I pay a tribute to the people of Western Australia for their unfailing generosity in times of crisis. One of the commercial television stations conducted an appeal for assistance to victims of the bush fires. Within a few hours £20,000 had been collected and within a few weeks the fund had reached a total in excess of £108,000. That money is to be divided between the bush fire victims in the south and the flood victims in the north.
Calamities similar to those experienced in Western Australia occur at times in other States. It is time the Government paid some attention to this matter. I referred to national disasters some years ago after a cockeyed bob, which is the local name for a cyclone - it has nothing to do with Mr. Menzies - hit Derby. Within twenty minutes damage amounting to £20,000 had been done. I visited Derby and when discussing losses with some storekeepers in the town I discovered1 that they had not been insured against that particular eventuality because the insurance premiums required were too high, particularly for some ex-servicemen who were just setting up in business in the town with money saved from their gratuities. Those men lost everything.
New South Wales has been hit by floods in past years. After I raised this matter in the Senate last week, Mr. Weiley, the member for Clarence in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, sent me some pamphlets which he had received from New Zealand dealing with this matter. On one occasion when I raised this matter in the Senate, Senator Spooner said that people who went to live in areas subject to flooding knew the risk that they were taking and should insure accordingly. I do not think that is a way to encourage people to settle in our outback areas. We hear a lot about the need to settle and develop the northwest of Western Australia, but Senator Spooner’s attitude will not encourage people to go there. The people who have gone to those areas live with the constant fear that all that they have worked for and saved for can be swept away in one fierce cyclone.
The Government should investigate the scheme that has been in operation in New Zealand for the past fifteen or sixteen years. There the Government operates an insurance scheme which recompenses victims of earthquakes, floods and other disasters. Persons who live in areas where floods, bush fires and other disasters may strike are able to take out insurance policies at very low premiums. There can be no doubt that that insurance business is very lucrative, because after a few years the accumulated profit in the fund was £15,000,000. So, a similar scheme in this country would not cost the Government a lot of money. We hope that disasters of the type to which I have been referring will not occur each year. In a few years the fund could accumulate sufficient capital to meet any contingency.
– What risks does the New Zealand scheme cover?
– It covers war damage, damage .from earthquake shock, damage from earthquake fire, damage directly resulting from storm, flood or volcanic eruption and damage from any disaster which is abnormal, unforeseen and of extraordinary effect. The scheme also covers damage from bush fires.
– Did the New Zealand Government simply continue its war damage scheme into the post-war period?
– Apparently so. The scheme was introduced by act of Parliament. It is a simple scheme. It automatically provides adequate financial compensation to property owners who suffer as a result of a flood1, fire, earthquake or other disaster. The scheme is working so successfully that over a period of twelve yeaTS, in addition to meeting claims for flood damage and so on, it showed a profit of £12,500,000 up to the end of last financial year. That figure has since risen to £15,000,000. So the cost of operating the scheme has been very small indeed, lt would pay this Government to examine the New Zealand scheme before another disaster comes upon us.
If the Government is not impressed by what has been done in such a small country as New Zealand, perhaps it would care to investigate what is being done in the United States of America. During the Eisenhower regime Congress passed a bill by 61 votes to seven to provide for insurance against floods and other national disasters. President Eisenhower’s bill was really a pilot test measure to ascertain how the government could operate most effectively in this field, which is not covered by private insurance companies. The United States Administration backed the scheme to the extent of five billion dollars. Prior to the last election in the United States, Mr. Eisenhower was in the process of obtaining more particulars about the New Zealand scheme. Doubtless the matter will be further investigated by the new government. But, seeing that one of our neighbouring dominions, and another country which is friendly to us, are successfully operating schemes to cover national disasters, this Government could well look at what is being done in those countries with a view to adopting similar measures in
Australia where, unfortunately, they are needed. No one knows when and where these national disasters will occur.
I submit to the Government that this is an important matter. No matter how well disposed we may be to giving relief grants to those who suffer in national disasters, people who go to develop our outback areas would feel much more secure if they knew that there was a fund, to which of course they would contribute, that would enable them in some measure to recoup their losses. At the present time, the State governments have to approach the Commonwealth for relief grants, and some time must elapse before adequate relief can be given to those who have suffered as a result of disasters for which they themselves cannot possibly be held to .be responsible. 1 wish to raise another matter that is very important, but in relation to which I may not get very much support in this chamber, even though I may receive support outside. I desire to refer to two measures which I believe should be adopted in the interests of road safety. We in Western Australia have been appalled at the number of deaths of young people on the roads in the few weeks that have already passed this year. In the small suburb in which I live three teenage girls have been killed in street accidents which involved teenage drivers, lt seems to me to be contrary to common sense not to allow young men and women to enter hotels or to vote until they are 21 years of age and yet to put into their hands at the age of 18 years in some States, and at the age of 16 years in others, a very deadly weapon in the form of a motor car. If or.e examines the statistics, one finds that as many people have been killed in road accidents as were killed on the fields of battle in the last 30 or 40 years. One also finds that young people between 16 years and 21 years of age account for a very high percentage of those who are suffering as a result of the mounting toll of the road. Many of these young people are excellent drivers, but many like to show off when they get behind the steering wheel of a high-powered car, and do not realize at the time the dangerous potentialities of the vehicle. Often they realize the danger when it is too late. We have seen many thousands of young lives needlessly thrown away in this manner.
It is not only those who are killed who suffer. Many people are maimed’ for life. I believe that, before a young person is allowed to drive a car, he should be taken to the paraplegic units at some of our major hospitals to see the results of careless or inexperienced driving. It may be said that people in other age groups are involved in more accidents than .are teenagers. That may be so, bat when one thinks of the appalling loss of young lives, one realizes that we cannot afford to allow this state of affairs to continue. .In Western Australia, within the last few years, the lives of very promising young men have been sacrificed on .the altar of speed and fun.
I should like to see more stringent regulations passed’ to deal with this problem. Surely if it is dangerous for a young chap of I S years or 19 years to have a glass of beer, it is equally as dangerous for him to ‘be given control of a high powered’ vehicle in which he may risk not only his own life but also the lives of others travelling with faim or, indeed, of those who may be crossing the road.
– You should be saying, all this in Harvest-terrace.
– I am saying it here because the Commonwealth Government holds the purse strings and makes the major policy decisions in this regard. Surely we can refer to such matters in theNational Parliament. This problem does not affect only one State. One has only to pick up a newspaper every day, nomatter in which State one happens to be, to discover that at least one young person has needlessly lost his or her life on the road. It is about time something was done to raise the age at which licences may be granted, particularly to persons who wish to drive passenger vehicles.
Consideration must also be given to the age of vehicles. A couple of Sundays ago I noticed on the road a 1927 model baby car which was weighted down with all kinds of slogans and tied up with wire and other bits and pieces. In it were four young people who apparently were out for a good’ time. But before -the afternoon had passed they had come to a sticky end. Fortunately they were not killed, but they were injured in what was a nasty accident. The Road Safety Council should take steps to see that all cars are roadworthy. In New Zealand, which has given us a lead by introducing legislation to deal with these matters, drivers must have their licences renewed each year and cars must have certificates of roadworthiness.
– That is done in New South Wales.
– It is not done throughout Australia. That shows the need for a uniform road code throughout this country.
– Do not ‘the authorities in Western Australia inspect the vehicles?
– Occasionally, but not usually. If a vehicle appears to be in rather poor condition when it is brought in for registration, it may not be registered. I believe there should be uniformity throughout Australia in relation to the registration of vehicles and the age at which licences are granted to drivers. Perhaps I shall be called a spoilsport, but I do not care about that. If one life is saved as a result of my submissions, that will be sufficient recompense for me.
There are aspects of the amendment moved by Senator Armstrong with which I have not the time to deal. There is one matter which I hope will be discussed more fully in this chamber at a later date - the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in relation to civilian widows from whom I, in common with other Western Australian members, received a deputation just recently. That deputation outlined to us the difficulties under which civilian widows were labouring in their efforts to give their children a complete education and a good standard of living. This matter will come up for discussion at a later time, when we are dealing with the social services bills. I should like the Minister now, before he starts getting his Budget ready, by which time he no doubt will say it is too late, to give more attention to the lot of the civilian widow with dependent children and to see to it that she receives a 100 per cent, living standard for herself and her children, and thus enable them to be decent Australian citizens.
– I wish to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen that are embodied in the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I express my humble gratitude for the good work that Her Majesty has been doing this year, not only in cementing, but also in strengthening, Commonwealth ties.
I believe that the future of Australia lies without. Our relations with other countries are vitally important to us. AD the money that is spent in Australia on development, on immigration, on defence and on social services will be as nothing if we have not firm friends and powerful allies. I was amazed when I heard a responsible member of the Australian Labour Party, a man who was a Minister when that party was in power many long years ago, say that he did not approve of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) being out of Australia endeavouring to play his part, to negotiate and to work towards the cementing of the ties of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister is also performing other important functions and is doing the job better than any one else of whom one knows or reads. He certainly is held in high regard in the international sphere. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for being willing to expend his energies in doing that job for us. He certainly has left behind him here capable people to cope with the difficulties which confront Australia. I share his knowledge that we are in safe hands.
T also wish to express my personal sorrow at the untimely death of the late GovernorGeneral and to say that I believe that in the very short time he was with us he not only gained the high regard and respect of all Australians but also won the affection of all who knew him or who either saw him on television or heard him speak over the radio.
I do not intend to cover to-night the field of economics, because I believe that others have done so adequately. However, my failure to do so will not be because I do not think that that subject is of prime importance to Australia. I have studied the position thoroughly and have the utmost confidence that the Government is doing everything in its power to steady down the economy so that it will be capable of further progress in the very near future. I commend the Government on its courageous stand at a time when it might have been excused had it delayed taking drastic action. Strong medicine is never pleasant, least of all to those who are taking the biggest doses. I believe that the newcomers to Australia are, in this case, taking the biggest doses. But with characteristic courage, they have not joined in the calamity howling. They have settled down. They have used their initiative to seek other jobs and in most instances have already found them.
Statistics prove that there are still opportunities and job vacancies. While I sympathize with the new Australians in the difficult period of re-adjustment through which they are passing, I feel that they in turn will have sympathy for the difficult task which the Government has undertaken in attempting to steady down the economy with a view to ensuring a rosier future than the circumstances in which they are placed at present might perhaps lead them to expect.
I believe that the economy has already responded to the slowing-down effected by the credit squeeze and that before long we shall see a relaxation of the pressure. The boom will be under control and national developmental projects in both primary and secondary industries will flow ahead as smoothly as ever. There certainly is much to be done in the developmental field in Australia, but I think that it will perhaps pay us to keep looking back to see what this Government has done in the field of development.
In the last few weeks I have made some inquiries concerning the developmental work that has been done in my own State by the Menzies Government. The first thing that I found that had been done was the construction of the Whyalla pipe-line, that lifeline of the northern areas of South Australia which takes Murray water so many hundreds of males from the river, and even to as far north as Woomera and Maralinga. It is accepted as a part of the landscape as rt winds north. Its construction was assisted by the Menzies Government which guaranteed to purchase at a fixed price water brought through the pipe-line. Without that guarantee, the line might never have been started. Certainly, its completion would have been delayed. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Government’s right was waived to exclude losses on water reticulated to Whyalla from any claim by the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth
Grants Commission. This pipe line has been of inestimable value to the development of rural areas and also to the establishment of the now flourishing town of Whyalla, to say nothing of its value to the wonderful defence projects of Woomera and Maralinga, further to the north.
Later, the Commonwealth Government, under the guidance of the Prime Minister, gave an enormous fillip to the establishment of secondary industries in South Australia. Early in World War II., as a deliberate act of policy, the Menzies Government established munitions works at Hendon, Salisbury and elsewhere in South Australia. That policy was the foundation of South Australia’s subsequent miraculous industrial development. All who live in that State realize the extent of that development. When the Menzies Government came back to office at the end of 1949, the tax reimbursement grant, plus the special grant, to South Australia totalled about £12,000,000. This year, it will be of the order of £30,000,000. Much of that sum will be used for development hi my State.
In the field of public works and housing, the Menzies Government, during its term of office, has found out of Commonwealth revenue, in addition to revenue remaining after tax reimbursement payments to the State, 40 per cent, of the cost of all State works programmes and 60 per cent, of all State and Commonwealth works added together. Roads aid to South Australia has risen under the Menzies Government from £1,400,000 to £5,100,000. The Long Range Weapons Establishment, at Salisbury, the Woomera rocket range and the Maralinga establishment are sometimes overlooked when we think of development in South Australia. The Commonwealth Government has contributed nearly £100,000,000 to those projects, to say nothing of the contributions of the British Government. Expenditure on those projects is second only to expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme. These are projects of which we certainly may be proud, when we consider what has already been done and is still being done in connexion with them. They have provided a great deal of employment for South Australians and have absorbed many of the products of the factories of the State.
In regard to railways, although the Commonwealth Government has yet to give the green light to go ahead with the standardization of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line, something which we all expect to see and certainly hope to see in the very near future, we must look at the work that has already been done on rail construction. The Menzies Government has built the Port Augusta-Leigh Creek-Marree railway, almost entirely for the benefit of South Australia. Without it, the effective use of Leigh Creek coal by South Australia would have been impaired and the State’s record of relative freedom from blackouts and electrical power shortages would have been shattered. The line, plus the rolling-stock, cost the Commonwealth Government £12,000,000. Coal freights from Leigh Creek were heavily subsidized throughout by the Commonwealth. Even since the freights were revised in April, 1956, the effective subsidy on the coal has been about £500,000 a year. In addition, the South Eastern Railways Division has been converted from the 3 ft. -6 in. gauge to the 5-ft. 3-in gauge. The Commonwealth contribution to this work was £5,000,000.
It is said that the Government should take a more active part in the field of education. I for one believe that this is still the province of the State governments, and I hope that it will remain so. I believe that they are much better fitted to continue the good work that they are doing. But the universities have been assisted greatly by the Commonwealth Government, and the university in my own State has benefited enormously from the huge expenditure undertaken ‘by the Menzies Government in the university field. This: was a voluntary effort on behalf of the Government, because there is no constitutional responsibility for universities upon the Commonwealth, Government. This year; South Australia will get just on £1,000;000 under this grant.
During the Menzies Government’s term of office, South Australia has received, in respect of mental institutions and tuberculosis treatment, over £4,000,000. The Snowy Mountains scheme; the water- aspects of which were finally settled to the satisfaction of South Australia’, largely due to the intervention of the- Prime Minister at the request of South Australian Liberal: senators, has meant that the water supply for South Australia is in a more secure position than it ever was before. Naturally, all South Australians look forward to the time when the Menzies Government will extend its generous policy of development to include finance for the construction of a dam on the river Murray at Renmark. Most South Australians are reasonable and are prepared to wait a reasonable period, as we realize that all the developmental projects we require in Australia cannot eventuate at once. We are not pressing on regardless of the need for economic stability, but we make it very clear that the entire future development of the State depends upon having a greater supply of water than we now have. Since the river Murray is our only assured supply of water, we urge our colleagues in the Senate to press the Government to give priority to the request of the South Australian Government for financial assistance for the commencement of this dam as soon as possible. The story of development in South Australia under our splendid Liberal Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, with the assistance of the Menzies Government, is unprecedented, but it is recognized by our most reasonable population that rapid development causes inflationary pressures, intensifies balance-of-payments problems and places a severe strain on the economy from time to time.
Most of the credit for the success of Australia’s migration policy since the end of World War II. must go to the Menzies Government. During the past eleven years, this Government has continued to sponsor immigration, and has increased the rate until to-day we are bringing in a minimum of 125,000 people each year. This has inaugurated an exciting era in Australian history. Immigration has done, and is still doing, much to develop our remote areas, and our industries, and- it is adding to our defence security and our maturity as a nation. The Europeans who have come to live among us have stimulated our interest in music, painting, choral singing,, folk-dancing, and even in good food,, until to-day life in Australia is the envy of almost every other nation. There1 is no- doubt that we have much for which to thank oar migrants, but why do we continue to- treat them as second-class citizens’ m the matter of pensions, and why do we’ not consider their feelings more in framing our requirements for naturalization?
We want migrants, we need them, we help them to come here, and they are willing, for the most part, not only to give the help we need, but also to become one with us. Thousands have become good Australian citizens, yet we continue to say to them, “ We offer you everything we have ourselves, except, in some instances, age and invalid pensions. You must live here for twenty years before you can qualify for these pensions.” Displaced persons came here soon after the war, perhaps at the age of 45 or 50 years, and now, because they are compulsorily retired and unable to work, perhaps through sickness, we refuse them a pension. They have worked hard during their working lives in this country and have contributed much to our production and revenue, but we place this barrier against them. This restriction should be removed so that we can say truthfully to them, as many now untruthfully say, “As Australian citizens, you are as we are, free to share with us the fruits of our hard work”. That is not so. Social service benefits should be conferred upon them equally with us at the time of nationalization. I urge the Government to do away with the necessity for new Australians or new citizens to live in Australia for twenty years before being able to claim age and invalid pensions. I hope that the Government will consider allowing all naturalized people to claim pensions in the same way as older Australians do.
Many Australians wonder why more migrants are not being naturalized, and complain about this refusal to seek Australian citizenship. It is not widely known that before becoming naturalized each person is obliged to renounce allegiance to the land of his birth. This may sound easy to us, but do we often put ourselves in the position of the migrant? Unthinking Australians, people who nevertheless understand the full significance of the word “ allegiance “, say, “ Why should they not renounce allegiance to the land of their birth? “ But there is a subtle difference between loyalty and allegiance, and I think that is what all newcomers do not quite understand. Fortunately, human beings can have more than one loyalty. A woman is loyal to her husband and her children and she is also loyal to her mother and father. Should her husband fall out with her parents, she remains with him, but in her heart she remains loyal also to her parents and she longs for her family. It would be unfair to expect her to renounce such loyalty, but to the migrants it seems as if we are asking them to renounce their loyalty to the land of their birth. They do not understand the meaning of renouncing allegiance. They think it is renouncing loyalty to the land of their birth. I suggest to the Government that by abolishing this requirement we would make naturalization much more acceptable to many newcomers. Let us rather take it for granted that when migrants, living happily in Australia and rearing here families of dinkum Aussies, swear to give their first loyalty to Australia and to our Queen, they will also retain loyalty to the land of their birth. I suggest that we should ask them only to give their first loyalty to Australia. Descendants of the Germans who came here originally more than 100 years ago are still loyal to the land of their forefathers, but they fought, and some died, for Australia during two world wars against their fatherland, proving that their first loyalty was to their adopted land. Their names adorn the pages of our history, as will the names of many more nationals in the future. But do not let us ask the impossible of them. They do not understand the subtlety of our language. We could be tolerant and generous towards them by not asking them to fulfil the present requirement, and I think the reward would be ours.
I am delighted that the Government has decided to raise the grant to the Australian National Travel Association to enable it to pursue its efforts to increase international tourism to Australia. Not only can international tourism help to solve our balanceofpayments problems, but it can also help to implement the Government’s policy of full employment. As Senator McManus said, the Government should make employment No. 1 priority. I believe that the Government does make it No. 1 priority. Increasing the grant to the Australian National Travel Association will help, in a small way, to ensure full employment for at least 9,000 people who are now employed in international tourism. As that tourism expands, so it will be possible for more to be employed. I have said repeatedly in this chamber that tourism is the overall name for two separate but related industries. Local tourism, that is, Australians travelling interstate or intrastate to holiday resorts for a rest of two or three weeks during their holiday period, is, as it should be, entirely the responsibility of State governments. Perhaps it is significant that local tourism is already twenty times greater than the other related industry - that is, international tourism. This latter industry, as I have for so long tried to persuade some of my colleagues in this chamber, should be the sole responsibility of the Australian Government. However much we may think we are known overseas, one has only to move outside our shores to realize how little is known about us as a race or as a country, and still less is known about individual States and their names. It is therefore to Australia that we should set out to attract people, and having done that we can attract them to the individual States. To do this, Australian publicity, Australian promotion, Australian characters and Australian money are required overseas, and the Australian Government must make all this possible. So far it has not contributed nearly enough to this industry, but it now appears to be conscious of the needs of the industry.
It is almost five years since I advocated that an amount of approximately £1,000,000 be contributed for the promotion overseas of international tourism. I urge my fellow senators to join with me in pressing the Government to make a much larger contribution than the £120,000 which it is making available this year. We need offices in New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and in Europe immediately, in addition to the offices that are being run so excellently by the Australian National Travel Association in San Francisco, London and New Zealand. Those are the only overseas travel offices being run on an Australia-wide basis. We can, and we must, attract more people here, and we must induce the people who do come here to spend more while they are here. That, too, is possible. By so doing we would ensure more and regular employment for Australian people as well as introduce much-needed capital to buy our goods and utilize our services.
At present we have an ever-increasing deficit in international tourism. In 1956, the deficit amounted to £16,000,000. The
Statistician’s figures show that £6,000,000 was spent in Australia by international tourists and that £22,000,000 was spent outside Australia by Australians. In 1960, the deficit had risen to £25,000,000; the Statistician estimated that in that year £9,500,000 was spent by international tourists inside Australia whilst £35,000,000 was spent by Australians visiting other countries. I know that the estimates of the Australian National Travel Association are slightly different and slightly higher. The point I am trying to make is that we have a substantial and a rising deficit in tourism. This is too serious a situation to be allowed to continue. The tax gained to Australia from international tourism in 1958 was £3,500,000. Experts estimate that if the promotion programme were adequately stepped up this amount could be expected to grow to £12,000,000 by 1965, and that in the same period Australia could earn £137,000,000 in foreign exchange from international tourism alone. If we do not step up promotion, but merely carry on as at present, we will lose at least £23,000.000 in foreign exchange in the next five years. The necessary increased promotion expenditure could be more than covered by the increase in taxation revenue.
Next, I want to say a few words about housing. I am fully aware of the need to dampen down the building industry in general, since that industry alone has been responsible for some £33,000,000 worth of steel being imported during the last financial year, to say nothing of other imports. I know that it was the Government’s intention, as it stated in its instruction to the banks, to squeeze industrial and speculative building but not individual home building. This Government has demonstrated consistently its desire and policy for home ownership on a liberal basis. The Government is making available to the States alone approximately £35,000,000 under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in addition to the amount it is making available for War Service Homes, but still the demand for housing exists. In a report issued by the Department of National Development in 1956, the following statement appears: -
The Department’s study shows that the new needs for housing arising over the next few years will be at a relatively low level because the rate of marriages will be low, reflecting the birth rates of the period 1931-1935.
This report was published in 1956. It continues -
The study also shows, however, that from 1960 onwards, because of an expected annual increase in the rate of marriages, the need for new houses will grow fairly rapidly.
If this is so, then obviously ways and means for obtaining such houses are urgent. The greatest need in this field is for homes for large families. Few landlords are anxious to let houses to families with children, and yet Australia’s greatest need is for large families and more and more children. I urge the Government to implement a plan which will cope with this urgency. I believe that a great many Australians would lend money specifically for housing if they could be assured of a reasonable return for their money.
The Government should float a special loan ear-marked for bousing on terms similar to other government loans - that is, at the current rate of bond interest, with interest earned from the loan to be taxfree. This money could then be allocated to building societies for distribution on a needs basis. Families with four, five or six children should be given preference. Others in need of mortgage money for housing are migrants who are at present living in hostels, but are anxious - and we desire to help them - to vacate their temporary accommodation. Some of them have even arranged for loans and maybe have commenced to build their houses, but now, due to the credit squeeze, are unable to proceed. A special housing loan would be a great benefit to them and to the community.
An extra incentive to home ownership could be offered by the Government if money paid towards the ownership of a home were made a tax deduction. Certainly the setting up of a federal housing authority, on similar lines to the authority in America, is most desirable. It would not intrude on State rights. The States could still manage their own Housing Commissions, but the authority could supervise loan allocations and act as a guarantor to banks, building societies or other lending agencies for the repayment of mortgage moneys.
Finally, I repeat my plea to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that he once again investigate the eligibility of ex-servicewomen for war ser vice homes. I submit, with great respect, that the Minister and his department have not thoroughly faced up to this injustice. The women of whom I speak enlisted and were accepted for overseas service along with the men. They received SX numbers. Some of these women, just as some A.I.F. men, through no fault of their own, were never sent outside Australia, but instead served in the Darwin battle area. To-day. the men who served with them under similar conditions have been granted, and are living, in war service homes, whilst the few who are women are not eligible to apply. Australia claims to give equality of opportunity to the sexes, but here is a most blatant example of discrimination.
Over the years there has been a good deal of correspondence about this matter, but these women have never received a satisfactory answer to their requests. They are not seeking for a new category to be introduced into the act, although that is the angle from which the department approaches this matter. It is stipulated in the act that persons who enlisted and were accepted for overseas service are eligible for war service homes. These ex-servicewomen, just as the men, are in that category. I repeat that they are not seeking a new category; but they do want justice and the right to apply, and if necessary wait, along with their male comrades, for a war service home. It is time that this thorn in the flesh of the ex-service A.I.F. women was removed, and that they be treated equitably. This Government has a record of fair treatment to all, and this anomaly could be speedily rectified as all other anomalies have been rectified during the Government’s term of office.
I commend the Government on its progressive policy as outlined by the Administrator in his Address from the Throne. I support the address so ably moved by my colleague, Senator Mattner.
– The amendment moved by my* colleague, Senator Armstrong, to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, has led to a debate which would have been much better if it had taken place about a month ago. Because of the rather late meeting of the Parliament on this occasion, I feel that the points that have been raised by both sides have been resolved already in the mind of the general public.
If an outstanding issue has ever exercised the mind of the public, it has certainly been the financial measures that were introduced last November. I would not have entered this debate but for the extraordinary attitude that has been adopted by some supporters of the Government towards the criticism that has been levelled at those measures. They adopt the attitude that everybody is out of step bar Jack. They take the stand that the Government was right when it introduced the measures last November, that they have had the desired effect and therefore their removal - or whatever the Government is going to do, because some of them are still, like Mohammed’s coffin, suspended between heaven and earth - will be right. Whatever the Government does will be right. Honorable senators opposite maintain that the view they took was completely right. ‘It is noteworthy that it is mainly the members of the Liberal Party who entered this chamber when this Government came to power in 1949 - members such as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) - who continue to assert that the attitude that was adopted by the Government in November last was right, that the desired result has came about and that therefore the measures should be removed. At this .particular period, it would be most unusual to defend the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but I say that he has been a little more honest and discerning in his approach to the matter than other members of the Government have been. In a statement he made when he decided to withdraw the 10 per cent, increase in .the sales tax on motor cars, he said’ -
Close examination has satisfied us that the present psychological effect of an increased sales tax which many possible buyers believe not likely to endure beyond the next Budget is a bad one. It serves to induce a .postponement of demand which aggravates the effect of credit measures and therefore tends to hit the motor industry more than we would desire.
He went out of his way to say that the effect was a bad one. I assume that it was because of that belief that he withdrew the additional ten per cent, sales tax on motor cars. This shows that he is more astute politically than the two Ministers in this chamber that I have mentioned. When Mr. Menzies announced that he was taking a step backwards by removing the additional sales tax imposed on motor cars, my first reaction mentally was to give him a lot of marks. Many members of the public thought that a mistake had been made in imposing this additional tax. He was big enough, at least partially, to admit that mistake, and he gained political kudos by removing the additional sales tax. I think that a responsible member of the Government gets more kudos by admitting he has made a mistake than by adopting the mulish attitude that the Government was right when it imposed the tax and that it was still right when it took it off only ten or twelve weeks later.
Obviously, the increased sales tax did not have the desired result at all. The whole of this thing flows from the Government not admitting the first error that it made in 1952. It is maintaining a mulish attitude to the panic action that it took in November, and it will continue to make mistakes until it goes back to base and admits that it made an error in dropping import controls. The Government now finds great evils in import controls, although it has used them in varying degrees ever since it came to office on 10th December, 1949. Ever since we have been a nation we have said that we are going to maintain, certain standards for the Australian people. The Government cannot with impunity throw the Australian market open to other countries to take advantage of our softness or stupidity - call it what you like. The effect of dropping import controls is obvious to everyone. I believe that it is obvious to the Government too. It made the same protestations in 1951 but it reintroduced import controls in 1952. This was underlined in a report which I read in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ towards the end of last year by Nyall Industries Limited, a Sydney factory which makes men’s clothing and manufactures textiles and that sort of thing. In his report to the shareholders the chairman said -
You will note that in this year’s trading we have moved more away from the manufacturing field into the importing field because we cannot compete with the subsidies given in other parts of the world where there is cheap labour. Therefore, to survive as a public company, to stay in our business, we have to move more into the importing field.
If we take this to its ultimate conclusion, rt means that manufacturing concerns such as Nyalls have to move away from manufacturing into the importing field merely to survive. After all, in a public company the rights of the shareholders must be considered. If that is done, it means that hundreds of people who work the machines will be sacked and a few clerks will be put on to handle imports. This is what will have to be done in order to allow such public companies to keep functioning. It is not just a matter of saying that we will drop import controls and allow fair competition from other nations. This does not always result in fair competition. There are no Marquess of Queensberry rules in international trade. In other parts of the world exports are subsidized, and now we are doing that. When a country drops imports controls, other countries subsidize exports to beat their competitors on that market. So all this talk about fair competition just does not work out at all. I think that the Government has come to that conclusion itself in the last few weeks, because suddenly it has decided to subsidize exports. In other words, Australia will do what other countries of the world are doing. We are going to try to get into other markets by subsidizing exports - by taking advantage of the very means by which other countries are taking advantage of us to-day.
I am always amazed by the pressures that are put on this Government by importers. I wonder why the Government does not give to the manufacturers of Australia the same consideration that it extends to the importers. The Government is denying to the manufacturers the assistance that it gives to the importers.
The Government’s second mistake was mentioned by Senator Buttfield. As the honorable senator pointed out, £33,000,000 worth of our imports represented steel. Therefore, the Government is trying to dampen down the building industry. Why should the building industry be dampened down in this year of 1961? If there is anything basic to the happiness and development of any country, it is certainly the building of cottages and homes. But whenever anybody seeks to criticize the Government or the activities of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited the old Communist smear is brought out. The Government dare not touch that great institution. I am not anti-B.H.P. It is a great company in many ways. I have heard about it producing cheap steel, and I say that it should produce cheap steel because it gets its raw material cheaply. The fact is that B.H.P. owes a fair bit to the governments of this country. Instead of importing steel to-day we should be exporting it. If the Government had stood up to B.H.P. or had done something about the steel industry, we should be exporting steel instead of importing it. That is another one of the mistakes that the Government made which led it into the errors of last November.
– In South Australia
– For goodness sake, stop chattering about South Australia. That is about all we hear from the South Australian senators on the Government side. If they are not referring to the Premier of South Australia suing the Commonwealth Government, they are saying something else about South Australia. Let us get down to general issues for a while. It is not as if the Government had not been warned in this chamber about the action that it intended to take. The Senate went to the ultimate to which it can go; it deadlocked the issue. It is true that the Senate deadlocked it for only a few days, but it did deadlock it. Honorable senators know the result that has flowed from that action in the past. On two occasions in the history of Australia the ultimate in electoral discipline has been produced by the Senate; that is, the dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament. The Government had ample opportunity to withdraw the legislation. It was given that breathing space of a few days, but in spite of that it went ahead.
Now the Government wonders why there has been this reaction in respect of motor cars. Mr. Acting Deputy President, the people of Australia had emphasized to them that this chamber, and even members of the Liberal Party, were concerned about the Government’s action. They saw an immediate reaction throughout the length and breadth of Australia. They knew that the sales tax on motor cars had already been increased from 8i per cent, under the Labour Government to 30 per cent. - as a temporary measure, mark you - five years ago. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that regrettably he had to impose a sectional tax on the motor car industry. He. said that it was of a temporary nature only, and he concluded by saying that he was sure that the motor car industry would bear it for the time being, knowing that there was an election in the offing. He made only one mistake in that statement to which I have referred, lt was not the fact that the people thought that the Government would not survive another Budget; the people knew for certain that it would not survive another election. Had it not been an election year, the people would not have thought that the Government was taking the steps it took in order to get out of the position in which it was placed.
Knowing all those things, would not anybody who was thinking about buying a car under those circumstances need his head read, unless his business forced him to do so? That was the natural reaction of everybody except the people who were forced into buying cars or who, through super loyalty to the Government, said, “ Whatever you do we will stick to you, and we will spend the extra £100 or £200 on a motor car.” What happened was quite inevitable, and it was as plain as the nose on your face that it was going to happen.
That leads me to the second amazing attitude of some of the supporters of the Government. I have mentioned Senator Spooner and Senator Paltridge, but I exclude both of them from what I am about to say. I was amazed to read that Senator McKellar said that it was a contemptible action on the part of one of the motor car companies to dismiss its employees. I assume that the company to which he referred was General Motors-Holden’s Limited. After all, there are not many motor car companies in Australia. I assume that as the Ford Company announced the following day that it intended to put off another 900 people, Senator McKellar would apply his remark to that company, too. He said that it was a contemptible action by that motor car company, and he hoped it would lead people to boycott its product.
Mr. Acting Deputy President, the intention of the Government is set out in the words of the Prime Minister. I had better quote him accurately because I know that he does not like being misquoted. These are the words he used -
There should be some falling off in employment in the motor car industry. A falling off from the very high peak in I960 is inevitable. One of our designs was to reduce inflationary pressure in that section. This must involve some changes in employment
When the very result that the Government set out to produce is produced - namely, dismissals or, as the Prime Minister said, “ changes in employment “ - Senator McKellar stands up and says that it is a contemptible action. All I can say is that it highlights the muddle-headed thinking in :the ranks of the supporters of the Government when the Prime Minister gives that lead and then that sort of utterance is made by one of his back-benchers.
I wish to refer to one matter which is not tremendously important. Of course, like all these things it is important to the people whom it involves. The Cabinet had before it the proposal to refund the money that was paid in additional sales tax during those ten short weeks. I think the answer was given the other day by Senator Paltridge, who said that when an increase in tax is lifted it is not usual to refund the money that has been paid in respect of that increase. I agree wholeheartedly. But that is in a usual case; this is not a usual case. I again quote the words of the Prime Minister when he said -
We did not apply this tax for the purpose of revenue; we applied it as a deterrent.
Somebody might interject to say that I am wrong, but I think the increased tax produced about £4,000,000. If the Government did not impose it for the purpose of raising revenue, why does it not go the whole hog and admit its mistake? The Prime Minister has half-admitted the mistake. Why does not the Government refund that money? As I have said, the only people who have been hit and penalized are the Government’s own faithfuls and the patriotic people who have stuck to it through thick and thin. Anybody else who even considered buying a car during that period should have his head read.
I suppose that there is humour in all these things. One of the most humorous things in this case is the attitude of the people who say: “ This is the pattern in the motor car industry all over the world. Every now and again in Detroit and other places people are put off work.” After deliberatelytaking this action in order to have people sacked from the motor car industry, supporters of the Government say that the dismissals have nothing to do with what the Government did, but are part of the pattern all over the world. Of course, what the Government has to do is to start to turn back the tide in Australia. I am sick of hearing about unemployment figures and what is happening in other parts of the world and that unemployment in the motor car industry is the pattern all over the world. Most of the people who are being affected by the Government’s action are not very interested in other parts of the world. The Government’s duty is to govern Australia, and it should quote overseas figures very sparingly. Everybody knows full well that when you start to compare conditions, societies or anything else in different parts of the world it is a full-time study. You cannot just take one or two factors out of their context and make a comparison on them.
I notice that Senator Spooner, in his speech the other day, was very upset at Senator Armstrong’s criticism of the Government’s stop-and-go methods. I have noticed that certain newspapers that can usually be relied upon to fall into line with a Liberal government have said: “What else can the Government do? It cannot go at the one pace. It must stop and go.” Surely the Government must realize that it has not two speeds only - full speed ahead and full speed astern. There are other ways of going along, such as meandering along if necessary and slackening down and speeding up. The action of the Government in completely reversing its policy within twelve weeks is something for which criticism should be levelled at it.
I shall now refer to the matter of life assurance companies. First, as we understood the proposal, there were to be compulsory loans from assurance companies amounting to 30 per cent of their investment funds. Mr. Menzies, in his statement, said that the Government has had consultations with the assurance companies, and later the Treasurer told us that the proposals would be modified. As I understood the Administrator’s Speech, there is to he no modification, and there are rumours that the proposals will be dropped altogether. Surely that announcement contained something that should have struck the Government at the time. After it made the announcement it was to have consultations with the assurance companies. The Government found that its first decision was wrong. It did the same thing in regard to the motor car companies. If the Government intended to have consultations with the companies that would be affected, would it not have been logical to have those consultations before making the announcement? The Government did that in regard to the hire-purchase companies many years ago, but very unsuccessfully. On that occasion the Government said to the companies, “We want you to cut down your activities “. Had the Government done the same in regard to the motor car industry, I imagine that there would have been ways and means of reducing production. That way a definite percentage could have been arrived at, but the way the Government did it allowed the situation to get completely out of hand. That also applies to the insurance companies. Yet the Government wonders why we criticize its action.
Senator Spooner’s speeches always interest me. They are always on the one theme. He is dropping into one type of speech. He always stands up with that reluctant manner of his and says: “ Now look, surely this is not a bad thing. Let us compare our record with that of the Labour Government of twelve years ago.” I think it is a very bad thing for any government or any person in an expanding country to look backwards at all. Can you imagine the late John Curtin doing that in 1942 or 1943? Of course, you cannot. John Curtin was a big man, and he did not do that sort of thing. Could you have found any member of the Labour Party adopting Senator Spooner’s attitude and saying that when Labour assumed office in October, 1941, Australia had four Wirraways and later had eight, so look how much better the Labour Party had done? I disagree completely with Senator Spooner. It is bad to be looking back continually over a period of twelve years. Senator Spooner should not be referring to what this Government did back in 1954 or 1955. The only thing to fear is fear itself. You should not continually refer to past achievements. What has been achieved in the past should be but a pale reflection of things to come.
We have heard a lot about exports. Government supporters have been anxious to talk about exports because they have refused to face up to the real issues. They have said a lot about development. I wonder why, after twelve years, the Government suddenly decides to make announcements about export subsidies, development, road building and other matters. Surely that is the red herring across the trail to take the eyes of the public away from the colossal mess in which the Government finds itself. If the Government is to find a cure for unemployment it will not find it by increasing exports or by a development drive. I would be the last to cut down exports or to restrict development, but those are long-term propositions. They may take effect to-morrow or next year, or they may not take effect at all. That is a risk that must be taken; the Government must face up to the problems that beset this country to-day, or they will become more urgent to-morrow.
Government supporters have criticized the Opposition because of its policy in relation to imports. The figures of imports and balance of payments are so revealing as to be threatening. When the Government took office in 1949, our balance of payments stood at £590,000,000. At that time we were importing at the rate of £538,000,000 a year. The Government immediately went on the rampage. It relaxed import controls and by the end of 1951-52 the value of imports had jumped by 100 per cent. Australia was then importing goods to the value of £1,051,000,000 a year, and our overseas balances had dropped from £590,000,000 to £322,000,000. The Government realized its mistake and re-introduced import controls in March, 1952. The effect was immediate. The value of imports immediately dropped to £510,000,000 and our overseas balances increased to £511,000,000. So the Government knows what it was able to do with import controls. To-day, we are importing goods worth £1,200,000,000 a year. That figure is the highest in our history. At the same time our overseas balances have dropped to £310,000,000 - the lowest figure in our history. It will be seen that in 1952, when the Government restored import controls, it had a balance in London equal to the value of goods imported over a period of twelve months, but to-day our balance in London is equal in value only to the amount of goods imported in a period of three months. It is idle for Government supporters to decry the value of import controls. For eleven years the Government resorted to import controls. On one occasion it used them very effectively, but now it professes to see all sorts of evils in the use of import controls. The Government claims that the lifting of import controls will mean cheaper goods on Australian tables. But that has not happened.
Whenever unemployment is mentioned Government supporters claim that the Labour Party seeks to benefit from the unemployment situation. When a Labour supporter speaks about unemployment he is usually speaking from bitter experience. Most of us, myself included, were victims of the depression in one way or another. We know at first hand the evils that flow from unemployment. By accusing the Opposition of using the unemployment situation for political gain, the Government fails to realize the seriousness of the situation. The same thing applies to communism. The Government is ever ready to smear the Labour Party and tell the world that Labour sympathizes with the Communists, but it has never contemplated the real evils of international communism. The Government merely uses communism as a stick with which to beat the Labour Party. It will use unemployment in the same way without realizing the seriousness of the situation. If the number of unemployed ever reaches Professor Copland’s estimate of 200,000 the Government will find that it cannot handle the situation. I give full marks to one man only in the Government - the Prime Minister. He at least half admitted that a colossal error was made in November last year, and he took the hesitant step of moving away from that error. Other members of the Government have taken the attitude that their action was right and that they are still right. They claim that everybody is out of step except themselves.
The weapon with which to deal with the present economic situation is import controls. The re-introduction of import controls would not put one extra person out of work. My only plea is that the Government will carefully examine the situation.
If it does not rectify the situation, the Australian Labour Party will have to do so when it becomes the Government. If the Government does not deal satisfactorily with the serious economic problem now facing the country a Labour government will bring the country back to economic sanity next year.
– Having regard to the censure motion now being debated rn another place and also to the amendment to the motion now before the Senate, I feel that this debate very properly should be regarded as an economic debate. Senator Willesee regarded the debate in that light. He devoted his remarks to the economic situation and I propose to make some observations on the same theme. In the first place I discount substantially many of the statements that have appeared in the newspapers. They would have us believe that a very serious situation has developed. I repeat that I discount a good deal of what they have said. I do not believe that our economy is in a dangerous condition. I admit that there are some problems, but they can be solved if proper steps are taken at the right time.
I do not believe that we are suffering from national poverty. Australia is one of the top ten trading nations of the world, and we have a standard of living which is unrivalled. Prosperity abounds. But, Mr. President, we are suffering from growing pains. I repeat that basically our economy is very sound, our living standards are high and we are prosperous, but we are suffering from growing pains. For some years this vigorous young nation has been developing at an inordinately fast rate - something which this modern world has seen on very few occasions. History reveals that perhaps only in the State of California during the latter years of the last century has a modern state developed as Australia is developing at the moment. Such a rate of development must inevitably produce growing pains. I believe that the whole of our problem should be related to that element of our economy.
I regret that the Opposition has seen fit to cry havoc in this House, and perhaps to lead the people generally to assume that all is not well with our economy. To the contrary, we in Australia are very well off.
I liken Australia to a fast-growing and healthy boy who has overeaten. In such a case, a wise parent would administer some medicine, perhaps put the boy on short rations for a day or two or even starve him for half a day. He would not like it, but it would be essential for the well-being of his health. As a nation, we are growing quickly. We are suffering from growing pains, and it is necessary for us to have some medicine. It is only natural that we do not like it, but we will become ill if we do not take it.
It is unfortunate that the press has singled out certain aspects of government policy, that it has given them special emphasis and has made them the subject of unnecessary and unfair criticism. It is unfair to take one measure from its context and criticize it without having regard to the whole of the Government’s programme for the development of our economy. But that is what is being done. For example, to-night Senator Willesee, as did his leader, singled out our overseas balances and said: “ This is the evil. The proper remedy is to look backwards and re-impose import licensing.” I point out that Senator Willesee criticized Senator Spooner for looking backwards. The re-introduction of import licensing is the only action that the Opposition suggests to improve our overseas balances. But the problem of overseas balances is not the only problem that confronts us. To correct our overseas balances either by way of import licensing or any other means is not the whole dose of medicine. As I said, our overseas balances constitute only one aspect of the overall problem. Admittedly it is a serious and important aspect of the problem, but to solve that problem will not cure all our ills. For example, it will not solve the problem of inflation from which we are suffering.
If we were to stop all imports to-morrow, there would still be the same amount of money available in Australia for the purchase of goods. What a state of inflation that would cause! Import licensing is not the only solution to our problem. At all times the Opposition has suggested that import licensing, with all the horrors of bureaucratic control, would provide the solution to our problems.
– Except Senator Benn.
– Yes, Senator Benn disagreed. The Opposition has suggested superimposing upon our first line of protection - our tariff laws - a second line of protection in the form of import licensing, a form of control which quite naturally has had the effect of leading Australian manufacturers along a far too rosy path, as a result of which their quality standards have dropped and their prices have risen. Our manufacturers have not been in competition with the rest of the world. They have sheltered also behind a third evil - the quota system. Under the quota system no one can start in business, because he has not previously had a quota. A select few have been given quotas to enable them to maintain their business connexions, simply because they happen to have had quotas in the past. These evils are all very well known to honorable senators. I find it very difficult to understand how any one could suggest that the re-introduction of import licensing would provide a cure for our present troubles.
I suggest again that our problems must be looked at in the whole before we can afford to level criticism or offer suggestions to rectify the situation. Let us look at those problems broadly and see what the Government is doing about them. Three phases of government policy have had a bearing upon our present difficulties. The first was announced in November last. That phase of the Government’s policy, and certain consequential action which was restrictive, concerns the imposition of sales tax on motor cars-
– It was daylight robbery.
– Then there was the matter of credit restrictions, and also the taking of action with regard to contributions to public loans by insurance companies and superannuation funds. Many people are criticizing these actions of the Government, but nobody is suggesting any alternative remedies. My friend, Senator Cole, is objecting; he is highly critical of them. I invite him to rise and suggest what else could have been done. The reintroduction of import licensing, as suggested by the Opposition, has nothing to do with this matter. The re-introduction of import licensing could not affect to the extent of one penny contributions to public loans by insurance companies and superannuation funds.
– Why pick on the insurance companies?
– For a very good reason. Traditionally, they have contributed to our public loans. Because until recently they have contributed substantially to those loans they have been given very remunerative taxation concessions.
I referred to the problems with which we are confronted, and to the action the Government has taken. The first phase of the Government’s policy was of a restrictive nature; I shall refer to it in detail as 1 proceed. The second phase of the Government’s policy mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) before he left for overseas related to highly important national development work. The Prime Minister announced that he proposed to consider the matter of standardizing railway gauges in Western Australia and South Australia. The standardization of the rail gauge in Western Australia, which is associated with the production of steel, is a highly important developmental work. I believe Senator Willesee was on the verge of committing himself about that matter when suddenly he remembered that we in Western Australia will probably have a very large steel industry, and he realized that the less he said1 about the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the better it would be. Honorable senators will recall the Prime Minister’s announcement about the provision of modern harbours for the export of coal and iron.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610315_senate_23_s19/>.